I am a Christian pastor who works as a collegiate minister with the Virginia Baptists at Virginia Commonwealth University. One of my areas of vocational interest and spiritual work is Christian-Muslim relations, including text-centered dialogues or conversations. During Ramadan 2011, I read through the entire Qur'an, in English, via Tarif Khalidi's 2008 translation (Penguin Books). What follows is a personal, meditative rendering of the Qur'an portion of the day. This rendering is devotional in nature, not scholarly. And it comes in the form of textual observations, spiritual reflections, theological questions or poetic responses.
Near Qutb Minar in Delhi, India [Photo by Adel Z. via Flickr]
Day 18 || Reading: Qur'an 23:1 - 25:20
Rendering from Qur'an 23:78-89
In the Coen Brothers' adaptation of the film True Grit, Rooster Cogburn, an ornery U.S. marshall, tells the teenager Mattie Ross: "I don't believe in fairy tales or sermons or stories about money, baby sister. But thank you for the cigarette." He is, we get the picture, a man who is undoubtedly an earthy fellow -- cut from dust and bones like the rest of us, but with no time for playing games about what a person can't see.
I thought of Rooster as I read the above Qur'anic text, which highlights the forever philosophical tension between the following dueling statements (in my words): "This is all there is" and "There is something more, something beyond." Those who did not believe Muhammad's message are said to have asked: Are we, once dead and become dust and bones, to be resurrected? They presupposed that something more, something beyond, is the stuff of fables.
I really like the character of Rooster, and the New Atheists are afforded their opinion, but much is riding on the duel.