This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.The Koran is not a book of blacks and whites but more often a study in varying shades of gray; allowing the reader to pick the attitude or sentiment that best suits themselves and their needs. We see this exemplified in what the Koran has to say regarding both Jews and Christians. In the life of Muhammad we see a pattern of great hostility towards Jews and Christians as many were killed and their nations conquered to pave the way for Muslim expansionism. We see the same hostility and aggression today by many who claim to be Muslims. However, the status of Christians, as explained in the Koran, is not quite so simple as "slay them wherever you find them." (Koran 4:91) It is hard to understand the Koran's exact position on Jews and Christians and which suras are contradictory and which have been abrogated. The Koran at times shows admiration for some Christians.
"Yet they are not all alike; some of the People of the Book are a nation upstanding [an upright folk], that recite God's signs in the watches of the night, bowing themselves [and adore], believing in God and in the Last Day, bidding to honour [justice] and forbidding dishonour [evil], vying one with the other in good works; those are of the righteous." (Koran 3:109-110)However, while the Koran is at times charitable towards Christians, the same is not often said of Jews.
"Thou wilt surely find the most hostile [intense in hatred] of men to the believers are the Jews and the idolaters; and thou wilt surely find the nearest of them in love [affection] to the believers are those who say 'We are Christians'; that, because some of them are priests and monks, and they wax not proud; and when they hear what has been sent down to the Messenger, thou seest their eyes overflow with tears because of the truth they recognize. They say, 'Our Lord, we believe; so do Thou write us down among the witnesses." (Koran 5:85-86)It appears that the Koran's view of Jews most closely mirrors Muhammad's experience with Jews. What is most interesting in this sura is that Muhammad claims that these sentiments are God's sentiments, not his own, and that they are recorded this way in the Arabic Mother Book in heaven.
Muhammad further teaches his followers to not be rude, aggressive, or argumentative towards Christians but to attempt to convince them and turn them towards Islam through persuasion rather than violence.
"Dispute not with the People of the Book save in the fairer manner [in kindly sort], except for those of them that do wrong [have dwelt wrongfully with you]" (Koran 29:45)However, as we shall see, in other places, the Koran directly contradicts this sura in favor of the exclusion of Christians from any friendly affections and the abandonment of any noble persuasion in favor of violence.
The Koran clearly states that those who bear the name of Jew and Christian can be saved and can inherit paradise even though they never take the name of Muslim; even giving a special promise to the believers of the prophet Jesus
"Surely they that believe, and those of Jewry, and the Christians, and those Sabaeans, whoso believes in God and the Last Day, and works righteousness -- their wage awaits them with their Lord, and no fear shall be on them; neither shall they sorrow." (Koran 2:59)
"Jesus… I will set thy followers above the unbelievers till the Resurrection Day." (Koran 3:48)Clearly, the Koran sees a level of kinship between the Christians and the Muslims; a kinship that is born out of a common faith they have inherited from Abraham. The Koran makes an appeal to Christians to realize that Muslims believe in the same things and the same Scriptures as we do and we ought not to see Muslims as being too different from ourselves.
"Say: 'We believe in God, and that which has been sent down on us, and sent down on Abraham and Ishmael, Isaac and Jacob, and the Tribes, and in that which was given to Moses and Jesus, and the Prophets, of their Lord; we make no division between any of them, and to Him we surrender.' " (Koran 3:38)
"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 is One, and to Him we have surrendered [are self-surrendered].'" (Koran 29:45)Furthermore, the prophet long foretold, and for which the Jews waited and watched, has come in the person of Muhammad. The Koran make an appeal for us to see this promise as fulfilled in Muhammad for both the Jew, the Christian, and for the Muslim. He is the fulfillment to our (the Jews and the Christians) promise.
"And when God took compact with the Prophets: 'That I have given you of Book and Wisdom; then there shall come to you a Messenger confirming what is with you -- you shall believe in him and you shall help him; do you agree?' He said. 'And do you take My load on you on that condition?' They said, 'We do agree.' God said, 'Bear witness so, and I shall be with you among the witnesses.' Then whosoever turns his back after that -- they are the ungodly." (Koran 3:75-76)Based on this kinship of faith and the fulfillment of a common promise, the Koran appeals to Jews and Christians alike to become Muslims.
"Say: 'People of the Book! Come now to a word common between us and you, that we serve none but God, and that we associate not aught with Him, and do not some of us take others as Lords, apart from God.' And if they turn their backs, say: 'Bear witness that we are Muslims.'" (Koran 3:57)However, what we are called to is not really a unity of faith, morality, and righteousness but a unity of conformity. Islam is very tolerant of those who wish to conform and become like them, but that tolerance quickly fades away when one refuses assimilation. This is true even of differing Muslim sects. We will look at this further in the next post.
More to come...