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Should Christians Read the Qur'an?
Image: Illustration by James Steinberg

An Emphatic No

Nabeel Qureshi

My earliest, most precious memories revolve around my family and the Qur'an. Every day, head covered, right index finger moving leftward across Arabic text, my mother recited the Islamic scriptures to me, halting for me to recite it back to her.

In each of the five daily prayers, my father recited aloud portions of the Qur'an. His cadence was spellbinding. By age 5, I had finished reciting the entire Qur'an in Arabic and memorized its final seven chapters.

My experience was not unusual. The Qur'an is the linchpin of the Islamic worldview—the basis of Muhammad's prophetic claims, the foundation of Shari'a law, and the common denominator among all Muslims. It is the most frequently recited book in the world, and for Muslims, it is the closest thing to the Word made flesh.

So it is with due gravity that whenever Christians ask me whether they should read the Qur'an, I answer with an emphatic "no."

I have two reasons. First, the Qur'an was not designed to be read like a book. When Muhammad was alive, there was no such thing as a written book in Arabic. What the early Muslims knew as "Qur'an" were short liturgical recitations. After Muhammad died, all these recitations were compiled into a book we call "the Qur'an." This explains why many who try to read the Qur'an walk away confused and frustrated. It was not designed to be read like the Bible.

This leads to my second point: The Qur'an comprises only a small part of a Muslim's worldview. Far from "sola scriptura," the Islamic way of life mostly comes from traditions, called "hadith." How many times to pray, rules for ceremonial ...

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Should Christians Read the Qur'an?
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November 2013

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