Reading the Qur’an Key to Understanding Islam
Brandon Sun, June 19, 2017 –
This is recommended if you want to better understand the religion of Islam. And this is the specific suggestion in a May 31 column in this space by journalist Ahmed Sahi, Knowledge of Qur'an Refutes Extremists.
Sahi is the former chief editor of the Muslim Writers of Canada. He notes that more than a million Canadian Muslims will be reading the Qur’an now as part of their observance of Ramadan. Sahi encourages non-Muslims to learn more about their Muslim neighbours by reading the Qur’an, too.
As a non-Muslim, I heartily endorse the idea that everyone read the Qur’an. The Qur’an is important. The book is regarded by 1.6 billion people as the verbatim word of God. Islam teaches that the Qur’an was revealed to the prophet Muhammad during the years 609 to 632.
The Qur’an is accessible in English translation, available for free online. And here’s a bonus: the Qur’an is not a long book; it is much shorter than the Bible. The Qur’an is less than one-half the length of the New Testament. It is only one-eighth as long as the Old Testament.
What about the issue that journalist Sahi addresses: is there a link between the Qur’an and extremism and terrorism? Sahi says there should not be a link; that real knowledge of the Qur'an refutes extremists.
Sahi provides two commonly quoted parts of the Qur’an to show how the message of the Qur’an is “a far cry from terror and violence.” But a closer reading of his own quotes casts some doubt on his assertion.
Sahi’s first quote implies that the Qur’an opposes killing. It is from Chapter 5, Verse 32: “whoever takes a life . . . it will be as if they killed all of humanity.”
But look in the middle: what has he left out? Here is the complete wording: “whoever takes a life – unless as a punishment for murder or mischief in the land – it will be as if they killed all of humanity.”
So killing is indeed sanctioned by the Qur’an. And “mischief” (also translated as “corruption”) is a pretty broad category of offences to be punished by death!
Sahi’s second quote is used to show how the Qur’an encourages tolerance. It is from Chapter 2, Verse 256: “let there be no compulsion in religion.”
This verse is usually quoted in this abbreviated form. But it seems much less tolerant when you read these sentences from the next verse:
“As for the disbelievers, their guardians are false gods who lead them out of light and into darkness. It is they who will be the residents of the Fire. They will be there forever.”
OK: there is to be no compulsion in religion. But what if you are a “disbeliever,” for example, if you are a follower of Christianity or of a Canadian indigenous tradition? According to the Qur’an – because of your disbelief in Islam – God will torture you, forever, in the fire of hell.
The problematic nature of the Qur’an is not only that certain verses can be cited to justify intolerance and violence; the Bible has those, too. The bigger problem is that the Qur’an is regarded as the literal, final word of God, applying to everyone, everywhere.
Muslim reformers are now urging their fellow Muslims to consider the Qur’an not as the word of a deity for all time, but instead to see it as the word of a people from long ago. This is how many Jews and Christians now view their scriptures. After all, humanity – in both science and morality – has advanced since the 600s.
Every citizen should try to get a better understanding of the religion of their neighbours. During this Ramadan season – or anytime – non-Muslims should learn more about Islam.
Read the Qur’an.
Example of free download in modern English: here.
Every verse in Arabic, with 30 English translations: here.
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