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Do You Know These 7 Differences Between the Bible and Quran?

Categories Theology World Religions

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While nearly every religion has a text which it considers sacred, not every sacred text is equal in nature, composition, transmission, and use. Nabeel Qureshi reveals this in No God but One: Allah or Jesus?, his investigation of the evidence for Islam and Christianity.

In the book's thought-provoking, revealing comparison between the Quran and the Bible, Qureshi exposes seven important differences between these texts. “Both scriptures are considered holy to their people, certainly, but their uses are different, their histories are different, and indeed, their very natures are understood differently” (104).

1) The Quran Is the Jewel of Islam

In 2011, the burning of a Quran by a Florida pastor incited violence, even though a few years prior the US Government incinerated a cache of Bibles in Afghanistan without incident. Why the different responses? Qureshi says,

The answer lies, at least partly, in the fact that the Quran has a different place in the hearts and minds of Muslims than the Bible does in the hearts and minds of Christians… The traditional Muslim reverence for the Quran is almost inestimable. (104, 105)

2) The Quran Is Viewed as the Eternal Word of Allah

The reason why a Quran's destruction may incite violence, in part, is that Muslims understand the Quran's very nature different from how Christians understand the Bible. As Qureshi explains, “[The Quran] is the closest thing to God incarnate [within Islam]… Its place in Islamic theology is that of Jesus in Christian theology” (269). This is a significant difference between the two religions, for Christians believe the Bible was inspired by God within history; the Bible is not eternal as Jesus is eternal.

3) The Quran Is Understood as God’s Literal Words

“Since Muslims believe the Quran is an eternal expression of Allah, they do not think that the Quran was written by men in any sense. It is the very speech of Allah, inscribed on a heavenly tablet, from which it was read by Gabriel and dictated to Muhammad” (106). Rather than this word being inspired in the Christian sense, Muslims believe the Quran to be revealed:

Allah revealed it piecemeal to Muhammad, dictating it through the angel Gabriel. Muhammad had nothing to do with shaping the text; he only relayed it. (106)

4) The Quran Is One Genre

The literary genres within the Bible and Quran reveal some stark differences. We know the Bible is diverse in its literary genres, in part, because God inspired specific men to write using their own experiences and perspectives under difference circumstances. Not so the Quran:

It contains essentially one genre: Allah speaking to Muhammad. Although there are significant exceptions…the Quran more or less reads in the same manner throughout its text. (108)

5) The Quran’s Compilation Was Fluid 

Given the nature of Arabic during Muhammad’s life, the Quran was not written but orally known, and by memory. Muhammad would recite the same verse multiple ways, and so would his followers. He would also cancel previous texts through so-called abrogation: Muhammad “would tell his followers that certain portions of the Quran he had relayed before were no longer to be recited as part of the Quran.” (110) Therefore, if Muhammad needed part of the text to go away, he would replace it with another and tell his followers to stop reciting the earlier text and forget it. The Bible never underwent this sort of abrogation.

6) The Quran’s Textual Transmission Is Problematic

Did you know that “today’s Quran, which was not put together by one of the teachers Muhammad named, is but one of multiple Quranic canons, the one that received official approval by the caliphate and became the standard text when the rest were burned”? (285–286) That’s right, the first burning of the Quran was actually ordered by Caliph Uthman, who recalled all the variant manuscripts, destroyed them by fire, and issued an official, standardized version according to his reading. Qureshi’s judgment is important:

The Quran’s textual transmission is pockmarked by human artifice and intervention, and none of the other arguments for the Quran’s inspiration bear the weight of scrutiny. (286-287)

7) The Quran Is the Why of Islam

Perhaps the most critical difference between the Quran and the Bible, writes Qureshi, is that the Quran is “the basis of why Muslims believe in Islam” (112). The Quran is Islam’s why in part because of its purported literary excellence, numerous prophecies, scientific knowledge, mathematical marvels, and perfect preservation.

“Unlike the Quran, the primary use of the Bible is to serve as the basis of what Christians believe, not why they believe.” (112) Qureshi reminds us that Christians believe what we believe because of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection; that’s our why.

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Read more in Qureshi’s important investigation of the evidence for Islam and Christianity, No God but One: Allah or Jesus? Both religions teach that there is no God but one, but who deserves to be worshiped, Allah or Jesus? Discover Qureshi's conclusion in No God but One.

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Learn what Muslim life is like

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