Friday, January 23, 2009

Elementary but Essential Information

Recently, I received a letter from a Christian visitor to this site who has been reading the Koran. He's asked me a reasonable question that I suspect has occurred to others. He questioned why the Koran, when repeating some Biblical stories, clearly contradicts the Biblical accounts. He cited, as a glaring example, the story of Abraham sacrificing his son. In the Hebrew Scriptures, Abraham attempts to sacrifice Issac (Gen. 22:1-12), but in the Koran, he offers Ishmael (37:102-107). In reply, I provided an excerpt from
Chapter 21 of my book, "Of Promises and Previews." And now I've decided to include it here, in case others have asked the same question, without expressing it.

An excerpt from Chapter 21, entitled "A Promise Resounds Across Arabia."

During the next 22 years—the rest of Muhammad’s life—Gabriel occasionally visited him. With each visit,
Gabriel revealed more of the Koran, which means “the Recital.” In turn, Muhammad recited Gabriel’s
messages to persons he trusted. At first, his recitations were memorized and passed by word of mouth. As belief in Muhammad grew, literate believers recorded his words on any available material, including stones, scraps of leather, and palm leaves.

After Muhammad died, Islamic authorities spent years collecting the verses and determining their authenticity, before publishing an authorized version of the Koran. The original Text, however, was written in a script that contained no vowels or diacritical points, which left the meaning of some words in doubt. To this day, official readings of the Koran vary, but they are all considered of equal authority.

Muslims firmly believe that God is the Principal Speaker throughout the Koran, though they also believe
Gabriel and Muhammad speak in specific passages. Still, the need for the first Muslims to memorize Muhammad’s recitations, record them on any material at hand, and collect them years later, has aroused reasonable suspicions about the Text. Today, even some devout Muslims doubt that Muhammad delivered every word included in the Koran. Furthermore, Koranic versions of certain Bible stories unmistakably differ from their Old Testament counterparts. Jews and Christians have always cited those glaring differences as proof the Koran was invented by Muhammad and other illiterate, ignorant Arabs, who cunningly used religion to gain power over their even more ignorant kinsmen. In truth, most Arabs knew little or nothing about Biblical persons and their deeds. After hearing only brief references to the numerous Bible characters, they could have easily erred when repeating the stories (even as today’s schooled Jews and Christians, when speaking extemporaneously, sometimes confuse particulars). The Koran, however, never alters the essential teachings of the Testaments.

In fact, the Koran was never intended to merely repeat Bible stories in the Arabic language. The Sacred Book of Islam brings its own messages. And many of those messages severely chastise Jews and Christians for corrupting their Scriptures in far more serious ways than by confusing the words and deeds of a few people!