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Monday, January 23, 2006


Thomas Crescenzi

The thing is, the more appropriate simile is that the Qur'an is to Islam what Christ is to the Church, not the Bible. In Islam, the Qur'an is the Word in the sense that we have in the Church that the Son is the Word. Muslims view the Qur'an as being, first of all, uncreated, eternal, and not really existing apart from God (Allah), but proceeding from Him. The more precise analog to the Qur'an is Christ, not the Bible. This is one of the difficulties that (well-meaning, but nevertheless naive) outsiders have in trying to understand why there is such a literalist bent prevalent in the Islamic religious world. It is because the Qur'an is not seen as Muhammad's writing inspired by Allah. No, the Qur'an is the uncreated, breath-for-breath, letter-for-letter, eternal revelation emanating from Allah from eternity, pre-existent and consented to by all the prophets even before Muhammad was born. To adopt anything other than a literalist interpretation of the Qur'an would be to lessen its divinity. Remember also, that apostasy and heresy in Islam are punishable by death. There is no clerical hierarchy (the Shi`a do have clerical ranks but it is a far cry from episcopacy; Sunnis take a somewhat Erastian view of authority). Interpretation is largely a matter of what the consensus of Muslims agrees upon (in the Sunni model; the Shi`a look to a succession of 12 infallible Imams). There is not going to be much new interpretation nowadays because anything that was authentically handed down from Muhammad and the earliest Muslims (who are the only people given any kind of authority to interpret the Qur'an) was codified about a thousand years ago. Besides which, one of the most heinous of sins that Muhammad constantly warned against was "bida`" ("innovation"). This is what the Jews and Christians that came before him were accused of, and Muslims jealously guard their religion from any kind of novel interpretation that was not approved by the first few generations who lived with Muhammad (or the Imams). When Muslims describe their faith as the "religion of peace," outsiders seem to get a warm, fuzzy feeling because they are imagining something other than what is really meant by this. The Islamic idea of peace is that peace comes only through submission to Allah and his apostle (Muhammad). If you oppose Allah or oppose Muhammad, you will not have peace, and you will be at fault for rejecting them. Heresy and apostasy are not tolerated. We shouldn't be so condescending and belittle our Muslim neighbors' sincerely held beliefs by saying that they can reinterpret their text to fit modern times. This would be akin to asking a Catholic to reinterpret Jesus' deity, humanity, and relationship within the Trinity to fit some secular agenda, and then on top of that, to suggest that we should ignore the teaching of the Apostles and earliest Fathers of the Church, as well as the Popes, and interpret the Bible freely. Looking at the Qur'an as a "text" and not as something uncreated, eternal, and pre-existent, proceeding from and essentially inseparable from God is not only an inaccurate assessment, but most Muslims would find it highly insulting. And then to suggest that a novel 21st century (or 15th century in the Islamic calendar) interpretation is better than those codified by those who heard and wrote down the explanations of Muhammad and his early successors and associates is doubly insulting.


Most helpful. Many thanks.

Mark Brumley

This is a topic that bears considerable discussion. There are lots of key elements to the conversation. Certainly, the Qur'an's position in Islam being analogous to the Logos' position in Christianity is one of them.

The fact that the Qur'an is generally regarded by Muslim scholars as the unmediated Word of God makes it difficult to envision how the Qur'an could be applied in anything less than an absolute way by faithful Muslims. While there are certain "liberalizing" tendencies among a minority of Muslims, it would be surprising if such tendencies came to effect the majority of Muslims.

Surprising, but not impossible. It may well be logically inconsistent for a Muslim to affirm the traditional Islamic view of the Qur'an and at the same time apply Islamic teachings in ways more compatible with the full dignity of the human person, as the Western Judeo-Christian tradition understands it. But people sometimes come to espouse positions ultimately inconsistent with other positions they hold or they allow one position to reshape other positions, even more ostensibly foundational ideas, they affirm.

Will that happen with the majority of Muslims? Will they eventually be compelled to revise or modify their view of the Qur'an?

Who knows? What we can say right now is that no such massive "development of doctrine" is on the horizon. Why should it be, when the very notion of doctrinal development and its legitimacy are at issue?

Patrick Coulton

Not only does the Koran warn against innovation,
it also repeatedly warns against identifying
anything earthly with Allah.

This, in particular,
seems to be iconoclastic and specifically Anti-Christ
(Though the Koran freely accepts Jesus as Messiah
it seems that the authoruty of this title is meaningless)

On the other hand, the Koran (as is mentioned above) is
strictly identified with Allah.

Don Moga

There is a profound problem with all the dialogue we hear concerning our Church leaders and other religions. It is this:

I teach seventh grade CCD. For homework they are required to attend Mass on Sunday. Hardly any do. My choice is to tell them it is a mortal sin to miss Mass or to ignore the Church's teaching. I think the argument would be if they don't know or worse yet don't believe it is a mortal sin then it isn't. Therefore, is their chance of getting to heaven better if I don't tell them?

Is this not what is going on with our so called dialogue with other faiths? Can we look for common ground with our "elder brothers", the Jews. Should we tell the Muslims they can't get to heaven unless they are baptized, or should we let it slide.

Should I teach my seventh grade CCD it is a mortal sin to miss Mass on Sunday when our Church fathers will not stand up to the Islamic and Jewish faiths who deny the very diviniity of Christ?

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