Category Archives: Religion

As-salam Alaykum

The two bombing suspects in Boston have been identified, and we see that they are Chechens who over the course of their lives here in the United States became radicals. Once again, the ugly specter of fundamentalist Islamic terrorism is brought to our nation. And once again, the equally ugly specter of hatred toward an entire religion and its believers arises from within.

We are told competing messages. Islam is alternatively a religion of peace and a cult of terror. The majority of Muslims oppose the heinous acts of a few, or they remain silent in the face of dangerous people among them. In all of this, a great many outsiders take it upon themselves to characterize beliefs that they know little about and cultures that they have not studied.

I am not a Muslim, and therefore, what I am about to say here is also the voice of an outsider, but in my defense, I have read the Qur’an and teach portions of it every semester to my World Literature students. Consider the following two passages:

Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known a man by sleeping with him. But all the young girls who have not known a man by sleeping with him, keep alive for yourselves. Camp outside the camp seven days; whoever of you has killed any person or touched a corpse, purify yourselves and your captives.

And

O mankind! reverence your Guardian Lord, who created you from a single person, created, of like nature, his mate, and from them twain scattered like seeds countless men and women–reverence God, through Whom ye demand your mutual rights, and reverence the wombs that bore you, for God ever watches over you.

Or how about this pair:

If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind; for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord.

And

This is the Book; in it is guidance sure, without doubt, to those who fear God, who believe in the unseen and are steadfast in prayer, and spend out of what We have provided for them, and who believe in the revelation sent to you, and sent before your time, and in their hearts have the assurance of the hereafter. They are on true guidance from their Lord, and it is these who will prosper. As to those who reject faith, it is the same to them whether you warn them or do not warn them; they will not believe.

Finally,

Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements–surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?

And

You certainly know already the first form of creation: Why then do you not celebrate His praises? See you the see that you sow in the ground? Is it you that cause it to grow, or are We the cause? Were it our will, we could crumble it to dry powder, and you would be left in wonderment.

Call this an intellectual parlor game. Of each pair, which comes from the Bible and which from the Qur’an? The passages are from Numbers 31:17-19, Job 38:4-7, James 1:5-8, and Suras 2:1-6, 4:1, and 56:62-65, if you want to look them up.

What’s the point? The language of the two books is so much alike as to be hard to distinguish. In fact, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arabic are much like Portuguese, Spanish, and Italian in how closely related they are. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all come from the same place and share the same cultural heritage. The Hebrew word for God, El, is the same as the Arabic word, Allah.

Have atrocities been committed in the name of Islam? Certainly. The same, though, must be said for acts done from supposedly Christian motives. Conflict between these two daughter faiths of Judaism has gone on for centuries, and both sides have bad actors within their midst. Religion, like any human endeavor, has a mixture of good and evil. The three monotheistic faiths that arose out of the Middle East have been the source for much that is the best of our creations and have shown the worst in us.

Rather than dismiss one as having nothing worthy in it while believing another without introspection, it is better to study all three, to see how they are three members of the same squabbling family, a family that for better or worse has shaped much of our world. To hate one is to hate all, for they share the same spiritual DNA.

Crossposted on English 301: Reading and Writing.