How Can I Approach The Quran as a Non-Muslim?

21 May, 2019
Q As an American Christian, I am for peace ... I am currently reading your holy book. Any advice? Any hints I should take into account? Thank you.


Short Answer:  There are three important dimensions you need to take into account as you read the Quran. The real starting point to understand the Quran is that is not like the Bible. It is a direct divine revelation, with verses that have historical context. We believe God’s messengers were human beings and Allah is not incarnated or begotten.


Salam (Peace) David, 

Thank you for contacting About Islam with your question.

As you read the Quran, take into consideration that it is different from the Bible. 

In fact, we usually smile when people refer to Quran by saying “your Bible” … The Quran is not a kind of Bible. 

The Quran is not like the Bible in the sense that it is not narrated by apostles.

Muslims believe it is a book, revealed from God to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), through Angel Gabriel. 

Yet, it was revealed over a number of years, addressing many events during the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him).

This is as well as general issues of belief and monotheism, deism, manners, and social arrangements in addition to economics, inter-faith relations, rules of war, political relations, and accords.

Historical Context

You will come across verses calling upon Muslims to fight non-Muslims. You need to know that these are related to certain political events in the past. They must be put into context and they are not to be viewed as general principles. 

For example, when the non-Muslim tribes breached their treaty with Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). These tribes were then supported by Jewish tribes to conspire to betray their oath with the Muslims and fight them.

Here, the Quran directed the Prophet (peace be upon him) to fight back and enforce the aggressors to abide by the agreement they made. This can be something that is comparable with measures of International Law nowadays. 

Really, you cannot read the Quran solely, without knowing the history of early Islam. Otherwise, God could have just sent a book from heaven for people to read and saved Muhammad (peace be upon him) the time and effort.

Hence, the span of time, along with the historical factors are crucial in understanding and interpreting the Holy Book of Muslims

The Quran, as it was lived by the Prophet (peace be upon him), demonstrates human nature, conflict resolution, navigating daily politics, and human failures and successes.

It is a representation of human dilemmas, events, social issues, and relations … It shows the path to a good life, justice, and reminds us of the Hereafter.

Importance of Prophethood

Prophet Muhammad’s example of living the Quranic message is why prophethood was necessary.

In order to give an example of how a moral life should be lead, Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) life and his narrations should be read along with the Quran. 

For example, Muslims pray according to the way Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) used to pray. Generation after generation, prayer has been performed the very same way that the Prophet performed it – in minute detail.

But if you look for this in the Quran, you will not find any mention of praying exactly 5 times a day or even how to perform it. You will only find reminders to pray. 

That’s why the life of Muhammad and the course of events, related to the revelation of the text, are of ultimate importance to understandapply, and explain the Quran. This means that history is important too, as well as revelation. 

Human experience is recognized as the will of God, or as the continuous effort to apply transcendental guidance to practical daily situations.

Prophets, however, are humans. They are not Gods or half Gods. Therefore, I think that you should not be reading the Quran with a Christian mind.

You should not expect similar perspective towards life and existence, as that of Christianity. 

Remember that Islam is a religion for real life. It is for the human society, with both its good and evil sides, for different times and places.

It is realistic, keeping morality ever in mind. It also presents the ideal conception that we should try to implement and reach.

The Concept of God in Islam

The key to understanding Islam is to start by understanding how the concept of God is also a bit different. We Muslims do not believe in the original sin.

In fact, we believe in an opposing concept of original innocence. The Quran says that Adam did commit a sin. But then he prayed for forgiveness and Allah forgave him – full stop. 

Also different from Christianity is that, in Islam, we believe that all the messengers were human beings and Allah is not incarnated or begotten.

It is stated in the Quran that nothing is comparable to Him, He being the Light of heavens and earth.

Surah (Chapter) 112 clearly states:

{Say: He is Allah, the One and Only. Allah is He on Whom all depend. He begets not, nor is He begotten. And there is none comparable unto Him.} (112, 1-4)

This is the real starting point to understand Islam, revelation, history, and the human condition. 

You know, while I am writing – I myself – am reflecting and re-discovering many aspects of my faith.

It is only through questioning from the outside, that one might see the inside better. So, thank you for your question and affording me this opportunity.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if any other questions arise. 

All the best. Salam

(From Ask About Islam archives)

Please continue feeding your curiosity, and find more info in the following links:

What Is The Quran?

The Quran: A Message to Humanity?

Why Does the Quran Require Context?

Scriptures of People of the Book