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:
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:
"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."
"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).
A similar free moral agency for all people is proclaimed by "the Book," (the
"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."
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:
"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
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:
"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).
Surah 9, Ayat 14 also says concerning treatment of idolaters:
"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).
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:
"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).
I have turned to the commentary of Islamic scholars to assist me in clearing
up my confusion.
"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).
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:
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
"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)
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:
"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).
Another Arabic word came to the forefront at this point in my study, the
word "Hadith," concerning which I found the following:
"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
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
"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)
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:
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
"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).
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
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:
In addition to warnings about changing the word of God, all people are urged
to search and study the Bible scriptures for themselves:
"(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).
The Bible is "the Book"which the Qur'an recommends as:
"(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."
"(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).
Please consider the following passages from the Injeel (Gospel) which are
basic to understanding God's love and will for mankind.
"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).
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
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
- "(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