Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Qur’an or the Bible? Which one is the Word of God for All Humanity?

Many years ago, while I was still teaching Zoology in a Collage, on a bus journey from Bangalore to Mysore, I realized that the person sitting next to me was a foreigner and a Muslim. I had a sincere desire to initiate a conversation and to share the gospel. After some internal struggle, I was able to break the ice. I asked him for his name and then for the name of his country. He was from Jordan, a Muslim (my guess came true), and a student. He asked for my name and then asked what I was doing. We talked a little bit about education and slowly moved, quite naturally and smoothly into a discussion on religious matters. Initially he was a little guarded and was hesitating to talk. However, as we moved forward, he began to wax eloquent on why he believed in Islam and on why Qur’an was the only true and final revelation from God to all humanity.

After I listened quite carefully and attentively for some time, I said, “What you have been saying is very interesting and in some ways challenging too. But I have a few questions on what you have said so far. May I ask you some of those questions?” He responded positively and so I said, “You have claimed and tried to justify that the Qur’an is the final and perfect Word from God to humanity. Is it the word of God to all humanity?” “Of course,” he said, and then tried to support the claim this way: “There is only one true God and that God is the God of all humanity. Therefore, his revelation to humanity must also be the same for all humanity.” I said, “This sounds quite reasonable. But I have another question.” What is it?” he said. Then I summarized his claims and said, “You said just a little earlier that the Holy Qur’an was given in heavenly and the most glorious Arabic to Prophet Mohammad who was an illiterate, that he passed it on to his followers who then passed it on to their successors, and that it was finally written down just as it came down from heaven. You also mentioned that one has to read it in the Arabic language to know that it has come from Allah and that it is a miracle in itself. However, I am struggling with a few questions that popped up in my mind, as I was listening to you. Would you please answer my questions and clear my doubts?” With great excitement, he said, “What are your questions and doubts? I will be very happy to explain and clarify things to you.”

“If the Qur’an is God’s Word to all humans and is written in heavenly Arabic, and if one has to read it in Arabic to know that it has come down to us from God, through the Prophet Mohammad, then what about the vast majority of the people in the world who do not know the Arabic language?” I said, “and what has Allah been doing to let people know the truth?” This Muslim friend who was very fluent up to this point, suddenly got
into a reflective mode and became quiet. I had to gently bring him out of his long silence and ask him what his response was. He expressed his inability to respond and promised that he would think about it.

Then, I asked him if I could explain the reasoning that prompted my questions. He answered positively and here is the summary of what I said to him (of course with interruptions in the form of questions of clarifications from him):

I agree with you that there is only One True God of all humanity and that His revelation must be the same for all humanity. However, if the One True God has given one universal revelation to all humanity in one language, then He must do something to make sure that His revelation is translated into different languages so that all humans might come to know the truth about Him. Otherwise, the God of such a revelation that is limited to the people of just one language (the original language in which the revelation is given) and not of all humanity. This must be true, because the God of all humanity should love all humans equally and ensure that His revelation is available to all humans in their different languages. But many Muslim friends like you have told me over the years that in the process of translating the Holy Qur’an into any other language, the original meaning would be lost and hence reading any translation of the Qur’an is not equal to reading the Qur’an. This makes us wonder how the Qur’an could be God’s revelation to all humanity.
However, when we consider the Holy Bible that Christians claim is the true, final, and sufficient revelation of the one true God to all humanity, we know that it has been translated into over 1500 languages. It continues to be the one book that has been translated into highest number of languages, highest selling, most read and most influencing book. This is one reason why I am convinced that the Bible is truly the revelation of the One true God to all humanity and am experiencing its transforming power in my daily life, like many millions all over the world. I would encourage you to take a copy of the New Testament part of the Bible and read it in your own language and see for yourself if what I am saying is true or not.

This Muslim friend was very quiet, but attentive as I explained things to him and agreed to read the Bible. Our conversation ended on a friendly note. I was not able to share the gospel with this friend, but I was glad that I was able to present one important truth to him in a way that got his attention.

When I reflected on this dialogue, I realized yet another time that the principles of apologetics that I had learnt came handy and helped me in this dialogue with a Muslim friend. I would like to highlight just three of them: 1) Agreeing with the other person on some things that are true and agreeable makes her/him more open, 2) Raising Critical Questions that have the power of forcing people to open up with their assumptions, consider the evidence afresh, and to realize the errors that might be there in their thinking, and 3) Controlling and directing the discussion/dialogue towards truth by gently raising good questions that bring the real/main issues into focus. It is my prayer that you too might learn and use the principles of apologetics in your evangelistic and pre-evangelistic conversations.

Note: Not all Muslims would agree with us so easily. They would generally raise many tough questions about the reliability of the NT and a number of other Christian beliefs like the Holy Trinity, Deity of Jesus Christ, Death and Resurrection of Christ, etc. We have good answers to most of their questions and we will cover them in the future under some other column. Alternatively, you can visit Answering Islam.Org and find good answers to the many common questions that we get from our Muslim friends.

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