simon j logo
websites   projects   writing   speaking   blog    
  here and now  
Hi and thanks for landing here. It might seem a bit backward, but I decided to start blogging only because I've been enjoying Twitter so much. While I love the 140 character limit of tweets, I realised that a blog would give me a place where I could have the luxury of saying a bit more. I've also set up here because I have a blogging project in mind... but more on that later.
Right now my face is stuck in the following books...
Paradise Lost   Bring Up the Bodies  
Forest Church   The Geometry of Type  
advertising  art  Bible  books  cartoons  church  design  Facebook  icons  internet  Istanbul  JC  kitsch  London  movies  music  offence  overheard  pictures  poetry  politics  Pope  Qur'an  random  science  technology  theology  travel  TV  Twitter  typography  writing 
Seven churches 2013
Bach pilgrimage 2012
Flying to Byzantium 2010
April 2014
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
Qur’an: three brother faiths

Posted on 28 October 2010, 5:51

Why I’m reading the Qur’an

Qur’an sura 2

In the weeks since I decided to start reading Islam’s holy book, I’ve been slow to make progress. It’s partly because the opening suras (chapters) are the longest and look more daunting than the smaller ones at the back – but at least I’m now deep into sura 2, which is entitled The Cow.

One of the trivial things I like very much about the Qur’an is the chapter titles, which are short and inviting. Casting an eye down the contents page, I’m intrigued by The Spider, Smoke, Rolling Sands and Enfolded, all of them titles, and find myself looking forward to reading them.

The Cow has been heavy going, though, with a great deal of talk about blasphemers and unbelievers and the horrible fate which awaits them. At first I was overwhelmed by the violent storminess of these negative verses, until I began to find my sea legs. That happened when I started to notice a nuanced attitude to Christians and Jews. Some passages are very generous, for example…

As for the believers, for the Jews, the Christians and the Sabeans who believe in God and the Last Day, and who do righteous deeds – these have their wages with their Lord. No fear shall fall upon them, not shall they grieve (sura 2:62).

Other passages offer strongly worded criticism of the other faiths’ refusal to accept Muhammad as the promised prophet of God. In this next quote, for example, the writer sketches the story of the Jewish prophets in a sentence, beginning with Moses and ending with Jesus (who is called ‘son of Mary’ as a way of stressing his humanity and denying his divinity)...

We revealed the Book to Moses, and We sent after him messengers in succession; and We granted Jesus son of Mary evident miracles and strengthened him with the Holy Spirit… (sura 2:87).

But when Muhammad came – the passage continues – preaching a message which confirmed what the Jewish people had already received, they refused to accept it. Why? Because Muhammad was not one of them. To my eyes, these verses are full of hurt as well as anger – the hurt of unfair rejection. They remind me of the hurt and irony expressed in John’s Gospel about the coming of Jesus: ‘He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him’ (John 1:11).

Because of the chronology, the New Testament has to talk about the Jewish people and how it sees them. And the Qur’an, which comes even later than the New Testament, has to talk about both the Jews and the Christians. As the youngest brother of the three faiths, it is very aware of them both: loving these older siblings for what it has received from them; hating them for where they have gone astray. It’s very much a family thing, in the Middle Eastern way.

Quotes are from the 2008 translation of The Qur’an by Tarif Khalidi, published by Penguin.

click to post about this on facebook   click to bookmark on delicious   click to post about this on reddit   click to post about this on twitter   Tweet this

I got exactly that feeling of kinship when I worked with a Muslim imam in chaplaincy. He was (of course) always happy to talk about faith, not just his own faith but mine, but always from a point of view of tellng me where we Christians had got it a bit wrong.

I remember getting quite excited when he told me that our Gospels are a corruption of the one true gospel that Islam follows, and asked where I could read it – but of course there is no extant version.

Pam Smith, Thu 28 Oct, 14:52

Add your comment



Your comment

Notify me of follow-up comments?

Please enter the word you see in the image below:

Please note that all comments are read and approved before they appear on the website... sad but true

      Follow me on...
    follow me on twitter follow me on facebook follow me on pinterest subscribe to this blog via rss
    contact   about