Of all the religions of the world, Islam is perhaps the most often misunderstood, especially by Western audiences. Yet Islam is the closest, both ideologically and geographically, to the major Western religions. Islam falls in the Abrahamic family of religions, same as Christianity and Judaism. But despite this close relationship, Islam is a difficult religion for the West to understand.
According to data gathered by the Pew Research forum, there are over 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, roughly 23% of the world population. Considering this, it would be beneficial to increase our understanding of Islam and how it relates to the other major world religions. We can do this by becoming familiar with the Qur'an.
The Qur'an is the central text of the Islamic faith. It is the supreme authority in Islam, and the source of all Islamic teaching. Another name for the Qur'an is Al-furqan, which means 'that which differentiates right from wrong' (25:1). It has been one of the most influential books in history and is recognized as the greatest literary masterpiece in Arabic.
What is the Qur'an?
The Qur'an is believed to be a divine revelation from God to the prophet Muhammad via the archangel Gabriel. These revelations occurred gradually over time (25:32). They were also from God, not from men (10:37). The Qur'an originally was a spoken message that was passed on orally until Muhammad's companions wrote it down.
The Qur'an claims to confirm and explain the Torah and the Gospel (10:37; 35:31). These earlier scriptures were sent along with their respective prophets to guide people to the truth (3:3). The Qur'an is God's final revelation to human kind, and Muhammad the seal, or last, of the prophets.
The Qur'an is organized into chapters, called surahs, and verses. Each surah is categorized as Meccan or Medinan. The Meccan surahs were revelations that came before Muhammad and the Muslim people migrated to Medina. The Medinan surahs are revelations that came after that migration.
In it's original Arabic, the Qur'an is a literary masterpiece and a unique form of Arabic speech. It's form cannot be described as poetry or prose because of it's unique combination of metrical and non metrical speech. The stylistic and literary features that set it apart include semantically driven assonance and rhyme, grammatical shift, and interrelation between sound, structure, and meaning. All this together makes the Qur'an stand apart from anything else, and are the reason why it has not been changed or altered from it's original to this day.
The Qur'an claims it's literary perfection is a sign that it is from God: "If you have doubts about the revelation We have sent down to Our servant, then produce a single sura like it -enlist whatever supporters you have other than God" (2:23; see also 69:60).
Relationship with Christianity and Judaism
The Qur'an share a similar history with that of Christianity and Judaism. It shares reverence for Moses, Abraham and the other prophets and major figures from the Torah, as well as Jesus and his disciples- there is "no distinction between them" (3:84).
However, contrary to the New Gospel, the Qur'an asserts that Jesus was not the son of God (5:75), nor was he crucified on the cross- that was just an illusion (4:157). Further, the Qur'an claims that Jesus himself was not God, and that the Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) is false (5:73). On the other hand, the Qur'an confirms Jesus' virgin birth (19:19-21), and his bodily ascension into heaven (3:55).
Though there are differences and contradictions between the three scriptures, the Qur'an encourages that they should be treated with the same respect.
"The Muslim believers, the Jews, the Christians, and the Sabians - all those who believe in God and the Last Day and do good will have their rewards with their Lord" (2:62) Thus, the Qur'an encourages Jews to judge by the Torah (5:43); Christians to judge by the Gospel (5:46-47); and Muslims to judge by the Qur'an (5:48). Jews and Christians are commanded to consult their respective scriptures when they wish to know God's will. Therefore, the Qur'an considers these scriptures to be reliable.
The Torah, the Gospel, and the Qur'an are scriptures that are closely related one another. Their respective religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, share a common history and a common God. Allah, Yahweh, and God are names for the same Lord who is worshiped by each religion.
Of course, a message as brief as this one cannot hope to capture all that could be said on the Qur'an, and the relationship between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The goal has been to provide a very basic context.
If you would like gain a better understanding of the Qur'an and Islam, we encourage you to conduct your own personal research, and also check out these sources:
*verses and quotations come from:
A., Abdel Haleem M. The Qur'an: A New Translation. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2008. Print.