UH professor links Qu’ran as continuation of Bible
The director of the UH Arabic Studies Program has written a book that links the Qu’ran and the Bible as literary works through thematic categories.
Emran El-Badawi, assistant professor of Arabic language and literature, wrote “The Qu’ran and the Aramaic Gospel Traditions,” focusing on the Aramaic texts most closely related to the Arabic of the Qu’ran. The book seeks to overcome the barriers of language incompetency and modern political climate that hinder the study of theological texts from a literary perspective.
“I was deeply dissatisfied as a scholar with academia’s inability to allow the Qu’ran and the Bible (to) interact rather than simply comparing and contrasting them,” El-Badawi said.
On the subject of condemnation and praise, El-Badawi outlines the Qu’ran’s negative outlook on clergy and glorification of minority citizens such as orphans and widows.
“There is a famous line in the Hebrew Bible that translates into ‘obedience, not sacrifice,’” said English professor Jamie Ferguson, who specializes in Biblical study. “It emphasizes internal conformity rather than external performance in religious practice, similar to the teachings of the Qu’ran and the later Christian scriptures.”
Ferguson, who teaches a course on the Bible as literature, agreed that it is an enlightening experience to cope with processing scripture in a secular context, especially works of one’s own personal faith.
“As a teacher of biblical texts, I have found that there is always an inevitable resistance to a secular approach of religious works,” Ferguson said.
El-Badawi said he believes that a secular and literary approach to religious texts challenges radical perceptions each faith has of the other and to connect all ideologies as a part of biblical tradition.
“What most people fail to realize,” El-Badawi said, “is that the Qu’ran is an interconnected continuation of the Bible, and that study of both texts simultaneously results in a conversation.”
Another aspect of researching the Bible and the Qu’ran as literature that El-Badawi emphasizes is that of language competency. To fully appreciate and understand these texts, he undertook study of several languages that appear in original versions of the texts.
“I agree and reiterate that the study of any biblical text requires comprehensive study in several languages,” Ferguson said. “Teachers of biblical texts who have that ability are at an advantage over those who don’t.”
El-Badawi encourages teaching theological scriptures without introducing the discussion through theology, but rather by catering to a broader audience with the universal qualities of scripture, like language, history and literature.
“This type of research imposes an inevitable sense of broad-mindedness that I will always carry with me from now on,” El-Badawi said. “It seems to fill in the hole of human knowledge regarding the connection between two closely related texts.”