Chapter 2: What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Qur’an

I recently invited everyone to a read along in Let’s Read About the Qur’an Together! The plan is to read What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Qur’an by James R. White together.

Feel free to grab a copy of the book and join in at anytime! So far, the following has been covered:

Today’s post covers chapter 2 “The Qur’an: A Brief Introduction.”

The chapter begins by explaining how the Qur’an is laid out helpfully using Bible for comparison. For example:

“The Qur’an is just over half the length of the New Testament and about one-fifth as long as the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament). It contains 114 surat, roughly equivalent to the concept of a chapter, divided into ayat of varying lengths, roughly equivalent to verses” (Kindle Locations 607-612).

What some readers may not know is the Qur’an is not laid out in chronological or topical order, but by the size of each surat. Since the Qur’an was written over a 22 year period, readers will jump around throughout the book to various points in Muhammad’s life. This organization of the Qur’an would create difficultly understanding the book for those not familiar with the lay-out.

Dr. White offers that the “non-expert reader” use the tafsir, or method of interpretation, which is based on the hadith. Hadith is hadith is basically a record of the sayings or actions of Muhammad. White also offers a helpful chart to help read the Qur’an chronologically.

Finally, I’ll note a few points of belief about the Qur’an. The majority view is that it is and uncreated book directly from Allah. Muhammad does not appear in the Qur’an. The Islamic holy book only exists in Arabic and is not translatable even though most Muslims depend on translations. Most of Islam holds that one who believes the Qur’an is created is a condemned unbeliever.

White addresses some of the issues more fully in chapter 2 later in the book. This brief chapter certainly shines light on why Christians, and Westerners in general, may have problems understanding Islam and its holy book.

Here I blog…

P.S. And your thoughts?

tagged as , , , , , in apologetics,books,Christianity,Evangelism,Gospel,theology

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 slimjim July 6, 2013 at 11:03 pm

Several years ago I tried reading the Quran in a year and I failed; it wasn’t until I read chapter two of James White’s book did I realized I should try to do it again, especially after learning it was half the size of the NT

2 Ken Temple July 8, 2013 at 4:21 pm

Dr. White mentions the 2 periods and has a chart of the two kinds of Surahs (chapters of the Qur’an) on page 53.
It is also important to emphasize that Muslims categorize Surahs in two ways:
1.  The Meccan Surahs – revealed from 613-622 AD
2.  The Median Surah – revealed from 622-632 AD
Notice on his chart that Surahs 8 and 9 are the next to the last, with 110 being the last.  There is a Hadith that says that Surah 9 (Al Tawbah = “Repentance” or “Al Bara’a” = “The Immunity” or “freedom from obligation” – taken from verse 1 of Surah 9 
Sahih al-Bukhari 4364 (or Sahih Al Bukhari volume 4, # 129 —”The last complete Surah which was revealed (to the Prophet) was Bara’a …”
Surah 9 does not have the “Bismi’allah” at the beginning because, it is thought, of its harshness – it has the most famous verses about fighting the unbelievers where ever you find them (9:5) and “fight the people of the book (Christians and Jews) who do not believe in Allah, . . . until they pay the Jizeye and feel themselves subdued.” (9:29)
The Qur’anic principle of abrogation is there in Surah 2:106 and 16:101, which has been widely understood by Islamic scholars all throughout their history and today that the peaceful verses in the early Meccan period (like Surah 109) are abrogated by the last Surah of Al Tawbah or Toubeh (Surah 9, Repentance).  Some say Surah 8 and 9 belong together.  Surah 8 is the spoils of War – and has 8:39 – another harsh verse, which is also repeated in the Hadith many times.  
David Wood has an important compilation of verses and Hadith passages in his video, “The Qur’an In Context” (Part 1)
Western and modern and secular Muslims quote Surah 2:256 a lot – “there is no compulsion in religion”; but all Muslim scholars admit that most Surah 2 was revealed in the first 18 months of Muhammad’s time in Mecca, before the battle of Badr in 624 AD.  So the spirit of Surah 2:256 is still in the peaceful and persecuted Meccan period; and a little latter is when Muhammad got new revelations to attack the pagan Caravans and then make war against the pagans when they attack you first.  (see previous comments)
So, it seems really important to understand that Surah 9 is the last or almost the last Surah revealed and that it’s call for war and subjugating the pagans, Christians, Jews and others was carried out by the Muslims and Khalifs for many centuries afterward, because they understood that this was their duty to obey the prophet and spread Islam; and that it abrogated the previous Surahs and verses. 

Tafsir تفسیر means “interpretation” and books of interpretations are commentaries on the Qur’an, as Dr. White wrote, mostly based on the Hadith collections.  There are some details that Muslims gather from Sirah literature (Biography of the prophet – Ibn Ishaq and Ibn Hisham) and the Tarikh (History) of Al Tabari, that is not in the Hadith.  The Muslims scholars look to these sources to tell them the “asbab ol nuzul”, which means “the reasons for the revelation” or “the occasion for the revelation” – which would be equivalent to what we say in hermeneutics “the historical context”.  
The phrase, “the Mother of the book” mentioned on page 53, from Surah 43:2-4 – about the eternal tablet in heaven, is a useful phrase for us to use in Evangelism with Muslims.  Muslims complain about the phrase “Son of God” in the Bible about Jesus and falsely accuse us of believing that God had sex with Mary, as what the Qur’an seems to do. (Surah 112, 6:101; 5:116; 19:88-92) – we should point out that no Christian ever believed that, and that idea (that God had sex with Mary) is blasphemous, and that it is a spiritual metaphor to explain the relationship that the Father and Son have had from all eternity.  Just as this is a metaphor to teach that Jesus had the same divine nature as God the Father, so also, if the Muslim keeps insisting, ask  them if “the Mother of books” had sex or got married, and had children?  In order to be a mother, one must have gotten married, had sex, and physically birthed children.  When they say, “that is a metaphor” or ‘symbol” of the source of revelation, then you can say, “ok, so, now, do you understand that the phrase “son of God” is a metaphor?
for more on that issue of the Son of God, see

3 Ken Temple July 8, 2013 at 4:22 pm

Mark – check your spam, as I give two links and usually it goes to spam if I give a link. 

4 kevinhill1 July 26, 2013 at 10:38 pm

Ken, thanks for your input here. It was really informative. Especially the “mother of books”.

5 Ken Temple July 29, 2013 at 1:42 pm

kevinhill1 You are welcome! I am glad that is helpful.


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