It’s a set of 7th century revelation from God made to Muhammad in two cities, Makkah and Madinah. It heralds the truth that there is only one God, not the many gods still being worshiped in ancient Arabia.
Many Revelations, but One Message
Of course, this was not the earliest revelation that there is only one God that had been taught in Hebrew to the Jews and in Greek to the Christians before it was taught to Muslims in Arabic.
These three sets of revelation set apart the people of the Book, each with their own special covenant from the same God. There is only one.
We believers in one God are on the same team as it were, and should protect one another’s places of worship listed in Quran as monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, where God’s name is much invoked.
[They are] those who have been evicted from their homes without right – only because they say, “Our Lord is Allah.” And were it not that Allah checks the people, some by means of others, there would have been demolished monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques in which the name of Allah is much mentioned. And Allah will surely support those who support Him. Indeed, Allah is Powerful and Exalted in Might. (Quran 22:40)
A Message for All
The Quran doesn’t confine God’s action to the former covenants of religion, God tells us that He sends messages to all men all the time, beginning with Adam, who repented his sin in the garden and became the first Prophet.
The unending stream of Prophets includes Moses and Jesus, Muhammad himself is the seal of the Prophets not as canceling former covenants but as confirming them.
But the law of God is not brought only by human messengers in the Quran, creation itself is a set of messages from God which speak a divine code that we are told to decipher.
God’s intent can be seen in the beauty and power of the universe. Moses doesn’t not speak alone on the mountain, but the mountain speaks with him; birds speak to Solomon…
The world is constantly signaling to us, bringing us insights into the beauty and power of its maker. This should call us to a reverence for God’s handiwork, an important message for our ecologically challenged era.
A Message of Mercy and Ethics
The Quran has more of poetry in it than of legislation. It sets ethical norms while stressing the need for mercy in our dealing with God’s fellow creatures.
Force is allowed only for self-defense, and never as way of spreading religion.
Commercial dealings with fellow Muslims or with non-Muslims should be meticulously fair and never extortionate.
The relations of the sexes were still polygamous in the 7th century as among the ancient Hebrews and the original Mormons, but women are to be honored.
In fact, the dowry that was paid to a husband’s family by the bride’s family in Europe was paid in the Quran directly to the bride, and she retains this bride right even if the husband divorces her or she divorces him.
This carved out an area of women’s rights unparalleled in the seventh century.
The Quran is a book of many levels and great depths; even non-Muslims can learn from it, as Pope Francis has proclaimed.
I’m Garry Wills, for the Emir Stein center.