I have saved these last three surahs for the end as they seemed like they would sum up the Qur’an well.

Surah 112 is precisely such a summation.  Muslim tradition says this minuscule surah is equal to one-third of the entire message of the Qur’an.  Given its emphasis on monotheistic devotion, I can certainly see why people think that.

Say, “He is God the One, God the eternal.  He begot no one nor was He begotten.  No one is comparable to Him.” (112:1-4)

As a Christian, I can’t help but feel that this surah is addressing the trinitarian beliefs of Christianity, and maybe also the pagan beliefs popular in Arabia at the time of the Qur’an.  Nonetheless, there may be no more foundational thought in Islam than this one.

One of the last revelations ever received by Muhammad before his death was Surah 110:

When God’s help comes and He opens up your way [Prophet], when you see people embracing God’s faith in crowds, celebrate the praise of your Lord and ask His forgiveness: He is always ready to accept repentance. (110:1-3)

As one of the final words from Allah, I am struck by this message.  It is prophetic in a sense: there are days coming when people will accept Islam in droves. That will be a reason to celebrate.  Yet the final word of all is an admonition to seek forgiveness and a reassurance that Allah is always ready to receive truly repentant people.  That is such a fitting ending to the Qur’an.  The door to God is always open.  Step through with a repentant heart, and a humble spirit that knows we are always in need of forgiveness.  But it is an open door.  What a welcoming ending.

Interestingly, down at the end of the Qur’an is this realistic surah.  Evidently, a group of pagans had come to Muhammad and proposed a compromise.  They pledged to worship Allah for a year if the Prophet would worship their gods for a year.  Muhammad was told to give this response:

Say [Prophet], “Disbelievers: I do not worship what you worship, you do not worship what I worship, I will never worship what you worship, you will never worship what I worship: you have your religion and I have mine.” (109:1-6)

As I read this surah I couldn’t help but think that these are precisely my sentiments as well.  I have thoroughly enjoyed reading closely the Qur’an this past year.  Even more so, I have enjoy the conversations I have had with people that this blog fostered, especially those with the Muslims who took the time to further educate me on their religion.  What is even more clear to me now than it was when I started is how intractable the religious differences are between differing religions.  It was true 1400 years ago when Muhammad spoke to these pagans.  It is true today when Muslims talk with Christians and Jews.  It is true of me as well.  I have an immense amount of respect for the religion of Islam (more on that in the next post).  I found a true zeal in the Muslims who have followed this blog.  I believe we can show love to each other as humans.  I believe we can cooperate with each other in areas of social concern.  I do believe we can learn to coexist in a democratic society that does not assert any religion over another.  But Muslims have their religion and I have mine.  I can’t bring myself to worship God apart from Jesus, and they couldn’t imagine doing so.  We are at an impasse.

One more final post later in the week as I reflect back on the past year.


What are “grace” and “mercy?” We have found these are recurring questions as we read through the Qur’an. And Christians ask them in their own theologies just as much as we might ask them here about the Islamic view of these ideas.

It wasn’t until college until I really realized that grace was more than just a prayer you said before dinner.  I had sung “Amazing Grace” all my life, but the truly amazing story of a God who acts in life-saving ways through Jesus Christ on the behalf of sinners and “enemies” (Romans 5:10), well, that took some maturity to really get.  “Mercy” — I knew that one well.  It was what I got when I deserved so much worse.  The simplest of minds gets that one.  And I am often pretty simple-minded.

The beginning of this surah gives us a line that goes a long way to helping us understand better the Qur’anic view of “grace:”

He will grant you wholesome enjoyment until an appointed time, and give His grace to everyone who has merit. (11:3)

We have seen this idea before.  With this connotation, “grace” is most equal to the word “favor.”  Some have Allah’s favor, and some do not.  What determines the difference?  Grace or favor is granted to the one who merits it through his obedient goodness.  Once again, we see that the Qur’anic view of grace has as much to do with merit earned by the person as it does the compassion of a god upon an undeserving human.

If any desire [only] the life of this world with all its finery, We shall repay them in full in this life for their deeds — they will be given no less — but such people will have nothing in the Hereafter but the Fire: their work here will be fruitless and their deeds futile. (11:15-16)

There is a foe much greater than Islam, more threatening to American Christians than Muslim violence.  Materialism, the dominant worldview of our own increasingly secularized American society, says only that which is material exists and only that which can be sensed, owned or used for some immediately gratifying end has value.  This “religion” (the store isn’t called “True Religion” for no reason, right?) is much more insidious than Islam.  In America at least, we have more to fear from marketing, malls and massage parlors than we do from mosques.

Christians realize the threat of materialism.  Muslims do too.  And this is something we can most certainly agree upon.  Ayah 17 even claims a continuity between this message from the Qur’an and that found in the “Book of Moses” of the Judeo-Christian tradition.  The reduction of life to consumerism, of the human to consumer, and of happiness to ownership and pleasure are rivals that Christians and Muslims can join together to oppose.