Reading Al-Baqara 159-181
Favorite Quote from the Holy Qur'an:
"And your Allah is One Allah: There is no god but He, Most Gracious, Most Merciful."
Favorite Quote form the Holy Bible:
"You shall have no other gods before me."
Every Sunday for six months I have surfed through the channels attempting to find something interesting to watch. I used to always end in failure until I discovered the massive amount of entertainment that could be enjoyed watching TV preachers. These ignorant and self focused individuals would attempt to bring me to a response from their message which would always be one of three things: a donation of money, to save my eternal soul or to share their particular moral convictions about their subject. All of these persuasive devices were hinged on my eternal damnation. After the exclusivity claim, which places religions at odd, comes the threat of death.
The threat of death has always been an interesting method of getting people to follow the law and do things they would normal avoid. Our desire for self preservation stretches beyond our mortal bodies because of most of us believe there is something after. Because of this desire both the Bible and Qur'an attempt to provide an answer to this fear. Most people in America are familiar with the Heaven/Hell scenario and in fact many churches even do plays such as "Heaven's Gates:Hell's Flames" to play out the various contemporary "issues" facing the church and Christians. Each of these tend to be a bash against anyone who is thinking differently than the particular church, and there will always be the "false" biblical teacher there who believes in an old Earth, isn't "spirit filled", or may even see some logic in evolution. (Gasps and faints from everyone)
These passages of Al-Baqara make quite similar points. Those who would face the fire are mentioned again and again. Their words logic and beliefs are called into question by Allah and then shown to be false because of their actions or lack of understanding. Allah is elevated with a short metaphor demonstrating his power again like wind moving about clouds, then back to the condemnation. But no condemnation is complete without the threat. For the Muslim as well the threat is a hellish scenario where the non believers become companions with the "Fire" (metaphorical Satan) for the rest of eternity. Quite the mirror of many Christian apologists, "You will have a body created for life, or a body created to burn" they may even be speaking about the same place.
The threat to our eternal well being has never been the thing that draws together unity inside of the human community. In fact this fear and the motivation to "save" all the non-believers has been quite damaging throughout history, because the message gets mixed with violence. It no longer becomes save the sinner but kill the non-believer like our modern experience or the Crusades of the past. These waring brother religions have caused so much damage because of the desire to convert. Whichever side you are on this part of our history is not a debate, it is fact. If the focus on our Holiest of texts could be taken from the anger and rancor of their origins and elevated to support our modern understanding we could be Christians and Muslims working together and not against each other. Let us move away from the threat to the positive, the alms giving and tithe. Taking care of poor and sickly and reaching out with our charing hands, beating our swords into plows, we can create a future far brighter than one lit with the fires of hell.