A long time ago, I was having a discussion about Islam with my non-Muslim sister. I never approach Islam in our conversations, it is always she who introduces it through her questions and curiosity. She had been speaking with a Christian person regarding Islam, and she asked me what I thought of something the Christian had said to her.
This Christian told her that part of the initial draw to the Qur’an from the Arabs was based on the fact that the Qur’an appeased to the Arabs with many verses referring to water, or carrying themes in relation to water, and that because the Arabs were from the desert, they greatly responded to these passages.
At the time, I felt angry. I told her as much. I said that I found it disheartening and slightly offended for someone to believe that Arabs simply believed in the Qur’an because it made some references to water. How simplistic! How insulting! How diminishing! As a Muslim who is aware of the greatness and power of the Qur’an, it bothered me that someone could be so unappreciative of it, minimizing its importance by suggesting that its followers were simply easily influenced, water-hungry beings.
I am reading a book by Dr. Jeffrey Lang called Struggling to Surrender: The Impressions of an American Convert to Islam. In it, I read this passage:
“The Arab of that era did not have to struggle to translate the images he was hearing into categories of thought to which he could relate, for he already had an intimate and direct association with them. When the Qur’an teaches us to ask God to “show us the straight path” (1:6), the Western reader may understand this to refer to the delicate and subtle distinction between truly serving God and someone or something else….The desert traveler of the seventh century may have had a similar understanding, but it also must have provoked something of a psychological reflex, because, in his travels, knowledge of the sometimes elusive “straight path” was also a matter of life and death. The Qur’an’s references to books, balances, debts, and rewards on the Day of Judgement, the making of a loan to God that will be repaid with manifold increase, and to the bargain that God has struck with the believers have obvious links to the commercial lifestyle of Makkah, the center for trade in Arabia during the lifetime of Muhammad. When the Qur’an compares the state of disbelief with that of dying of thirst in the desert, or when it draws a parallel between resurrection and the restoring of life to dead earth after rain, or when it describes Paradise in vivid sensual terms, we can imagine how immediate and alive these images must have been for those who first heard them from the lips of the Prophet.”
After contemplating this paragraph, I started to think that perhaps this Christian woman’s suggestion to my sister was not rooted in sinister goals to create doubt about the Qur’an, but maybe she was only hinting at what Dr. Lang talks about above.
Without knowing more about this person and the conversation she had with my sister, I shouldn’t have become so defensive, because, in some sense, she was exactly right. And it doesn’t need to be an offensive observation, it can simply just be an observation.
I must try harder to control my emotions when discussing Islam, as I know this incidence set a permanent impression in the mind of my sister, and not a good one at that.