Gabriel Said Reynolds, associate professor of Islamic studies and theology at the University of Notre Dame, presents the text of the Qur’an with his own commentary in The Qur’an and the Bible (Yale University Press, May). The author draws on a long tradition of scholarship on the origins of Islam to explore the similarities and differences between the Qur’an and the Bible.
(The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.)
Why write about the parallels between Islam, Judaism, and Christianity?
This project responds to my own experience travelling and speaking in the Islamic world and the West and discovering that Jews, Christians, Muslims, and others are asking similar questions: What makes the Qurʾan distinct from the Bible? How do figures such as Moses, Jesus, and Mary appear in the Qurʾan? How can an appreciation of the Qurʾan and the Bible help promote inter-religious understanding? In this book, readers will discover how intimately the Qurʾan is related to the Bible. The Qurʾan thus appears to be profoundly connected to Jewish and Christian traditions, but is also unique and original. This book might impact the current political climate by illustrating how closely connected the scripture of Muslims is to that of Jews and Christians.
Who is the intended audience for this book and why?
The Qurʾan and the Bible is meant for a broad readership and will challenge different readers in different ways. To some readers it will show the coherence of the Qurʾan, a book which is often imagined to be disjointed and unintelligible. To some Jewish and Christian readers it will present the Qur’an as a work with a valuable place within the Biblical tradition. To some Muslim readers it will show that a profound knowledge of the Qurʾan involves not only turning to Muslim interpreters but also appreciating the scripture’s Biblical subtext.
What do you hope readers take away from your book?
The book emerges from a longer tradition of scholarship on Islamic origins. Scholars have long tried to see how the Qurʾan, which appears in the 7th century, is related not only to the Bible but also to all of the Jewish and Christian traditions. Accordingly, this book deals with many of those traditions found in Jewish texts (including the Talmud). The book presents a challenge to all to recognize the Qurʾan, and consequently Islam, as part of a larger religious tradition. In light of this book, we should not think simply of a Judeo-Christian tradition, but a Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition. It also challenges Muslims not to look at the Bible as a falsified or unimportant text, but as a scripture with which the Qurʾan is in conversation.