A Christian Considers the Qur'an in the Light of the Judeo-Christian Bible.

Questions about the Will of God for Mankind.

By F. M. Perry, August 16, 2002.

As I have continued my study of an English language translation of the Qur'an, I have found myself in need of assistance in understanding the message of the Qur'an concerning the will of God (Allah) for mankind. As a Christian I have been gratified to read in the Qur'an affirmations of "the Book" (the Judeo-Christian Bible) as the word of God. Verses of the Qur'an commending "the Book" (the Bible) are found in Surah (chapter) 2, Ayat (verse) 121 and in Surah 3, Ayat 3, as follows:

  • "Those to whom we have given the Book read it as it ought to be read. These believe in it; and whoever disbelieves in it, these it is that are the losers." (Qur'an 2.121).

    "He has revealed to you the Book with truth, verifying that which is before it, and He revealed the Taurat (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel) aforetime, a guidance for the people, and He sent the Furqan (Criterion)." (Qur'an 3.3).
I have also been gratified to read the Qur'an's enjoinment of Muslims to peacefully propagate the Islamic religion and not to force conversion to Islam upon non-Muslims, intimating that people are free moral agents and finally responsible only to God. This is found in Surah 2, Ayat 256, as follows:
  • "There is no compulsion in religion. The right direction is henceforth distinct from error. And he who rejects false deities and believeth in Allah hath grasped a firm handhold which will never break. Allah is Hearer, Knower." (Qur'an 2.256).
A similar free moral agency for all people is proclaimed by "the Book," (the Bible):
  • "And the Spirit and the bride say, 'Come.' And let the one who hears say, 'Come.' And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost." (Revelation 22:17).

    "For the Scripture says, 'Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.' For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call upon Him;" (Isaiah 28:16; Romans 10:11-12).
Clearly, both the Qur'an and "the Book" declare people to possess free volitions requiring each of them to choose their own religion without compulsion of any kind. "The Book" goes even further in this regard, admonishing God's people to:
  • "Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His rain to fall on the righteous and the unrighteous." (Matthew 5:44-45).
However, after limited study of the Qur'an I have become confused and feel in need of assistance in my quest to understand a number of passages. I have found passages in the Qur'an where Allah seemingly is telling Muslims that after futile efforts to convert certain idolaters (those who are not Muslims), they may proceed to bring "a painful doom to those who disbelieve" (that is, those who refuse to change their religion to Islam). I reference one such passage, Surah 9, Ayat 4 and Ayat 5 as follows:
  • "Excepting those of the idolaters with whom ye (Muslims) have a treaty, and who have since abated nothing of your right nor have supported anyone against you. (As for these), fulfill their treaty to them till their term. Lo! Allah loveth those who keep their duty (unto Him). Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare them each ambush. But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then leave their way free. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful." (Qur'an 9:4-5).
Surah 9, Ayat 14 also says concerning treatment of idolaters:
  • "Fight them! Allah will chastise them at your hands and He will lay them low and give you victory over them, and He will heal the breasts of folk who are believers." (Qur'an 9.14).
The cause of my confusion lies in the fact that the Qur'an, on the one hand seems to say, "There is no compulsion in religion," and on the other hand to say, "Slay the idolaters' and "Fight them," if they will not become "believers" in Islam. There seems to be an "incongruity" among these passages despite other passages which seem to say that this cannot occur in the Qur'an, for instance Surah 4, Ayat 82, and Surah 10, Ayat 65:
  • "Will they then not ponder on the Qur'an? If it had been other than Allah they would have found therein much incongruity." (Qur'an 4.82).

    "There is no changing the Words of Allah." (Qur'an 10.65).
I have turned to the commentary of Islamic scholars to assist me in clearing up my confusion.
First of all, I am informed by many scholars that the Qur'an does not stand alone. Although the Qur'an is held by Muslims to be the literal and uncreated Word of God, and the only book so held, I am informed that "the divine law of Islam - As-Shari'ah - is not merely Qur'an, but Qur'an and Sunnah," (From "The Status of the Sunnah in Islam" by Muhammad Nasir-ud-deen Al-Albaani.) (1)

This indicates that another source, "the Sunnah," in addition to the Qur'an, is needed in order for someone like me to rightly interpret the meaning of the Qur'an. What is "the Sunnah" and where do I find it? In searching scholarly Islamic literature I found the following:
  • "In Islam, the Arabic word 'sunnah' has come to denote the way Prophet Muhammad (saas), the Messenger of Allah, lived his life. The Sunnah is the second source of Islamic jurisprudence, the first being the Qur'an. Both sources are indispensable; one cannot practice Islam without consulting both of them." (From "Islamic Server of MSA-USC") (2)
Also the Qur'an itself is said to give positive evidence in the following passages that the divine law of Islam is not merely Qur'an, but both Qur'an and Sunnah:
  • "We sent no messenger save that he should be obeyed. ... But nay, by thy Lord, they will not believe (in truth) until they make thee judge of what is in dispute between them and find within themselves no dislike of that which thou decidest, and submit with full submission." (Qur'an 4.64-65).

    "And it becometh not a believing man or a believing woman, when Allah and His messenger have decided an affair (for them), that they should (after that) claim any say in their affair; and whoso is rebellious to Allah and His messenger, he verily goest astray in error manifest." (Qur'an 33.36).

    "And whatsoever the messenger giveth you, take it. And whatsoever he forbiddeth, abstain (from it)." (Qur'an 59.7).
Based on these passages from the Qur'an, Islamic scholars hold that the sayings of the messenger (the Prophet Muhammad), contained in narrations of the Sunnah (life history), are necessary to the understanding of the "Glorious Qur'an" itself. Further explanation was found as follows:
  • "It is clear that there is no scope for anyone with all his Arabic Scholarship to understand the glorious Qur'an, without the help of the Sunnah of the Prophet (saas), his sayings and actions. ... It is self evident that a man well-informed of the Sunnah is more appropriate to understand the Qur'an and deduce the rules from it than one who is ignorant of it. How can it be a source to one who does not reckon it and does not make reference to it. For this reason it is part of the rules agreed upon that Qur'an should be interpreted by the Qur'an itself as well as the Sunnah, then by the sayings of the Sahabah (companions) ... etc. ... In short, what is obligatory on all Muslims is that they do not separate between Qur'an and Sunnah; whereas it is obligatory to take both of them and to formulate the law on both of them. This is a safeguard for them, so they don't fall right or left; and that they won't fall back in error as explained by the Prophet (saas): 'I leave behind me two things. You will never go wrong if you hold fast to them: The Qur'an and my Sunnah.'" (From "The Status of the Sunnah in Islam" by Muhammad Nasir-ud-deem Al-Albaani.) (1)
Another Arabic word came to the forefront at this point in my study, the word "Hadith," concerning which I found the following:
  • "The Arabic word 'hadith' (pl. ahadith) is very similar to 'Sunnah,' but not identical. A hadith is a 'narration' about the life of the Prophet (saas) or what he approved - as opposed to his life itself, which is the Sunnah." (From "Islamic Server of MSA-USA") (2)
The words "Sunnah" (life history of the Prophet) and "Hadith" (a narration about the life of the Prophet) seem to be used almost interchangeably in Islamic literature. In any case, I found that the "Sunnah" could only be studied from actual "narrations" and when a narration was put in print, it became "Hadith" (narration). Books of "Hadith" are what Muslims must actually reference when seeking to interpret the Qur'an. The book of Hadith which I have found most referenced and in widespread use is "The Hadith of Sahih Al-Bukhari." Bukhari is said by many to be the greatest of all Hadith scholars.

I have cited all of this to point out that I have learned that I must expand my exploration of the Qur'an to include the Sunnah, as contained in books of Hadith, if I am to clear up my confusion concerning seeming incongruities in the Qur'an. The implication of what I have learned is that the Sunnah, the history of the actions and sayings in the actual life of the Prophet Muhammad, are considered by most Muslims to be just as important as the Qur'an in determining Allah's will for mankind. It becomes important for one not only to consider what each verse of the Qur'an says, but to also to consider the life situation and other sayings of the Prophet at the time each verse was received by the Prophet.

Thus, in my consideration of the Qur'an I have begun a study in the realm of Sunnah and it has brought me in contact with differing opinions among Islamic scholars concerning passages in the Qur'an. These differing opinions among leaders of Islam through the many years of Islamic history appear to be responsible for the differing factions or denominations among Muslims existing today, such factions as Sunni, Shia, Ahmaddi, Wahabbi, and the Nation of Islam.

Many Islamic scholars stress the importance of connecting each verse of the Qur'an to the circumstances in the life of the Prophet Muhammad at the time he received that verse. Especially, they consider it important to separate and identify the early verses received when the prophet lived in Mecca from those later verses received when he lived in Medina. In considering the seeming incongruity between Surah 2, Ayat 256 and Surah 9, Ayat 5, it is found that the first reference ("There is no compulsion in religion") was received by the Prophet during his life in Mecca during which time he lived in relative peace with non-Muslims. The second reference ("Slay the idolaters where you find them") was received during the Prophet's life in Medina when he was often at war with non-Muslims. The explanation of some Islamic scholars concerning this seeming incongruity is that God did at first call for peaceful co-existence with non-Muslims during the early period in Mecca, but that God actually called for use of compulsion in dealings with certain non-Muslims during the later period in Medina. In both cases the Prophet is said to have received, recorded, and acted on the will of God.

How then does one understand Surah 4, Ayat 82, (quoted above) which intimates that the Qur'an has no "incongruities?" The answer of Islamic scholars to the so-called "incongruity" problem lies in the adoption of an approach called the "Doctrine of Abrogation." This doctrine basically states that some earlier verses of the Qur'an have been superceded (abrogated) by verses revealed later if there is a conflict of commands among them. This doctrine is considered to be very important in understanding Allah's will for mankind because, in no other way, can inconsistencies or "incongruities" be resolved. The doctrine is said to be specifically stated in Surah 2, Ayat 106 and in Surah 6, Ayat 101:
  • "Such of our revelations as We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, We bring (in place) one better or the like thereof. Knowest thou not that Allah is Able to do all things." (Qur'an 2.106).

    "And when we put a revelation in place of (another) revelation,- and Allah knoweth best what He revealeth - they say: Lo! Thou art but inventing. Most of them know not." (Qur'an 6:101).
All of this left me as confused as ever in answering the question of Allah's will for Muslims concerning co-existence with non-Muslims in our world today. What is the final answer concerning God's will today? Would the Qur'an have people of today denounce the use of compulsion in religion and peacefully co-exist with people of differing beliefs? Or, does the Qur'an instruct the Muslims of today to use compulsion in converting people to Islam?

Considering the Doctrine of Abrogation and the "final" verses of the Qur'an received by the Prophet, there seems to be no choice for Muslims but to disregard the peaceful co-existence recommendations of the early "Meccan Islam" and to embrace the recommendations to use the coercion and forceful means of the later "Medina Islam" in propagating the Islamic religion. Indeed, the terroristic warfare being waged by some Muslims against non-Muslims today seem to indicate that the terrorists fully accept the "Medina Islam" recommendation to "slay the idolaters where you find them" (Qur'an 9.5).

However, I am happy to know that not all Muslims accept the "Medina Islam" syndrome as legitimate. The Muslims among whom I have personally lived and worked have conducted themselves in peaceful, neighborly fashion, showing respect for my Christian beliefs as I have for their Islamic beliefs. We have learned much from each other. My Muslim friends are ashamed of, and express regret for, the terrorist atrocities committed of late by a few people in the name of Islam.

In the interest of mutual respect, friendly dialog, and the eternal salvation of us all, I refer my readers to the Judeo-Christian Bible, which God has addressed in boundless love to each and every human being whom He has created as free will agents. Everyone is free to accept or reject God's grace. The Bible was given by verbal inspiration through God's Holy Spirit to the minds of selected human prophets in order to convey God's love and will for all mankind. No "sunnah" or "hadith" about the writers of the Bible is necessary for understanding God's word presented in the Bible. The only allowable "commentary" about the word of God is that given by inspiration to the writers of the Bible, and this is actually the "commentary" of God Himself. God warns in the Bible against other sayings or writings which may add to, or take away from, God's own word:
  • "(2) You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you." (Spoken by the prophet of God, Moses, to the tribes of Israel, Deuteronomy 4:2).

    "(5) Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. (6) Do not add to His words lest He reprove you, and you be proved a liar." (Solomon, Proverbs 30:5-6).

    "(18) I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God shall add to him the plagues which are written in this book; (19) and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book." (John, Revelation 22:18-19).
In addition to warnings about changing the word of God, all people are urged to search and study the Bible scriptures for themselves:
  • "(11) Now these (the people of Berea) were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things (the preaching of Paul) were so." (Acts 17:11).

    "(15) Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth." (Paul to Timothy, 2 Timothy 2:15).
The Bible is "the Book"which the Qur'an recommends as:
  • "The Book with truth, verifying that which is before it, ... the Taurat (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel), ... a guidance for the people." (Qur'an 3.3).
Please consider the following passages from the Injeel (Gospel) which are basic to understanding God's love and will for mankind.

The "Word" Became "Flesh." (John 1:1-4,14).

  • "(1) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (2) He was in the beginning with God. (3) All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. (4) In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. ... (14) And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:1-4; 14).

The "Fleshly Word" Is the "Son of God." (John 3:16-21).

  • "(16) For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. (17) For God did not send His Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him. (18) He who believes in Him is not judged; but he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (19) And this is the judgement, that the light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil. (20) For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come into the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. (21) But he who practices the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God." (John 3:16-21).

The Fleshly Jesus Is Equal with God. (John 5:19-24).

  • "(19) Jesus therefore answered and was saying to them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. (20) For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and greater works than these will He show Him, that you may marvel. (21) For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes. (22) For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgement to the Son, (23) in order that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. (24) Truly, truly, I say to you, He who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgement, but has passed out of death into life.'" (John 5:19-24).

Jesus is the Bread Out of Heaven to the World. (John 6:41- 51).

  • "(41) The Jews therefore were grumbling about Him, because He said, 'I am the bread that came down out of heaven.' (42) And they were saying, 'Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, 'I have come down out of heaven?' (43) Jesus answered and said to them, 'Do not grumble among yourselves. (44) No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up in the last day. (45) It is written in the prophets, and they shall all be taught of God. Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me. (46) Not that any man has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father. (47) Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. (48) I am the bread of life. (49) Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. (50) This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. (51) I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread also which I give for the life of the world is My flesh.'" (John 6:41-51).

The Followers of Jesus Freely Confess Him. (John 11:25-27).

  • "(25) Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, (26) and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?' (27) She said to Him, 'Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.'" (John 11:25-27).

Mankind Reaches God, the Father, Through Jesus. (John 14:1-6).

  • "(1) 'Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. (2) In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. (3) And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. (4) And you know the way where I am going.' (5) Thomas said to Him, 'Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?' (6) Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by Me.'" (John 14:1-6).

Jesus Put on Trial before the Roman Governor. (John 18:33-37).

  • "(33) Pilate ... summoned Jesus, and said to Him, 'Are You the King of the Jews?' ... (36) Jesus answered, 'My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting, that I might not be delivered up to the Jews; but, as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.' (37) Pilate therefore said to Him, 'So You are a king?' Jesus answered, 'You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.'" (John 18:33, 36-37).

Jesus Was Found Guiltless, None-the-less Crucified. (John 18 and 19).

  • "(38) He (Pilate) went out again to the Jews, and said to them, 'I find no guilt in Him. (39) But you have a custom, that I should release someone for you at the Passover; do you wish then that I release for you the King of the Jews?' (40) Therefore they cried out again, saying, 'Not this Man, but Barabbas.' Now Barabbas was a robber." (John 18:38-40).

    "(4) And Pilate came out again, and said to them, 'Behold, I am bringing Him out to you, that you may know that I find no guilt in Him.' (5) Jesus therefore came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said to them, 'Behold, the Man!' (6) When therefore the chief priests and the officers saw Him, they cried out, saying, 'Crucify, crucify!' Pilate said to them, 'Take Him yourselves, and crucify Him, for I find no guilt in Him. ... (16) So he then delivered Him to them to be crucified. ... (18) There they crucified Him, and with him two other men, one on either side, and Jesus in between." (John 19:4-6, 16, 18).

The Body of Jesus Was Laid in a Tomb. (John 19:38-42).

  • "(38) And after these things Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but a secret one, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate granted permission. He came therefore, and took away His body. (39) And Nicodemus came also, who had first come to Him by night; bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight. (40) And so they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen wrappings with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. (41) Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had yet been laid. (42) Therefore on account of the Jewish day of preparation, because the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there." (John 19:38-42).

Jesus Arose from the Dead on the Third Day. (John 20).

  • "(1) Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone rolled away from the tomb. (2) And so she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and said to them, 'They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.' ... (11) But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; (12) and she beheld two angels in white sitting, one at the head, and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. (13) And they said to her, 'Woman, why are you weeping?' She said to them, 'Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.' (14) When she had said this she turned around, and beheld Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. (15) Jesus said to her, 'Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?' Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, 'Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.' (16) Jesus said to her, 'Mary!' She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, 'Rabboni!' (Which means, Teacher). (17) Jesus said to her, 'Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren, and say to them, 'I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.'" (John 20:1-2, 11-17).

The Resurrected Jesus Commissions His Disciples. (Matthew 28:18-20).

  • "(18) And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, 'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. (19) Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. (20) teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.'" (Matthew 28:18-20).

The Resurrected Jesus Ascends into Heaven. (Acts 2:9-11).

  • "(9) And after He (Jesus) had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. (10) And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was departing, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them; (11) and they also said, 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.'" (Acts 2:9-11).

I pray that the readers of this article, who may not be acquainted with "the Book," the Bible, will obtain a copy and read it for themselves.

With love, F. M. Perry.

(If you would like to write to me concerning this article, please do so via my Contact Page).


Quotations from the Qur'an are from the English translation, "The Meaning of the Glorious Koran," by Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall.

Quotations from the Bible are from the "New American Standard Bible."

(1) The publication "The Status of the Sunnah in Islam" is available on the internet website of the "Qur'an and Sunnah Society"

(2) "Islamic Server of MSA-USC" is found on website

(3) "Terrorism and Islamic Doctrine" website

© F. M. Perry 2002