Amidst the ongoing conflict in Gaza, members of Generation Z – historically religion-averse – are seeking a better understanding of Islam.
These young people are picking up copies of the Quran, reading them, and posting their thoughts:
On social media platforms like Discord and TikTok, hashtags like #quranbookclub and #readingquran have racked up millions of views.
According to polls, young people are widely sympathetic toward the Palestinian people and their plight. The surge in Quran readers appears to be motivated by the desire to understand more about the faith held dear by most Gazans.
There are scores of TikTok and Instagram videos featuring young people sharing passages from the Quran they found particularly beautiful or inspiring.
Some say they've found the text surprisingly progressive – often in stark contrast to their preconceived notions about Islam.
“The Quran is full of nature metaphors and encourages you to be an environmentalist,” explains Misha Euceph, host of the Quran Book Club series on Instagram. “The Quran also has this anti-consumerist attitude, the sense that we’re all stewards of the earth who shouldn’t establish an exploitative relationship with the world or fellow human beings.”
Others even report being so enthralled by the text that they've decided to convert.
Among this cohort is TikToker Megan B. Rice, who organized a “World Religion Book Club” for her followers that included the Quran.
“I wanted to talk about the faith of Palestinian people, how it’s so strong, and they still find room to make it a priority to thank God, even when they have everything taken away from them,” Rice explained.
After a month of religious study, she reportedly converted to Islam.
Seeing A Different Side
There’s a simple explanation why so many young people are finding wisdom in the Quran now, says Zareena Grewal, an associate professor of American studies at Yale.
“They are turning to the Quran to understand the incredible resilience, faith, moral strength and character they see in Muslim Palestinians.”
What started as a way for young people on social media to gain a better understanding of Islam has grown into an online movement seeking to shed light on a faith oft-maligned in the West.
Views Toward Women
Despite the palpable enthusiasm around the Quran and its teachings, some say that young people are overlooking certain problematic aspects – such as its attitudes towards women and LGBTQ+ people.
For example, critics point to specific passages of the holy text that they say demonstrate a belief that women should be subordinate to men.
Verse 4:34 says: “Men stand superior to women in that God hath preferred some of them over others, and in that they expend of their wealth; and the virtuous women, devoted, careful (in their husbands’) absence, as God has cared for them. But those whose perverseness ye fear, admonish them and remove them into bed-chambers and beat them; but if they submit to you, then do not seek a way against them; verily, God is high and great.”
In another instance, men are encouraged to "use" their wives as they would a plow. In Sura (Chapter) 2:223, the Quran says: "Your women are your fields, so go into your fields whichever way you like."
Critics say these teachings lead to disrespectful treatment of women in society – pointing to a Muslim student who went viral after refusing to shake hands with his female principal as one recent example.
Views Toward the LBGTQ+ Community
The trend's skeptics note that the Quran similarly has numerous verses that explicitly reject homosexuality, and that LGBTQ+ people are frequently persecuted in Islamic countries around the world, including Palestinian territories.
In October, for example, a gay Palestinian named Ahmad Abu Murkhiyeh was found brutally murdered in the occupied West Bank, with reports indicating that he was targeted for his sexual orientation.
Those critical of the TikTok trend seize on this point, arguing that it's strange to see young people in the West – including members of the LGBTQ+ community – excited about the Quran when they may find themselves under real threat of violence if they were to be open about their identities in Muslim-majority countries.
Despite these objections, supporters of the trend say there is clear value in studying and understanding different faiths around the world.
After all, they contend, that the better we understand each other, the more likely we are to find common ground and forge a peaceful future.
What is your reaction? If you're not yet familiar with the holy book of Islam, are you curious to break open a copy?