Nobody believes that an individual or isolated group of individuals who decide to blow up an abortion clinic or enter with guns blazing to be indicative of orthodox Christianity (orthodoxy here meaning the “accepted norm” rather than the Orthodox church as an entity). Yet, this is precisely the approach taken by far too many when it comes to orthodox Islam. Self-described as a religion of peace, those who act in violent retribution in the name of their god do not represent the whole of Islam. The association has been made between Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas and ISIS, and though from the perspective of perverting the message taught this works, I’ve yet to see Westboro attempt mass violence. However, when one lone “christian” guns down doctors, staff and patients within a clinic, we see a microcosm of the same disease playing out in front of us. The disease is not Christianity or Islam, neither is the problem Christianity versus Islam. The disease playing out in front of us is a deadly combination of ignorance, fundamentalism and violence. Mixing those three together will create a hotspot for terrorist activity any day. We’ve seen it play out time and time again, and with every accusation against the religion and those who follow it, we distance ourselves yet again thereby creating the cauldron for this concoction to come together.
The only hope for anyone who wants to make their way out of this darkness is (to borrow from the Bible) to “study to show yourself approved”. Christian theology has virtually every tool imaginable for exploring the depths of the biblical text at length for anyone who wants to undertake it. What has been sorely missing in the discussion of faith is the same resource availability for the Quran. It makes no sense for us to comment on something we’ve never read for ourselves, it only smacks of ignorance and arrogance, itself another deadly combination that breeds yet more fear and violence. To put it simply, if we want to see peace, we’ll need to climb out of our bunkers and read one another’s sacred literature. Whether we realize it or not, what we do with “God” is what fuels everything we do, and a violent rendering of that God will always leave us in the unfortunate position of mimetic executioner.
Enter Harper One’s new offering of The Study Quran. I won’t claim to have read the entire text yet, but after spending a weekend perusing it, I can say that this will fuel a new understanding of Islam for anyone with a desire to grow beyond their own private religious paradigm. Throughout there is scholarly commentary helping to reveal where particular scriptures may have been misinterpreted, more customary, or what they mean in a more spiritual light rather than a strictly temporal one. A word of advice however, where many study bibles will acknowledge the varying authorship and source material behind the text, TSQ maintains its “revelatory” status throughout—which I would fully expect.
In short, this is a new tool for religious students to dive deeper into a largely untapped part of human spirituality and mysticism, as well as for those within the Islamic faith to grow and disciple.
(fair notice: I was sent a copy of the iBooks version of TSQ to review).