Alternate Activity 1: The Holy Qur’an
Activity time: 20 minutes
Materials for Activity
- Handout 4, Excerpts from the Holy Qur’an for all participants
- Bibles (New Revised Standard Version) for all participants
Description of Activity
Participants read excerpts from the Qur’an, compare stories told with alternate versions told in the Bible, and discuss the implications of those differences.
Share with participants that the Bible is recognized as a sacred text by Muslims. Explain:
In Islam, the Bible, through not considered the ultimate authority, is still counted as a sacred text of true revelation. Islam recognizes that Jesus was a holy messenger, a prophet, but does not consider Jesus divine. Muslims believe that the message in the Bible had become confused or corrupted in the 600 years since it had been written, and therefore Allah’s revelations to Muhammad through the angel Gabriel were intended to provide clarity and be the final word. For this reason, while translations of the Qur’an are used by people all over the world, only the original Arabic Qur’an is considered the ultimate authority to Muslims.
Interestingly, just as the Christian scriptures (or New Testament) were not written down during Jesus’ lifetime, the Qur’an was not written down while Muhammad lived. Instead, it was memorized and repeated word for word. Caliph Uthman, the third Muslim leader in the Sunni tradition, ordered the Qur’an written down, starting about 18 years after Muhammad’s death.
The Qur’an contains instructions for most areas of people’s lives. Its importance to faithful Muslims cannot be overstated. The instructions which became known as the Five Pillars of Islam appear there, as well as many recommendations which (together with additional information from the Hadith) have been codified in Islamic nations as Sharia law. It cannot be changed or added to.
Familiar prophets, including Abraham and Jesus, and many familiar Bible stories appear in the Qur’an. There are differences, however, between the biblical and the qu’ranic tellings, some minor and others significant.
In the story of Noah and the flood, for example, Noah’s son drowns in the qur’anic version, while in the Hebrew scripture version all Noah’s three sons and their wives survive. The Qur’an specifically denies a Trinity, identified as Father, Mother, and Son, while Christian scripture makes no specific mention of a Trinity, although many Christians believe a Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is strongly implied.
In the Qur’an, Jesus appears as a true prophet of God, but truly and only human; in the Christian scriptures, Jesus appears as divine and second only to God.
Distribute Handout 4, Excerpts from the Holy Qur’an and copies of the Bible. Ask a volunteer to read the first excerpt from the handout aloud. Then invite participant responses and discuss the passage with questions such as:
- How does this version differ from the biblical version of the Adam and Eve story? (If needed, ask participants to find parallels in the Bible.)
- The Qur’an states that while Adam was created first, Eve was then created from the same soul. Do you find that idea appealing? Why or why not? Would being created from the same soul tend to affirm or undermine a feeling of equality between women and men? Would it support the idea of being equally valued by God?
- In traditional Judaism and Christianity, Eve picked the fruit and then gave it to Adam. This action has been used to support the idea that women are weaker or more wicked than men. The story is told differently in the Qur’an. Both Adam and Eve share responsibility for defying God’s order not to eat the fruit. What do you think about this difference? How could this story shape the way people think about women and men?
- In the Qur’an, Adam and Eve were created in Paradise, which was not on Earth. After they ate the fruit, God forgave them but removed them from Paradise and put them on Earth. In the Bible, they were created in the Garden of Eden on Earth. After they ate the fruit, God banished them from the Garden and sentenced Eve and all women to greater pain in childbirth as punishment. What do you think about these differences? How might these different versions affect a person’s belief in the ability to create a heaven on Earth?
Ask a volunteer to read the second excerpt from the handout. Then invite participant responses and discuss, using these questions:
- As illustrated in this passage, Jesus is not crucified in the Qur’an. Instead, an illusion appears to the people who wish to crucify him so they believed it has happened, but instead Jesus is taken into Heaven by Allah. How might a Christian view this retelling? Why? Does this version of the end of Jesus’ life tend to put more, or less, emphasis on his teachings? (If needed, ask participants to find parallels in the Christian scripture.)
- The Qur’an was viewed as an essential correction to the Bible, which was perceived to have drifted from its sacred origins. To ensure the ongoing purity of the Qur’an’s message, no additions or changes are permitted: Qur’an is seen as the final and perfect revelation of God. What might some strengths of this stability be? What might be some weaknesses?