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Is the Quran Like the Bible?

Let's look at some similarities. We start reading the Bible and we begin with Genesis chapter one. It deals with the creation of the heavens and the earth. It then goes on to the creation of man, especially the creation of Adam. Now, let's examine the Quran. The Quran has a brief opening chapter, which is in praise of God, similar to one of the Psalms in the Bible. We then move on to what's called a surah of the Quran. You might say a chapter of the Quran. Instead of this being Genesis chapter one, it turns out to have similar content initially as with Genesis chapter one, since there are a few verses that are a sort of preamble to give those who are seeking guidance an idea of how to approach the book.

In contrast, some people do not seek guidance. Some people are hypocritical and some people turn away.

Yet, after this sort of preamble, we reach the 29th verse of this chapter, which speaks about the creation of the heavens and the earth.

Following that, the 30th verse explores the creation of Adam. Chapter three goes into what is described by our Christian friends as the fall of Adam. In the subsequent verses, we have a description of God telling Adam to not eat from a particular tree. The Devil whispers to Adam and Eve, and they eat from the tree. The consequences of that are then explored. We have here an unfolding of the story that is similar to that of the Bible, except for the opening chapter, which is similar to one of the Psalms and the preamble to instruct you on how to approach this text as we proceed through it. You can say that there are a lot of similarities!

Many years ago, I distinctly recall that I was invited to a church to give a message. It was a sort of interfaith gathering. I opened the Quran and started to read from this very chapter where it speaks about the creation of Adam. Later on, one of the older ladies accosted me and said, “You know what, when you started reading, I thought you were reading the Bible. It sounded so similar to what people are already familiar with!” Of course, if one wants to be picky, one will say that the Quran is different. That is different in that place, even in the same story.

Muslims would see those differences as positive and as the Quran's way of reasserting the original story, but retelling it in a way that conforms to the Quran's outlook and theology.

The Quran has its own plan on how to mould people, how to mould belief, how to draw people closer to God. To do that, the Quran sometimes gives a slant on the story. From a Muslim perspective, this may be because it's possible that something was lost in translation in the transmission process of the previous revelations. Perhaps somebody misremembered or miswrote something and they are now afraid that the Quran is being revealed from God's perspective and telling us how the story really should be told in order to bring out the moral lessons without any snags in the story. Those are the similarities and we can go on and on. We can see the stories moving on from this story of Adam and we can see the stories of Abraham. We can see the stories of Noah, even before Abraham, including the stories of Moses and the stories about Jesus.

There are some important differences. I've already indicated that the Quran has its own way of retelling the story. So, that's one important and key concept. I've also spoken about the Quran being revealed from God's perspective and that according to Muslim theology, the Quran is the speech of God. It is God speaking to the prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. By extension, God is speaking to us. For example, someone writing an individual’s penning and declaring that this is the word of God. In the case of the Quran, however, it's God himself telling us what God wants to tell us. That creates a different dynamic and it feels more personal.

In this case, the prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, is just a conduit through which the word of God is flowing. In the Quran itself, God is speaking to one and commanding the prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him as well. When God is talking to his prophet, we resemble bystanders who are observing what's going on. Then the discourse turns to us and God is speaking to us now. There are passages and supplications which are to be recited by the believer. We understand this to be God's way of telling us that this is how we should pray to him as He is giving us the exact words. Some passages are better explained by saying that the prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, authors them because it's from the point of view of a human who is addressing God or speaking. Yet, these are mostly exceptions within the larger discourse where we have God simply addressing his creatures.

We get the sense that there is a single author. This is the divine author and the ultimate divine being.

The Quran is often spoken in the first person in the plural form, which puzzles some people because Islam insists that there is only one God and the Quran itself insists that there is only one God. So why the plurality? As Muslims explain this, it might be God's way of emphasising his majesty and powers when he wants to insist that He's only one God. We also see some resorting back to the singular, to say things like “I am only one God”. The Quran in this way, by having this divine authorship emphasised, assures Muslims that what we have in the Quran is not the word of man, but the word of God. God is speaking and saying, “We have created you”. We get this majestic voice of power, authority, and divinity in the Quran.

In the case of the Quran, the whole period of revelation to the prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, was 23 years. The prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, started getting revelations. He was about 40 years old, which was in the year 610 of the common era. He passed away in the year 622. I know that so far, it seems like 22 years - 22 years on the solar calendar, but it was approximately 23 in the lunar calendar. The revelation ceased at that time and his companions compiled the revelations in the form of a book within the two years. As for the Bible, this took a much longer time. The Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, were said to be written by the prophet Moses, according to Jewish tradition and also accepted largely by Christians traditionally. Nowadays, this is questioned, but this is the tradition and Moses lived until about the 13th century Before Christ. After Jesus, on whom be peace, his disciples set about preaching and people compiled the preachings and writing. Eventually, we have the New Testament emerging by the end of the first century into the second century. We can say it took about 1500 years altogether for the Bible to come together as a whole.

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