[This is the very first thing I’ve noted, in my recently begun (casual) study of Islam. I’ve started it because Islam is extremely important in the world today, and dialogue with Islam seems ever more important, especially in times of conflict in the Muslim world. Please, correct me to the best of your ability where I’ve misunderstood. Thank you]
I was recently given a free English translation of the Quran, and a few leaflets about Islam. Here is the first thing I have learned (and it seems to me, it may be the most important thing for a Christian to learn about Islam):
The Muslim’s Quran is more analogous to the Christian’s Jesus than to the Christian’s scriptures. In the introduction to the Quran I was given (something feels wrong about saying “my Quran”…), it says,
‘Moreover, it is the actual words of Allah — not created, but revealed by Him through the angel Gabriel to a human messenger, Muhammed…
What does one discover when he understands the meanings of the Qur’an? The answers to this question can be classified in four main categories:
1. That he can know his Creator as He has described Himself
4. How he should relate to all things — to Allah by worship and obedience, to his fellow man by…
This divine message was revealed to confirm and renew the relationship between man and his Creator and to reinstate the sincere and correct worship of the one true God…
It was “not created” that really grabbed my attention.
Much as we believe that Jesus Christ is the eternal, uncreated, Word of God, so Muslims believe that the Quran is the uncreated words of Allah. As Christ’s birth was proclaimed by the angel Gabriel, and given through Mary, so Muslim’s believe the Quran came through Gabriel, and was given to Muhammed to give to the world. We believe that in Christ, we can know God as He reveals Himself; similarly, Islam teaches that through the Quran, we can know God as He described Himself. As Jesus himself reveals how we should relate to all things, so Muslims believe about the Quran. As Jesus was sent to renew and confirm the relationship between God and man, so Muslims consider the Quran.
So, theologically at least, Christianity and Islam shouldn’t be compared Jesus against Muhammed, or the Quran against the Bible, but Jesus to the Quran, Muhammed to the prophets or apostles (or maybe even Mary), and the Bible to the Hadith. And certain practices, such as reciting the Quran in Arabic, even when it is not understood, should not be looked down upon with condescension, and considered as oppression or superstitious religious nonsense, but as practically (in Christian terms) sacramental; encountering a divine and unfathomable mystery in a simple, strange, and humble manner.
I would also like to point out at this point, that when, in recent years, some fundamentalist preachers threatened to burn Qurans, it was less like if Muslims had threatened to burn Bibles (sad as damaged Bibles are), than like when satanists threatened to desecrate Jesus Himself in the Holy Eucharist.
Of course, I must make it clear that (to my knowledge) no Muslim claims that the Quran is consubstantial with God. So the analogue is close, but not quite. But, I think it may still be, to Muslims, the Holiest thing on earth.
One thing I see that must be appealing about this view of the Quran, is the direct, ready access it gives to God’s words and divine mystery. Any Muslim can hold it in their hands, and relate with Allah according to the words He gave them to relate to Him with. If Christian’s had the Bible alone, we would (at least, theoretically) be further from God, than Muslims are from Allah. But, thank God, through the the Church, the very Body and spouse of Christ, and through the sacraments and the sacramental life, we are thoroughly immersed in the mystery of God’s own Trinitarian life.
As a final note, here’s the Catechism of the Catholic Church, n.841:
The Church’s relationship with the Muslims. “The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.”
Pax Christi, Shalom aleichem, and Salaam alaikum!