Interpreting the Koran

There is a difference between words on paper and what they mean. That is, there is a process of discernment that allows us to read and understand those words. Thus, there is a difference between what it may say and how it may read.

In the Christian community we continue to debate, fight, argue over the meaning of the text, whether things should be taken literally or not, and whether what was then is what is now (this is a primary concern of Scot McKnight's The Blue Parakeet, Zondervan, 2008). At stake for many people is the authority of the text. There's a fear that if you don't interpret it in certain ways then it will lose value.

Well, if this is a concern within the Christian community, might this not also be an issue in the Muslim world? And, knowing that we're having such debates in the Christian community, debates that can affect behavior, perhaps we can be a bit more understanding of what might be happening in Islam. Nicholas Kristoff reports in his column today about a conference held at Notre Dame that focused on modern interpretations of the Koran. There are, he reports, stirrings of movements as important for Islam as the 19th century Christian ones were. If these stirrings of interpretation can penetrate Muslim countries, then major changes could be in the offering. This will be especially good news for women. It could also blunt militant Islamist movements as well. After all, if its 72 grapes and not 72 virgins that await the martyr, will there be as much eagerness to die? So, I wonder if even biblical literalists might encourage the use of the historical-critical method when applied to the Koran?


John said…
You are aware I hope that it is an unfortunate caricature to suggest that deeply devout Muslims sacrifice their lives for the promise of mere carnal rewards. It denies them genuine dignity and it obscures the understanding of those who witness the sacrifice.


Yes, I realize that this isn't all there is, but for some this is an enticement that has appeal.

But, we offer the same as Christians -- accept Jesus, etc., and you get this and this benefit (either in this life or the next).

Good call.
Anonymous said…
I still say to find you did his way, and loved it is reward enough- everything else is gravy-

"When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.
the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.
He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.
Then the King will say to those on His right hand, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
“for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;
“I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me."
Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, “Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?
“When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? “Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?"
the King will answer and say to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me." (Matthew 25:31-41)

To have rasins too? Greedy!

David Mc
John said…

What does this mean:

I still say to find you did his way, and loved it is reward enough- everything else is gravy-

Anonymous said…
To think you know his will, and to have the means to act on it.

This is the value of scripture to me. To learn how to be worthy.

If there is more reward than creation and life itself, other than to be appreciated by the one who truly matters.
That’s just over the top.

When I turned 50, I kept saying all the rest is gravy, cause I didn’t think I’d get this far when I was young.

David Mc
John said…
Ah, I agree.

Anonymous said…
I guess I could have simply said it (the gift of many virgins) was obviously erroneous and absurd in the first place. But that would be me judging and putting myself at risk of being quoted out of context. See how we dance around? I do think we have our own erroneous passages, official cannon shells or not.

David Mc
John said…
I love your comment though and its expression of gratitude. We in the West, especially in the United States fail to be grateful for what we have, because we spend so much time measuring it.

What we have lost sight of is the fact that our lives, the very air we breathe, and the opportunity to make our creator smile is reason enough to be grateful. The rest of what we have is just stuff - perhaps good stuff, perhaps bad, but stuff only.

We need to learn to treasure gratitude, to live our lives relishing the opportunity we are given to walk, to take each step, humbly in the presence of our God.

Paul says "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing and be grateful in all circumstances."

Anonymous said…
That's what I'm talking about.

It's so simple.

Peace- David Mc
Adam Gonnerman said…
I read that article by Nick Kristof with great interest a couple of days ago. Clearly it would be helpful if a more moderate approach to the Qur’an became widespread. Given time, that will likely happen.

Kristof has commented on this article a few times on Facebook, and most recently someone asked what could be done to encourage this process. The answer of many, including myself, is education.

There are folks who know a Madrasah isn't the best place to educate their sons (daughters apparently need not apply) but they lack good options.

I recommend the book "Three Cups of Tea" to anyone who hasn't read it yet. It's the story of an American man working to build co-ed or else all-girl schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Inspiring story, and an effort worthy of support.

Thanks for the comment. You're right, if the only educational opportunities come from the madrassah's then the opportunity for modern learning is negligent. It's too bad that the Saudi's have used their money to build madrassah's instead of modern schools -- especially in Pakistan and Afghanistan. A broader education allows for broader thinking -- would the Reformation have occurred without the Renaissance?

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