Garry Wills and the Q'uran

Garry Wills and the Q'uran

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now we're here to talk about faith and belief and unfortunately we don't have a lot of knowledge about the 23 percent of the globe's population that believes in Islam some people are pretty certain what that means President Trump when he was running for president on the Anderson Cooper show said Islam hates us
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and at a subsequent TV show he was asked do you want to modify that at all it's a pretty sweeping statement and he said no not at all it's a whole lot of hate out there it's always a little feckless to ask President Trump for evidence but he seems to believe that the essence of Islam was expressed by the terrorists at
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9/11 well the Gallup poll did one of its most extensive and expensive surveys of Muslims worldwide wrote a whole book on the methodology used and they asked do you agree with the people who attacked America on 9/11 seven percent said they agree 23 percent said they didn't in the
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23 percent were giving religious reasons for wide they're against terrorism they quoted the Quran whereas the seven percent had mainly secular reasons anti-americanism anti-colonialism etc they were hardly outstanding Muslims they which they drank and had laptops on the night before the attack and they thought that they were going to enjoy
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the service of 72 virgins in heaven which is not in the Quran or in any respectable hadith traditions patricia crone the great scholar said the thing about the people who are carrying out terrorism attacks is that they obviously don't know their own religion so what can we tell about their religion naturally we should go to the
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Quran and see what a Creed would sound like you know in the Gospel of Matthew they asked Jesus how to pray to the Father and he gives them the Lord's Prayer in the Quran they ask Allah through Muhammad how they should pray and here's here's one of many Creed's in the Quran we believe in God and in what was sent
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down to us and what was sent down to Abraham Ishmael Isaac Jacob and the twelve tribes and what was given to Moses Jesus and all the prophets by the Lord we make no distinction between any of them and we devote ourselves to him in all of them that's a very inclusive Creed the narrow definers of Judaism
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sometimes say that the chosen people are the circumcised and narrow believers and Christianity sometimes say that the chosen people are the baptized but the Quran says God's chosen people are all the monotheists from the beginning of the creation Adam is the first prophet because he falls as in Genesis but he
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repents and God makes him the first prophet the covenant with the Lord is struck from the very beginning with Adam and Allah says he has sent messengers at every stage of creation all of his human creatures are given a message from him he said I I give it in the language that
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they use I gave it in Hebrew for the Jewish covenant I gave it in Greek for the Christian covenant and I give it in Arabic for the Islamic covenant but they're all my people it's an amazingly ecumenical Creed and when we think of the succession of prophets they're given
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great trades Mohammed trades as Moses in some ways the most important prophet before Muhammad though they're all directly from God it's Jesus Jesus has given a bigger accreditation than other prophets John the Baptist has given made a prophet so that he can prophesy Jesus
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Mary his mother is the only woman named in the Quran no wife of muhammad is named there's no Adam and Eve there's Adam and spouse but Mary it's not only named she's made sinless she conceives Jesus in virgin birth she is
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tremendously honored so when asks if this is such a inclusive founding documents of the religion what is it the people object to it helps of course not to read it then you know what's bad about it but if you do read it there are things that cause problems for us there slavery there's misogyny
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there's militant militarism but of course that's true of the Jewish and the Christian covenants to slavery was a kind of universal state in the early stages of Western culture the difference there were slaves in the Old Testament slaves in the New Testament Paul says to
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his correspondent my leman that this the slave I am a Philemon slave who has worked for him onesimus it would be nice if he were freed doesn't say you have to didn't say that's what Christianity means that you give up slaves he said but it would be a nice repayment for all all the good things he's done to me the difference in the Quran is that though slavery is part of the whole culture
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freeing slaves is something that Allah is especially pleased with he says if you want to please me fast tray do pilgrimage and free a slave in fact for certain sins the penance that he has prescribed is to fast and pray and free a slave or if it's a more serious sin
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treat to slaves but freeing slaves is an act of virtue much more than it was in the Old Testament of the New Testament well what about misogyny it is a misogynist text as are the Old Testament and New Testament they are not modern democracies with equal rights for women in the 7th century when Muhammad was
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writing there was no non misogynist culture but there again certain differences one of the things that you have to filter everything through when you're talking about women in the Quran is that the Quran believed like the Old Testament in polygyny not polygamy multiple marriages not polyandry multiple husbands but polygyny multiple
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wives but there are a lot of rules on your multiple wives that you shouldn't take a wife unless she consents she wants to join you and you shouldn't take one if you can't support her in dignity that's why in a general rule you should not have more than four wives now an exception is made for Mohammed because
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one of the ways he honored women especially the widows of his comrades who had been with him in his Indra from Mecca to Medina was to marry them and make her them very honored in that society so neutrally was there any question of consummation of the wedding it was an honorific but there was another key difference we think of dowry Xin the
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Western culture as did the father of the bride giving money to the family of the groom and that's why people were very careful to acquire enough for a dowry for their daughters and the way you could get advanced social status is to give a dowry to a superior family in the region and if you splurged on the first
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bride it made it harder to sell the second tried to marry a second bride or a third or fourth and that's why it's so many condoms in Medieval and Renaissance Europe were stuffed with daughters who couldn't be given dowel reeds it's very different in the quran the dowry is paid directly to the bride and she keeps it
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it's her property you know one of the things that is misogynist about the quran is that in for certain legal purposes women only count as half of men so it says if you're striking up a contract Mecca was a entrepot of multiple caravans multiple cultures etc and it was an oral culture so making contracts that would hold were very
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difficult those not normally written contracts so what the quran says if you want to get a contract in this trade center of Mecca get two men of upstanding reputations to witness they will say I stake my bread on the fact that I witnessed this contract and it's valid said if you can't get two men of sterling reputation
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get a man and two women they'll add up that'll be like two men it also says when you're leaving an inheritance to your heirs give the man the son a full chair and the daughter half of that so once again she's only worth half of what a man is worth but the dowry goes to her remember even if
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you're only giving a half of the sons inheritance you're giving it she comes she inherits she's a property owner which is quite unusual in the world of that day and it would it made people a little hesitant to divorce a woman when you know she's going to take her dowry with her and on the other hand the woman can also leave and take her dowry with her so you should probably try to stay
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on her good side all of this is a very far cry from most of the cultural norms in the 7th century well misogyny is there but somewhat tempered how about militarism allah says in the quran that only defensive warfare is just warfare you can't commit an act of
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aggression certainly not an act of terrorism that's nowhere envisaged in the quran and how did you know people say well jihad means holy war it doesn't there was holy war going on but it's not in the Quran there's that concept it's not anywhere expressed in the Quran and when people say that jihad his holy war or aggressive war or
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terrorism that's just plain wrong jihad means roughly what zeal means in our culture and Allah says for instance wage jihad for the Quran that is preach the Quran spread the good word and getting self-control is an act of jihad now if
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you get into a just war you can consider that you promote that zealously as jihad how did the holy war come up well the verse that is constantly cited is the so called sword verse those scarred the word doesn't occur there or anywhere in the Quran it occurred all over the place in the book of Revelation of the
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New Testament but nowhere in the Quran and the the episode that often used is that when Muhammad was driven out of Mecca to Medina and then his own tribe the Quraysh attacked Medina and they were able to fight back but Mecca was a great pilgrimage center for many years
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because of the Kaaba the great cubical temple holy place it's still where pilgrims process around when they go there every year when they were driven out of Mecca the Kaaba was taken over by pagans by virtue proves of various gods and by the way the only enemy in the Quran is idolaters that is pagan believers and different gods and when people came in in caravans
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to Mecca and they had driven out Muhammad they put out idols of their gods in this holy place it's a holy place that they say had actually been established by Adams progeny then it was wiped out in the deluge but it was refounded by Abraham and that's why it's so wholly true Abraham's descendants of
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the Islamic faith Abraham that's of course the father of all three faiths when they went back Muhammad and his followers to Mecca they wanted to strike a truce like the peace of God in the Middle Ages in the temple area and say no one can kill or fight in this area and in a sword verse it says that after
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four months you can respond to the people who have attacked you but after four months that's the length of the treaty that they had struck and what they did was ask while the treaty was in force what if we are attacked and they were attacked by the idolaters and Allah tells Muhammad you can't fight back in the Holy area you have to observe the truth even if
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they don't but after four months then you can lie in wait for the ones who had actually attacked you and fight them back not their families not bystanders not civilians only the ones who had attacked you now out of that we get the claim that Islam is fighting in Jihad against
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other faiths there are no other faiths but idolaters because Allah struck the covenant with the Jewish faith and the Christian faith as well as the Islamic faith and they're all equally bargains with the same God as he used one language for people who spoke that language and one name he struck the
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Covenant in Hebrew as Yahweh he struck the covenant in Greek as Abba the father of Jesus and he struck the Covenant in Islamic with Muhammad but they're all one God and he cares for everything in all of those people that he has sent messages to he boasts that I send messages all the time
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I have prophets at every stage of the creation and he says not only do I send particular prophets my whole creation is a prophecy not prophecy of course doesn't mean predicting the future it means spreading the word of God the one God truth of peoples origin so he says
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Moses and the mountain were prophesied me creation itself water prophesized me and his way of saying that is that everything that I made shows me forth it proclaims me mountains and rivers and trees and plants he said notice how plants come back in the desert
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that's that's predicting and prophesying how you will be reserved returned from death that there will be a resurrection of your body so I began by citing one creed there are number of other credence I'd like to finish by mentioning another winner this is allah speaking we gave Abraham Isaac
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and Jacob each of whom we guided as we guided Noah beforehand and among his descendants were David Solomon job Joseph Moses Aaron in this way we reward those who do good Zechariah John Jesus and Elijah every one of them was righteous Ishmael Elisha Jonah and
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lot we favored each one of them over other people and also some of their forebears their offspring their brothers we chose them and use them to guide people on a straight path such as God's guidance with it he guides whichever of his servants he will if they had associated other gods with him all their deeds would have come to nothing these are the ones to whom we gave the
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scripture wisdom and prophethood so not almost all our grades [Applause] so now it's time for some questions and there will be a microphone out in the audience and if we can't hear well enough up here I'll just translate upon stage good afternoon thank you for being here today as a Catholic in a Christian I think of the Bible as being very metaphorical and and used a lot of
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analogies would this scene be true of the Korean as a Christian I consider Jesus a prophet but he's the prophet of the one god there's not several so as a Christian I worship Allah in terms of metaphors in the Quran how do metaphors play out in the Quran compared to and
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the Christian Bible well he has various prophets use metaphors Solomon when he's dealing with ants and birds I suppose that's metaphorical language he he calls the birds together and says well where's the Hoopoe and he's not there and he says I would have wanted him to show up at this conference of the
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birds and then the Hoopoe comes in and says I'm sorry but I have a new message for you I was flying over the queen of sheba's domain and she doesn't worship you she's an idolatry and so Solomon sends the Hoopoe back to her and says as well come and visit Solomon and he'll straighten you out now I suppose that could be considered metaphorical language but it's pretty literal and it
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shows in things things can talk Mountains can talk in the Quran and when there's a sinner who's being consigned to hell he says I didn't do that and his skin says oh yes you did I I was there and he says how can you talk and he said the Lord lets whoever he wants to talk talk
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so there are elements of what we would consider folktale in the Quran as there are in the Bible whether they're old and new Testament but as I say I think you know if Francis could preach the birds I guess the birds can report to Solomon hi I was intrigued by your description of prophecies being something that's ongoing in the Quran and I wondered how
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that how that relates to the idea of Muhammad as being the seal of the prophets or the final prophet the seal of the prophets that means the confirmation that all of the prophets he's part of their tradition doesn't mean they're abolished it expressly says in the Quran that my covenant with you does not abolish my covenant with other people so sealed of the Prophet doesn't mean he that's the end he means it's the
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confirmation ongoing line of prophets that God says I always send do you see or make any distinction between the Mecca portion and Medina portion of the Quran yeah the Mecca portions he's not at war with anyone when he's driven out of Mecca to Medina then he is attacked there and respond the famous battle of the ditch around
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Medina and you can respond to an attack that just war so there are more instructions on how to wage just war in the medina parts than in the Mecca parts but of course one of the reasons is hard to read the Quran that the chronology is not absolutely clear people guess now and argue now what what's most likely have did a
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revelation in Mecca and a revelation in Medina but Muhammad did not arrange the revelations himself that was done after he died it's like the New Testament you know Muhammad and Jesus were both non writers they didn't write their own stuff and when they died their disciples put together over at some time both the
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New Testament and the Quran but they didn't they didn't know about what was by that time all they had were the disjunct revelations and they didn't know what came before what so they arranged them in a really non helpful way long parts first short parts second so one of the problems with reading the Quran is they you can't see a objects
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order in the whole thing you have to savor the various parts and see how they fit together that makes it more difficult and but of course the New Testament is that way too you know in first you got the letters of Paul and some Gospels and then some other books like revelation so both of them involved an entry into the world of belief where you take seriously what's
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being taught about the one God at the beginning of your talk you spoke about a survey where 7% in regard to 7-eleven agreed with that attack 23 percent didn't what did the other 70 percent response I don't know I I can't count why was Islam so advanced or progressive in about what it's at the 10th or 11th
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century and seemingly so unprogressive today well Islam like Christianity has undergone a long history sometimes it not very pleasing they what happens with many religions is that they begin as a persecuted minority then finally they work their way out to kind of able to
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address people on somewhat equal terms and then they get more numerous than the opponents and they begin to acquire power and power crops and so the the imperial stage of christianity when it ruled medieval europe under a pope who is a corrupt prince had some of the same
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things happen in islam during the imperial period to the college state the original the true college age they were an imperial power with all the problems that come with an imperial power but they were far more tolerant of other religions than christianity was Christianity burnt heretics and forced conversions and that kind of thing during the original college state when
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they're very good art and other works were accomplished you could be a Christian or a Jew if you paid a tax the tax was really for the police power that kept it society together that you could lived in but they had their Dark Ages we had our Dark Ages they their enlightenment we've had our enlightenment which had crusade militarism in both religions religion is
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a very dangerous thing Lucretia said tantrum religio Oporto it's what every malorum how sway Civ is religion to our vein so the history of religious war is the worst kind of history because if you're fighting for God your enemy is the enemy of God and he's quickly G AB alized you're fighting the devil and there's no all bets are off when you're
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up against the double so you can say as Dawkins and other people say well if it's so dangerous get rid of it there are a lot of dangerous things that we don't want to get rid of sex is dangerous families are dangerous tribal cultures are dangerous all of those things are also irreplaceable so the problem is not to get rid of religion but to control it
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to contain it going back to its original inspiration which in most cases is God is love and wants you to be loving to him and to others that's Lena Edmund and were given the great enlightenment philosophers said the the essence of religion is love of God and love of neighbor and everything else that gets added it's usually pretty contaminated
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hi could you talk a bit about the different perspectives between the Sunni and Shia versions of Islam yeah Muhammad left no male heir he had those all those wives but no baby that lived who is a male so his legacy was uncertain after his death and because there was no
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direct heir some people claimed that even a peripheral relation family relationship is what matters so there's a family descendent others said the comrades are what mattered the comrades were the they're pretty much like the Apostles and Christian history they were with him in his times of trial and
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they're terrifically honored and the same is true of their descendants so Sunni is mainly family and Shia is mainly comrade related and that that set up rival interpretations of what Muhammad really meant and there's not a lot of law in the Quran any more than in the New Testament but as people became
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more powerful and in situations where they controlled things you elaborate different rules so Sharia law for instance Sharia occurs only once in the Quran and that's in a non legislative passage Muhammad was rejected by a lot of people like the prophets of the Jewish based and God has to say well I don't care if they're rejecting you now
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you go ahead and deliver my message so at one point Allah is trying to cheer Muhammed up that he's not having the kind of success he thought he should have he says don't worry you're on the right path Sharia and passed it's a very important concept in a desert culture because it means the path to the Oasis you know the if you
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know how to get to water you'll live if you don't you won't so there are four schools of Sunni Sharia law in three schools of gyah Sharia law and when you know we've had dozens of states in America who said we're gonna stop having this Sharia law they don't know what they're saying which of those seven legislative systems are they saying you
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can't bring in and the little bits of Sharia that they think they are outlined are things like Muslims have their own rule for divorce marriage inheritance etc and you can have all of those in the legal framework of a modern state Christians have their own divorce laws
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and priesthood laws and other kind of logs which don't conflict with the state law and so when there's any real Sharia law involved it's that kind of law which adds not doesn't mean taking over the whole system of laws of the nation or the state it means what people have always meant in America that Jews have
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their way of celebrating and marrying and that kind of stuff and so do Christians so I think that's the his insofar as there's anything rational in the attempts to prevent Sharia law from taking over our state government it's that I wondered if you could back up a bit and give us some chronology of when the Koran became the Quran and when
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Muhammad became a prophet and when Allah became the god of this group of people because the Bible comes after God created the world so I'd like to know the chronology in terms of the Christian and Judaic world and in terms of its own world please Muhammad became a prophet when he had a revelation in a cave and he started dictating to friends or
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assistants what what he had heard he couldn't write it down himself and it was copied on shards and this is in the early 7th century copied on shards and other surfaces and then they started accumulating and were kept until after his death when they put them all together so he's the third in chronology
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you know the Jewish revelations came all the after before the the ad birth of Jesus then Jesus in the first century then Muhammad in the seventh century but Muhammad Allah has always been there that he was preaching over and over and over that it didn't start with me it started with Adam then allah is
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revealing to me what he wants to the arabic-speaking people to do to please him and that doesn't mean that we made up a new in the seventh century there's only been one religion and one job as we try and find a bridge you know with Islam here in the like a Western world would you say that there is an opportunity in
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perhaps you know learning from how they view the natural world with maybe more enchantment or something especially as we like you know battle of things like you know climate change and like you what not maybe this is something that we can you know bond together about is how to preserve and how to sustain the natural world maybe we could learn from them that's a question yeah one of the early chapters in my book is called conversing with the cosmos that
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communicating is the essence of creating in the Quran and that speaks to a lot of people today who say we can't destroy God's wonderful just creation around us we have to take care of it and love it and that's more clear in the Quran because the communication talks back to him it's saying don't don't infringe our
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existence so don't endanger our service to you God put us here to keep up the conversation we live in a culture where we believe in separation of church and state and it's my understanding that Islam feels or believes that the church and the state really must function together can you explain does that come out of the Quran or is that a later development
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no the the legislative system that Muhammad instituted was pretty much improvised from crisis to crisis and there's no legislative system in the Gospels either Jesus didn't set up the state and when when Pilate asks him are you a king of the Jews he said My
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Kingdom is not of this earth and that's pretty much what Mohammed was saying but of course almost instantly when they died they both Christianity and Judaism also of course it it made the church and state the theocratic state we went through a theocratic state as Christians in fact it was as late as the 19th
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century the Pope finally said you can have a secular state and a religious populace he had been denying that all the way through the night up to and through the 19th century so putting together later history and the original inspiration is a difficult but necessary task for all of the three peoples of the book as the Quran calls them the Abrahamic and mosaic and Christian and
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Islamic one of the things that has been totally agreed on in the larger Muslim community is that the Islamic state so-called was not a state and doesn't have any chronic background they are no more authentic then the Christian terrorists who've tried to upset
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abortion clinics and that kind of thing you have to be pretty religiously dumb to do that and unfortunately it's pretty easy to misrepresent Islam because so few have read the Quran that this book I published it's a product of my shame I was embarrassed after 9/11 I was talking with a group of
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friends academic friends and we were wondering you know is this really an Islamic event the 9/11 attack and at some point people ask well who here's read the Quran none of us had and a friend of mine said not even you Gary I thought you were a student of religion you know and I said yeah that's the
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problem I'm I'm totally ashamed and so I went to have been trying to repair that stupidity ever since but I've tried in a lot of venues to ask how many people have read the Quran dare I do it now how many have read the Quran I'm minority certainly well I don't want to shame you but I do I think we should
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all be ashamed you know we're we're throwing our weight around in a world where almost a quarter of the population are Muslims and not to know you know how can you say the atomic state is a false construct if you don't know what true Islam is following up on your last comments your your book is entitled what
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the Quran meant I'm wondering if you know how Islamic theologians agree with your interpretation yeah most to attack I've been getting correspondence from many Muslims I relied in great part on a whole range of scholars but the study
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Quran being five author 2000 page up to date book giving the best of the scholarship that's available now and I drove I draw on that heavily and one of the authors wrote to tell me how pleased he was that we agreed so I'm not the past tense in what the Quran meant I
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also wrote a book called what the Gospels meant and what Paul meant I mean what did it mean to its original audience means all kinds of things later on some good some bad both for Paul and for the Gospels and for the Quran but if we don't want to get tangled up in the complicated history of various interpretations we have to go back and
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try to create as far as we can what were the what was the vocabulary the social setting all of that for the original revelations and then people can fight out what happened to it later on but we don't have that for a starting point we're just wandering a maze it seems to me if the Koran explained the existence of evil in the world
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humans are not God they are limited and fallible and they do horrible things and that's why when you're sent to hell your skin's gonna tell the truth even if you don't so nobody can really explain evil but the problem is if God can prevent
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evil why doesn't he or she and the answer is always free will people are free to love but free not to love and if you want freedom that's a that's a dangerous game so I don't think it it really explains any more than the book of Job does or the letters of Paul do
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it's a it's a horrible event in our lives and the one can only hope that more people will use freedom to do things like read the Koran rather than hate of Muslims [Applause]

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