Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Religion: Taking a Look at the Koran, part III

Religions have some features in common. For instance, there is usually some attempt to explain how things got to be where they are now. Religions vary on the degree to which god (of whatever type) is involved. Even atheism, a world view where there is no god, has a way to explain how things got to be where they are now. Their explanation is that evolution explains everything even religion itself. Am not going to debate the strengths and weaknesses of evolution in this blog post but I will state that atheism necessitates evolution. Simply put, if an atheists does not believe in evolution, then they are stuck with no ability to explain reality.

Aside from attempting to establish some narrative to explain the world as it is today, religions offer rules to live by and the Koran appears to offer that as well in the chapter I've been looking at.

The second chapter of the Koran is pretty long, 286 verses.

Sprinkled throughout the second Surah but mostly toward the end of the chapter are various admonitions on how to live: prayer, charity, Ramadan, the Pilgrimage, money and marriage/divorce.

In the second Surah, from verses 1-30, there is much about the right and wrong path and to God being the creator. Koran 2:2, "This is the Book; in it is guidance sure, without doubt, to those who fear Allah." Then in Koran 2:29, "It is He who created for you all things that are on the earth."

Interestingly, we meet Adam! Just like in Genesis, we meet Adam and Adam falls, Koran 2:36, "Then did Satan make them slip from the (Garden), and get them out of the state (of felicity) in which they had been."

Other figures familiar to Jews and Christians make their appearances in this chapter of the Koran. For instance, Koran 2:87, "We gave Moses the Book and followed him up with a succession of messengers; We gave Jesus the son of Mary Clear (Signs) and strengthened him with the holy spirit. Is it that whenever there comes to you a messenger with what ye yourselves desire not, ye are puffed up with pride?- Some ye called impostors, and others ye slay!"


Doesn't this sound a lot like Matthew 23:37, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God' messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn't let me."

It is really interesting to see that the Children of Israel are mentioned so explicitly in the Koran. See Koran 2:40, 47, 122, "O Children of Israel! Call to mind the special favor which I bestowed upon you."

Then there is Koran 2:116-117:
They say: "Allah hath begotten a son" :Glory be to Him.-Nay, to Him belongs all that is in the heavens and on earth: everything renders worship to Him. To Him is due the primal origin of the heavens and the earth: When He decreeth a matter, He saith to it: "Be," and it is.
It would seem that the Koran is saying that Christians are mistaken in assigning to Jesus divine status as the son of God.

Another verse that caught my eye was Koran 2:136-137
Say ye: "We believe in Allah, and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Isma'il, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) prophets from their Lord: We make no difference between one and another of them: And we bow to Allah (in Islam)." So if they believe as ye believe, they are indeed on the right path; but if they turn back, it is they who are in schism; but Allah will suffice thee as against them, and He is the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing.
All very interesting!

No doubt about the fact that the three theistic religions have their roots in Abraham.

My question then is this: if in Judaism the blessing came to Isaac and in Islam, the blessing came to Ishmael, then why is Jacob and Moses and Jesus (all descendants of Isaac) mentioned in the above mentioned passage?

Also, when it makes reference to "the Tribes," are they referring to the descendants of Ishmael?

Perhaps Islam believes that god worked on parallel tracks through both lines?

If so, then why the hostility toward Judaism and Christianity?

By the way, I define hostility in a very narrow sense. I don't think it is hostile if someone tells me I'm going to hell because I believe in Jesus or the wrong conception of Jesus. However, I think it is hostile if someone will try to kill me because I believe in Jesus. My thinking on this has been influenced by Dennis Prager who is a Jewish radio talk show host in Los Angeles. Prager often talks about religion on his program and people have asked him, how do you feel when people of other religions tell him, you are going to hell?

Prager responds by saying, that maybe so but you don't have the right to send me there prematurely!

Previous posts in this series:
Part I
Part II


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