Some Thoughts On The Qur’an

Written by Victor Stanley Jr.

The Qur’an is the sacred text of Islam, and with Islam being the second largest religion in the world behind Christianity it is a widely read book. The Qur’an is claimed to be the final revelation of God handed down to the prophet Muhammad through the angel Gabriel. The second Súra of the Qur’an is intended to condense the entirety of the teachings of the Qur’an into 286 Áyats[1], which in English would be best understood as a verse similar to how chapters of the Bible are divided. It presents several arguments for the validity and authority of the Qur’an, as well as reasons why it is rejected by so many. The focus here will be on Ruku’s (sections) 1 through 14.

Ultimately this portion of the Qur’an seeks to establish the supremacy of the revelation given Muhammad by the angel Gabriel. It places this revelation over and above the Torah, the Talmud, and the Bible as pointed out by the commentator in the footnote of Súra 2.140. Ali states that:

“Do you really assert that Abraham and his son and his sons’ sons… followed your Jewish religion as you know it? History proves that claim absurd. The Christians claim that these patriarchs knew of and followed the teaching of Jesus, the claim is still more absurd.”[2]

This claim of supremacy places the Qur’an in a position of authority on the character and nature of God (Allah)[3], and so seeks to give clear and true understanding of who Allah is and what Allah requires of man. Of these requirements the most important seem to be works of righteousness and submission to Allah’s guidance via the Qur’an; indeed Súra 2.2 says, “This is the Book; in it is guidance sure, without doubt, to those who fear God…”[4] This Áyat is firmly establishing the fact that the Qur’an is the final authority, and that any who truly have knowledge and reverence for God will submit to its commands, laws, and principles.

Beyond establishing the authority of the Qur’an, Súra 2 also seeks to substantiate the superiority of Muhammad in relation to those prophets who came before him. Ruku’ 3 of Súra 2 makes the bold statement:

“And if ye are in doubt as to what We [Allah] have revealed from time to time to Our Servant [Muhammad], then produce a Súra like thereunto; and call your witnesses or helpers, if there are any besides God, if your doubts are true.”[5]

This is a challenge to any who would question the prophet Muhammad’s revelations to produce their own divine revelation from Allah and prove it to be true. This of course is a rhetorical challenge emphasized by the very next Áyat, which says that none can produce their own Súra, and that any who reject Islam should “fear the fire whose fuel is men and stones… who reject the faith.”[6] So Súra 2 works to bear out the idea that the Qur’an is the final revelation of God that supersedes all prior revelation, namely the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, and that Muhammad is the preeminent prophet of God.

This Súra is interesting because it treks closely with general biblical theology on points such as obedience to God, the fate of those who reject faith, and even certain aspects of the history nation of Israel and their relation to God. It is when you start to press in to the details that you begin to notice the slight deviations from biblical truth, and the twisting of Christian doctrine. One of the initial issues that jump out is the position of man in relation to Allah. Áyat 34 says, “And behold, We [Allah] said to the angels: ‘Bow down to Adam:’ and they bowed down.”[7] This places man above the angels, and from a biblical standpoint it places him on equal footing with Christ who, according to Hebrews 1, is the only one said to be superior to angels.[8] This immediately puts the Qur’an at odds with the Bible on a fundamental level as the two differ on the doctrine of man, formally known as anthropology.

In some sense the Qur’an seems to imply that man is a sort of heavenly being that made a mistake by eating from the tree of evil and now has to dwell on Earth in a lower state of being as punishment.[9] However, he may be restored to his former state if he obeys the guidance of God, which is the Qur’an.[10] On the contrary the Bible teaches that man sinned against God by disobeying his command to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and through this act separated himself from God. It goes on to teach that man cannot in and of himself restore his communion with God, but rather God himself through the death and resurrection of Christ has restored man into a right relationship with Him.

This tension on the doctrine of man highlights another instance of discord between the Qur’an and the Bible. While the Bible teaches that faith saves, and in turn produces works, the Qur’an teaches that works are faith, and that by doing works one shall find favor with God. Áyat 112 speaks to this point:

“Whoever submits his whole self to God and is a doer of good, he will get his reward with his Lord: on such shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.”[11]

So to submit oneself to Allah is to be a “doer of good,” and this doing good is what gains one their reward from Allah. This is works based salvation, and places the burden on man to work to save himself. The Bible emphasizes the importance of good works as a result of faith, especially in James 2, but also makes clear that our works do not save us as seen in Titus 3:

“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.”[12]

So in Islam you have a striving to stay in the good graces of Allah through obedience and adherence to the guidance of the Qur’an. In Christianity you have the grace, that is the loving kindness, of God producing and compelling the Christian to do righteous works as a result of faith.

This was a simple and very brief surface level look at some of the teachings of the Qur’an, and how they compare with teachings of the Bible. Still, it provides some insights into the fundamental difference between these two religions. Walter Martin, in his book Kingdom of the Cults, says that “At first glance, Islamic belief appears to be almost compatible with Christianity… However, the Muslim God is not like the Christian God,”[13] and a brief reading of both groups sacred texts will reveal this fact. Despite these differences, one lesson that Christians can learn from Muslims is obedience, more accurately devoutness. Muslims hold obedience to the Qur’an in high regard, and strive greatly to live righteous.

While Christianity teaches that works do not save, it does teach that faith without works is dead, and thus it would do no harm to the Christian to practice their faith with the high level of devotion that many Muslims practice theirs. As Martin says, “Muslims have a definite zeal for God. They desire to follow God and express their worship of God through their lives.”[14] It is of great benefit to take time to learn about people of other faiths, and seek to understand what they believe, and why they believe. This will allow for a level of respect for other people and cultures, and make engaging them with the gospel easier and more effective.


[1] Abdullah Yusuf Ali, The Holy Qur’an. (Elmhurst, NY: Tahrike Tarsile Qur’an, 2012), 16.

[2] Abdullah Yusuf Ali, The Holy Qur’an. (Elmhurst, NY: Tahrike Tarsile Qur’an, 2012), 56n138.

[3] I use ‘God’ and ‘Allah’ interchangeably throughout this paper. This is because the word Allah is Arabic for God, and in the English translation of the Qur’an the word ‘God’ is used, not ‘Allah.’ However, this usage of ‘God’ should not be taken to mean the Judeo-Christian God of the Bible, but rather it is to be understood as referring to the God of Islam commonly referred to as Allah in popular culture.

[4] Abdullah Yusuf Ali, The Holy Qur’an. (Elmhurst, NY: Tahrike Tarsile Qur’an, 2012), Súra 2.2.

[5] Abdullah Yusuf Ali, The Holy Qur’an. (Elmhurst, NY: Tahrike Tarsile Qur’an, 2012), Súra 2.23.

[6] Abdullah Yusuf Ali, The Holy Qur’an. (Elmhurst, NY: Tahrike Tarsile Qur’an, 2012), Súra 2.24.

[7] Abdullah Yusuf Ali, The Holy Qur’an. (Elmhurst, NY: Tahrike Tarsile Qur’an, 2012), Súra 2.34.

[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Hebrews 1:3–4.

[9] Abdullah Yusuf Ali, The Holy Qur’an. (Elmhurst, NY: Tahrike Tarsile Qur’an, 2012), 25n52.

[10] Abdullah Yusuf Ali, The Holy Qur’an. (Elmhurst, NY: Tahrike Tarsile Qur’an, 2012), Súra 2.38.

[11] Abdullah Yusuf Ali, The Holy Qur’an. (Elmhurst, NY: Tahrike Tarsile Qur’an, 2012), Súra 2.112.

[12] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Titus 3:4–7.

[13] Walter Martin, Ravi Zacharias, ed., The Kingdom of the Cults, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids: Bethany House, 2003), 443.

[14] Walter Martin, Ravi Zacharias, ed., The Kingdom of the Cults, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids: Bethany House, 2003), 450.


Bibliography

Ali, Abdullah Yusuf. The Holy Qur’an. Elmhurst, NY: Tahrike Tarsile Qur’an, 2012.

Martin, Walter, Ravi Zacharias, ed. The Kingdom of the Cults, rev. ed. Grand Rapids: Bethany House, 2003.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001.

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