For the past year or so I have been fortunate to be part of several interfaith gatherings. This is where Muslims and Christians get together and share their understanding of their own religion. Here’s what I have learned.
Firstly, these gatherings are not about point scoring or trying to convert people. They are very much about information and trying to explain the religion from the scriptures themselves.
The underlying issue I have noted about both Christians and Muslims, is that they tend to interpret texts to suit their pre-existing concepts.
For example, there will be a clear part of text that will make an issue beyond doubt. Then there will be another part of text on the same topic that is vague. What tends to happen is that people take the vague verses, then derive a meaning from that, then go back to the clear verse and then try and give it a different meaning based on their interpretation of the vague verse.
I noted Christians did this when trying to explain their concept of Jesus (AS) being God. I was really surprised that the concept that Christians have today of the Trinity, just isn’t in the Bible. Its just not there. Their explanation is really one of conjecture and to be honest, blind faith. Sometimes people would just say how they felt that certain beliefs just made them feel “right” or it settled well with them. I didnt find this very convincing.
I am not an expert on the Bible, however I know a lot more about it now, and also I know more about modern Christian belief. I never really understood some of the Quranic concepts on the Christians and the Bible until now. For example :
2|79|So woe to those who write the Scripture with their own hands, and then say, “This is from God,” that they may exchange it for a little price. Woe to them for what their hands have written, and woe to them for what they earn.
I had been under the (naive) impression that Christians believed that Jesus (AS) had written or edited or complied the Bible. I was really surprised to learn that its actually a book of what others heard or saw or thought about the whole period. I can now see how the Quranic verse above makes sense, I can imagine in the early days of Christianity, there were many “Gospels” and some were written for fame or money. Some may have even made it into the modern day Bible.
One issue that I must commend the Christians for is their knowledge of history and their texts. They take a special effort to know the family trees of the Prophets, the location of their births, where they lived, how they died. Its something that I noticed Christianity seems well suited for. The Bible is like a book of history, it explains the old prophets in a very story like way. The Quran on the other hand is more like poetry, it tells the story, but not in a list of facts way, but more in a “here’s the message behind a story”.