Islam and Muslims have been in the news often over the past 11 years. Ever since the tragic events of Sept. 11th, 2001, the US Media has been fascinated to know what the Qur’an – the holy scriptures of Islam, actually teaches and instructs it’s followers to do. Many Muslims, as well as Non-Muslims, unfairly take quotes from the Qur’an out of context and use them to justify acts of violence, ill treatment of people of other faiths, and oppression of women in Muslim countries. Moreover, many practices by Muslims are viewed as Islamic-only.
For example, many people believe that only the Qur’an requires women to cover their head, but how many people know that the Bible instructs women to cover their heads as well, at least when they are praying? Here are two verses from the Bible:
“For this reason, and because the angels are watching, a woman should wear a covering on her head to show she is under authority.” 1 Corinthians 11:10
“Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?” 1 Corinthians 11:13
The basic teachings of the Quran and the Bible, according to Dr. Ejaz Naqvi, are very similar. These are some of the reasons why, Dr. Ejaz Naqvi, an American Muslim of Pakistani descent in the SF Bay Area, decided to write this book to discuss what the Qur’an actually teaches to its followers, and how it is very similar to the two other holy scriptures of the Abrahamic faiths of Christianity and Judaism: The Old testament (Hebrew Bible) and the new Testament
I got a chance to interview Dr. Ejaz during Ramadan, and here is a brief transcript from our email discussion:
IR: How long did it take you to research and write this book?
EN: From the time I signed the agreement with my publisher, it took me about a year and half to launch it. However, ever since I started to study the Quran about 18 years ago, I started to make notes on various themes and topics presented in the Quran. In the last few years, reading the Bible made me think about writing a book, highlighting the under appreciated similarities of the essential teachings of the Quran and the Bible. Most of the research used to write the book has been in the works for the past several years.
IR: In your opinion- what is the most similar aspect of the Bible and the Quran?
EN: Globally speaking, both the Quran and the Bible share many teachings on various attributes of God. They both emphasize His Oneness, teach the followers to worship no one but God, and that God is the Creator of everything and everyone. He is the Most Kind and the Most Loving. He is Almighty and the ultimate Judge. He cannot be comprehended by human imagination. He is the source of all the light in the universe.
There are many stories that closely resemble in both scriptures. The stories on Prophets Adam, Joseph and Moses, and the birth of Jesus Christ, for example, are strikingly similar, though the Biblical stories are typically more detailed. The code of conduct of individuals, highlighting the importance of family, honesty and charity are repeatedly highlighted. Conversely, human behaviors such as adultery, hurting innocent people, stealing and lying are despised.Both scripture highlight the importance of central beliefs such as belief in One God, angels, prophets, scriptures and Day of Judgment, without which the faith is incomplete.
IR: Not being a religious scholar yourself, What made you decide to write a book such as this in the first place – where some people would say is a job for religious scholars ?
EN: The Quran clearly spells out on many occasions that it was made easy “so you will understand”, or that it was revealed in Arabic to “make it easy for you.” The essential message and beliefs as taught by the Quran were meant to be understood by lay people without necessarily seeking “expert advice.” The verse 7 of chapter 3, state that there are clear (decisive) and allegorical verses in the Quran. The clear verses form the foundation of the Quran. The allegorical verses are only understood by God and those “firmly rooted in knowledge,” with various interpretations as to who these people are.
The geo-political events of the last decade have brought the Quran under intense scrutiny and a source of criticism, with widely divergent opinions on either side of the debate. The Quran is largely misunderstood by both Muslims, and people of other faith. One could draw the same conclusion about the Bible. Most people who carry a negative opinion of either scripture have never read them themselves! They mostly form their opinion by second hand information through sermons or news media. There is a gulf between those with knowledge and those who are seeking it. This book dispels the myths and mis conceptions about the Quran and the Bible and provides an objective review of the various topics of common interest presented in the two scriptures, and focuses on finding common ground, rather than create more friction between people of Abrahamic faiths.
Unlike many other available books on comparative scripture, this book does not glorify one scripture while portraying the other scriptures in negative light. The scriptures are reviewed in a scholarly fashion and it offers a helpful and honest comparison of the Quran with the Hebrew Bible and New Testament that is neither polemical, apologetic nor triumphalist.
IR: What one thing do you want readers to learn/take away from this work?
EN: The teachings of the Quran and the Bible remain arcane and are often mis interpreted, mis understood, and/or mis represented by people of all faiths. The two scriptures have more in common than many realize, though significant differences exist. You need to study the scriptures yourself first, rather than relying solely on second hand information.
For those interested to purchase a copy of the book and read it for themselves, click on this link: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/u/iUniverse-rising-star-books/379000118/?cds2Pid=16451&linkid=1563532
Also if you are in the SF Bay Area, come to the SBIA Book Club Discussion about “The Qur’an: With or Against the Bible?” which will be held at the South Bay Islamic Association (325 N. Third Street, San Jose, CA 95112) on Sunday Sept. 23rd at 2pm. The Event is free and Open to the public. For more information check out the facebook event page here: