I recently wrote about some of the “Startling Similarities (and Contrasts) Between the Bible and the Quran.” Here are six more important differences between the holy books of the world’s two largest religions:
1. Conversion Stories
As I have been reading the Bible for the past 40 years, I’ve noticed that its message first and foremost is the story of God extending grace to rescue fallen mankind. There are many stories of ordinary people and “great” prophets, all struggling in their faith. There are also several conversion stories. For example, in the Old Testament, Manasseh is a diabolically murderous king of Judah (2 Kings 21), but later we find out in 2 Chronicles 33:11-20 that while he was in prison he truly repented and turned his life over to God. It is a wonderful “underreported” conversion story in the Bible! We have similar stories like that in the Bible: the thief on the cross (Luke 23:39-43), the woman at the well (John 4), and of course, the conversion of Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9).
But in my reading of the Quran, I’ve personally seen nothing like this at all (maybe I’ve missed something; I will continue to read through this book embraced by over one billion people). I’ve seen no stories of reprobates experiencing the transforming grace of God. No stories of God reaching out in mercy and forgiving someone in their wretchedness and lifting them up to a new life as you see all through the four Gospels and Acts. And in the Quran all the prophets are perfect. They never struggle with their faith, they never doubt God or let Him down (as they often do in the Bible). In the Bible, David, Peter, Moses, and Elijah are all portrayed as the redeemed sinners that they are—warts, doubts, failings, and all.
2. God’s Compassion
In the Quran, I’ve also never seen any endearing stories of tender compassion, like the biblical stories of Jesus raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead (Luke 8:49-56), touching lepers and healing them (Matthew 8:3), talking to women and treating them as fellow disciples (Luke 10:38-42), or forgiving a repentant tax-collector (Luke 19:1-10).
3. God’s Grace
The theme of the Bible is grace—God’s undeserved favor toward rebellious sinners (Ephesians 2:8,9). Salvation is an assured, accomplished event that is to be experienced and enjoyed in this life, and finally actualized in the next life (John 5:24). However, the Quran seems to be lacking in grace (although it mentions at times that God is gracious). For Muhammad, salvation is strictly a “quid pro quo.” If you are “good” you just might make it to Paradise, depending on your faithfulness and if Allah thinks you measure up (Surah 7:42,43; 40:40; 39:73; 43:73). This theme is repeated in a multitude of places, but here is one example from the Quran:
. . . those who keep faith with God and do not break their pledge; who join together what God has bidden to be united; who fear their Lord and dread the terrors of an evil reckoning; who for the sake of God endure with fortitude, attend to their prayers, and give alms in private and in public; and who ward off evil with good. These shall have the recompense of Paradise.
4. Descriptions of Heaven
And speaking of Paradise—in the Bible the believer in Jesus is immediately ushered into Paradise (heaven) the moment he dies (Luke 23:39-43; John 5:24; 2 Corinthians 5:6-8). The Christian believes that believers will be forever in a complete face-to-face communion with God. It is an eternity of joy, completeness, knowledge, and peace (Revelation 21, 22). Paradise in the Quran is compared to a Garden of Eden-like existence, similar to the New Jerusalem described in Revelation 21 and 22. But, Muhammad also describes it as a very sensual/sexual place, where dark-eyed virgins await faithful men to marry them and to satisfy their “needs” forever (Surah 37:50; 52:20; 55:53,68; 56:17,35). Here is one example of Muhammed’s description of Paradise:
Therein are bashful virgins whom neither man nor jinnee will have touched before. . . . Virgins as fair as corals and rubies. . . .In each there shall be virgins chaste and fair. Which of your Lord’s blessing would you deny? Dark-eyed virgins, sheltered in their tents. . .whom neither man nor jinnee will have touched before (Surah 55:69-77).
So, you see what appeals to Muhammad in his vision of heaven.
5. Views of Women
The Quran, without a doubt, does not allow for any sort of equality between men and women. Whereas the Bible teaches the intrinsic equality of men and women (e.g. Galatians 3:28) while acknowledging different roles in ministry, the Quran clearly teaches that women are inferior. In Surah 2:229 it says that men have a status above women. Surah 2:282 teaches that in court, if you cannot find two males to give testimony, find one man and two women. It takes the testimony of two women to equal the testimony of one man. And in Surah 4:34, it comes out and says clearly that men are superior to women (the Bible never says that) and that a man should beat his wife if she disobeys him. This book of religion actually condones wife-beating. The Bible never does.
6. Teaching of History
The Bible and the Quran are poles apart in teaching real history. The Bible is constantly giving first-person accounts of actual historical characters in the time in which they lived, and these accounts have been verified by contemporary historians outside of the Bible. (Luke’s account of the people in power in Israel at the time of Christ in Luke 3:1-2 is a prime example of this.) The Quran, on the other hand, is shot through with anachronisms. For example, Moses is called an “apostle” in Surah 43:47. “Apostle” is a Greek word, popularized long after the time of Moses (c. 1446 B.C. if you are conservative, about 1250 B.C. if you are more “liberal”). Several times Muhammad says that Haman was a co-conspirator with Pharaoh to thwart Moses (Surah 40:25; 28:6,8,38; 29:39). Haman? Haman is a Persian name, not Egyptian. And the Persians were not even a nation in the time of Moses. In the Bible Haman was a minor ruler under the Persian King Xerxes (Ahasuerus) in the fifth century before Christ. That would be 1000 years after the time of Moses! Apparently Muhammad heard stories from the Old Testament and conflated them. He also did this with Jesus’ family. In Surah 19:27, Muhammad got Mary the mother of Jesus and Miriam the sister of Moses and Aaron confused. Here he calls the mother of Jesus “the sister of Aaron.” The problem is that the two ladies are actually separated by over 1000 years of history.
And the prophet of Islam also states that Pharaoh threatened to “crucify” Moses (Surah 7:123). Joseph warns his fellow prisoners that Pharaoh will “crucify” them (12:41). Again, these are anachronisms. Crucifixion never existed in Egypt in the time of Joseph or Moses. It was created by the Romans around 200 B.C.