Monday, May 17, 2010

The Study Qur’an

About two years, while I was attending an Intercollegiate Studies Institute conference on what one might call the “Muslim Problem,” this idea came to mind: a Study Qur’an. Ever since Cyrus I. Scofield, we lay-Christians have grown accustomed to Study Bibles, our favorite translations accompanied by cross-references, concordances, and notes promoting particular theological positions. There’s a Study Bible for nearly every demographic, denomination, and political affiliation. (As I write, I suspect one for homeschoolers is currently in the works somewhere on a farm in the Midwest.) However, Christian publishers haven’t caught on to the need for a Study Qur’an, despite the immense value it would have to the Christian community at large.

It’s difficult to speak for others; but from what I’ve heard and read, my experience is typical of those who attempt to learn something about the Islamic religion by reading the Qur’an. The sura are not in chronological order, preventing the lay-scholar from noticing, let alone analyzing, the differences between the Medinan and Meccan texts. In addition, the book is too disorganized for the unfamiliar reader to quickly find related passages without the help of Google Search.

A Study Qur’an could aid Christians in understanding the complex system of laws and the interpretations held by different Islamic sects and scholars. A cross-reference could cite related passages in other Islamic sacred texts and the Bible; and commentaries might highlight textual evidence of borrowing from other Middle Eastern religions and cultures. Also, notes could explain the Muslim perspective on phrases such as “Day of Judgment” or “Day of Resurrection” to which Christian readers (such as me) might too readily apply their own familiar interpretations.

I would argue that a Study Qur’an would be the most efficient means of increasing Islamic literacy among the Christian community. What’s needed now is a team of theologians, translators, historians, and former Muslims willing to work on such an enormous project and a publishing firm willing to finance it. If it ever makes the bookstore shelves, I definitely will be first in line for a copy; but the promise of one sale isn’t a strong motivator.