Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Intellect, the Bible, and the Quran

One of the things I really like about Islamic culture is the intellectual nature of it. The fact that Mohammad's first revelation was "Read!" is indicative of that nature. My understanding is that every Muslim is supposed to read the entire Quran during the month of Ramadan. Additionally, Quranic memorization is a common occurrence and there is even a well-developed science to reading the Quran.

This stands in stark contrast to much of Christianity, where many people never read the Bible and indeed for centuries only the clergy and well educated had access to Bibles. Although the Roman Catholic church insisted on keeping mass in Latin for centuries, it made no effort to educate people in Latin. It wasn't until relatively recently that colloquial translations of the Bible were made.

Islam is similar in its sticking to Arabic but it stresses learning and reading Arabic for all Muslims, not just the clergy and affluent. In this way, religion has a place in the lives of everyday, common man rather than just those with the money and time to pursue such studies.

This intellectual side is also evident in the Quran, which states that one should understand and not simply blindly follow what you're told. I very much respect this questioning of religion as blind acceptance of anything is dangerous, in my opinion. I feel like if you're going to believe something and follow something, whether it's religious, political, or scientific, you should be able to logically explain your belief. Blind acceptance without question leads to fascism in government and extremist cults in religion. I don't claim that Islam is without this blind acceptance or that Christianity is without intellectualism; I just appreciate how it seems to be a central facet to Islam.

Anyway, after I started my questioning of everything, my regular reading of my Bible changed drastically. I began noticing many little things that didn't quite make sense. One of these oddities was Jesus' praying to God. I couldn't figure out why Jesus, as a part of God through the Trinity, would need to pray. I can accept him leading prayer amongst others but his individual prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane doesn't make any sense to me. As a part of God, it seems to me that he's praying to himself. Is he asking himself for intervention or blessing?

I asked my Pastor this question and I wasn't terribly pleased with the response. I was told that it is part of the mystery that is God. The question was actually reflected back to me: how would I, as a believer, explain it to a non-believer? It actually makes me think of the movie Contact where the scientists state that the simple solution is most probably fact, Occam's razor. It's much more natural to accept a god that's clearly understandable and plainly laid out. The whole "mystery of God" thing is fairly unappealing. I don't claim that God must be entirely comprehensible to man but if God wants man to worship and follow him, I think he would clarify important issues such as these.

Another thing that I noticed while reading, although the Quran this time, was the mention of the Holy Spirit. In sura Baqara, 2:87, "We gave Jesus, the son of Mary, clear signs and strengthened him with the Holy Spirit." I also noticed it later on in the same sura but I didn't write down which ayah. I also should've noted the Arabic word that was translated to Holy Spirit. What surprised me was the fact that it was captalized, especially given its meaning in Christianity. I can understand the Quran referencing the spirit as a characteristic of God but the "Holy Spirit" has a well-defined meaning in the mind of Christians. For this reason alone, I would expect the translator to avoid that phrase, especially capitalized as it is.

Anyway, my reading of both the Bible and the Quran continue. We'll see what I pick up on next.

32 comments:

Azooz said...

"strengthened him with the Holy Spirit."

Holy Spirt (in the Quran) refers to the arch angel Gaberial.

Jesus (pbuh) was a baby and to talk he needed help, most of the other messengers recived their messages over the age of 40 thru Gaberial - and was there when they needed help. Jesus (pbuh) would have the words but would have had dificulty forming and pronuncing them and any other kind of help to for he would not know what to ask for or what protection he needed.

The element of elequence is vital in all langugaes, learned by thinking - and talking to wise people - but Jesus (pbuh) would have been the most elequent person in Aramiac in his time without question - not only was his ability to talk amazing, his word selections would have been amazing and much higher than an adults. This is becuase his language would have been pure from God - as he grew older and mixed with other languages it would have gotten less elequent.

Takes long to defend that last points but I will if you need them. There is much more to but takes time.


The language aspect is something I have wanted to explain on my blog but keep getting distracted - Egypt was not colonized by Arabs, the Egyptians themselves learned Arabic and thus Egypt became Arab in 6 short years. The Romans have never forgiven them for that, for they had colonized them for 800 years and the common Egyptians had refused to learn Latin.

>>Islam is similar in its
>>sticking to Arabic
Islam defines an Arab as anyone who speaks Arabic. The Quran is imposible to translate into any language thus Arabic became permenently important to Islam.



Peace

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