I’ve been doing a fair amount of reading lately on whether or not the Quran promotes peace or hatred. Unfortunately, whether it does or not depends on what you happen to be reading. First, however, it might be useful to have a basic understanding of exactly what the Quran is. Here is the formal definition: “The Quran is the Islamic sacred book, believed to be the word of God as dictated to Muhammad by the archangel Gabriel and written down in Arabic. The Koran consists of 114 units of varying lengths, known as suras; the first sura is said as part of the ritual prayer. These touch upon all aspects of human existence, including matters of doctrine, social organization, and legislation.”

Here’s another definition of the meaning of the Quran, “The Quran: literally, ‘that which is often recited.’ A web of rhythm and meaning, the words of which throb through Muslim worship and which, at every point in the believer’s life, break surface, sanctifying existence with the scent of eternity.” (Abdul Wadod Shalabi in “Islam – Religion of Life”). Personally, I prefer the first definition – it’s easier to understand and not quite so filled with language whose meaning isn’t quite so difficult to understand!

I found another lengthy article published in 2004 that attempts to explain two separate points of view regarding Islam, the followers of which, are supposed to live their lives according to the teachings of the Quran. Here’s what most Muslims would say regarding Islamic terrorism: “Islam would never support the killing of innocent people. Allah of the Holy Qur’an never advocated killings. This is all the work of a few misguided individuals at the fringes of society. The real Islam is sanctified from violence. We denounce all violence. Islam means peace. Islam means tolerance.”

Here’s the other point of view: “Does Islam really preach peace, tolerance and non-violence? The Muslims who perpetrate these crimes think differently. They believe that what they do is Jihad (holy war). They say that killing unbelievers is mandatory for every Muslim. They do not kill because they wish to break the laws of Islam but because they think this is what true Muslims should do. Those who blow-up their own bodies to kill more innocent people do so because they think they will be rewarded in Paradise. They hope to be blessed by Allah, eat celestial food, drink pure wine and enjoy the company of divine consorts.”

This article goes on to point out several passages from the Quran. Here are just two: “The Qur’an tells us: ‘not to make friendship with Jews and Christians’ (5:51), ‘kill the disbelievers wherever we find them’ (2:191), ‘murder them and treat them harshly’ (9:123), ‘fight and slay the Pagans, seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem.’” The article, which was written by a Muslum, goes on to say, “Is this the Islam you believe in? Is this your Most Merciful, Most Compassionate Allah whom you worship daily? Could Allah incite you to kill other peoples? Please understand that there is no terrorist gene – but there could be a terrorist mindset. That mindset finds its most fertile ground in the tenets of Islam. Denying it, and presenting Islam to the lay public as a religion of peace similar to Buddhism, is to suppress the truth. The history of Islam between the 7th and 14th centuries is riddled with violence, fratricide and wars of aggression, starting right from the death of the Prophet and during the so-called ‘pure’ or orthodox caliphate. And Muhammad himself hoisted the standard of killing, looting, massacres and bloodshed. How can we deny the entire history?”

Moving on, there are also writers who have taken an entirely different interpretation of Islam. Here’s a quotation by Aziz Junejo writing for the Seattle Times in 2005, “Today, the most quoted — and the most misinterpreted — Quranic passage (2:190-192) is the one giving permission to fight the unbelievers. What many don’t know is that it speaks only to a specific time, and only at the city of Mecca, when the idol worshippers of Mecca had broken a truce with the Muslims and did horrible injustices.”

“The passage speaks to the Muslims with numerous conditions, including that fighting in self-defense was a last resort.”

So, what are we left to believe? Were some of the most violent passages in the Quran meant only for the time in which they were written? Aziz Junejo seems to think so. And yet he goes on to write, “God speaks to all of humankind in the Quran without regard to race, color, social or financial situation or even genealogy. The clear unveiling of its truthful message can only come by reading it cover to cover with understanding”

“From the beginning of creation God has sent prophets, messengers with divine scriptures, to guide mankind.” That doesn’t sound like the most violent passages of the Quran were written only to apply to some distant events in the past to me. Here’s one more quote by Doug Ponder for Christiaity.com about which for us to think: “In the end, there is no really comparison between Mohammed and Jesus. One says, ‘Blessed are you when you persecute,’ (Quran 9:111). The other says, ‘Blessed are you when others persecute you’ (Matt. 5:11).” I’m afraid it’s going to be up to you to decide if Islam promotes peace or hatred.

That’s –30—for this week.