James A. Beverley is professor of Christian
thought and ethics at Tyndale Seminary in
Toronto. Find more of these columns at
Most Faith Today readers will be familiar with study Bibles, in all their diversity and popularity.
Given the enormous interest in
Islam, is there an English guide to
the Qur’an parallel to a Christian
study Bible? The answer is yes.
HarperCollins has just published
The Study Quran, under the general
editorship of Muslim scholar
Seyyed Hossein Nasr of George
Washington University, in collaboration with four other Islamic
scholars – Caner Dagli, Maria
Massi Dakake, Joseph Lumbard and
Mohammed Rustom, a professor at
Carleton University in Ottawa.
The Study Quran (the spelling
without the apostrophe is a common
variation) provides a new translation
and one million words of commentary. It was almost ten years in the
making and is being hailed as the
most comprehensive study of the
Qur’an to date and perhaps the most
important work done on the Islamic
faith in the English language to date.
Reports at CNN have even suggested the new work (which also
includes essays by other Muslim
scholars including Ingrid Mattson of
Western University in London, Ont.,
and Walid Saleh of the University of
Toronto) will help curb terrorism.
Does The Study Quran live up to
the billing? Most comprehensive,
most important and a curb on terrorism? Yes, no and somewhat.
Yes, in its 2,000 pages, in its
linking to 40 major Islamic com-
mentators, in its use of both Sunni
and Shia Muslim scholars, and in
the deep learning expressed in the
essays, this is indeed the most
comprehensive study in one vol-
ume in English.
Its status as most important must
be denied, however, since it offers
only Muslim interpretation. While
this was an understandable choice,
it means The Study Quran ignores
critical analysis and expertise outside Islamic orthodoxy. For that,
readers should consult Arthur
Droge’s one volume translation and
commentary (Equinox, 2013).
As to curbing terrorism, the
contributors do commendably resist jihadist and terrorist interpretations. The Study Quran even adopts
a generously pluralistic stance on
the salvation of non-Muslims, to
the displeasure of traditionalists.
In the end, however, Christians
and others should still see The Study
Quran as a barrier to accurate information about the Qur’an, Islam and
Muhammad, and an obstacle to
Muslims hearing the gospel. Here
are four reasons why.
(1) No amount of nuanced com-
mentary can sanitize the exhortations
to violence in the Qur’an (see for
example 5: 33, 8: 12, 9: 5, 9: 29, 9:111)
or its nasty descriptions of Chris-
tians and Jews (2:65, 5: 60, 5: 64,
7:166). The Study Quran sometimes
downplays the straightforward
meaning of various disturbing
passages, as Robert Spencer (www.
jihadwatch.org) has shown. The
Study Quran also fails to reject the
command for husbands to beat
disobedient wives (4: 34) or to offer
serious moral objections about the
earliest Muslim conquests after
( 2) The Study Quran often fails at
providing true academic rigour. Kevin
Van Bladel, a great scholar of Islam,
has shown the story in surah 18
about Dhu’l-Qarnayn (identified by
most Muslims as Alexander the
Great) is borrowed from a Syriac
text. Van Bladel’s work is not even
mentioned. Likewise The Study
Quran avoids any interaction with
evidence the traditional biography
of the prophet is historically unreliable, as presented for example by
Robert Spencer (Did Muhammad
Exist?), Tom Holland (In the Shadow
of the Sword), Robert Hoyland (In
God’s Path) and Patricia Crone.
Again, no mention.
( 3) In keeping with Muslim orthodoxy, this new work is not honest about
serious failures on the part of Muhammad, even as told in Muslim sources.
For example, Muhammad took his
adopted son’s wife as his own, an act
that disturbed the first followers of
the prophet, but not the editors of
The Study Quran. Likewise, there is
no objection to Muhammad’s use of
slaves, sanction of the death of critics, ordering of the torture of a
Jewish leader named Kinana, or
occasional ordering of the death of
those who leave Islam.
( 4) For Christians The Study
Quran remains a tragic work since its
authors miss the full identity of Jesus
(as Son of God) and deny His death
and resurrection. Sadly, Muslims
use one verse (4:157) to ignore the
clear historical and biblical evidence that Jesus died on the cross.
In the end, missing Calvary and
Easter means Muslims are blind to
the most important spiritual truths
the world can ever know. /FT
We should still see The Study Quran as
a barrier to accurate information about
the Qur’an, Islam and Muhammad, and an
obstacle to Muslims hearing the gospel
JAMES A. BEVERLEY
The Study Quran
What difference will a million words of commentary
and a new translation make?
FOR A HELPFUL
STUDY ON ISLAM,
CHECK OU T JAMES
BEVERLE Y AND
CRAIG EVANS’ BOOK
GE T TING JESUS
RIGH T: HO W MUSLIMS
GE T JESUS AND ISLAM