In the wake of the 9-11 attacks on the United States of America by Islamic terrorists, interest by non-Muslims in the teachings of the Qur'an continues to grow. However understanding an English translation of the Arabic Qur'an is often frustrating. For a person trying to comprehend the Qur'an there are three barriers to overcome. These barriers block understanding the Qur'an resulting in heated debates on the central beliefs of Islam and how it relates to Christianity. The purpose of this book is to take the mystery out of a study of the Qur'an for non-Muslims and provide a Christian comparison of the Qur'an and the Bible.
People debate the meaning of the Qur'an on television talk shows as well as at the corner coffee shop. World leaders cannot cite clear evidence whether the Qur'an teaches peace or demands a holy war. Neighbors disagree whether Mohammed is comparable with Jesus. One thinks that both were great religious leaders who taught goodness and morality while the other believes Mohammed was a false prophet who lived an immoral life and founded a frightening religion. Neither can support their views with verses from the Qur'an because their understanding of the Qur'an is hindered in three ways.
The first is a barrier of confusion resulting from the fact that the Qur'an rarely offers a topical presentation of teachings. In the Qur'an, most chapters sporadically change topics in a disjointed manner. This was the first obstacle I decided to tackle as I began my examination of Islamic beliefs. I began my study of Islam with a Penguin Classics' translation entitled The Koran authored by an Iraqi named N. J. Dawood (1). As I read, I put symbols in the margins to identify the subject of each passage so I could return and categorize them by topics. I discussed my findings with hundreds of Muslims in meetings as well as through individual dialogues. My work has culminated in this book, which arranges the teachings of the Qur'an topically. At a glance you can discover what the Qur'an teaches on subjects ranging from warfare to marriage. There is a great amount of repetition in the Qur'an so I would often choose one verse to represent many verses that taught the same thing.
Actually, there is some repetition in this book also and for good reason. In order for this text to be a quick reference for those who might want to use it to investigate a single topic, there are instances in which I have repeated Qur'an verses in more than one chapter. This is because a single verse can relate to several different categories. For the same reason, I have repeated some historical or theological information in the various chapter introductions that relate to more than one topical study.
The second barrier hinders comprehension of English translations of the Qur'an,because they are mostly written in an antiquated style and not easy to read. To solve this problem, I paraphrased each passage into contemporary English. Actually, a translation of any document is a paraphrase to some extent, but this book amplifies the meaning of the Qur'an verses to enhance the reader’s understanding. For example, an Islamic translation of the Qur'an’s chapter 10 verse 94 (10:94) reads as follows; "If thou wert in doubt as to what we have revealed unto thee, then ask those who have been reading the book from before thee (2).” The meaning of that same verse is unveiled by my paraphrased version which reads, "If you (Mohammed) doubt the reliability of the Qur'an, you should ask those who are reading the Bible, which was revealed prior to your life (10:94)." To be a reliable paraphrased translation, great care must be given to a correct understanding of the passage.
To ensure the most objective and accurate interpretation of the Qur'an, I used five different translations to cross-reference the verses. This was sometimes a challenge since the verse numbering systems of various versions of the Qur'an are slightly different. Decades of dialogue with Arabic speaking individuals, about verse interpretation, was helpful as well. By these means, an honest attempt was made to translate correctly while paraphrasing the Qur'an verses in modern English.
The third barrier is censorship, which takes two forms. Some Islamic promotional materials selectively collect and present only the attractive verses arranged by subjects, such as faith, prayer and charity. Other passages are left out which are controversial or offensive to non-Muslims, such as those on the subject of holy war, the command to beat rebellious women or the ownership of slaves. Since I wanted to offer you a complete presentation of what the Qur'an teaches, no subject was intentionally omitted.
Censorship takes another form in many of the English translations of the Qur'an. Some translators attempt to make the Qur'an more acceptable to western readers by their choice of words. For example, some translate violent verses like "fight for Islam" as "strive for Islam" or unscientific sounding verses like "Allah leveled the earth flat" as "Allah spread out the earth." To ensure that the word usage in this book reflected the true meaning of the passage, the verses were not only studied in context but in comparison with other verses on the same topic.
Even with all this care, I am sure I have made mistakes. I invite your help. This is an E-book which will continue to be revised and improved. Many of those improvements will be made in response to your feedback. Please send your comments to my E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org. I use a pseudonym (a “pen name”). You are welcome to do the same.
What does the Qur'an actually teach and how does it compare with the Bible? What do Muslims' believe? What is at the heart of the Islamic faith? Now more than ever before, it is important for all non-Muslims to know the answers to these questions. With this topical, paraphrased and uncensored presentation of the teachings of the Qur'an, conclusions are left up to the reader.
Muslims themselves may find this book enlightening. My focus on non-Muslims is not meant to exclude them from benefiting from this study. Of course, I would invite feedback from Muslims, as well, who read this work and wish to comment.
1. The Koran, Translated by N. J. Dawood, Penguin Classics, London, England. 1956 ISBN #0-14-044052-6
2. The Holy Qur'an English Translation of the Meanings of the Qur'an with Notes, Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Copyright 1992, H&C International, PO Box 51841, Indianapolis, IN 46251, USA, p.158