Reading the Qur’an

I’ve finally decided to read the Qur’an.  I bought an English language translation over a decade ago, tried starting it once, and gave up after a few pages.  Prompted by a world religions study that I’m leading for my mid-week study group at church, I decided it was time to plunge in again.  This time, it looks like I’m going to make it.

Obviously, I’m not going to be touting the Qur’an as divine revelation.  Without a guide that can help me make sense of the text faithfully (something I encourage everyone approaching the Bible for the first time to do with Scripture as well), I won’t pretend to be able to derive it’s fullest senses and nuances.  But there are plenty of observations that I can make now that I’m about halfway or more through it.
I’m surprised by how many references it makes to the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, both directly and indirectly.  It talks more than once about Jesus, his mother Mary, Moses, Abraham, and even King David in a recent passing reference.  I’m also surprised at how much liberty the Qur’an takes with these existing texts.  It refers to some events, retells others, adds dialogue and other elements to other renditions.  It also repeatedly states that both Jews and Christians have not remained faithful to their Scriptures, and have not necessarily passed them on with the same accuracy that they were originally revealed.  
Thus far the Qur’an is radically different from the Hebrew & Christian Scriptures in it’s general tone and intent.  It is concerned with submission – the reader’s submission to Allah.  It spends a lot of time enjoining the reader towards this submission, both through alternating threats and promises of blessings, as well as through legal directives reminiscent of Leviticus and other sections of the Old Testament.  
Also interesting is the Qur’an’s implicit assumption that the reader is male.  Women are talked about in the third person exclusively, while males are referred to in the second person.  Part of this would make sense if these are the direct words of the angel Gabriel speaking to the man Mohammed.  But it’s interesting all the same.  
Overall, I haven’t come across anything terribly surprising.  Most of it seems, well, familiar – as in it is contained in the Hebrew or Christian Scriptures.  The biggest impression is that of driving the reader towards the acceptance of Mohammed’s revelation as authoritative personally.  While there are plenty of reiterations that Allah is benevolent and forgiving, there are no fewer passages that both indicate that Allah is not inclined to be forgiving with those who reject him, and that ultimately he’s going to do what he wants to do anyways, so we all ought to be on our best behavior just in case.  
There seem to be plenty of conflicting passages about interactions with Jews and Christians, alternately enjoining benevolence and kindness, then stressing the importance of not trusting them or seeing them as allies.   There are passages encouraging the faithful to live in peace with others, but plenty of others encouraging the faithful to be fervent in warfare.  
I’ll post more later, but it’s good to finally be reading this for myself.  

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