Even before all the uproar over Qur’an burning activists, Time magazine was patiently trying to explain to ignorant reader that they ought not take seriously those who read the Islamic book a certain way:
The arguments marshaled by Islam’s detractors have become familiar: Since most terrorist attacks are conducted by Muslims and in the name of their faith, Islam must be a violent creed. Passages of the Koran taken out of context are brandished as evidence that Islam requires believers to kill or convert all others.1
Just one problem, noted author Mike Wittmer. Neither the Time writer, nor others who often claim “the Qu’ran is taken out of context,” specify a true context — or defend the notion that the Qur’an even contains a context from which to depart:
Taken out of context? The Koran does not tell a developing story, as does the Bible, but arranges its chapters by length, from larger to smaller. So unlike the Bible, where it is inappropriate to pull a verse from Leviticus to say that Christians shouldn’t eat Gulf coast shrimp (God gave us common sense for that), there is no such context in the Koran. How can you take something out of context that doesn’t have a context? 2
Already I’d been reminded by a church friend that the Qur’an is not like the Bible. She witnesses to moderate-Muslim friends and has herself read the Qur’an. It’s very random, she has said in our Bible study group. A lot of exhortations and commands strung together. It’s not like the Bible, which has so many different kinds of books: narratives, poetry, prophesies, doctrinal expositions, each of which follows specific rules of meaning discernment, and each of which tells more of the main story: the Gospel of Christ.
So who is right about the Qu’ran: moderate Muslims who emphasize tolerance, or those who run with verses encouraging physical jihad? And if the book isn’t internally consistent, or even subject to provable reading-for-original-meanings methods, does it even matter?