What are the differences between the Quran and the Bible?
Dr. Mark Gabriel was brought up in Egypt as a Muslim in a devout Muslim family. He had the entire Quran memorized by the time he was 12 years old! He attended Al-Azhar University in Cairo, the Harvard of the Arab world, where he graduated second in a class of 6,000. He then became a professor of Islamic history at the University. He also became a Muslim Imam, the equivalent of a Christian pastor, at a Mosque in Giza where the pyramids are located.
But, when Mark began to publicly question some aspects of Islam he was suddenly arrested, tortured, and nearly killed before he was rescued from prison by a politically powerful uncle. When he returned home he met a Christian pharmacist who gave him a Bible. He started reading the New Testament and encountered Jesus and a sense of inner peace like he had never experienced before.
When Mark revealed that he had become a Christian, his father tried to kill him to save the honor of the family. He finally fled to South Africa where he was given refuge by a Christian family. Assassins pursued him to South Africa and nearly killed him. He then fled to the Congo and finally came to the United States where he was granted religious asylum.
Mark travels extensively, telling the truth about the religion of Islam. Mark is also the best selling author of three books published by Charisma Press: Islam and the Jews, and Jesus and Mohammad, Islam and Terrorism, a must read for anyone who wants to understand the war against terrorism in which the West is engaged.
Mark Gabriel: The Quran, as Muslims believe, is considered the holy book of Islam. The size of the Quran is exactly like the size of the books of the New Testament. The book contains 114 chapters which in the Arabic language are called Surahs.
The book is considered as the Muslims believe the word of Allah, which was revealed directly from Allah to Muhammad through the angel Gabriel.
Dr. Reagan: The Bible has lots of stories. It tells this story and that story and the relationship with God. The nature of God is taught through stories. But, you don't find that in the Quran, do you?
Mark Gabriel: No. Actually, the Quran wasn't really organized logically. Usually when the Quran discusses a specific story for example like the story of Abraham, or the story of Joseph, or the story of Moses, you are going to see that this story is all over the Quran.
Dr. Reagan: All over, it's like somebody shot a shotgun?
Mark Gabriel: Exactly. When the Quran was translated into English or another foreign non-Arabic language, they just transferred the meaning of the Quran to the English or other language. But, if you try to study and learn about the Quran from the English translation, you are going to miss more than 60% or maybe 70% of the real meaning of the Quran.
Dr. Reagan: I find it one of the most difficult books I've ever tried to read in my life because it is so disjointed. There is a sentence here, and then the next sentence may not have anything to do with that sentence and the one after it may not have anything to do with it.
Mark Gabriel: Exactly.
Dr. Reagan: It's like in American literature we have what's called "stream of consciousness writing," where the person just writes whatever pops into his mind. He may be talking about a carnival here and about going to church there and whatever and it just has no relationship one to the other. It's very difficult to follow.
Mark Gabriel: Exactly.
Dr. Reagan: The Quran is supposed to be the words of Allah?
Mark Gabriel: Yes.
Dr. Reagan: The Hadith is another book in the Islamic theology. What is the Hadith?
Mark Gabriel: The Hadith is the other words of Mohammad. Hadith means what Mohammad said and what he did. It's the record of Mohammad — his life, his activity, his word, his action, his teaching. The Muslims call it the Hadith.
Dr. Reagan: So one, the Quran, is supposed to be the words of God, and the Hadith contains the words of Mohammad?
Mark Gabriel: Hadith is the words of the prophet Mohammad.
Dr. Reagan: Are they considered to be equal?
Mark Gabriel: Muslims are required to believe in both books. For Muslims, it's not enough to just believe in the Quran and decline or deny the Hadith. According to the Islamic law, if any Muslim is going to deny any of the basic teachings of Islam he will be a convert. He will be out of Islam. And, Hadith is one of the most basic in the Islamic faith.
Dr. Reagan: Another difference between the Quran and the Bible is that the Bible was written by individuals like Moses, or Paul in the New Testament, where they sat down and they wrote letters or they recorded histories. But, Mohammad never did really just sit down and write the Quran or write the Hadith, did he?
Mark Gabriel: No. For example, with the Quran he was usually in trances and he would make statements and people would write those down, and all of that was compiled later on after his death. The Hadith is just statements that were compiled by compilers. They might be statements that wives remembered or friends remembered and they just kind of put them all together.
Dr. Reagan: In the Quran as well as in the Hadith there are a lot of contradictions. For example, you can find verses in the Quran that talk about loving Jews and Christians and treating them with respect. Then you can find verses that talk about killing them. How do you account for these contradictions? Did Allah change his mind?
Mark Gabriel: Muslims justify these contradictions by an Arabic term and the Muslim and Islamic principle. They call it naskh or nesk or neska. This principle means that a future verse is going to cancel out the previous verse. So, a later verse would cancel out an earlier verse that might contradict it. But, if you ask them why did Allah do that, they will say that he did that for the benefit of Muslims and for the benefit of the people.
Like, for example, when Mohammad started to preach about his religion to the people in Arabia at that time, there were alcoholics. They loved alcohol and they could not live without alcohol. Mohammad discovered it was going to be too difficult to give them a command to stop drinking alcohol and to obey his command. So, what he did was he just gave them a halfway command. He said to them something like, "No problem, keep drinking alcohol, but when you are going to come to pray at the mosque, you have to stop drinking alcohol until you've finished your prayer. After you've finished the prayer, then you can go back and drink alcohol again." After awhile he came back to them and said, "No, this doesn't work. No alcohol is going to be allowed anymore." Later, another verse came and cancelled out that previous verse. The Muslims became very upset and very angry asking, "But how come we can't do that?" So, a later verse basically says, "Okay, don't worry, be patient, believe in Allah, believe in his prophet Mohammad, believe in his Quranic word and if you are going to have the ability, and you are going to stop drinking alcohol in your life, well Allah is not going to forget that. He will reward you with a river of alcohol in Paradise on the day when he sends you to Paradise."
Dr. Reagan: So, we go from just drinking alcohol occasionally to not drinking it during prayers to not drinking at all to you're going to have a river of alcohol in heaven?
Mark Gabriel: Exactly. This is the development of the contradiction of the teaching of the Quran.
Dr. Reagan: Do you find the same in the attitude toward Jews and Christians?
Mark Gabriel: Absolutely. It was an ongoing development that took place between Mohammad and the Jews and Christians. Firstly, Mohammad started as adoring the Christians and the Jews, saying wonderful things about them such as, "People of God" and "the people who carry His word" and "the people who protect His word." Later, Mohammad added like, "Yes, you are these people, but listen, I am the final prophet who came with the final testament. You have to believe in me." He made these claims when he started to debate the Jews and Christians and reach out to them. They refused. They asked him for a sign. The Quran records that they asked him for a sign so that they could believe. Mohammad of course could not give a sign and so he went back to Allah and cried before Allah, "Help me to perform a miracle or give a sign to these people so that they can follow me!" Allah became very upset with Mohammad and said to him, "Okay, listen, go back to these Jewish people and these Christian people and tell them, 'Allah gave you plenty of miracles in the Old Testament and you always rebelled against him. No more miracles! There is only one way to submit to Islam — to accept Islam or to pay the tax, and if you refuse to do so you will be killed.'" So, it was a development of contradictions in the teachings of the Quran towards the Christians and the Jews.
In the second half of this interview with Dr. Mark Gabriel, we'll ask him what the Muslim view of Jesus is and compare and contrast Mohammad against Jesus.
[Editor's Note: This interview has been edited for publication. The full transcript is available by clicking the pdf icon above.]