I know many well-intentioned non-Muslims who’ve begun reading the Koran, but given up, disconcerted by its ‘otherness.’ The historian Thomas Carlyle considered Muhammad one of the world’s greatest heroes, yet even he called the Koran ‘as toilsome reading as I ever undertook, a wearisome, confused jumble.’
Part of the problem, I think, is that we imagine that the Koran can be read as we usually read a book — as though we can curl up with it on a rainy afternoon with a bowl of popcorn within reach, as though God — and the Koran is entirely in the voice of God speaking to Muhammad — were just another author on the bestseller list. Yet the fact that so few people do actually read the Koran is precisely why it’s so easy to quote — that is, to misquote. Phrases and snippets taken out of context in what I call the ‘highlighter version,’ which is the one favored by both Muslim fundamentalists and anti-Muslim Islamophobes.” –Leslie Hazleton, “On Reading the Quran TEDTalk”
It’s disheartening that many people seem to think they can sit down and read someone’s holy book at face value without the proper exegetical training that prepares one to read a book, the Quran, that’s even more disorganized, difficult to understand, and is full of complexities. If this is how one approaches the Bible I kindly ask you not to read it anymore either because it’s dangerous for us to do so (additionally, I do have a B.S. in Bible and Preaching/Leadership from an accredited university, so I feel I have some validity to say this and what else I say).
Because I sincerely believe many of us, myself included, lack the proper education and tools to read the Quran, but instead read it like any other book, get opinions from uninformed people who do the same, then come to the same ill advised conclusions.
I’m not reading the Quran yet because I too lack those tools, the historical context, and proper hermeneutics to read it. I’m reading and studying about Islam from true scholars that live it and know it in an attempt to educate myself before I sit myself as a pseudo-authority on all things Quranic, Islamic, and something beyond my current comprehension.
I’m finding many, like I suspect of most Americans, and how I was, read a few verses here and there, remember 9-11, and then think we are theological and hermeneutical experts in Islam. I’m not an expert by a long shot.
Taking this approach isn’t justification alone to wrap Islam in its entirety up in a label that says it’s a radical religion. I’m sorry, but I’m not gonna buy that as a sound approach to Islam.
I wouldn’t buy that as a sound approach to Christianity, but unfortunately the Protestant false teaching of Sola Scriptura, that the Bible is the one and only authority, and each man can read it for his own understanding and conclusions, also influences how many Americans, especially Christians, want to approach the Quran and Islam. Forcing that Protestant hermeneutic upon the Quran, as well as the Bible, is dangerous, culturally insensitive, wrong, misled, and mistaken.
Our own Scripture can’t be read in isolation and in a vacuum where the individual can read and decide what it means for themselves. The fact we think we can read the Quran that way is beyond insulting.
I’m not saying we all have to have Ph.Ds in Islamic Studies, but that we should find Muslims, befriend them, get to know them, visit a mosque, take classes, talk to a IMAM, read scholarly work, and seek to approach it without a bias based off of fear, Islamophbia, what our media says, or what we read at face value.
We should prepare ourselves for the most educated, fair, nuanced, and thorough reading of the Quran and the Bible. These books were written in vastly different times and locations very foreign to us today. They were written with a specific purpose, audience, and message that has a context we should seek to gain insight about so to read them properly. That is what I’m doing now by trying to first read and learn about Muhammad by those who have a lot more smarts and authority to speak on him and Islam than any of us do. I’m trying to understand the context and history of Islam. I want to learn how to approach the Quran theologically and exegetically before I pick it up and read it. I don’t want to read with bias, blind eyes informed by my Western and American context. This is why I’ve not yet read the Quran.
I’m gonna be visiting a mosque soon. And befriending Muslims who are the ones I want to learn from in regards to the Quran and how to read it. If you read this and live nearby you are welcome to join me. If not I hope you’ll take my main points seriously and maybe do some of the things I’ve suggested and will attempt to do myself.