Two years ago, I embarked on a journey of religious study. My goal was, on some ‘gut’ level, to prove to myself that the major world religions weren’t all that different from one another. I had a grand goal of gaining a deep understanding of world religions—starting with the three major Abrahamic religions—with a feeling that I would come away with some central, universal morality that held it all together. This journey took me through the Hebrew scriptures (a.k.a., the ‘Old Testament’) of Judaism and Christianity, a synopsis of the Jewish Talmud, the Christian scriptures (a.k.a., the ‘New Testament’), and the Abdullah Yusuf Ali translation of Islam’s Qur’an.
Of those, none disappointed more than the Qur’an. Having had Muslim acquaintances, and having taken an introductory class in world religion while I was in college that spent considerable time on Islam, I had heard how beautiful and amazing the Qur’an was. It is so perfect and beautiful, some say, that it absolutely must be divinely inspired. Well, I can’t speak for the original Arabic (since I don’t read Arabic), but the translation—generally regarded as a good, solid, accurate translation—was unimpressive both in structure (repetitious and shallow) and in its teachings (which lack a clear moral structure but do, indeed, encourage spreading the religion by the sword—an instruction not present in the central doctrines of either Judaism or Christianity, though Christianity has done it at times in its history anyway).
What is worse is that the more I learn about Islam—its history, its core teachings, how those teachings are put into practice, and what mainstream Islam’s vision of the future entails—the more distasteful I find the religion on-average. I set out in my research to like Islam more, not less, but it’s not working out that way. Even in the United States, many private Islamic schools teach their students to embrace a(all the while repeating ad-nauseum to the outside that Islam is a religion of peace). Sooner or later we have to ask ourselves if Islam is a peaceful religion that can coexist with the rest of our society, or if it is a threat to civilization and freedom as we know it. The more I research it, the more I suspect the latter.