Do You Know These 7 Differences Between the Bible and Quran?
Nearly every religion has their sacred text. But not every text is equal in nature, composition, transmission, and use. Nabeel Qureshi makes that incredibly clear in his highly anticipated book investigating the evidence for Islam and Christianity, No God but One: Allah or Jesus?.
In a thought-provoking, revealing comparison between the Quran and the Bible, Qureshi exposes seven important differences between these sacred 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 the Eternal Word of Allah
The reason why the Quran is valued differently than Christians—to the point of inciting violence—is that the very nature is understood differently than the Bible. As Qureshi explains, “[The Quran] is the closest thing to God incarnate… Its place in Islamic theology is that of Jesus in Christian theology.” (269) Meaning: the Quran is to Islam what Jesus is to Christianity. This is a significant difference between the two religions, for Christians believe the Bible is inspired by God, not eternal.
3) The Quran is Literally God’s 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, it is 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 contents of the Bible and Quran is where some of the starkest differences emerge. We know the Bible is diverse in its literary genres and reading, because God inspired specific men to write using their own experiences and perspectives. 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. Muhammed would recite the same verse multiple ways, so would his followers. He would also cancel previous texts through so-called abrogation: Mohammed “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 he needed part of the text to go away, he would replace it with another and tell his followers to stop reciting it 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 Muhammed 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 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 indictment 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 important insight Qureshi offers is the “why” of Islam. He explains, “the primary use of the Quran is to serve as the basis of why Muslims believe in Islam.” (112) The Quran is Islam’s why because of its purported:
- literary excellence
- numerous prophecies
- scientific knowledge
- mathematical marvels
- 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 we believe what we believe because of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection; that’s our why.
“The primary purpose of each scripture is related to its nature: The Quran is valuable in its mystical transcendence, while the Bible is valuable in its translatable and accessible guidance.” (112)
Engage Qureshi’s important investigation of the evidence for Islam and Christianity yourself to better understand your faith, and how it compares to the religion of your neighbors, friends, and co-workers.