Langage, culture, gospel [2]

2The Qur’an is not red individually or devotionally as Christians may read the Bible, college students scan facebook profiles, sports fans check stats and scores, or bloggers read their daily comments. Rather, the Qur’an is heard in a group during worship. It is not “sung” or “chanted”. It is recited [which, in all fairness, sounds very similar to song or chant to the untrained ear]. The recitations of the Qur’an are drenched with an¬†evocative quality that can only come from a divine source. Great care and reverence are bestowed on this holy book, and worshipers hang on every word of the one reciting.

The Surahs (similar to biblical chapters) flow in a circular fashion–when coupled with vocals all of life seems to be encompassed. Hearers are encapsulated and transformed by what is heard. This is why the Qur’an cannot be translated. A Muslim who reads the Qur’an in a language other than Arabic is not doing justice to this holy book. The Qur’an is only truly received in Arabic.

To be sure, this is not my own revelation; I am taking a class: Islam and the Gospel with a professor who spent five years in Africa working with Muslims. What I know of Islam I have learned from him.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about prayer as dialogue or monologue, about God developing cultures and languages through the gospel–and now, what does it mean that this book says God only speaks Arabic? What would it be to know your worship, although beautiful on the surface, is void because of a language barrier between humanity and the divine?

What is the difference between the language of the culture and the language of the gospel? Are they different, exactly the same? Are they mutually exclusive?

A mysterious harmony exists between our ability to reason and explain the world around us and above us, and our incapability to understand–to grasp it, to fully describe it and hold tightly to it. We cling to what is just beyond our reason and explanation. For it is at the point where reason and explanation fail that faith becomes more alive.


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