11/24/2010

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What things in life always give you warm fuzzies and make you feel comforted? The Myth:<br/> <br/> The Qur&#39;an is to Muslims what the Bible is to Christians (and the Torah to Jews).<br/> <br/> The Truth:<br/> <br/> The Qur&#39;an only contains what is presented as the literal words of Allah - as relayed by Muhammad. It can be compared to a manufactured text that includes only the words of Jesus (the so-called &quot;red-letter&quot; verses) extracted from their New Testament historical context and then randomly mixed together (the chapters of the Qur&#39;an are arranged by size and themes are rarely consistent even within each chapter).<br/> <br/> By contrast, the Bible contains history and biographical detail. For example, there is nothing in the Qur&#39;an that details Muhammad&#39;s life, whereas the Bible contains four books that present all that is known about the biography of Jesus. Another distinction is that when the Bible commands violence - as it does in a handful of Old Testament verses - the intended target is explicitly defined within the passage, leaving little doubt that it is a recounting of history and not an open-ended command for anyone else to do the same.<br/> <br/> Despite the rhapsody with which Muslims sing the Qur&#39;an&#39;s praises, there is an obvious reason why only a minority have actually bothered to delve deeper than an occasional sporadic perusal through its pages. The random arrangement of verses and near absence of context makes it difficult to understand. For this reason the Qur&#39;an is rarely printed without the incorporation of voluminous commentary (that usually expresses the personal preferences of the translator).<br/> <br/> In fact, the Muslim counterpart to the Bible is the Qur&#39;an, Hadith and Sira combined.<br/> <br/> The Hadith is a collection of anecdotes and historical snippets of Muhammad&#39;s life based on the relayed narrations of those who lived with him. Unfortunately, authenticity varies. But the most dependable compilers are agreed by Muslims scholars to be Bukhari and Sahih Muslim, followed by Abu Dawud. It is on the Hadith that Islamic law (Sharia) is based.<br/> <br/> The Sira is the biography of Muhammad&#39;s life. Again, there are reliability issues which would appear somewhat bewildering to Christians, given that the gospels were well in place within the first few centuries following the crucifixion - which preceded Muslim history by over 600 years. Still, the most reliable biography of Muhammad was compiled by Ibn Ishaq, who wrote about 150 years after his death. His original work survives only in what was &quot;edited&quot; by a later translator (Ibn Hisham, who admitted that he filtered out several accounts that were of a distasteful nature).<br/> <br/> A failure to recognize that the Bible is only comparable to the Qur&#39;an, Hadith and Sira together often leads to faulty accusation and misplaced analysis.