Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Adam and Eve: Comparing the Muslim and Christian stories

Last Wednesday, Zainab led us in a discussion of the Muslim story of Adam and Eve, which we compared with the Christian version.   Some of the verses we discussed are printed below; we also looked at verses 15:28-15:43 and a few other verses. 
From the Qur'an, verses 2:30-2:39

Behold, thy Lord said to the angels: "I will create a vicegerent on earth." They said: "Wilt Thou place therein one who will make mischief therein and shed blood? - whilst we do celebrate Thy praises and glorify Thy holy (name)?" he said: "I know what ye know not."
And He taught Adam the nature of all things: then He placed them before the angels, and said: "Tell me the nature of these if ye are right."
They said: "Glory to Thee, of knowledge We have none, save what Thou Hast taught us: In truth it is Thou Who art perfect in knowledge and wisdom."
He said: "O Adam! Tell them their natures." When he had told them, Allah said: "Did I not tell you that I know the secrets of heaven and earth, and I know what ye reveal and what ye conceal?"
And behold, We said to the angels: "Bow down to Adam" and they bowed down. Not so Iblis: he refused and was haughty: He was of those who reject Faith.
We said: "O Adam! dwell thou and thy wife in the Garden; and eat of the bountiful things therein as (where and when) ye will; but approach not this tree, or ye run into harm and transgression.'
Then did Satan make them slip from the (garden), and get them out of the state (of felicity) in which they had been. We said: "Get ye down, all (ye people), with enmity between yourselves. On earth will be your dwelling-place and your means of livelihood - for a time."
Then learnt Adam from his Lord words of inspiration, and his Lord Turned toward him; for He is Oft-Returning, Most Merciful.
We said: "Get ye down from here; and if, as is sure, there comes to you Guidance from me, whosoever follows My guidance, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.
"But those who reject Faith and belie Our Signs, they shall be companions of the Fire; they shall abide by them."
We had a fascinating and illuminating discussion comparing this story to the Christian version.  In particular, it was interesting to contrast the Christian idea of original sin to the Muslim view, that everyone has an inherently good nature but it just gets disturbed here on earth or we "forget" about that nature.  Here are some of our thoughts, and feel free to leave any additional comments below:
  • This is a story of hope - regardless of whether the fall from grace in the Adam and Even story is the result of sin or forgetfulness, humans can still continue to do good and receive forgiveness and God's love and grace.
  • A powerful expression of our relationship with God...a reminder that we were created to be in an intimate relationship with God.
  • In both versions, there is a feeling of the legitimacy of man's struggle between doing what's aligned with God and doing what we've learned from the world...and there's always a balance between those two aspects.
  • We were struck by the similarities between the two stories, particularly in regard to the common idea that Christianity and Islam are very different and cannot be reconciled.  While there's a lot to be learned from the differences between the stories, there's also a lot to be gained from the commonalities - that God created us.
  • Good to remember the concept and understanding of God as home, respite, hope, and merciful.
  • The idea of forgetfulness rather than a focus on sin facilitates forgiveness.
  • We also discussed a different interpretation of the Christan story as one of coming of age and choosing wisdom over innocence, rather than one of a fall from grace.

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