In the Name of God, the Kind, the Beautiful
This was published today on Middle East Online.
Thankfully, the Florida pastor decided to cancel his plans to burn copies of the Quran on September 11. Not as well reported, though, were the stories of others in the United States who did the deed. On September 11, a burned copy of the Quran was found at a mosque in Michigan. Two Tennessee pastors also burned copies of the Quran on September 11, despite protest from members of their own families. And last week, a partially burned Quran was also found outside a mosque in my home town, Chicago. Although sad, it is not entirely surprising there would be copycats.
As I read the reports of these sporadic burnings of the Quran, all I could do was lament that they very likely had little knowledge of the contents of this book, and the deep connections it has to their own faith. Had they taken a little time to read the book they wanted to burn, it is quite possible they would have changed their minds. And after all, if they had mustered enough effort to obtain a copy of the Quran, why not read it first?
I know if they would do so, they would find much with which they can relate. They would learn that both Moses and Jesus Christ are mentioned more by name in the Quran than the Prophet Muhammad himself.
They would read passages in the Quran saying Jesus was “strengthened with the Holy Spirit” (in at least three passages: 2:87, 2:253, and 5:110).
They would discover that the 19th chapter of the Quran is named for Jesus’ mother, Mary. And they would read that the Quran holds up the example of the Virgin Mary as the ideal believer: “And [we have propounded yet another parable of God-consciousness in the story of] Mary, the daughter of Imran…” (66:12)
If they would read the Quran, they would find that some 73 passages of the Quran speak of Moses and his epic. And they would find that the Quran records two miracles about Moses: Moses’ staff turning into a serpent and his hand glowing brightly after placing it under his arm. They would read that the Quran says that God bestowed His grace upon Moses and Aaron (37:114), that he was “specially chosen” by God (19:51) and that God bestowed on Moses “wisdom and knowledge” (28:14) as a reward for doing good. In addition, the Book of Moses in the Jewish Bible is described by the Quran as a “Light and Guide” (6:91).
If they would read the Quran, they would find this passage about the equality of humanity:
“O Mankind! Behold, we have created you from a male and female and have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another. Verily, the best of you in the sight of God is the one who is most conscious of Him. Behold, God is All-knowing, All-aware.” (49:13)
They would read this passage about salvation:
“Verily, those who have attained to faith [in this divine writ], as well as those who follow the Jewish faith, and the Christians, and the Sabians — all who believe in God and the Last Day and do righteous deeds — shall have their reward with their Sustainer; and no fear need they have and neither shall they grieve. (2:62)
I can go on and on and on — reciting verses from the Quran that touch the heart of the sacred beliefs of both Judaism and Christianity. And of course it does, because the Quran calls Muslims to be the spiritual siblings of Christians and Jews, as children of the God of Abraham.
Are there tough and belligerent verses in the Quran? Most definitely — as there are in the Jewish Bible and the Christian New Testament. Yet, like the verses in the texts of the Jews and the Christians, the verses in the Quran have a context and explanation.
But what is most important to focus on is that which is common to all three faiths in our country, and to use those common beliefs to bring people together, and to support the common good.
This summer has seen so much fear and hate-mongering for cynical political gain, and it has ensnared many Americans who are, in reality, good people who are simply misinformed. Once we learn the truth, we will realize that we are really much more similar than we are different.