I am very pleased to announce the release on Amazon of a study guide written my dear Aunt Barbara: Reading Scripture Together: A Comparative Bible and Qur’an Study Guide. Barb has been studying Islam (and the Bible), and working with InterVarsity and coaching college writing and teaching ESL and dialoguing with students for decades. Now she has finally brought all this experience together in this study guide, which is designed for you and your Muslim friend or neighbor to sit down together and delve into the Bible and Qur’an side-by-side, and develop a dialogue that can lead to the truth.
I think this bit from the Introduction sets a unique tone:
[Genuine dialogue] is not an agreement that all paths up the spiritual mountain to God are equal and equally valid. This pluralism, while commonly expressed on campuses and in the media and passing for dialogue today, is an insult to people of faith who believe that their religion is true, and that others which differ from it are therefore not true, or at least not completely true.
Neither is an “I’m right; you’re wrong,” closed-minded, tit-for-tat exchange a genuine dialogue. While dialogue partners may well believe they are correct, they maintain a deep respect for the other person.
There are 7 studies in the guide, each containing a bible passage and a qur’an passsage. (The whole can be tackled in either 7 or 14 sessions.) Each text is followed by discussion questions, and then by a Challenge, and Dialogues to Witness. In the studies, the biblical and qur’anic parts are well-balanced, as well as in the Witnesses. (Indeed, giving equal time to Christian and Muslim ‘witnesses’ will give everybody something to resonate with, and something to squirm at…) The biblical and qur’anic quotes that describe the seven studies are:
- “God heard the boy crying” and “We covenanted with Abraham and Isma’il”
- “This is my name forever” and “In the name of Allah, most gracious, most merciful”
- “Who do you think you are?” and “O Jesus, son of Mary, recount…”
- “His father saw him and was filled with compassion” and “Those who obey Allah and his messenger will be admitted to gardens”
- “And they crucified him” and “But they killed him not, nor crucified him”
- “You have known the holy scriptures” and “To you we sent the scripture in truth”
- “Seek first his kingdom” and “Fight for the cause of Allah…but do not be aggressive”
After the 7 studies, there are three sections of resources. The most important is the first, the Leader’s Notes, which give depth and background that will be helpful. It is in the Leader’s Notes that it is most apparent that the whole study guide is a resource for Christians witnessing to Muslims. After the Leader’s Notes, there are References, and then an Annotated bibliography for what to study after a dialogue has been established through these studies.
I hope you will consider buying a copy; it’s a novel way to learn about Islam, in a context that keeps the Bible also in view. Or buy two copies, one for you and one for a Muslim friend or neighbor who might be willing to go through it with you. Or hey, see if your church wants to buy 10 or 20 and have a 7 – or 14-week group study!
A bit of information about the cover and visual design, which was my contribution added to Barbara’s many years of work on this project. On the left, tinted blue, is an excerpt from John 1, plainly reading “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God, and the Word was with God.” And lower down, “The Word became flesh.” On the right, tinted in green (a traditionally Qur’anic color), Muslims should recognize the text of Surah 1 by the sweeping, decorative script of the first word; the visible part of the first line begins “In the name of Allah…”, which is kind of the “In the beginning…” of the Qur’an. Note that, since Arabic reads leftwards, both texts begin on their respective edges of the page, and “meet in the middle” — at least visually come together. Also, the line separating the two fades from black to nothing. These visual cues are not meant to indicate any oneness between the Bible and Qur’an, but rather the opening of dialogue as these studies open both side-by-side and let them each speak.
Inside, the Bible-left/Qur’an-right theme is maintained. Each study has, not quite a “title” in the traditional sense, but a snippet from the bible and qur’an studies inside. Sometimes the bible passage is presented first, sometimes the qur’an, but always the biblical passage is flush-left, and the qur’an flush-right. And the running page headers are, instead of the traditional book title on the left and chapter title on the left, the current bible and qur’an snippets on the left and right, respectively.
The entire book was laid out in LaTeX using the KOMA-script scrbook package (just like my previous publishing project). Soon, there will also be an eBook version released, in the Kindle store, and perhaps also an .epub version on iTunes.