Ahl al-Kitab

As a follow up to my previous post — what is the status that Jews and Christians hold — according to the Muslim faith?  We (Christians and Jews) are considered Ahl al-Kitab — “People of the Book.”   

Islam accepts Old Testament (the Tanakh) as the Word of God.  Muslims believe the Quran is considered to be the completion of these Scriptures.  Since Jews, Christians and Muslims all derive from Abraham, “People of the Book” refers to those who share Abrahamic Scripture and believe in one God.  Sabians (who are mentioned three times in the Quran) are also considered Al al-Kitab

The Quran offers tolerance toward the Ahl al-Kitab — e.g. Surra 3 (“The Family of Imran“).  In Surra 5:69, the faithful are advised “Verily!  Those who believe and those who are Jews, Christians and Sabians, whoever believes in God and the Last Day and do righteous good deeds shall have their reward . . . .”    Then there is Surra 5:82 “. . . you will find the nearest in friendship to be those who say ‘we are Christians.’  This is because there are priests and monks among them and they do not behave proudly.” 

Every religious tradition has its own interpretation of Biblical text.   The Old and New Testaments and the Quran have been selectively interpreted over the centuries to justify various faith traditions and practices.  And to trivialize (or demonize) others.  It would be nice if we could recognize the shared heritage of our respective faiths so as to foster cooperative and ecumenical headway into some of the world’s most pressing, agonizing – and dangerous – problems.

The Quran

[A third – natural – segue.  This from June 21, 2015]

I previously described my journeys through the Old Testament (6/11/12) and New Testament (11/10/13).   Given our trip to the Middle East, I read the Quran.  All 114 suras (chapters).  The Quran is intended to be read in Arabic (26:195) but my copy was in English.  Whew. . . .  

The Quran has an Old Testament attitude (some is pretty dark) with frequent repetition of theme.  Yet there are numerous theological similarities with Judeo-Christian texts.  The cast of characters, the prophets and the stories are similar.  The commands (believe, do good works, charity, pray) are comparable.  There are parallels in God’s (or Allah’s) warning to his people (re heaven/hell).  Jesus (Isa) plays a prominent role as a Messiah.  Mary (Maryam) is the only woman mentioned by name in the Quran (she has her own sura – 19).  At the risk of oversimplification, I discerned three fundamental areas of disagreement between Islam and Christianity.  First, the Quran denies that God had a son (Jesus).  Hence the repudiation of the Trinity.  He simply said “Be” and Jesus was conceived (19:35).   Second, there is the overarching theme that Mohammed wrote the Quran over 23 years after receiving the Word of God through the Archangel Gabriel (see 1/30/12 and 3/26/12).  Third, the Quran – and thus Muslims – consider Islam to be a “perfection” of Judaism and Christianity.  Islam is deemed the true religion . . . .   

Notwithstanding, Jews, Christians and Sabians are considered “People of the Book” — and thus related in the Faith.  Whether you call Him God, Jehovah or Allah; whether you worship on Friday, Saturday or Sunday; whether you say “Pax vobiscum”Peace be with you“Shalom” or “As-Salamu alaikum” the three Abrahamic religions have similar roots and much in common.  So I have to wonder — why all the misunderstanding, strife, violence and hatred?      

The Quran

I just finished reading the Quran.  All 114 suras (chapters).  I previously described my journeys through the Old Testament (6/11/12) and New Testament (11/10/13).   Given our trip to the Middle East, I thought I’d read the Quran.  The Quran is intended to be read in Arabic (26:195) but my copy was in English. 

I consider myself to be a good Episcopalian (nee Lutheran).  But apart from an Old Testament attitude and repetition of theme, there was not much in the Quran to question.  The cast of characters, the prophets and the stories are the same.  The commands (believe, do good works, pray) are pretty much the same.  God’s (or Allah’s) warning to his people (re heaven/hell) is similar.  Jesus (Isa) plays a prominent role as a Messiah.  While I might be accused of oversimplification, I discerned three fundamental areas of disagreement between Islam and Christianity.  First, the Quran denies that God actually “came down” from heaven to father a son (Jesus).  He simply said “Be” and it was done (19:35).  God/Allah does not have children.  Second, there is the overarching theme that Mohammed received God’s message through the Archangel Gabriel (see 1/30/12 and 3/26/12) and wrote the Quran over 23 years.  Third, Muslims consider Islam to be a “perfection” of Judaism and Christianity.  It is the true religion . . . .   

Despite that “perfection,” Jews, Christians and Sabians are considered “People of the Book” — and cousins in the Faith.  Whether you call Him God, Jehovah or Allah; whether you worship on Friday, Saturday or Sunday; whether you say “Pax vobiscum”Peace be with you“Shalom” or “As-Salamu alaikum” the three Abrahamic religions have similar roots and much in common.  So why all the strife, violence and hatred?