Reading the Qur’an as a Quaker

Quaker author Michael Birkel felt that we aren’t hearing the whole truth about Islam, so he went out to discover it for himself.

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Jon Watts

Jon Watts launched and directed the QuakerSpeak project for its first 6 seasons. Keep up to date with Jon’s work at his website.

18 thoughts on “Reading the Qur’an as a Quaker

  1. I love these videos. I am an elder/senior who is somewhat isolated. I love receiving Blessings through your speakers and your good works. I am sorry, but I do not buy/contribute on-line, but I could send you a check from my S.S. check from time to time if you give me the proper address.

  2. Thank you my brother. My beloved religion is very misunderstood and the media and the likes of groups like ISIS who slaughter other Muslims do not portray Islam. The most honored being in the Quran is Jesus and Jesus is named in the Quran more than our messenger Muhammad. Our teachings and books are essentially the same. Love for your brother what you love for yourself, be a good neighbor, give to those less fortunate, visit the sick, have patience in the face of adversity, protect those that believe differently, be just and spread love. The media and all these social media outlets profit millions off of misinformation but anyone is welcome to a mosque. I pray the current suspicion and fear of “us” subsides as we come to all know each other and follow the teachings God. Peace (Salam)

  3. From the introductory quotation through to the end, this was one of the most inspiring, enlightening, and serene videos I have watched so far. Thank you Michael Birkel for undertaking this project and thank you, Jon, for presenting this.

  4. The “Umma” means an Islamic government that tolerates the laws of the other religions that are in the same entity and shouldn’t be belonging only to Muslims as claimed by Muslim extremists. It is an umbrella government for all the people who reside in the same community be it Christian, Jewish or Muslim. This indicates that you cannot hate or kill someone because he or she doesn’t have the same religious affiliation. Umma is therefore misused and abused by those who wants to hijack the Islamic religion.

  5. This QuakerSpeak gave me much food for thought. Hope Friends find non-Muslim environments to air it.

  6. Michael,
    This is a wonderful resource for any group that is open to experience the Quran through the eyes and experience of a faithful Muslim.

    One issue that I found myself needing to address as I read the Quran was the differences in the narrative between it and a similar narrative in the Hebrew and the Christian Bible. Phillip Jenkins seems to suggest in his writings that Mohammad was influenced by Christian traditions of Eastern Christianity that had a different narrative, particularly of the life of Jesus as portrayed in our present Gospels. Interested in your thoughts. Initially, I found it irritating when my Muslim colleagues suggested that the Bible had it wrong. Jenkins helped me put the differences in context.

  7. This message is profound, timely and necessary to be heard. Even as a practicing Muslim i could not be more articulate. Thank you Michael Birkel, You’re truly a Friend in every sense of the word.

  8. I know the guy means well but it seems like he didn’t even try to understand the violence of the Quran. Muslims the world over glorify the Islamic conquests from Muhammad to the Ottomans. He doesn’t mention any of the violent verses i.e 9:29 which says to explicitly fight the Jews and Christians until they are under political domination.
    I myself have been reading a book about Islam by a French scholar called Jean-Pirre Peroncel-Hugoz. It is called “The Raft of Muhammad”,and it was published in 1988. It speaks to our times as much as to his. The propaganda about Islam being such a peaceful faith blah blah was about in his day too. After pointing out the dangers of both un-objectively painting it in a negative light and positive light,he goes on to expand how people describe it with rose tinted glasses:

    On the other hand, when I hear that “the dynamism of Islam lies above all in the permanent Islamization which consists of respecting the spirit, not the letter;” that “the spirit of Islam is fundamentally democratic;” that “Arab women are as free as we are;” that “Koranic law is in many respects less restrictive than we think;” that “Islam properly understood does not oppress women, but is rather a means of advancement;” that Islam “has never been imposed by force anywhere;” finally that Islam is “progressive,” that it is, par excellence, the religion of a “personal effort of reflection,”of “humanism,” “tolerance,” “equality,” “change,” “socialism,” in short the champion of all our Westerner’s fantasies; when I see a major program on French television on the Black slave trade with not a word about the Arab-Muslim role in what Senghor has called “the greatest genocide in history;” when I hear repeated endlessly the fable, perhaps to charm our last surviving anticlericals, that “Islam is a religion without priests;” when I bear all that in mind and then discover in the field, sharing the daily life of Muslims, that their doctors of faith and their politicians, sometimes to a tragic extent, give primacy to the letter over the spirit of the Koran; that the permanently wretched of the Arab East are indeed women,peasants, and religious or ethnic minorities;that the shaykhs,muftis, and ulama of Sunnism and the mullahs, hojatolislams, and ayatollahs of Shi’ism are indeed the equivalents of priests, bishops and theologians, while Muslim theology represents acres of exegesis; that most “progressive” Islamic regimes are without any possible doubt what Jacques Berque calls “a socialist form of misery,” then I begin to rebel,to have the impression that I have been duped.
    It has often been observed among young French volunteer workers who came to serve in the Maghrib or the Mashrig, full of good will for the peoples of the regions and carrying little books and articles that painted an idyllic picture, that within a few months after the discovery of a different reality,they experienced a strong feeling of disappointment, even hostility, toward the Muslims , as though they had been deceived by them. In fact they were deceived by those who, a few thousand miles away , in the comfortable unreality of their studies,draw up imaginary pictures of Islam in which the outline of that community is at best blurred or rearranged.
    pg 4-5.

    Does that not in part describe the lunacy the intellectual elite fall over backwards over when it comes to Islam?

  9. Friend Chace speaks my mind.
    I personally know a lot of Moslem people from the Far and Middle East and while the average person is pretty much the same no matter the faith or nationality it is the leaders the leaders who direct the community. My friends understand the ideals of their faith but recognise the ideals don’t go far beyond the minaret.

    Christianity is a religion fundamentally based in caring for and protecting the weakest among us and engaging in non-violence yet is there a single majority Christian nation that behaves that way? The USA certainly doesn’t. Why would we expect differently from Islamic nations?

    The rose-tinted glasses may make us feel good but the reality is that an ideal of Islam is not the everyday practice of Islam. Where religion dominates we tend to find oppression, poverty, elitism, and the crushing of opposing thoughts while leaders tend to live luxurious lives. Recognizing the reality of Islam as well as that of Christianity might help us more than placing any faith on a pedestal.

  10. After watching this Quaker Speak about Muslins and the Quran, I happened to have a Muslim taxi driver. I asked him what passage in the Quran was most important to him. We shared a fascinating conversation for about twenty minutes and parted with much gratitude, blessings one another. I’m a changed person after listening to Quaker Speak and being encouraged to cross religious boundaries. Thank you!

  11. Wow! Great video and topic.
    My favorite quote of his is “to know one another across religious boundaries is a sacred task and a holy opportunity.” What a beautiful approach to learning about our fellow humans.
    I also love when he says that he learned Islam is “wider” than you think.
    Thank you for this!

  12. Very informative and well done. An honest breath of fresh air in a world of misinformation. Kudos to QuakerSpeak.

  13. It’s incredible how fresh perspective can enrich one’s understanding of one’s own faith. As a Muslim, it’s as if Dr. Birkel has shone a light back onto me, teaching me about my own self. His desire to empathize is beautiful, and having been involved deeply with the Quaker community, is something I know to be pervasive amongst Quakers. His characterization of Islam is 100% consistent with how I and millions of other Muslims experience it, but whose version of the story is unfortunately so often neglected. I salute you, Dr. Birkel, for engaging in this project and to Quaker Speak for showcasing it. Inshallah, it’s through acts of compassion such as these that we will learn to humanize and love one another. Ameen.

  14. We need to consider that words have more than one meaning. Chace Erseg and W. Leaf, above, speak of Islam as the whole world–religious, political, economic, social–that claims Islam as its identity. Critics of Christianity tend to do the same–“is there a single Christian nation that behaves that way?” It sounds as if when Friend Birkel set out on his quest, he was asking his neighbors how Islam speaks to their hearts, which is a different way of hearing the word “Islam.” Thoughtful Muslims around the world can see when their actions, or those of their communities, do not reflect the spirit of God that speaks in the Quran, just as thoughtful, truth-seeking Christians, Jews and followers of other religions understand when their communities do not live up to their values. In a text that is revered by all the Abrahamic religions, we are told that ceremonies and burnt offerings are not needed, but what we are required to do is “act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly” with our God. That is definitely a big order, and if we can just keep our eyes on that goal, we will not be arguing about which religion is better.

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