August 24, 2010

Preaching the Qur'an in Church

Larry Reimer, a minister of the United Church of Gainesville, Florida, has decided to use selected verses from the Qur'an to preach in a sermon against the proposed Qur'an burning by the Dove World Outreach Center, also of Gainesville. His attitude is, "If they can burn it, we can read it." (Read the full story here.) Several other ministers have said they will join Reimer in preaching from the Qur'an as their way of protesting the Qur'an burning.

I had been thinking about what surahs and/or verses these ministers might use in their sermons. On the one hand, I'd want something that a Christian audience could well relate to but also something that provides some foundation for trying to understand Islam (such as could be provided in 10-15 minutes). If I had a lot of time, I'd be tempted to discuss Surah Yusuf, which is the story of the Prophet Joseph (pbuh). The Qur'anic text closely follows that of the Bible and would be a familiar story to a Christian audience; alas, it would probably take too long to cover, even in a very abbreviated manner.

So, keeping things short and to the point, I would first use Surah Al-Fatihah (#1), using the Pickthall translation, which I think is more powerful in its impact:

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds,
The Beneficent, the Merciful.
Owner of the Day of Judgment,
Thee (alone) we worship; Thee alone we ask for help.
Show us the straight path,
The path of those whom Thou hast favored; Not (the path) of those who earn Thine anger nor of those who go astray.

This surah has been rightly compared to the Lord's Prayer, and is the most important surah in the Qur'an, bar none. At least one author has written an entire book on this one surah alone. The remainder of the Qur'an is, in essence, a response, an answer to this surah. Each Muslim, if he or she does all five prayers required, will have recited this surah at least seventeen times each day.

The second surah I would use is Surah Al-Iklas (#112), "The Unity":

Say: He is Allah, the One!
Allah, the eternally Besought of all!
He begetteth not nor was begotten.
And there is none comparable unto Him.

At a mere four verses, this surah is not quite the shortest surah in the Qur'an, but it is probably the second-most important, after al-Fatihah. It has been described as being equivalent to one-third of the Qur'an because of its focus on Allah (swt) and the Islamic concept of Tauhid, strict monotheism.

I would wrap up the sermon with a longer passage, an excerpt from Surah Mariam (#19:16-35):

Relate in the Book (the story of) Mary, when she withdrew from her family to a place in the East.

She placed a screen (to screen herself) from them; then We sent her our angel, and he appeared before her as a man in all respects.

She said: "I seek refuge from thee to (God) Most Gracious: (come not near) if thou dost fear God."

He said: "Nay, I am only a messenger from thy Lord, (to announce) to thee the gift of a holy son.

She said: "How shall I have a son, seeing that no man has touched me, and I am not unchaste?"

He said: "So (it will be): Thy Lord saith, 'that is easy for Me: and (We wish) to appoint him as a Sign unto men and a Mercy from Us': It is a matter (so) decreed."

So she conceived him, and she retired with him to a remote place.

And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm-tree: She cried (in her anguish): "Ah! would that I had died before this! would that I had been a thing forgotten and out of sight!"

But (a voice) cried to her from beneath the (palm-tree): "Grieve not! for thy Lord hath provided a rivulet beneath thee;

"And shake towards thyself the trunk of the palm-tree: It will let fall fresh ripe dates upon thee.

"So eat and drink and cool (thine) eye. And if thou dost see any man, say, 'I have vowed a fast to (God) Most Gracious, and this day will I not enter into talk with any human being'"

At length she brought the (babe) to her people, carrying him (in her arms). They said: "O Mary! truly an amazing thing hast thou brought!

"O sister of Aaron! Thy father was not a man of evil, nor thy mother a woman unchaste!"

But she pointed to the babe. They said: "How can we talk to one who is a child in the cradle?"

He said: "I am indeed a servant of God: He hath given me revelation and made me a prophet;

"And He hath made me blessed wheresoever I be, and hath enjoined on me Prayer and Charity as long as I live;

"(He) hath made me kind to my mother, and not overbearing or miserable;

"So peace is on me the day I was born, the day that I die, and the day that I shall be raised up to life (again)"!

Such (was) Jesus the son of Mary: (it is) a statement of truth, about which they (vainly) dispute.

It is not befitting to (the majesty of) God that He should beget a son. Glory be to Him! when He determines a matter, He only says to it, "Be", and it is.

[All of this post, except for the first paragraph, was originally published at Street Prophets: A Call to Progressive Christian Ministries: Read the Qur'an on 9/12.]

1 comment:

kinzi said...

Good choice (except for the bits on sonship, of course, imo)

I am contacting some churches and asking them to join the interfaith group condemning this plan to burn Qurans.

Dove World Outreach just isn't any of the words in it's title.