Finally this post is done! It's from questions asked of me when I announced I'd finished reading the Quran. Please keep in mind these impressions are mine according to my reading. You are welcome to share your own similar or vastly different impressions if you'd like. So please know these are merely my opinions as is most everything else on this blog except what I quote from others. :-)
That said, I shall now move on.
What are your impressions of the Quran as a whole?
The Quran - as a reminder - is mostly made up of very small portions of the stories Bible readers recognize from the Old Testament and Gospel. For example, while there are many references to Moses and Pharaoh, there is not much about Moses' leadership among the Israelites and God's intervening care for the people as they wandered in the wilderness for forty years. And aside from Moses and Joseph, not much at all is shared from the other great Bible stories. No mentioning of Jesus' wonderful teachings or lessons you could learn from the Old Testament kings and judges and prophets. Mostly the message of the Quran was God's creative and sustaining power (which was good and often full of beautiful imagery!) and the fact that Muhammad wasn't a poet/sorcerer/madman and people who rejected his message would roast in hell while the believers would recline on couches, drink wine, eat fruit and enjoy gardens, rivers and women in heaven!
The Quran didn't really give hope for God's power in helping you overcome your wicked ways. It was more of a threat/fear-based model that if you disbelieve and disobey the prophet, you would go to hell. I didn't see any place where God said "come to Me and I will clean you and help you live a life pleasing to Me" such as He offers in the Bible. Instead striving, endeavoring, working very very hard is impressed upon those who want to be favored in God's eyes on judgment day. So maybe I should say it is a reward-based model as it did offer things pleasant to desert people as waiting in the hereafter for those who believed and obeyed Muhammad.
The Quran did away with the need for Jesus' blood. Man has become his own savior ... with some mercy of God thrown in there if you believed Muhammad.
Peace is only for believers. There is little call to show good works to your enemies and love them so they will see the divine goodness of God as He or His principles live out in you. While I do see outward goodness in Muslims and adore most of the Muslims I've met, I don't see this outward goodness to your enemies stressed in the Quran which seemed to have a more confrontational approach to unbelievers on par with the Joshua days in the OT when the Israelites were taking over the Promised Land.
Was it what you expected?
I think it was mostly what I expected as I knew going into my reading that Muslims believed strongly in working for salvation (or for God's favor) and this was only confirmed by what I read. I don't think I expected the same message over and over and over again. I felt the "Muhammad, don't worry. You are a prophet and not a poet/sorcerer/madman and We will vouch for you in this Quran" was distracting as was the constant need to threaten hell for disbelievers and promise reclining couches and big, bright-eyed maidens as rewards for believers. I read the Quran straight through so I'm sure these don't stick out to Muslims who just read favorite chapters and verses, but if you ever read the Quran straight through, you'll see what I mean. I like a little more variety and would have enjoyed hearing the stories of David, Solomon, Elijah, Jesus and others in more detail. There are a lot of life lessons to be learned from these Bible stories.
Did you like it overall?
Yeah, I enjoyed the experience of reading it and posting notes and reading the feedback from Muslims especially as they told me the background information on the verses. It was helpful in learning more about their faith and cherished beliefs.
Would you recommend the Quran to others?
I would recommend it to others so they could learn more about Muslims. I think it would be helpful to have a Muslim friend to explain some things as certain passages seem to come out of nowhere and a Muslim friend would be able to share the stories leading up to those particular revelations. This is particularly important for those passages that seem very harsh on unbelievers as the average non-Muslim reader would find this intolerance difficult to understand and merely be further proof in her mind that Islam is not a religion of peace as Muslims often say it is. A Muslim friend could provide much-needed context.
Did it give you any ideas about Muslims or Islam?
I already had ideas of Muslims and Islam from meeting people online, reading blogs and traveling to Syria last year. Most of my experiences with Muslims have been wonderful and I consider many of them as dear friends. The Quran was helpful in showing me a bit about their beliefs and where they are coming from. For instance it's not wise to expect Muslims to turn the other cheek or love their enemies as they are not commanded to do these things as followers of Jesus are. So I need to keep these things in mind when I deal with Muslims because we aren't coming from the same set standard. "The Reality" is different ... their holy book declares something different for them from what Jesus says for me and I would be wise to keep this in mind as I seek to understand my Muslim friends. That's just one example.
Lastly I was asked to share the message of both the Bible and Quran in five points. I tried to summarize them with the top things that stand out the most to me. Of course my thoughts on the Bible are more complex since I grew up with it.
MESSAGE OF THE BIBLE
1. God created all things good. He enjoyed fellowship with His creation.
2. Humans sinned and these offenses against a holy God broke fellowship. Think of your spouse cheating on you and how this raises a huge wall.
3. God didn't leave man in his separated (broken from fellowship) position, but made a way to restore fellowship. Therefore, belief in Jesus' work on the Cross is necessary for restored fellowship. The Cross represents the meeting of God's justice and mercy because God is both just and merciful. And God alone is the Savior.
4. When we put our trust in God's Way for salvation, He then enables us to live in ways that please Him. Thus our good works aren't performed to save us, but they are a result of walking daily with a holy, loving God.
5. Because God is Love, people know we are His disciples by the way we love others - our family, friends, the strangers on the street, even our enemies. It takes little effort to love those who are kindhearted and treat you well, yet God enables us to love people even when they are difficult.
MESSAGE OF THE QURAN
1. God wants our worship.
2. God does not have partners.
3. Although God is the savior, we must believe Muhammad's message, obey Muhammad and do good works (give to charity, pray, fight for God's causes, strive to do good) in order to have better chances at obtaining paradise. Because there are scales to weigh your good and bad deeds.
4. Muhammad is not a poet, sorcerer or madman as God vouches for him in the Quran and gives examples of previous prophets whose messages were rejected in like manner.
5. Be good to fellow Muslims, be unified, just and peaceful amongst yourselves. Mixed message on how to treat those outside of the faith - sometimes it was with some kindness, other times it was harsh fighting and still other times it seemed just leave them alone as long as they aren't bothering you.
Any other questions? Now feel free to share your own thoughts if you wish.