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The Qur’an and the Bible

The Qur’an is a very Biblical text in fact.  Theologically it’s distinct, it has its own perspective, but in terms of the narratives that it turns to, in order to express its theology, very often it’s the biblical narratives and so we find this remarkable conversation that the Qur’an precedes with, with biblical literature.  However, we also notice that when it brings in a character known from the biblical tradition, it does so in a way that seems to reflect an awareness, not only of the canonical biblical text, but also of the later development in biblical literature.  Sometimes those are…through extra-biblical writings, in Jewish tradition that we might call Midrash.  Sometimes those are through the writings of Christians, maybe the church fathers, in a special way the Syriac church fathers. 

One of the examples we might use to illustrate this point is the question of Adam.  The Qur’an, like the Bible, speaks of the creation of Adam; but it also tells us a story of how after God created Adam, He commanded all of the angels to bow down to Adam.  One of those angels refused to do so and that angel is the devil; and that’s the reason the Qur’an explains why the devil was cast out of Heaven.  It’s because out of his pride, the Qur’an tells us, the devil said, “Well, this creature is made out of dirt and I’m made out of fire and; therefore, I won’t bow down to him.”  Of course, this story of the prostration of the angels before Adam is well known to us from Christian sources, in particular; and the Qur’an also knows it and provides this element of the story of Adam.

  • Gabriel Said Reynolds

    Gabriel Said Reynolds is professor of Islamic studies and theology at the University of Notre Dame and Co-Director of the International Qur’anic Studies Association.