Skip to content

A Look Inside the Koran and the Bible (Part 2)

Father Sidney Griffith on the Koran's Treatment of Other Religions

WASHINGTON, D.C., JULY 28, 2004 (Zenit) - The Koran proclaims that Jews and Christians are "People of the Book," but the sacred text sometimes expresses ambivalence about the two faiths, according to a Semitic-languages scholar.

Father Sidney Griffith, a professor of Semitic and Egyptian languages and literature at the Catholic University of America, shared with us what the Koran says about Jesus, Mary and the followers of Abraham, and how it provides points of convergence for interreligious dialogue.

Part 1 of this interview appeared Tuesday.

Q: The Koran mentions Jesus and Mary. Could you explain the context?

Father Griffith: The Koran mentions both Jesus and Mary a number of times, always in terms of great personal esteem.

Most importantly, in Chapter 4, Verse 171, the Koran presents Jesus, the son of Mary, as the Messiah, as God's messenger; Jesus is seen as a word of God which he cast into Mary, and a spirit from him, who is nevertheless, in God's sight like Adam, a creature -- according to Chapter 3, Verse 59.

At one point the Koran says God asked Jesus, "Did you tell people to take you and your mother as two gods?" -- a question that Jesus answered in Chapter 5, Verse 116, saying, "It is not given me to say what is untrue." Clearly, in the Islamic view, both Jesus and Mary are human beings.

The Koran regularly follows the mention of Jesus, the Messiah, with the epithet "son of Mary," as if explicitly to deny the Christian belief that Jesus is the "Son of God."

At one point the Koran denies that Jesus' adversaries killed or crucified him, saying in Chapter 5, Verse 157, "it only seemed so to them," a statement that most Muslims take to mean that Jesus did not in fact die on the cross.

On the basis of a number of other passages in the Koran, most Muslims believe that there will be a role for Jesus on the final day of reckoning. Many Sufis, Muslim mystics, revere Jesus as a model holy man.

Q: For a non-Muslim, the Koran seems to contain a number of contradictions. How would a Muslim see it?

Father Griffith: The contradictions that non-Muslims claim to see in the Koran involve a number of perspectives, both internal and external to the text.

Internally, for example, non-Muslims often point to perceived inconsistencies or reversals of thought or practice between the Meccan and Medinan periods of Mohammed's prophetic career. Externally, they might cite differences between narratives concerned with biblical characters as they appear in the Koran and in the Torah or the Gospel.

Muslims would not consider these differences to be contradictions. Rather, they would think of the non-Muslim's perception of contradiction to be due to a failure in hermeneutics, that is, a failure to read and to understand verses in the Koran on their own terms, and within the interpretive frameworks of the Islamic communities.

Q: What elements in the Koran could open the way for interreligious dialogue? What elements could limit such dialogue?

Father Griffith: In many ways the Koran encourages dialogue with Jews and Christians -- "People of the Book" as the Koran calls them some 54 times. For example, Chapter 10, Verse 94, says, "If you are in doubt about what We have sent down to you, ask those who were reading scripture before you."

Chapter 29, verse 46, proclaims, "Do not dispute with the People of the Book save in the fairest way; except for those of them who are evildoers. And say: 'We believe in what has been sent down to us and what has been sent down to you. Our God and your God are one and to Him we are submissive.'"

But there is some ambivalence. It is also the case that the Koran provides a powerful critique of the religious beliefs and practices of Christians and Jews. It characterizes their beliefs as going beyond the bounds of religious propriety -- for example, in Chapter 4, Verse 171, and Chapter 5, Verse 77) and their customary behavior as morally objectionable.

On the one hand the Koran says in Chapter 5, Verse 82, that Christians are "the closest in affection to the believers."

On the other hand, in Chapter 5, Verse 51, it says, "Taken them not as friends." Another verse -- Chapter 2, Verse 120, says, "Neither the Jews nor the Christians will be pleased with you until you follow their religion."

And within the Islamic polity, as envisioned by the Koran in Chapter 9, Verse 29, the People of the Book are required to pay a special poll tax and to adopt a low social profile in return for the protection, "dhimmah," of the Muslims, hence the adjective "dhimmi," or "one under protection," as applied to Christians or Jews.

Nevertheless, the Koran provides numerous points of convergence for interreligous dialogue. One of the most important of them is the significance of the faith of the biblical patriarch Abraham.

While the Koran insists in Chapter 3, Verse 67, that he was neither a Jew nor a Christian, but a submissive monotheist, it also speaks of the "religion of Abraham" in terms very close to those used by Jews and Christians. The Koran speaks of Abraham as God's friend; so do Isaiah 41:8 and James 2:23.

Q: What do you think attracts Western converts to Islam?

Father Griffith: There are many factors involved in the attraction of Islam to religious seekers in the West.

Positively, Islam is a compelling, reasonable, uncompromising monotheism with a biblical flavor. It provides a compelling moral code, which many moderns and postmoderns view as both realistic and honorable. The Koran's prophetology provides a congenial estimation of what it perceives to be the positive factors in earlier revelations, along with reasons why earlier peoples failed to heed them faithfully.

Islamic history and tradition in various times and places have produced societies with many admirable intellectual and scientific accomplishments. Many Westerners find Islamic mysticism attractive; others see in Islam an effective religious answer to what they view as the ills of the modern Western world.

On the negative side, many Christians who are attracted to Islam lack an adequate understanding of the history and teachings of the Church, and are easily deceived by the many hostile attacks on the Church's doctrines, practices and historical record.

They are unaware of the Church's answers to Islam's critique of Christianity. The shortcomings and moral failures they perceive in Christian communities sometimes dismay them. Often they are unaware of comparable problems in other communities of faith, including the Muslims.

The prevalent materialism and secularism of Western society has in many instances convinced potential converts to Islam that only in Islam can they find an effective antidote to it.

Sometimes potential converts to Islam are overcome in their own efforts faithfully to live the Christian life and, failing to find effective pastoral care from fellow Christians, or failing to follow it, they receive moral guidance and support from pious, observant Muslims.

Contact

Catholic Online
http://www.catholic.org CA, US
Catholic Online - Publisher, 661 869-1000

Email

info@yourcatholicvoice.org

Keywords

Koran, Bible, Catholic, Islam, Muslims

More Catholic PRWire

Showing 1 - 50 of 4,718

A Recession Antidote
Randy Hain

Monaco & The Vatican: Monaco's Grace Kelly Exhibit to Rome--A Review of Monegasque-Holy See Diplomatic History
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.

The Why of Jesus' Death: A Pauline Perspective
Jerom Paul

A Royal Betrayal: Catholic Monaco Liberalizes Abortion
Dna. Maria St.Catherine De Grace Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.

Embrace every moment as sacred time
Mary Regina Morrell

My Dad
JoMarie Grinkiewicz

Letting go is simple wisdom with divine potential
Mary Regina Morrell

Father Lombardi's Address on Catholic Media
Catholic Online

Pope's Words to Pontifical Latin American College
Catholic Online

Prelate: Genetics Needs a Conscience
Catholic Online

State Aid for Catholic Schools: Help or Hindrance?
Catholic Online

Scorsese Planning Movie on Japanese Martyrs
Catholic Online

2 Nuns Kidnapped in Kenya Set Free
Catholic Online

Holy See-Israel Negotiation Moves Forward
Catholic Online

Franchising to Evangelize
Catholic Online

Catholics Decry Anti-Christianity in Israel
Catholic Online

Pope and Gordon Brown Meet About Development Aid
Catholic Online

Pontiff Backs Latin America's Continental Mission
Catholic Online

Cardinal Warns Against Anti-Catholic Education
Catholic Online

Full Circle
Robert Gieb

Three words to a deeper faith
Paul Sposite

Relections for Lent 2009
chris anthony

Wisdom lies beyond the surface of life
Mary Regina Morrell

World Food Program Director on Lent
Catholic Online

Moral Clarity
DAN SHEA

Pope's Lenten Message for 2009
Catholic Online

A Prayer for Monaco: Remembering the Faith Legacy of Prince Rainier III & Princess Grace and Contemplating the Moral Challenges of Prince Albert II
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe

Keeping a Lid on Permissiveness
Sally Connolly

Glimpse of Me
Sarah Reinhard

The 3 stages of life
Michele Szekely

Sex and the Married Woman
Cheryl Dickow

A Catholic Woman Returns to the Church
Cheryl Dickow

Modernity & Morality
Dan Shea

Just a Minute
Sarah Reinhard

Catholic identity ... triumphant reemergence!
Hugh McNichol

Edging God Out
Paul Sposite

Burying a St. Joseph Statue
Cheryl Dickow

George Bush Speaks on Papal Visit
Catholic Online

Sometimes moving forward means moving the canoe
Mary Regina Morrell

Action Changes Things: Teaching our Kids about Community Service
Lisa Hendey

Easter... A Way of Life
Paul Spoisite

Papal initiative...peace and harmony!
Hugh McNichol

Proclaim the mysteries of the Resurrection!
Hugh McNichol

Jerusalem Patriarch's Easter Message
Catholic Online

Good Friday Sermon of Father Cantalamessa
Catholic Online

Papal Address at the End of the Way of the Cross
Catholic Online

Cardinal Zen's Meditations for Via Crucis
Catholic Online

Interview With Vatican Aide on Jewish-Catholic Relations
Catholic Online

Pope Benedict XVI On the Easter Triduum
Catholic Online

Holy Saturday...anticipation!
Hugh McNichol

Never Miss any Updates!

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers.

Information
Learn about Catholic world

Catholic Online
Inform - Inspire - Ignite

Catholic Online Saints
Your saints explained

Catholic Online Prayers
Prayers for every need

Catholic Online Bible
Complete bible online

Catholic Online News
Your news Catholic eye

Daily Reading
Today's bible reading

Lent / Easter
Death & resurrection of Jesus

Advent / Christmas
Birth of Jesus

Rest of Catholic Online
All Catholic world we offer

Services
Products and services we offer

Catholic Online Shopping
Catholic medals, gifts & books

The California Network
Inspiring streaming service

Advertise on Catholic Online
Your ads on catholic.org

Catholic Online Email
Email with Catholic feel

Catholic Online Singles
Safe, secure Catholic dating

The California Studios
World-class post production service

Education
Learn the Catholic way

Catholic Online School
Free Catholic education for all

Student Classes
K-12 & Adult Education Classes

Catholic Online MasterClass
Learn from experts

School Teachers
Teacher lesson plans & resources

Catholic Media Missionaries
The New Evangelization

Support Free Education
Tax deductible support Free education

Socials
Connect with us online

Catholic Online on Facebook
Catholic social network

Catholic Online on Twitter
Catholic Tweets

Catholic Online on YouTube
Enjoy our videos

Catholic Online on Instagram
Shared Catholic moments

Catholic Online on Pinterest
Catholic ideas style inspiration

Catholic Online Logo

Copyright 2017 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2017 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.