Welcome back, friends! Yesterday we launched week 7 of our study together by looking at the rise of Islam and its prophet Muhammad. Today, we’ll continue our study by taking a brief look at the Qur’an and Muslim sects.
“Qur’an” (Koran) means “recitation,” as according to Muslim tradition, Allah recited the Qur’an to the prophet Muhammad. Muslims consider the Qur’an to be inspired, while the Bible is thought to be outdated and corrupt. But let’s consider these pieces of evidence to the contrary:
- There are many versions of the Qur’an. In fact, at one point, Muslim leaders demanded that all versions except the one certified as official be burned. However, in 1972, copies of other ancient versions were discovered, and the discrepancies became clear.
- Allah supposedly recited the Qur’an to Muhammad, who was supposedly illiterate. Thus, it was not immediately written down. Thus, the recitation was allegedly kept in perfect memory for over 35 years before Muhammad recited it to scribes who wrote it down.
- About 300 years later, vowels and diacritical marks were added. Diacritical marks are extremely important in Middle Eastern languages (including Arabic), thus leaving lots of room for many different interpretations.
- The Qur’an contains passages that have definitely proven untrue. For example, the Qur’an indicates that the earth is flat, the sun revolves around the earth, and man was created from nothing.
Yet, in the Muslim mind, the Bible is corrupt and outdated.
Differences between the Bible and the Qur’an are very striking. For example, there is absolutely no reference in the Qur’an to God’s interaction with people. There is no relationship indicated or implied with Allah, and Muslims don’t dare relate to Allah as “father.” Also, the Qur’an contains no guarantee of salvation, as Islam is a religion of works. Unfortunately, the Qur’an does not define how many “good works” it takes, or how good the works must be in order to obtain salvation. Thirdly, the Qur’an was originally meant to be read only in Arabic. However, if Islam was to become a worldwide religion, that would prohibit a large portion of the population from being able to read and understand the Qur’an. Thus, that rule was changed and the Qur’an was translated into many different languages. According to former Muslims, the English versions of the Qur’an are “toned down” for Western minds, particularly when it comes to the principle of jihad.
Ironically, the Qur’an speaks of “the Book” (Bible or Torah). Sura 3:3 indicates that the Torah was sent for guidance, but it is believed that Allah sent it. Given that Moses wrote the Hebrew scriptures 2000 years before the birth of Islam, how is that possible? The Muslims also claim to have written the psalms. Again, how does that happen when the Psalms were written long before Islam’s birth? Muhammad also applied Mark 4 (Parable of the Sower) to Muslim people. All examples of the Qur’an “borrowing” from Scripture that preceded it by thousands of years.
Concerning Muslims sects, there are two primary sects: Sunnis and Shi’ites. First, understand that a Muslim person, whether Sunni or Shi’ite, is born a Muslim. A person may convert to Islam, but to convert from Islam is done at risk of death. So, why are there different sects of Muslims? A severe division occurred over who should succeed Muhammad. After his death, close contemporaries became the next caliphs (leaders). However, the 4th caliph was a relative of Muhammad, and the division arose as to whether contemporaries or family members should be caliphs. One group (Sunnis) held to strong tradition and believed contemporaries should become caliphs, while the other group (Shi’ites) believed the line of succession should be family members. Shi’ites, the more liberal of the two, soon migrated to the modern-day area of Iran. So, though 80% of Muslims are Sunni, roughly 90% of Iranians are Shi’ite.
The division became a civil war of sorts and, to this day, Sunnis and Shi’ites consider one another infidels. They think nothing of killing one another, but will join forces if the common enemy is Israel! For example, ISIS is a Sunni terrorist group who has burned down more Shi’ite mosques than Christian churches in Iraq and Syria. Likewise, Iran (strong Shi’ite) thinks nothing of arming and assisting Hamas (a Sunni terrorist group) in their battle against Israel.
So, there you have it…a very brief look at the Qur’an and Muslims. This week, we will pursue an answer to the question, “Is Islam a religion of peace?” We’ll also examine the Iranian agenda, evaluate the radicals, reformers and revivalist throughout the Middle East, and will touch on what I believe may be the most challenging lesson in the entire study: In Search of the One True God. That is one you don’t want to miss!
So, follow along this week as we look at these exciting lessons!