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Saint Augustine
Christianity and Islam: The Differences in the Societies They Create - The Sixth Major Difference: What is divine revelation?
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Article Index
Christianity and Islam: The Differences in the Societies They Create
The First Major Difference: What is God?
The Second Major Difference: What is Man?
The Third Major Difference: How does man relate to nature?
The Fourth Major Difference: How do people get to heaven?
The Fifth Major Difference: What is the ideal future?
The Sixth Major Difference: What is divine revelation?
Conclusion and Endnotes
All Pages

The Sixth Major Difference: What is divine revelation?

Both Christianity and Islam believe in angels and prophets and in a God who communicates through Holy Scriptures, but their prophets and scriptures are functionally opposite to each other.

In Muslim theology, the Qur’an is a verbatim incarnation of God’s word. It is an extension of divine essence and a part of eternity.24 In Christian theology, Jesus fulfills that role. While to most Christians the original manuscripts of the Bible were divinely inspired and thus without error, they do not believe it to be an extension of God’s essence. The Bible quotes God, but it is not word for word, in every word, a direct quote from the mouth of God.

Christians believe that Jesus is divine (John 10:30-33), so that every word of Jesus is a word straight from the mouth of God. That is how Muslims view the Qur'an. Christians believe that the Bible is divinely provided and protected in order to show us Jesus (John 5:39). Muslims believe that about Muhammad. They believe Muhammad was divinely provided and protected in order to give us the Qur'an.25

How does belief about revelation affect civic structures?

As a result, in Muslim theology, burning a Qur’an would be like crucifying Christ or desecrating the Eucharist. Burning a Qur’an is exponentially more explosive than burning a Bible. In Indonesia, I saw a man die in a hospital from a beating after he’d been arrested for allegedly burning some verses of the Qur’an that were supposedly mixed in with some magic charms that he was destroying. In Christian theology, burning the Bible is like burning a valuable and special book, but it is nothing to Christians like burning a Qur'an is to Muslims. Functionally, for their respective groups, the Bible and the Qur’an are different, so the responses of the respective groups are different as well.

Functionally, the Muslim equivalent to the Christian Bible is the prophet Muhammad as he is known through the hadith and sunnah.26 The hadith are written records of the sayings and actions of Muhammad. The sunnah is the "way" of Muhammad that the hadith reveals. Without knowing the "way" of Muhammad, there can be no authoritative application of the Qur’an. Similarly, without the Bible, there can be no authoritative knowledge of Christ.

Muslims do not study the Qur’an devotionally the way that Christians study the Bible. Rather, what Muslims study devotionally is the life of Muhammad. Muslims find life lessons in the way that Muhammad talked, ate, drank, slept, washed, and even had sex. Muhammad for Muslims is devotionally equivalent to the Bible for Christians. Functional equivalence between Christianity and Islam is between book and person and not from book to book or person to person.

Muslim clerics are legal scholars as well as theological ones. Muslim people leave interpreting the Qur’an to trained clerics the way that Americans leave interpreting the Constitution to trained lawyers. Muslims often memorize large portions of the Qur'an. But memorizing the Qur'an does not give one authority to interpret and apply it any more than memorizing the U.S. Constitution gives one credentials for practicing Constitutional Law.

For Christians, their political ruler is Jesus. Though he rules a heavenly rather than an earthly kingdom, he still rules. Christians call Jesus their Lord as well as their Savior. The Muslim equivalent to Jesus is the Qur'an. Muslims are devoted to the Qur'an the way that Christians are devoted to Jesus, and they treat it legally the way that Americans treat the U.S. Constitution. The Qur'an is a Muslim's highest sovereign in the same way that Jesus is a Christian's highest sovereign.

Both Christianity and Islam have prophets and scriptures; however, those prophets and scriptures don't correlate with one another. Christians revere the man Jesus as the essence of God, whom they receive and understand through the Bible. Muslims revere the Qur'an as an essence of God, which they receive and understand through their prophet Muhammad. Functionally Muhammad correlates to the Bible and the Qur'an correlates to Jesus. Correlating Jesus with Muhammad and the Bible with the Qur'an is a mistake for Muslims trying to understand Christianity and for Christians trying to understand Islam.

Last Updated on Saturday, 27 April 2013 20:30