Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Bible Commentary: Part 4 of 4 Jacob in the Qur'an

This section, where I cite and comment all the instances where Jacob (Yaqoub) appears in the Qur'an is next on my schedule.

First citations from Surah 2:132-3.

And the same did Ibrahim [Abraham] enjoin on his sons and (so did) Yaqoub. O my sons! surely Allah has chosen for you (this) faith, therefore die not unless you are Muslims.

Nay! were you witnesses when death visited Yaqoub, when he said to his sons: What will you serve after me? They said: We will serve your God and the God of your fathers, Ibrahim [Abraham], Ismail [Ishmael] and Ishaq [Isaac], one God only, and to Him do we submit.

These passages mention four great Biblical patriarchs, including Abraham, who is viewed as the father of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths. Abraham, Jacob, Ismail and Isaac, and the other patriarchs, prophets, judges and kings of the ancient Israelites are referenced repeatedly and with reverence throughout the Qur'an, as you will see in further passages that mention Jacob, which I will provide in this commentary. Before we do, we have to clear the air about the role of the Qur'an in faith history. We will do this by examining this passage and using faith and reasoning in a logical way.

Notice that the format of the Qur'an is obviously different from both the Old and New Testament as it is clearly "conversational" in tone, and also with great poetic grace, such as is found in Psalms in the Bible. So it is clearly not a set of written exerpts from the Jewish books of the bible. In other words, it's not like the Prophet (PBUH) read the Jewish books and memorized certain sections. These were rough and paganistic times, and just because Jews and some Christians lived in proximity with the people who would become Muslims, there would be no motivation at all to study Jewish scrolls, if one even had access to them, and then to memorize passages, and then likewise to read from the Gospels about Jesus, and then to memorize an accurate but highly summarized recitation of faith history, and then combine it with new laws and call it the Qur'an. People who accuse the Qur'an of being "non revelatory" in nature must think this through. If it is not revelatory, then where did it come from, and why is the composition so strong in its emphasis and revererance for the ancient Israeli patriarchs and prophets? Who among those very rough and tumultuous times would have read the Jewish scribes and the Christian Gospels to extract detailed information about the prophets, and then construct a new faith, this branch from Abraham, out of thin air? It just is not even a technically feasible theory.

The problem is that historians and critics on both "sides" insist on focusing on claims regarding the "sequential" order of the revelatory books of God. In other words, Christians worry that if they say that the Qur'an is revelatory, that it "succeeds" or "supercedes" the Old and New Testaments. They worry that the Qur'an is "new, final, edited" word from God. On the other side, that is the logic that Muslims utilize too. They figure, why would we have received this book, if it is not to supercede the others that come from before? Thus the dialogue locks into whether sequence in delivery by God determines subordination and domination of one belief over the other. That is a great shortcoming on both sides of understanding how God comprehends outside of time the needs of all of his children and servants. I have alluded to this before but let me repeat. God was reaching out to the Arabic people who would become Muslims and restoring, as in reconnecting, their broken linkage to that of Abraham and his descendants. When one seeks a tribe, for instance, from the family tree that one has lost touch with, one does not say that just because they were the third ones found and those that are the most recent, that they "replace" the ones who came before, the Jews and Christians. Likewise, the known tribes in this analogy, the Jews and the Christians, cannot say that the Muslims were not properly invited by God, just because they do not understand God's ways. Those who cannot see that God is perfectly capable of revelation that does not negate or supercede what has gone before, despite the strong words, at least to modern ears, that are in the Qur'an, need to have more faith in God and his ability to always do what is correct. I will take you step by step how to think of it in this light, using the passages cited in this commentary.

(To be continued...)