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Nichols: Quran’s roots make it holy among Muslims

POSTED: September 13, 2010 1:00 a.m.

The Quran is the Bible for all Islam. Its origin is to be found in the history of one very unusual Arab, Mohammed.

He was born in Mecca about 570 A.D. Since Mecca was on a trading route, it is very likely that young Mohammed came into contact with both Christians and Jews. These people had a religion with a special book as foundation. The Jews had the Old Testament, the Christians had both Old and New Testaments.

Mohammed called these persons to be "people of the book." The Arabs lacked their own book.

When Mohammed was about 25 years old, he was hired by a wealthy widow named Khadija. After a short time, she asked him to marry her and they wed. She later became the first convert to Islam.

Mohammed liked to meditate in the mountains, isolated from the world.

About 610, Mohammed reported that he had seen a vision of an angel sent by God (Allah). These visions occurred for a period of about 23 years. These recitations were dictated by Mohammed to a scribe and were later organized into the book called the Quran, with chapters (suras) placed in order of their size from larger to smaller.

The angle Gabriel spoke Arabic, the language of the Quran today. Only the Arabic version is the true Quran, Muslims believe. All other translations are not in Arabic and hence any translation is just an interpretation of the exact words of God from Arabic.

I bought my English interpretation of the Quran in a Baltimore book shop some years ago. Each page has a line down the middle with Arabic text on the right and English on the left side of the page.

Loud speakers in mosques call faithful Muslims to prayer five times each day, At first, the faithful were told to pray in the direction of Jerusalem, but later the Quran prescribed praying in the direction of Mecca.

Once in New York's Kennedy Airport, I saw a group of about 10 Muslims spread prayer rugs on the floor and pray in the direction of Mecca. I admired those who would pray in public like that.

Some Muslims so respect the Quran as the word of God that they have memorized the entire book. I have heard many western people take the name of God in an angry outburst but I have never heard a Muslim take the name of Allah in vain.

Muslims respect Mohammed as a Prophet who is a messenger sent by God. But they believe he is not divine, not the son of God.

Yet when the writer Salman Rushdie wrote negatively about Mohammed in his novel "The Satanic Verses" in 1988, he had to go underground to avoid assassination. Also Muslim anger was stirred by some cartoons that touched on their religion.

I am convinced that if the Florida pastor of a tiny 50-member church had burned copies of the Quran, two results would most likely happen. First the Florida pastor would probably become an assassination target of extremist Muslims. Secondly, such an act might make numbers of Americans in Afghanistan and here at home also become targets for terrorists.

The world needs tolerance and love, not fear and hatred among people of differing cultures and religions. All of us should live in peace on planet earth as a family to benefit from the resources given to us by our Creator.

Dr. Tom Nichols is a retired college professor who lives in Gainesville. His column appears regularly on Mondays and on gainesvilletimes.com.



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