I read 400 pages of a 500 page English translation of the Qur’an by Abdullah Yusuf Ali. I was surprised by the contents. I am a reader of ancient texts. I understand the need to be sensitive to context and history. So I say I read the text rather than studied it knowing the limitations but at the same time a reading of an ancient text provides a reasonable insight. The first thing that I noted was the predominance and repetition of the words submit (Islam), obedience, duty and punishment. They were repeated throughout the writing and were ubiquitous. The next thing I noted was the absence of the verb ‘to love’. In 400 pages I found it used once in reference to God and humankind (I may have missed some other instances, but doubt it). God is spoken of repeatedly as all powerful, merciful and supreme. Mercy is shown to the faithful and the righteous (those who submit) and there seems to be nothing akin to the concept of God found in the Parable of the Waiting Father (Luke 15).
I became surprised after 100 pages or so not to find any explicit (there may have been implicit references but very subtle) reference to the Shema, the two Great Commandments, Jesus commandments to love one another as he loved us, and to love our enemies.
The Qur’an contains a polemic against Judaism and Christianity. In fact what amounts to a creedal faith statement includes the denouncing that God has a son or a ‘partner’. The latter is a reference to the Trinity.
Furthermore the inequality of women and men is not so subtly shown in the passages on divorce which note that a man has an ‘advantage’ over a woman in the process. And the advice on inheritances clearly has males receiving more than the females.
I came away with two strong feelings. Firstly disturbed by Holy Scriptures of a major religion that is loaded with notions of righteousness and punishment that God will punish the unrighteousness. Further more God punishes the unrighteousness – those who have not submitted – through God’s earthly agents. Secondly, I would love to sit down with an Imam and discuss these matters openly to see what I have missed or … .
But I came away understanding why so easily a Muslim could violently oppose those who apparently insulted or opposed them. The Qur’an implicitly if not explicitly requires such action! That’s my first reading!