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Revision 4.19 “Some Similarities between the Qur’an and Latter-day Saint Scripture” (Part 2)

Revision 4.19 “Some Similarities between the Qur’an and Latter-day Saint Scripture” (Part 2) September 6, 2020

 

Indonesians reading the Qur’an
Reading the Qur’an in an Indonesian mosque after prayer
(Wikimedia Commons public domain photo by Gunawan Kartapranata)

 

The entire twelfth chapter of the Qur’an is devoted to a beauti­ful retelling of the story of Joseph of Egypt. It is the only chapter of the Qur’an that is entirely occupied by a single narrative.

The story of Moses is one of the more commonly repeated in the Qur’an.[1]  Saul, David, and Solomon are also mentioned.[2]

The Qur’an knows the biblical stories of David and Goliath, as well as the parable Nathan tells to David in 2 Samuel 11-12. King David is a great revelator in the Qur’an. “To David We gave the Psalms.”[3] Moreover, Solomon appears in the Qur’an not only as a great king of Israel but also as a magician, just as he does in post-biblical Jewish lore. And at one point the Qur’an seems to make Solomon the star of a story that the Bible connects with Gideon instead.[4]

It is not only the stories of the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible that seem to find their counterparts in the Qur’an; the New Testa­ment has Qur’anic parallels as well. A parable similar to that of the ten virgins occurs.[5] The miraculous birth of John the Baptist is alluded to at several points.[6] So, too, is the story of Mary, includ­ing Gabriel’s annunciation to her of the advent of the Savior and the virgin birth of Jesus.[7] Certain Western scholars have seen a remi­niscence of the institution of the eucharist or sacrament and the miracle of loaves and fishes.[8]

Many of the similarities are verbal. There are passages in the Qur’an that are virtually identical to passages in the Bible.[9] Thus, when the Qur’an talks about the ruins of past civilizations, destroyed for their disobedience to God and to the prophets he had sent to them, it comments that “your Lord would not have ruined those cities without just cause, had their inhabitants been righteous men.”[10] It rejects the notion that God prefers one people over another because of their lineage or ancestry. “The noblest of you in God’s sight,” it says, “is he who fears Him most.”[11]  This is reminis­cent of the justification given by the Book of Mormon for the expul­sion of the Canaanites by the children of Israel:

And now, do ye suppose that the children of this land, who were in the land of promise, who were driven out by our fathers, do ye suppose that they were righteous? Behold, I say unto you, Nay. Do ye suppose that our fathers would have been more choice than they if they had been righteous? I say unto you, Nay. Behold, the Lord esteemeth all flesh in one; he that is righteous is favored of God. But behold, this people had rejected every word of God, and they were ripe in iniquity.[12]

The Qur’an’s view of human hardheartedness is very close to that found in the Latter-day Saint scriptures. “When misfortune befalls a man, he prays to Us standing, sitting, and lying down. But as soon as We relieve his affliction he pursues his former ways, as though he never prayed for Our help.”[13]  This could serve as a sum­mary of Nephite history, but its applicability is not only to past dis­pensations. “In the day of their peace,” said the Lord about the persecuted Saints in 1833 Missouri, “they esteemed lightly my coun­sel; but, in the day of their trouble, of necessity they feel after me.”[14]  This leads occasionally to a highly negative view of human nature, which contrasts us unfavorably with inanimate nature: “If We had sent down this Qur’an upon a mountain, thou wouldst have seen it humbled, split asunder out of the fear of God.”[15] The prophet Mormon seems to have held a similar opinion: “O how great is the nothingness of the children of men; yea, even they are less than the dust of the earth. For behold, the dust of the earth moveth hither and thither, to the dividing asunder, at the command of our great and everlasting God. Yea, behold at his voice do the hills and the mountains tremble and quake.”[16]  Nevertheless, despite their persistent rebellion against the will of God, the wicked seem to be quite serene in both the Qur’an and the Book of Mormon. “They declare: ‘The Fire will never touch us—except for a few days.’”[17]

“And there shall also be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be merry; nevertheless, fear God—he will justify in committing a little sin; yea, lie a little, take the advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor; there is no harm in this; and do all these things, for tomorrow we die; and if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God.”[18]

Like the Bible, the Qur’an distinguishes between rocky soil and the deep soil in a garden, as a parable for the distinction between believers and unbelievers.[19] But the believers comprehend the par­ables of God, while unbelievers do not understand what they mean.[20]  Part of the problem is that unbelievers hold family and kin dearer than true religion. The Qur’an advises against this, just as Jesus does.[21]  But if believers choose to serve God first, he will intervene on their behalf. “If God be for us,” asks the apostle Paul, “who can be against us?”[22] “If God helps you,” declares the Qur’an, “none can overcome you. If He abandons you, who then can help you?”[23] “Keep your covenant,” Allah says, “and I will be true to Mine.”[24] This is similar to what God told Joseph Smith: “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.”[25]

 

[1] See, for example, 2:40-71, 246-48; 5:20-26; 7:103-75; 10:75-93; 19:51-53; 20:10-98; 26:10-69; 27:7-14; 28:3-46, 76-82; 40:23-53; 43:46-56; 79:15-26.

[2] 2:249-53; 27:15-44; 34:12-14; 38:21-26.

[3] 4:163; 17:55.

[4] Compare 2:249 with Judges 7:2-7.

[5] 57:12-15; compare Matthew 25:1-13.

[6] 3:38-41; 19:2-15; 21:89-90.

[7] 3:35_37,42-51; 19:16-34.

[8] 5:112-15.

[9] It might be of interest to compare the 55th chapter of the Qur’an with Psalm 136. However, such a comparison is beyond the scope of the present book.

[10] 11:117.

[11] 49:13.

[12] 1 Nephi 17:33-35.

[13] 10:12; compare 30:33-34; 39:8.

[14] Doctrine and Covenants 101:8.

[15] 59:21 (Arberry).

[16] Helaman 12:7-9.

[17] 2:80; compare 3:24.

[18] 2 Nephi 28:8.

[19] 2:264-65. Compare Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23; Mark 4:3-9, 14-20; Luke 8:5-8, 11-15.

[20] 2:26. Compare Matthew 13:10-17; Mark 4:11-12; Luke 8:10.

[21] 9:23 24. Compare Matthew 10:34-37.

[22] Romans 8:31.

[23] Romans 8:31. Qur’an 3:160.

[24] 2:40.

[25] Doctrine and Covenants 82:10.

 

 

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