This is for those who follow the God of Abraham and use the Koran, Old Testament and/or New Testament – the texts that are to be the ‘Word of God’. To those who defend those books, they are as beautiful as you say… in parts; to those who criticize those books, they are as wicked as you say… in parts. If isolated verses are looked at, they can be either beautiful or horrid; if we bring context, the stories will still be beautiful or horrid, though possibly in different ways and for different reasons.
‘You who believe’, is a sentiment oft repeated in both the Holy Bible and Koran (for example Mark 11:23 & Ephesians 1:13, and The Women 4:59 & Iron 57:28, among other examples for each). Who you are as an individual is not what is in the books; however, when you look at the books and their verses, individually and contextually, which parts you focus upon will show how you believe to make you who you are. How you believe is a crucial question for we are not referring to a superficial level (not just taking the title of Christian of Muslim, for those terms are amorphous, having multiple schisms within Christianity and Islam, such as Protestant/Catholic & Sunni/Shia), but at your base where your daily actions and interpretations of life events, emerge from and actions are based. How do you live your life according to the Holy Book you hold?
This will be a non-exhaustive review – it will be enough to show the issue.
Verses taken individually:
[Bible] 1 John 4:7-8 Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth God; for God is love.
[Koran] The Disbelievers 109:1-6 Say, ‘O Disbelievers, I do not worship what you worship. Nor are you worshippers of what I worship. Nor will I be a worshipper of what you worship. For you is your religion, and for me is my religion.’
[Bible] Luke 14:26 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.
[Koran] The Repentance 9:123 O you who have believed, fight those adjacent to you of the disbelievers and let them find in you harshness. And know that Allah is with the righteous.
Individual lines provide very little outside of being support for what one already believes – ways of ‘preaching to the choir’. Lines without context are meaningless when the verses are to be critically reviewed. Context is crucial for without it, any sinner can sound a saint and any saint a sinner. What constitutes a saint and a sinner is a topic for another discussion, but for this point we’ll just say they are dichotomous. A final point on context: what context are we referring to? There is the context within the work itself – how does the verse align or contrast to other verses within the same book; there is the context of the environment that the work was written – what was the socio-political situation that the author(s) was (were) living in at the time the work was written.
[Bible] Matthew 5:21 Ye have heard that it was said of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment (referring to the Commandment Exodus 20:13).
[Koran] The Table Spread 5:32 (a segment often gets quoted) …whoever kills a soul unless for a soul of for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one – it is as if he has saved mankind entirely.
Whether looking at a verse from the Bible or the Koran, both state – when viewed out of context – the prohibition of killing other people. However, books are more than just selected verses and more can be understood when verses in question are compared to other verses. When context is applied, definition of who constitutes a person that should not be killed emerges, as well as who should be killed and for what reasons. Both the Bible and Koran were not using the prohibition against killing universally.
The admonition in biblical context: (leaving aside the textual criticism of whether it was ‘thou shalt not kill any living thing, for all life is given to all by God…’, or ‘Thou shalt not kill’, or ‘Thou shalt not murder’) will show that the application of the law was not universally held. Moses had killed every male and female who had known a man, when taking over the Midianites (Numbers 31: 17-18); Joshua was quite prolific (Chapters 12 & 13) in the amount of killing done in service of God, for those people were not God’s chosen people, and were in the lands ‘God had given’ to His people. Furthermore, even the chosen people could be killed if not acting appropriately – Jesus himself even said as much. When confronted by the Pharisees in Matthew 15 about which is more important – following the law of men or of God – Jesus specifically references Exodus 21:17 that children who are disrespectful to their parents are to be put to death (Matthew 15:4). Here Jesus not only stated that disrespectful children are to be killed – there is no rejection, but on the contrary it is an example of what is to be followed. There is also in Jesus’ Parable of the 10 Minas, a call for those who worship improperly to be ‘killed at his feet’ (Luke 19:11-27).
Some may say that Jesus had two commandments (Matthew 22): 1) to love God with your whole heart, soul and mind; 2) love thy neighbor as thyself. However, these were to be summaries of the rest of the law, for the complexity of God’s law cannot be so nicely succinct. Jesus was not changing the law: he was a Jew who knew Jewish law and scripture, and wanted to see it implemented properly. In Matthew 5:17 he said: Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but fulfill. To fulfill the old law of God means ‘the others’ [non-chosen people] could be killed, as could those who were not properly following the law. Some may reference John 8 with the woman caught in adultery who was to be stoned, and Jesus’ challenge of ‘he who is without sin cast the first stone (8:7), to which no one casts a stone and Jesus says ‘Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more’ (11). The problem with this [delving into textual criticism briefly] is that this was a later addition to the gospel – was not originally in the bible; it still is in conflict with numerous other sections of the bible.
There is also in the biblical context the apostle [proselytizer] Paul who was instrumental in setting the early Christian traditions. In one of his letters Paul writes about improper worship, apostasy, homosexuality or false attribution of the divine to the profane (Romans 1:19-32) ‘that they which commit such things are worthy of death...’ This is just more of either not-the-chosen people or not acting appropriately and deserving death.
The admonition in the Koranic context, but first we should review the whole verse [The Table Spread 5:32] which reads: Because of that, We decreed upon the Children of Israel that whoever kills a soul unless for a soul of for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one – it is as if he has saved mankind entirely. And our messengers had certainly come to them with clear proofs. Then indeed many of them, [even] after that, throughout the land, were transgressors.
Just by adding the full verse, the universality associated with the segment can be seen to be no longer valid. It is in fact no longer a poetic passage of peace among men seeking equality and justice, but quite the contrary: it is a warning. The warning is carried over through the following verse 5:33 where it says: Indeed, the penalty for those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive upon the earth [to cause] corruption is none but that they be killed or crucified or that their hands and feet be cut off from opposite sides or that they be exiled from the land. That is for them a disgrace in this world; and for them in the Hereafter is a great punishment.
The full verse of 5:32 when paired with 5:33 is saying to the Jews [Children of Israel] not to ‘cause corruption’ [create apostates of the Islamic faith], for that is punishable by mutilation or death. That there are acceptable times to kill someone is echoed in The Cow 2:217 where during the sacred month where there was to be no violence, Muhammad had followers conduct a raid whereby one man was killed; Muhammad had a revelation that even though the killing was during the sacred time where such violence was offensive, the greater offense was and is the interference with proper Islamic faith (including being a resource for the primary one who interferes), so even during the sacred time, murder was justified. Though in the order of the Koran, both The Cow and The Table Spread are toward the beginning, chronologically they are books from Muhammad’s Medina [later] works.
In both books, there are also examples of how to treat women and equality. In the Bible, there is Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: fore ye are all one in Christ Jesus. While in the Koran there is The Bee 16:97 Whoever does righteousness, whether male or female, while he is a believer – We will surely cause him to life a good life, and We will surely give them their reward [in the Hereafter] according to the best of what they used to do.
However, there are verses in other parts in both books where such equality mentioned in one spot is contradicted. Such as in the Bible, 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. In 1 Corinthians Chapter 11, Paul states that as Christ is the head of every man, so every man is the head of his wife. In 1 Corinthians 11:5 Paul wrote about equality with women praying and prophesizing, while still having it noted as not equal in verse 8 that women are still to be subservient ‘For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man.’ Later in the New Testament 1 Timothy 2:11-12 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.
In the Koran, men have a higher degree of responsibility and authority over women in The Cow 2:228, which can be further exemplified later in the same book in 2:282 where the testimony of a woman is worth half the testimony of a man; the woman being worth (or deserving) half of a man is in The Women 4:11 with respect to inheritance. To take the role of the woman to an even lower status, there is the wife who is to submit sexually whenever her husband wants sex for she is a ‘field to plow’ (The Cow 2:223), and how absurd it is to believe sublime beings such as angels could have feminine names, according to The Star 53:27.
Both books treat women as lesser beings in that polygamy (multiple wives for a husband; not vice versa) is acceptable, as is taking female slaves [for sex]. The bible has numerous figures with multiple wives (and concubines): from a couple wives such as with Esau, Jacob, Gideon, all the way up to Solomon who had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines as stated in 1 Kings 11:3. Moses, held up as an exemplar in all Abrahamic faiths, conquered, slaughtered the survivors and then took the female virgins as slaves for his soldiers in the book of Numbers 31. (some may argue that it was not as sex slaves, but slaves in general – then why only female virgins? – if the girls were to be slaves for manual labor, wouldn’t males and experienced/older women be better?). In the Koran, there is The Women 4:3 And if you fear that you will not deal justly with the orphan girls, then marry those that please you of [other] women, two or three or four. But if you fear that you will not be just, then [marry only] one or those your right hand possesses [slave]. That is more suitable that you may not incline [to injustice]. (Muhammad was allowed to exceed the limit of four). In The Prohibition 66:5 Perhaps his Lord, if he divorced you [all], would substitute for him wives better than you – submitting [to Allah], believing, devoutly obedient, repentant, worshipping, and traveling – [ones] previously married and virgins.
These are just a few examples that both books have parts that are both beautiful and horrific. When looking at the work in full, just as when we review anything, judge anyone, we take the totality and balance it giving certain aspects or characteristics weights, and some parts weigh heavier than others. That a man was a loving father and donated spare time to entertain children, does that make John Wayne Gacy any less of a murderer? – the murderer aspect outweighs the others. It is the equivalent of saying ‘outside of the lies, he’s so honest’. There is also the time where we may separate the wheat from the chaff, and that is never more important than with books such as these.
Are the Bible and Koran books of beauty expressing spiritual ways of humanity coming together, or are they books justifying slaughter, oppression, division and tyranny? The answer is yes to both.
Biblically: Are we to love our enemies, not just those who love us back (Matthew 5:44-46)? – or are we to forsake the nonbelievers, and to even wish them well in life is equated to committing their evil (2 John 1:9-11)?
Are we to obey the government/State/King for members of the State are sent by God to direct punishment of evildoers (1 Peter 2:13-14; Romans 13:1-4)? – or are we to rebel against the government for not being aligned with God (Acts 5:29; end times with Revelations 2)? What is it exactly to ‘render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s (Matthew 22:21)?
Returning to the Koran, is there to no compulsion in religion (The Cow 2:256)? – or are we all directed in our life paths (with or without the correct faith) as Allah ‘guides whom He wills’. But you shall certainly be called to account for what you used to do (The Bee 16:93)? (if we act how Allah wills, how can we be held accountable for what we used to do if we were not the agents of those actions?) Are we to see those of other faiths and let them continue on their paths (even if erroneous) for only God/Allah can judge and set proper punishment in the hereafter (The Cave 18:29; The Wind-Curved Sandhills 46:8-10)? – or are disbelievers our sworn enemies, who should be made war with, strike off their heads for those who follow Muhammad are ruthless to the infidels (The Women 4:101; The Repentance 9:123; Muhammad 14:4; The Victory 48:29)?
Whichever verse you use to justify your beliefs will make you correct and faithful to your Holy book. Whether you are trying to justify oppressing women or equality with them, you will find it in your Holy Book. Whether you are trying to justify condemning others or being tolerant toward whichever group constitutes the others, you will find it in your Holy Book. For as reviewed briefly here (for there is much more in both books), both books have beautiful and grotesque passages. It does take greater work with selective editing to focus on the beautiful parts than the grotesque, but it can be done and doing so leaves little wheat for all the chaff. This brings us to the final part: what is in the book versus what you take from your Holy Book.
Do you follow the laws put forth in the Bible and Koran? – not just the notable 10 Commandments and 5 Pillars, but the other laws and foundational aspects that though they do not get the same focus, are decrees from God/Allah nonetheless. If you say you follow the divinely handed down laws, then these nondescript laws are to be followed as well, for they were decreed. If you do not follow them, then you are either seeing them as invalid and not truly as divine laws which would have to place the same suspicion upon the foundational aspects, or just to recognize that you are breaking God’s/Allah’s laws.
[Bible] Returning to the law to be not changed until fulfilled, do you focus on the law of Leviticus 24:20 of ‘eye for an eye,’ or follow Matthew 5:39 and ‘turn the other cheek’? [Koran] With women, is it two emerging from a single soul mentioned in The Women 4:1 or are women to be kept hidden behind veils and cloaks as in The Clans 33:50-59? If you do not know the history of it all, you have to take the text as it is and this is what it says: spiritual ways of ‘having your cake and eating it too’.
Do you stone homosexuals? – adulterers? Do you wear mixed fabrics? Do you keep near (or not remove yourself if you are the affected one) menstruating women, instead of keeping the required distance and cleaning all touched things appropriately? Do you behead apostates and smite the necks of infidels? Each one of these is a decree from God/Allah. If you are not killing the abominations, infidels, shunning ‘dirty’ women and following the other laws that are listed in the Old Testament and Koran, why not?
If your answer is ‘I didn’t know’, well, now you do and ignorance is no longer an excuse.
For those who follow the Bible, do you see the nullification of the law as mentioned in Ephesians 2:15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace. But that is a letter from Paul, a follower (one who converted years after Christ’s crucifixion); Jesus Christ himself, as aforementioned, said in Matthew 5:17 that he did not come to change the law, but more as he continued in Matthew 5:18-19 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. What is the ultimate fulfillment of Christ? – Christ’s return as is said in numerous places throughout the New Testament: John 14:3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also; Hebrews 9:28 So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation; amount numerous other verses. And you must take it at its [His] word for 1 Peter 1:20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. Who would be the one that should be listened to more: the Son of God/Man, or a follower? – the Son said there would be no change ‘till all be fulfilled’ and there is more to come, so the law would not have changed.
For those who follow the Koran, along with some of the contradictions already mentioned, there is the issue of abrogation whereby an earlier verse is overridden by a later, updated verse. The Cow 2:106 We do not abrogate a verse or cause it to be forgotten except that We bring forth [one] better than it or similar to it. Do you not know that Allah is over all things competent? Similarly, The Night Journey 17:86 And if We willed, We could surely do away with that which We revealed to you. Then you would not find for yourself concerning it an advocate against Us. Though there are some followers who say there are no abrogated verses, as the principle of what is said is not to have changed inasmuch the example used in different times had been changed to make the same point. Others say there is no abrogation within the Koran against the Koran, and the abrogation is referring to the Bible and Torah being abrogated by the Koran. The Old Testament with its patriarchs is also the inspired word of Allah, it is just in its current form modified from repeated copying. In any case – and regardless if there was an actual abrogation or not – there are verses that contradict one another between the Bible and the Koran, and within the Koran itself.
Jews and Christians are fellow ‘people of the book’ for they follow the Old Testament; Old Testament laws are still in effect, and Jesus as a prophet (not the prophet and not the Son of God) provided inspired words of Allah. [Koran]The Cow 2:87 And We did certainly give Moses the Torah and followed up after him with messengers. And We gave Jesus, the son of Mary, clear proofs and supported him with the Pure Spirit. But is it [not] that every time a messenger came to you, [O Children of Israel], with what your souls did not desire, you were arrogant? And a party [of messengers] you denied and another party you killed.
In the Old Testament, the law of Moses had adulterers to be stoned to death (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22); however, in the New Testament, Jesus with the woman caught in adultery in John 8, called for the punishment not to be stoning to death, but forgiveness. In the Koran, Muhammad stated in The Light 24:2 that adulterers are to be given each 100 lashes – without pity, and with witnesses. That is amongst the different Holy books that have been inspired by God/Allah. There are contradictions within the Koran itself. Contrary to the Bismillah [repeated saying throughout the Koran of Allah the most merciful and compassionate] and verses like The Women 4:110 And whoever does a wrong or wrongs himself but then seeks forgiveness of Allah will find Allah Forgiving and Merciful, but later on in the same book is 4:168 Indeed, those who disbelieve and commit wrong [or injustice] – never will Allah forgive them, nor will He guide them to a path. Additionally, in contradiction to do (The Bee 16:93) stating that all things are done according to how Allah wills, we have The Romans 30:26 that states And to Him belongs whoever is in the heavens and earth. All are to Him devoutly obedient, while The Cow 2:34 states And [mention] when We said to the angels, “Prostrate before Adam”; so they prostrated, except for Iblees [Satan]. He refused and was arrogant and became of the disbelievers.
The Koran, as the Old Testament [and implied in the New Testament for Jesus to not change but fulfill the law] states that homosexuals are to be executed. As following the same book of laws in these divinely inspired books, that means no mixed fabrics, shellfish. Furthermore, witchcraft and sorcery (Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 20:27; Deuteronomy 13:5; 1 Samuel 28:9) are reasons for executing someone, and unbelievers are to be killed (The Cow 2:216; The Women 4:74; The Spoils of War 8:39, among many other verses). But do not be fooled into thinking that ‘people of the book’ are to be spared, for ultimately they are not; the Bible, written before the Koran is not recognized as the final word of God. Christians altogether follow a false god in deifying a prophet (equating Christ with God), while Muslims can find verses that reduce other people of the book as other nonbelievers who are to be killed, such as The Repentance 9:30 The Jews say, “Ezra is the son of Allah”; and the Christians say, “The Messiah is the son of Allah.” That is their statement from their mouths; they imitate the saying of those who disbelieved [before them]. May Allah destroy them; how are they deluded?
One more point of contention regarding the ‘Word of God’ in the Holy Books: are they the inerrant word of God? Though Muhammad was to have received his revelations from the angel Gabriel, but as an illiterate, did Muhammad actually write the words? – he had scribes write his other documents, and there is no evidence he physically wrote the verses of the Koran. Were the words transcribed correctly? Even if it is granted that Muhammad wrote the actual words, in the Hadith of Bukhari 1:2, as stated by Muhammad’s favorite wife Aisha (the mother of the faithful believers) Al-Harith bin Hisham asked Allah's Apostle "O Allah's Apostle! How is the Divine Inspiration revealed to you?" Allah's Apostle replied, "Sometimes it is (revealed) like the ringing of a bell, this form of Inspiration is the hardest of all and then this state passes off after I have grasped what is inspired. Sometimes the Angel comes in the form of a man and talks to me and I grasp whatever he says." 'Aisha added: Verily I saw the Prophet being inspired Divinely on a very cold day and noticed the Sweat dropping from his forehead (as the Inspiration was over). However, The Heights 7:184 states that Muhammad is a ‘clear warner.’ This brings us to the Satanic Verses, where Muhammad first had a revelation in The Star 53:18-23 where the worship of the three goddesses [the three birds] would be allowed; later this revelation was deemed to have been Satan giving a false revelation and a new revelation was given which rejected the three goddesses.
With the Koran we have an issue with who actually may have written the text, for it was likely not Muhammad. Even if it was granted that he did write the text, some revelations came with inspired words which were the ‘hardest’ and revealed like a ringing of a bell. Or, it could be instead, the words of Satan trying to deceive. With the Bible we have first and foremost no original documents to verify what is read today matches the source [original inspiration] material, which will never be found for the stories were originally relayed by oral tradition. As far as what we have today in Biblical texts, there are dozens of different versions of ‘God’s inerrant Word’ and though some differences are minor, there are some such as Exodus 32:14 where the difference is substantial, for did God relent, as in ease up in his wrath (NIV), or did he repent, as in show signs of contrition for acting wrongly (KJV)? The difference is not insignificant. Both Holy Books (Bible and Koran) were affected by circumstances in which they are written – which would require books to review (some have been written, see Bart Ehrman, Karen Armstrong, Robert Spencer, among others).
So with all the aforementioned we again must ask: are you for stoning homosexuals, whipping adulterers (or stoning if not Muslim)? – do you see genocide as just, as long as your side wins? – is slavery acceptable? – killing apostates? Both the Bible and Koran condone each of these examples. Are you for letting each person follow their own life path? – forgiveness? – equality? Both the Bible and Koran embrace these facets – though you must be a little more selective and narrowing in getting these, but they are there.
Across the planet, across the centuries, those who carry their respective Holy Books from their Gods of Love, Mercy and Peace, have slaughtered those who had been deemed ‘the other’ as in ‘not with my faith’; however, politics is also involved, but it also must be kept in mind that there is little to no distinction between church/mosque and State for those who use bloodshed to achieve their ends. To call a territory a Holy Land is to blend the spiritual favoritism with material acquisition – vesting one’s interest both in spirit and in body. Holy books grant a final license to act against someone else by giving it not just a pragmatic base, but a moral one – it isn’t just about resources, but good-vs-evil at a metaphysical level (even though they act the same, they do so to a different deity). People both slaughter others, and come to the defense of others, with an understanding it (persecution and protection) is said to come from their Holy books.
But they, as yourself for you who believe and yet do not stone, flog, or behead someone for not adhering to dogmas of faith – do you do it because your book says to act in a way (for it says to act in more ways than one) or when you see the verse that it’s okay for a father to sell his daughter into slavery, and when a slave has children they become slaves as well [Bible] (Exodus 21:4-7) or beat a slave (Exodus 21:20) and that one way to free a slave is by one sharing the same faith and waiting for you to accidentally kill another believer [Koran] (The Women 4:92)? And if you say ‘that was the context of the time’, how do you respond to: contextually it was acceptable then? Or do you have a sense brewing in you – if reason has not fully brought to awareness – that the punishments, the killing and slavery mentioned in both – though historically may have been accepted at the time committed – is not [ever] an actual moral way of acting? That these were really examples of primate and tribal man without any real understanding of life and not generally concerned about rights of others?
In one way or another, it does come down to rejecting part of your Holy Book. Which will it be? – the part which you hold and which you let go. Will you hold onto the sexism, homophobia, the genocidal unreason listed in the pages as you accept the dogma at face value, or will you see the text as primitive man’s attempt to understand the world – and that the Holy Books are creations of man – his imperfect attempts to trying to find perfection through the limits of his understanding in the culture and world in which he lived.
How you read the books and live your life says more about who you are, not about the books you hold. Which one means more to you? How will you live your life according to what the books say? That is your belief (you as an individual) in action.