Both Christianity and Islam have foundational texts. For Christians, it is the Bible; for Muslims, it is primarily the Qur’an.
Christians believe that God gave the Bible through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to more than forty authors. These authors wrote over an almost 1600-year period from three continents in three languages. Despite being written by different authors, the Bible does not contradict itself, and external texts are not necessary to practice Christianity.
The words of the Bible have been well preserved. Israel’s religious leaders created a system to ensure the accuracy of copies of the Old Testament through meticulous proofreading techniques. The Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered between the years of 1947 and 1956, are in substantial agreement with the Old Testament throughout the generations proving that the text has been preserved and kept the same. The accuracy of the New Testament is proven through dated copies and writings of the Church fathers. In fact, these writings contain over 38,000 quotations from the New Testament, making it possible to reconstruct the entire New Testament minus 11 verses.
In Islam, the Qur’an is considered to be the actual words of Allah dictated to Muhammad through the angel Gabriel over a 23-year period. Muhammad recited these words to his followers and instructed them to write them down on various materials such as palm leaves, bones, and stones. The words were assembled into the Qur’an after Muhammad’s death. This resulted in different versions of the Qur’an. The differences sometimes slightly affected the meaning but did not change the basic ideas of the Qur’an. Almost twenty years after Muhammad’s death, Caliph Uthman established a committee to produce an official version of the Qur’an.
The Qur’an’s chapters (or suras) are not in chronological order but are organized by length, starting with the longest, except for the opening chapter. It consists of 114 suras which read like an Arabic poem. Although the Qur’an has been translated into many languages, Muslims are encouraged to read and recite the Qur’an in Arabic, its original language. The Qur’an is also divided into thirty equal parts so that Muslims can read a portion each day during Ramadan.
The Qur’an states around ninety times that Muhammad is the perfect Muslim, so in order to properly practice Islam, a Muslim must worship Allah as Muhammad worshipped him, which is why external texts (the hadith and sira) are a vital part of Islam. The hadith are reports of Muhammad’s teachings, deeds, and sayings compiled generations after his death. As the Islamic website “whyislam” explains that without the hadith, the Qur’an does not make sense. The sıra is the biography of Muhammad. Together the hadith and sira make up the sunna (Muhammad’s way of life and legal precedent). If all a Muslim possessed was a Qur’an, he could not practice his religion.
- By reading the Bible, we read words that bring God’s life into our hearts and understanding, bringing joy and peace. For Muslims, reading the Quran, which is more of a “duty,” does not bring hope and joy to their lives. Pray that during Ramadan, Muslims will be curious to see what is in the Bible, the true Word of God, and be drawn to read its life-changing message.