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Each of the three monotheistic religions possesses its own collection of Scriptures. For the faithful-be, they Jews, Christians or Muslims-these documents constitute the foundation of their belief. For them they are the material transcription of a divine Revelation; directly, as in the case of Abraham and Moses, who received the commandments from God Himself, or indirectly, as in the case of Jesus and Muhammad, the first of whom stated that he was speaking in the name of the Father, and the second of whom transmitted to men the Revelation imparted to him by Archangel Gabriel.
If we take into consideration the objective facts of religious history, we must place the Old Testament, the Gospels and the Qur’an on the same level as collections of written Revelation. Although this attitude is in principle held by Muslims, the faithful in the West under the predominantly Judeo-Christian influence refuse to ascribe to the Qur’an the character of a book of Revelation.
Such an attitude may be explained by the position each religious community adopts towards the other two with regard to the Scriptures.
Judaism has as its holy book the Hebraic Bible. This differs from the Old Testament of the Christians in that the latter has included several books which did not exist in Hebrew. In practice, this divergence hardly makes any difference to the doctrine. Judaism does not however admit any revelation subsequent to its own.
Christianity has taken the Hebraic Bible for itself and added a few supplements to it. It has not accepted all the published writings destined to make known to men the Mission of Jesus. The Church has made incisive cuts in the profusion of books relating to the life and teachings of Jesus. It has only preserved a limited number of writings in the New Testament, the most important of which are the four Canonic Gospels. Christianity takes no account of any revelation subsequent to Jesus and his Apostles. It, therefore, rules out the Qur’an.
The Qur’anic Revelation appeared six centuries after Jesus. It resumes numerous data found in the Hebraic Bible and the Gospels since it quotes very frequently from the ‘Torah’ [ What is meant by Torah are the first five books of the Bible, in other words, the Pentateuch of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy).] and the ‘Gospels.’ The Qur’an directs all Muslims to believe in the Scriptures that precede it (sura 4, verse 136). It stresses the important position occupied in the Revelation by God’s emissaries, such as Noah, Abraham, Moses, the Prophets and Jesus, to whom they allocate a special position. His birth is described in the Qur’an, and likewise in the Gospels, as a supernatural event. Mary is also given a special place, as indicated by the fact that sura 19 bears her name.
The above facts concerning Islam are not generally known in the West. This is hardly surprising when we consider the way so many generations in the West were instructed in the religious problems facing humanity and the ignorance in which they were kept about anything related to Islam. The use of such terms as ‘Mohammedan religion’ and ‘Mohammedans’ has been instrumental-even to the present day-in maintaining the false notion that beliefs were involved that were spread by the work of man among which God (in the Christian sense) had no place. Many cultivated people today are interested in the philosophical, social and political aspects of Islam, but they do not pause to inquire about the Islamic Revelation itself, as indeed they should.
In what contempt the Muslims are held by certain Christian circles! I experienced this when I tried to start an exchange of ideas arising from a comparative analysis of Biblical and Qur’anic stories on the same theme. I noted a systematic refusal, even for the purposes of simple reflection, to take any account of what the Qur’an had to say on the subject in hand. It is as if a quote from the Qur’an were a reference to the Devil!
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