Friday, April 07, 2017

The Qur’an

I had never thought of Islam in any serious way before the infamous attacks of September 11th.  After that, I had a short unit on Islam in a comparative religion class at BYU (to this day, it remains my favorite religion class at BYU).  It wasn't until living in Sarajevo, though, that I had any substantial contact with Muslims.  Bosnia's brand of Islam is, in the mainstream, moderate, and there's a standard joke among many of the Americans that Ramadan for Bosnians is the detox month.  My interpretation of Bosnian Islam is that Muslims in Bosnia are like a lot of Christians in Europe.  Christians in Europe and Easter-and-Christmas Christians; Muslims in Bosnia are Ramadan Muslims.  In the meantime, the more extremist flavor dominates the American headlines.  I figured it would be interesting to make my own, somewhat more informed, opinion about the religion that claims well over 1 billion adherents.

Book cover.To do that, I read the Qur’an (ISBN: 978-0-19-953595-8), translated by Abdel Haleem.  The Koran (there are lots of possible spellings for this) is Islam's holy book, purported to be a recording of revelation given to the prophet Mohammed (lots of spellings for his name, too).  It focuses on the nature of God as the only God, as opposed to idols, pantheons of pagan gods, or even God as Christians know him, the Father of Jesus Christ.  The Koran talks about Mary and Jesus, but Jesus is not God’s Son.  It talks about Muslims’ duties to the poor and orphans.  It discusses the afterlife and the resurrection.  It warns evildoers against their course of action.  There are some details about domestic life, finances, and there is the well-known injunction to prayer, which results in the call to prayer that happens five times a day wherever there is a functioning mosque.  There are some instructions regarding Muslims’ dealings with non-believers, or infidels.

I was very interested in reading the Koran and am glad I did.  However, it was often slow going.  I found the book to be extremely repetitive.  The discussion of God as the only god and the lack of any other gods and the renunciatin of the false practice of worshipping idols was repeated ad naseum.  I read the book looking for two things.  The first was some of the more controversial passages about women, jihad, and relations with the infidel.  The second thing I looked for were doctrinal differences or similarities with the doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  The doctrinal aspect of the read was interesting.  As I already knew from discussions with Muslims, there were some similarities.  God’s existence being the most basic and fundamental.  It was interesting to read about the resurrection and various injunctions to help the poor, be fair to orphans, and in general help others.  The prohibition against alcohol and pork remind one of the Word of Wisdom.  There were discussions of the afterlife that included seven degrees of heaven that seemed awful similar to the Mormon three degrees of glory with a celestial kindgom divided into three of its own degrees.  There were other similarities, too.  The biggest difference has to be the denial of Jesus as the Christ.  I found it odd because the Koran repeatedly says the prophets of the Old Testament, such as Moses and Abraham, were true prophets, so since those men all testified of Christ’s coming, it seems there was some misunderstanding of the Old Testament.  As for the controversial passages, I found them to not be too inflammatory, although it was easy to see where the more extreme interpretation comes from, but I was reminded of Glenn Beck’s analysis in his book about Islam in which he explains that ultimately it doesn’t matter what we think the Koran says and it doesn’t matter what Islamic scholars say the Koran says; what matters is what the extremists think it says because their interpretation is the one that drives them.  Finally, a note on the book I read.  I was disappointed in the translation.  It was meant to be accessible to a modern reader.  There were many instances of my reading it and translating what I was reading in a more King James style, which I thought read a lot better.  I think I would’ve appreciated a more traditional translation.  There were many passages that included Arabic metaphors that the translator often tried to explain, but with which I struggled.  I tried to be fair to the Koran and admitted my unfamiliarity with it, but in the end, I realized that one of the big reasons there were struggles to understand it were not translation problems, but the simple fact that the book is not inspired scripture in the way the Bible and the Book of Mormon are.  Those books contain similar Old World metaphors, but I usually get them.  Part of that is familiarity and a lifetime of study; part of it is the fact that when you read inspired scripture, your understanding is influenced by the Holy Ghost.  The Koran was well worth a read, especially if one is trying to understand those around oneself, and also provides Christians a chance to look inside themselves, explore their own beliefs, and come away stronger.

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1 comment:

Papa Tom said...

I applaud your efforts to better understand those around you. I liked the comment that what matters is what the individual thinks because that is what then influences their behavior. The Holy Ghost can testify of all truth, no matter where it is found, so seeking His confirmation is always critical when seeking truth.