QURAN - WHAT IS IT? (Part 1) Gender Equality & Obvious Features.
Qur'an & Student
QUR'AN is to be translated as RECITATION. Can anyone deny this fundamental truth? Qur'an is a work of theology that is truly unique. Yet its contents describe events that are generally somewhat familiar to Judeo-christian scholars (Surah 26:197). The Qur'an consists of SURAHS which can be equated to BIBLICAL CHAPTERS. The Qur'an is RADICALLY DIFFERENT to a BIBLE or TANAKH in many ways. As a non-arabic speaking person it is difficult to determine the linguistic qualities of this work. So it would be for any casual investigator. One has to take a non-academic approach to this recitation and wipe away any pre-conceptions to grasp the purpose of the only religious text which remains unaltered since it was first spoken by men approximately 1400 years ago. Poetry, song and verse were well known concepts even at the time the Qur'an first came to popularity from several years of obscurity upon the tongue of an uneducated, illiterate man (Isa.29:12) known as Muhammad, a descendant of Ishmael and Abraham, peace and blessings be upon them all. The audience of his day did not grasp exactly what this Qur'an was about. Some assumed it was poetry. Listen to Qur'an broadly and you will experience poetry, then it will change. You will hear tongue-twisting words then perhaps soothing lines. It does not seem to follow convention. So it cannot be classified as conventional entertainment. What are we to compare this work to? How can this work be compared? What is it?
Manna [What Is It?] - From Heaven by Tissot
IS A QUR'AN AUTHENTIC?
Perhaps largely by tradition it is agreed that some Qur'an was committed to writing in the lifetime of Muhammad. The Archangel Gabriel returned towards the end of the Prophet's lifetime to review the entire Qur'an so it is clear that the book form we know today may not then have been in existence. Conversely it was written in the minds of many followers and key elements were preserved upon commonly available resources such as bone or leather. The multitude of Islamic followers during the final decade or so of the Prophet's lifetime makes the possibility of a corrupted recitation highly unlikely. Moslems were fairly pedantic in their worship. It was their prescribed ways of ritual ablution, salat and recitation that were key elements of worship, multiple times per day. Entire communities were involved, the religion was not the exclusive domain of priests or apostles, although the dissemination of Qur'an was the domain of Recitation Readers (Qurra). The formatted Qur'an with precise Semitic vowel markings we know today allegedly developed approximately half a century after the death of the Prophet. Other traditions hold that the Qur'an was preserved in writing by the Prophet's companions close to the period of the revelations from Gabriel. These traditions maintain the arrangement of the revelations was equally divine.
In the Tanakh there is some genuine voice of prophets recorded. For example the speeches of Moses, Jeremiah and the writings of Ezekiel. The other material is often the records of men and alterations clearly not from God where there is clear contradiction. However there is a great degree of integrity in the Tanakh in terms of its mode of transmission. The Israelite scribes were professionals. Yet in special, older texts like the Aleppo Codex much of the Torah has been removed. As regards the New Testament, scholars like Bart Ehrman decry the integrity and authenticity of key works. Key preserved writings are in the third or fourth translational language of Latin. Little remains of the Hebrew works like Matthew although the odd preserved, later text remains such as Shem Tov's version. Many times the question has been asked; 'If God wanted us to hear His word would He not have preserved it?' (Isa.40:8).
Towards the end of the Qur'an Allah declares it to be inscribed upon a preserved slate (Surah 85:22). He also ascribes Himself as Guardian (Surah 15:9). It is clear from the Tanakh and Qur'an there is a preserved master book that is kept on high (Ex.32:32). Yet the former declaration is highly significant too when comparing religions. It draws obvious comparisons. The negative when Israel is disobedient and God declares their sin is inscribed with a diamond-tipped pen of iron upon a tablet (Ex.32:19) in their hearts [and altars] (Jer.17:1). In other words "You sinners have a heart of stone!" The positive when Paul declares the saints to be letters [of Christ] written by their ministers not with ink but the Holy Spirit from God, and not upon stone tablets but fleshly hearts (2Cor.3:3). Hence the mystical interpretation of Muhammad's role is he who carried the final word of God upon his heart.
Gabriel Instructs The Prophet Muhammad.
COMPARISON BY ALTERNATIVE BENCHMARK
The only relevant way to compare apples is with apples, as the thinking of man goes. Now Qur'an mentions three specific theological works out of all others. These are translated as Torah, Psalms and Gospels. It is important to note that the term Torah is sometimes used to describe the Tanakh rather than just the Pentateuch. Yet there is no direct indication this is a correct interpretation of the situation since the Psalms are integral to the Tanakh although they are not given as much weight as the [Greater] Prophets. Qur'an attributes Psalms directly to David, or it gives precedence to the Davidic Psalms. Again this is a matter of interpretation. What becomes clear is that there is a link between Qur'anic and biblical theology. The most important difference is the acknowledgment of alteration in these otherwise great manuscripts whereas Qur'an is specified as arising from a direct holy source. Qur'an adds some material to the stories of bibles. Yet it never acknowledges an entire bible [there are numerous bibles, only one Qur'an]. Anyone who has studied these great works will see that other elements of bibles are present in Qur'an. For example the Book Of Ezekiel in the context of the Book Of Enoch is clarified in Surah 18. So it is not lightly but with due diligence I will compare these works. Although the comparisons are lightweight on the surface they are but the tip of the iceberg. The book [Qur'an] sent down is the supreme, trustworthy confirmation of the earlier scriptures (Surah 5:48). The Torah and gospel were sources of light (Surah 5:44,46) to mankind.
King David Kneeling Before God - Bible Of Matthias Corvinus
The beginning of any bible is the Torah. Not quite so with the Qur'an. There is a short surah, the only one officially named by Allah. This is akin to an introduction for one has to address key concepts of monotheism and the Last Great Day, human frailty and divine mercy. Then comes the longest surah and a succession of long surahs that usually reduce gradually in length. It is by no means chronological in either sense, nor mainly chronological as with bibles. To someone without a firm grasp of theology it appears random. Yet the Qur'an is laying out a multiplicity of instructions for order. In this manner were the laws of Western Civilisation established. For the lawmakers used the Torah as a basis for judicial law although they still deviated in a grave manner.
The interesting thing one finds at the start of the Qur'an is how the first three surahs reflect, in order, Psalms, Torah and Gospel by content, noting of course the third surah moves away from Gospel content around half way. The Torah is an interesting compilation. It comprises different views of history, laws, prophecy, genealogies, codes, songs and speeches. So it is not so different from the Qur'an. There are two things I have omitted from the previous list. These are the Festive Ordinances (Ex.5:1). The other is found in the Book Of Numbers; the Aaronic Blessing. This is in a different category. According to some Islamic traditions the Holy Spirit was given at times to the early followers of Muhammad (Surah 26:192-194). In a similar way the Spirit was manifest to the congregation in Solomon's Temple, but in its higher, visible form; bliss. The Aaronic Blessing is therefore an ordinance. Tradition holds that the priest would replicate the form of the letter shin. Likewise the priest would be ritually cleansed. In a similar manner a muslim prepares for salat by cleansing and performs prescribed physical actions.
Here we have an intersection of common content. In the beginning of a bible or Tanakh and the Qur'an we encounter ordinances that invoke the Holy Spirit. We also have a pattern for key parts of bibles in the first three surahs of the Qur'an.
The Aaronic Blessing Of Pure Light & Bliss
INTERSECTION OF FAITH
The Messiah, son of Miriam, said "Take heed of the living one while you are alive, lest you die and seek to see him and be unable to do so." (Thomas 59). In the New Testament work of Acts Of The Apostles it becomes clear that prayer to God is fundamental to an Israelite. Prayer can be a personal or a prescribed act. A prescribed act is an ordinance. Such an ordinance was the Aaronic Blessing of the Torah. So too are the Islamic prayers known as salat. An ordinance to God/Allah is white magic. A Qur'an is a book of white magic.
Whilst writing this article I have reached the limits of the accepted biblical gospels. I must reference other ancient works. For in early christianity there was an oral tradition that was never fully documented and then whittled away by time and persecution (Rev. 2:15). The good news was illegally added and removed. One obvious example of knowledge which was cast aside but remained intact would be 2Clement 12:3-5.
In bibles women cannot be priests although they clearly participated in Temple worship to some degree there is no evidence to suggest they had any active role in the original Tabernacle. There were some biblical prophetesses but far fewer than there were males. In the gnostic Coptic Gospel Of Thomas (Thomas 114), Simon Peter questioned the presence of a woman, Mary [of Magdala], in the context of her lacking what the apostles possessed, implying a woman does not deserve eternal life. Yet the Messiah said he would make her male [in spirit] by personally leading her.
Baptism and confirmation by the laying on of hands are the ordinances that bring humanity to the hidden kingdom of God. On the other hand the Holy Spirit may come to anyone whether or not they are baptised. It may be subtle or of such power one will remember the experience for a lifetime. The Messiah declared through the allegory of the mustard seed how the kingdom is tangible by the fruit it will bear and not by any obvious sign. He declared the kingdom is spread out upon Earth but men do not see it (Ex. 3:5, Thomas 113). An obvious point of holy ground shared today, for Judaism and Islam, is the Dome Of Spirits where the Holy Of Holies was once housed. A person who is worthy then born again through fire and water enters a wider world in this life but is still limited by their environment.
There are three recognised degrees of Priesthood. The highest level is unique and entails key holding; the keys of the kingdom. The Priesthood is like a cleansing of the mind and provides a firmer connection to the Divine Source. The mind is opened and waves of the cosmic ocean run audibly like terrestrial beaches. Only a suitably qualified priest may perform ordinances. A priest must be a male. In Islam males and females must perform Qur'an. There are two Surahs regarded as being more than just prayer. These invoke exorcism (Mark 9:28-29, Surah 2:255) and cloaking (Surah17:45). There is no restriction on gender. On this basis alone I declare the Qur'an is a Lesser Priesthood.
The Dome Of The Spirits - Jerusalem
This short article has addressed the essence of the Qur'an. Qur'an is an empowering set of ordinances that forms a Lesser Priesthood for all humanity no matter their gender or faith. From this perspective it is the baseline for all legitimate religion. It is not by any divine intention a substitute for the blessings of the conventional Judeo-christian Priesthood. It is meant to compliment the Priesthood that was certainly given to Isaac and Ishmael (Surah 19:49,54). The ordinances of any Priesthood are white magic.
I have subtitled this article as "Part 1". I aspire to complete further analysis on the Qur'an examining key verses that shape Islamic Doctrine and additionally comparing biblical text, inshah Allah (God willing).