A short time ago I had a discussion with a minister about the end times and the return of Christ. He said there were about 650 different interpretations of the return. They all seem to agree on two points, it will happen suddenly, and everyone will know. I told him I believed it has already happened. As expected, we agreed to disagree on this point.
I heard about a young woman who commented on the chaotic conditions in the world. She was hoping that Christ would soon come and bring a dramatic change. World conditions are causing a feeling of expectation, perhaps an impending conflict. This feeling is exacerbated by reports of Islamic terrorism creating fear of all Muslims.
When in China, friends would ask how they could learn more about America. They usually knew a lot about our history. I told them to read the Bible, especially the New Testament, to learn something about the spiritual foundation of America.
If we wish to understand Islam and Muslim countries, we should read the Quran. It is not an easy book to read. The original is in Arabic and there are some Muslims who believe that the only true Quran is the Arabic version. In past years there were very few translations. In recent years this has changed and there are many good translations. The translation I presently use, I bought at a bookstore in London. It is a by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem, an Oxford professor of Arabic.
I also found a new publication by Christian writer Garry Wills, “What the Quran Meant and Why It Matters.” (I purchased the Kindle edition. My wife says we are running out of space for hard copies.)
Garry Wills received a doctorate in Philosophy in classics from Yale University in 1961 and taught history at Johns Hopkins University from 1962 to 1980. He is considered to be one of the most distinguished Catholic intellectuals in America in the last 50 years.
In the introduction he talks about strengthening our bonds with peaceful Muslims in opposing violence. In Part I, he says there are three categories of distortion:
1. Secular ignorance, which made us blunder into Iraq thinking we could turn it into a democracy.
2. Religious ignorance, which pits our crusaders against their jihadist.
3. Fearful ignorance, which makes us think Muslims are infiltrating our government and national life.
He devotes a chapter to each of these forms of ignorance.
Part II, chapter 4-13, each dealing with major themes using commentary and liberal quotes from the Quran. Chapters cover cosmological issues, prophets, Jihad, Shari’ah, commerce, and three chapters on women that concern marriage, fighting back and the veil.
Wills ends with this comment. "The overall tenor (of the Quran) is one of mercy and forgiveness, which are evoked everywhere, almost obsessively. I am reminded of the few verses of the New Testament that are unforgiving (again, directed principally to pagans and apostates), as opposed to the nearly obsessive command to take care for the poor, the week, the neglected. When Pope Francis says that Christians can learn from the Quran, he is not saying that we will learn something absent from the New Testament, but that we will reveal our own deepest spiritual selves by discovering the depths of other devotion. We recognize ourselves in the true image of other believers, in the Quran or in the Torah. We believers encourage each other over the barriers raised by people who do not wish any of us well."
A recent article caught my attention in World Religion News: "Was Prophet Muhammad Really Illiterate? An Interview with Juan Cole." Juan Cole is the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. He believes that Muhammad really could read because of his commercial activities at an early age. Muhammad’s followers said he could not read to make doubters believe the revelation was from God and not from Muhammad himself.
In the article Cole makes this comment about the peace verses of the Quran: “The peace verses of the Qur'an have been there all along, and have been central, but scholarship has not focused on them. I'd like to see the kind of intersection of Peace Studies with Islam that exists with regard to Christianity. Christians have fought a lot of wars and even been involved in genocide, but we all also know about the Quakers and Mennonites. Only a few authors have written on the history of peace movements in Islam, which include the Murid Sufis of Senegal and the Gandhist Muslims in twentieth-century India.”
Phil Wood, a Baha'i, originally from New England, resided for 12 years in Barbados, 4 years in China, has lived 30 years in Hutchinson. email@example.com