Note: I decided recently to comment on things I've noted in books over the years. I'm calling these Book Thoughts. This is the first post.
I remember occasionally stiffling the gag reflex when I'd hear some doe-eyed girl (or teacher) in high school say during a discussion that the world's problems would all be solved "if only we really understood each other."
People can understand each other clearly and still disagree, but still... the doe-eyed girl has a point; there are some problems that can be resolved just by making sure you understand what the other person is talking about, and I wonder (I'm not sure) if the following is one of them.
I was reading through a translation of the Koran (by N.J. Nawood) and repeatedly encountered passages in which Muhammad said that God never had a son and that it is wrong to say he did. And, of course, I kept saying to myself, "There's a point at which we disagree," but then I came upon this:
The angels said to Mary: 'God bids you rejoice in a Word from Him. His name is the Messiah, son of Mary. He shall be noble in this world and in the world to come, and shall be one of those who are favoured. He shall preach to men in his cradle and in the prime of manhood, and shall lead a righteous life.''Lord,' she said, 'how can I bear a child when no man has touched me?'He replied: 'Even thus. God creates whom He will. When He decrees a thing He need only say: "Be," and it is.[from the chapter, The 'Imrans]
On reading this I stopped and thought, "Hey, wait a minute! This is what we believe... so... why does Muhammad object to our saying Jesus was the Son of God?" And then it occurred to me that what Muhammad may have meant is that it is a horrible blasphemy to suggest that God is Jesus' father in the sense that he had sex with Mary to impregnate her and become his "father."
Yikes! And Yuck! If that is what Muhammad was saying, then he seems to be saying exactly what Christians have always been saying, and perhaps when he said these things he was refering to some blasphemous (or very ignorant) group of so-called Christians in Arabia who actually believed that God had sex with Mary to conceive Jesus.
With this thought in the back of my mind, I read along until I came to this passage about God which says:
How should He have a son when He had no consort?[from the chapter, Cattle]
(The term "consort" here seems to be being used in the sense of "wife" or "concubine.")
This seemed to underline the idea that Muhammad's objection was to the blasphemous notion of God having sex with a woman. And again, I think all true Christians, near and far, now and before, would absolutely agree. And if there were so-called Christians in Arabia during the time of Muhammad who believed God had sex with Mary, then I think all true Christians would be as shocked as Muhammad and agree - on this point, at least - that he was absolutely right in rebuking them.
Finally, I'm not going to be the doe-eyed girl. I don't mean to suggest that there are no points on which Christians and Muslims disagree, but if this is not one of them, well ... great! One fewer thing to argue about.