Friday, February 29, 2008

I Finished the Quran!

I was actually hoping to finish it last night but I underestimated both how much I had remaining and how tired I was. However, today after jumuah, I stuck around the mosque and finished it off; I figured it would be fitting. I don't really think I have much more to say than I did in my last Quran post. The end is packed with much shorter surahs so the reading goes much quicker. Also, there seems to be a lot more apocalypse talk with plenty descriptions of heaven and hell and the final day of reckoning.

Also, I talked to one of my native Arabic speaking friends about the Quran as a piece of poetry and literature. I don't feel like she would unfairly praise the Quran just because it's the Quran but, rather, I feel like she would give me her honest opinion. She told me that the Quran really is very beautiful and, in the original Arabic, its poetic qualities hide the repetition that is more evident in the English translation. Obviously, the repetition is still there but it's part of the poetry so it fits. I figure I should try listening to a Quran recitation sometime so I can hear how it sounds. Even if I won't understand it, I figure I'll be able to hear some of the poetry. I'll miss out on anything that requires meaning like wordplay and metaphor but I'll at least hear the tonal and lyrical characteristics.

Now I have to decide what to read next.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Fatigue and Discouragement

I don't have anything substantial to say; I just wanted to complain a bit. Sometimes I wish I had never learned anything about Islam so I could've continued living in my state of ignorance and bliss. I was so much happier when I thought I knew what was right. Now that I'm uncertain, I'm always in an uncomfortable situation. I don't know what to believe when I'm at church, I don't know what to believe when I'm at jumuah, I'm in my state of unrest and confusion at all times throughout my day and I rarely get a real break; most distractions only allow me to push it to the back of my thoughts but not forget about it completely. I'm worried about how my life will change. I'm worried about the reactions of my family and friends. I'm worried, of course, about the state of my eternal soul.

Actually, sometimes when doing all this reading and thinking and considering and worrying, it occurs to me that completely giving up on religion would be so much easier. I could still live as a good person but I could sleep late on Sundays and not have to rearrange my lunches on Fridays. I wouldn't have to deal with this internal struggle about which path is correct because I'd be walking my own path. It would be so much easier in so many ways but I can't do it because I know that God, who made the entire universe and created me for a purpose, wants me to love and worship him. Anyway, I'm done whining for now.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


The Quran mentions jinn (also spelled djinn) quite frequently. In addition to angels and man, God created the jinn, a race of sentient, free-willed, invisible beings who are also supposed to worship Him. Whereas man was created from dust, the jinn are created from a smokeless flame. See this for more information.

If the Quran is simply correcting and affirming the Torah, the Psalms, and the Gospels, from where do the jinn come? As I said, jinn are mentioned frequently so they aren't simply a minor detail mentioned in passing. The Bible talks of angels and men but I've never encountered anything that I would interpret to be jinn.

The above Wikipedia article mentions that jinn were a part of pre-Islamic, Arabic folklore. Being that the never seem to be mentioned in the Torah, Psalms, or Gospels, it seems logical to me that they entered Islam because of their tradition amongst the Arab peoples.

Although the jinn don't seem to be of any major theological importance, their frequency in the Quran and the inconsistency with the Bible raises some concerns on my part. Had they been simply a passing thought in the Quran or mentioned at least once in the Bible, it would be easier to believe that they came from the same source.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

A Quick, Random Check-In

I just wanted to post a quick note so that this isn't completely stagnant. I've been reading my Quran a lot and am now at the 25th juz (out of 30) so I'm making progress. It's definitely not tedious reading and it seems to go pretty quickly but I've only been reading less than an hour every night. It's interesting that I mentioned in my Quran as Literature post that the structure of the Quran seems to repeat many stories over and over and last night, while reading, I came across an ayah that justified the repitition (39:23):
Allah has revealed (from time to time) the most beautiful Message in the form of a Book, consistent with itself, (yet) repeating (its teaching in various aspects)....

I've always been amazed at how topical and relevant the Bible will be; I'll pick it up and read and it will somehow always address whatever is weighing on me at the time. Apparently, the Quran can be just as good at answering questions.

I've used this to list things I've read and things I've not yet read. A friend pointed out the book A Muslim and a Christian in Dialogue by Badru D. Kateregga and David W. Shenk. I haven't looked at it yet but I'm hoping it'll be a more fair, unbiased version of Christian-Muslim Dialogue in which the "Christian" just asks questions, the Muslim answers, and the "Christian" eventually sees the light and converts to Islam. Like I always say, if you know of any other literature that might be useful or relevant, please make a suggestion. I've also recently been suggested Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster and A Hidden Life by Kitty Crenshaw and Catherine Snapp.

Finally, I've had a new visitor recently who left a few comments and asked a few questions. One of the questions is a little too broad and for the answer to that, you'll just have to read this entire blog. However, I was also asked about my denomination so I suppose I can reveal that I'm Lutheran. However, as I've mentioned, I have had much exposure to some other facets of Christianity such as Roman Catholicism, Greek Orthodox, and some other Protestant churches.

Thursday, February 7, 2008


Now that Lent has arrived, I figured I'd address the issue of fasting since it is an important practice in both Christianity and Islam but is carried out differently in the two. I'm pretty sure the reason behind fasting in both religions is the same. It is a personal sacrifice given to God. Additionally, it has some health benefits and it makes one sympathize with the poor and unfortunate who are involuntarily going without food. Although fasting is an external deed, it is supposed to accompany and promote an internal devotion, drawing one toward God and godly things and away from sinful thoughts and deeds.

In Islam, as everybody knows, Ramadan is the major time of fasting, although I know there are a few other holidays that are observed with optional, I think, fasting. Additionally, fasting is something that one is always welcome to do and the hadith mention Mohammad fasting for long periods regardless of holidays just to draw closer to God. The Muslim definition of fasting is complete abstinence from food and drink from sunrise to sunset. Outside of that time, normal dietary rules apply. In any case, fasting, particularly for Ramadan, is one of the five pillars of Islam and, thus, is a very important part of the religion.

In Christianity there are at least as many fasting practices as there are denominations. In the Gospels, Jesus fasts a number of times and fasting was a regular practice in the early church. Today, Orthodox churches are still very strict about fasting practices, which forbids meat or animal products and even cooking with oil. This is followed for the entirety of Lent as well as other prescribed times. In the Catholic church, fasting means only eating one full meal and two smaller snacks throughout the day. The Catholic fasting rules have changed throughout the years and even vary depending on the country. Currently in the United States, Catholics are required to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday as well as abstain from meat on Fridays during Lent. Historically, Catholics had to abstain from mean on Fridays throughout the year but that no long applies to the US, for some reason. Protestant churches, in my experience, don't stress fasting and most people don't practice it. Probably the closest to fasting many people get is giving up something like chocolate or swearing for Lent.

I like how Islam and the Orthodox church have very definite rules about how and when to fast. If fasting is truly important, then its practice shouldn't be ambiguous and confusing. I can't think of any reason that the residents of one country should have different fasting rules than the residents of another country, like the Catholic rules. Additionally, if fasting is important, it should actually be addressed and, at the very least, encouraged, if not required. The nice thing about giving up something for Lent is that it's more personal, you can choose something that's meaningful to you. However, there's no reason you can't personalize your fast even while adhering to the prescribed rules.

I think the point of my post was supposed to be that I don't think Western Christianity places enough emphasis on fasting. It was obviously important to Jesus and it was practiced by the early church but it has since fallen from favor or at least lost popularity. If there's a reason for that, I'd like to know, but I feel like people just got lazy. I guess if we're saved by faith alone then fasting isn't necessary but in that case, nothing is necessary but faith; not giving offerings, not fellowship, not prayer, just faith. Although I do believe God to be gracious and merciful and care only about what's in your heart, all of those external acts are ways that you live your faith and ways to strengthen your faith. Thus, fasting isn't a necessary act but it is just another tool in your spiritual toolbox and one should pull it out and use it sometimes.