Should Christians Read the Qur’an?

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from The Qur’an and the Christian: An In-Depth Look at Islam for Followers of Jesus
by Matthew Bennett

Do you then believe in part of the Book
and disbelieve in part? What is the payment for
the one among you who does that,
except disgrace in this present life, and
on the Day of Resurrection they will be
returned to the harshest punishment?
God is not oblivious of what you do.

Qur’an 2:136–137

As the final installment of heavenly revelation, the Qur’an—and specifically the verses quoted above—chastises the Jewish and Christian communities who would receive their preferred parts of the revelation while yet rejecting the Qur’an, the advent of Islam, and the ministry of its prophet—all of which the Qur’an contends are predicted within the biblical material. The warning of Qur’an 2:136–37 couldn’t be clearer as to the consequences of such rejection: disgrace in the present and punishment in the afterlife. For many Muslims, then, they wonder why their Jewish and Christian neighbors have so long neglected to take up and read this final chapter of the heavenly revelation. Why would Jews and Christians risk being disgraced and tormented because of a refusal to consider the final dispensation of God’s word?

For Christians, the question of whether or not to read the Qur’an is met with more complicated answers. On the one hand, many Christians do not read the Qur’an because of an outright refusal to acknowledge its claims to be divine revelation. Having already read Jesus’s cry from the cross, “It is finished!” and having read Revelation’s warning, “If anyone adds to these words of prophecy, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book,” many Christians see no reason to approach the Qur’an at all. After all, Jesus is clear that his work of redemption has been completed, and John testifies that anyone who would add prophecy beyond what has already been written will be cursed. Why should a Christian, then, spend the time to read a book that has nothing to add to Christ’s accomplished work and can only invite a curse with its claims to correct, clarify, and add to prior revelation?

On the other hand, some Christians refuse to read the Qur’an due to the belief that it comes from a satanic source and as such might pose a spiritual danger to them. For instance, I regularly assign sections of the Qur’an to students in my World Religions class as we discuss the topic of Islam. At times, some of these students have approached me and questioned the wisdom of inviting people to open up and read what they understand to be a Satan-inspired work that undermines the Gospel. Their question is often, “Isn’t it inviting demonic danger for us to dabble in a text that is custom built to reject the Gospel?”

While I never encourage anyone to violate their conscience if they have a genuine concern, I believe there are many reasons that a Christian should familiarize themselves with the Qur’an. I would argue that Christians should read the Qur’an in order to better understand their Muslim neighbors, to better communicate with them, to engage in comparison between the Qur’anic stories and their biblical counterparts. This chapter, then, will be a long-form answer to those who wonder why a Christian should read a book that distorts the Gospel and which can’t add anything to the finished work of our God.


The first reason that a Christian should read the Qur’an has to do with gaining understanding. As we have already noted, a person looking at the Qur’an’s role within Islam from a distance might be tempted to simply assume that the Qur’an is the Islamic version of the Bible.[1] This is only true insofar as both the Bible and the Qur’an are texts with religious value to their respective faith communities. Upon closer inspection, however, the Bible plays a very different role in the life of a Christian than the Qur’an plays in the life of a Muslim.

By reading the Qur’an personally, the Christian accomplishes several things that will prove vital to their ability to understand and relate to their Muslim neighbor. First, they begin to get a feel for how the Qur’an functions in their Muslim neighbor’s life. Second, they glimpse the implicit vision of how the Qur’an expects its readers to relate to God. Third, by reading the Qur’an’s instructions for oneself the Christian acquires a sense of the expectations for faithful worship and living that are impressed upon their Muslim friends. By hearing the Qur’an speak of worship and faithfulness in its own way, the Christian will become familiar with the fact that worship, piety, and faithfulness for the Qur’an are shaped according to its own unique concerns. Therefore, in conversations with Muslims influenced by the qur’anic perspective on such ideas, Christians need to know how their use of language will be received in order to make sure that what they desire to communicate is in fact what is heard.


As the previous chapters have detailed, reading the Qur’an is a unique endeavor that requires an atypical approach to interpreting. For readers of sacred texts who are used to encountering sections of historical narrative, linear development of argumentation, or a progression from a clear beginning to a definitive end, the Qur’an will present some initial confusion and possibly even some frustration. Such a response results from the fact that the Qur’an is not designed to be read as a novel, nor does it always present proofs and warrant to reinforce its various claims and perspectives. The Qur’an is often satisfied to simply make claims from the perspective of God that should be received by the faithful as authoritative and true.

Such a distinct presentation of its contents threatens to lead new readers of the Qur’an to conclude with Voltaire that “the Qur’an is rhapsody without liaison, without order, without art; it is
said nevertheless that this boring book is a very beautiful book—I am referring here to the Arabs, who pretend it is written with an elegance and a purity that no one has approached since.”[2] Other Western scholars have expressed a similar critique of the aesthetics and literary construction of the Qur’an. The prolific scholar of the Middle East, F. E. Peters, writes, “There is much in the Qur’an to baffle the reader . . . the work seems to have been only marginally affected by a literary sensibility. There has been some cutting and pasting to be sure, and, for reasons we cannot fathom, some very unliterary arrangements.”[3]

While the first-blush read—particularly in translation—might produce sympathy with these conclusions in an uninitiated reader, it should not be taken as a reason to simply dismiss the effort to seek understanding. First of all, as chapter 5 argued, there is more work to be done in recognizing the message that the Qur’an intends to communicate that lies behind its creative references to familiar materials. This requires a more intentional reading than what can be done in a quick pass over the text. Indeed, if the Qur’an intends itself to be read in a particular fashion, it cannot be criticized for being hard to understand when it is read contrary to its intent.

If one is to levy a true critique of the Qur’an’s message, it should come from a careful inspection of the internal structures that are less overt but which more helpfully guide the reader to hear and see what it intends to communicate. It may be that a more careful reading will produce a more coherent picture of the Qur’an’s arrangement and lead us to see that its structure—rather than presenting a barrier to interpretation—is actually a key aspect of the Qur’an’s presentation of its message.[4] The structural and rhetorical features of the Qur’an must be taken into account as one seeks understanding of its message.


To read more, pick up a copy of The Qur’an and the Christian: An In-Depth Look at Islam for Followers of Jesus from Amazon, Christian Book, or Bookshop!

[1] Ayman Ibrahim, A Concise Guide to the Qur’an (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2020), 3. Ibrahim recounts an encounter with an atheist neighbor who believes that the Qur’an is “the Bible of Muslims.”

[2] As cited in Raymond Farrin, Structure and Qur’anic Interpretation (Ashland, OR: White Cloud Press, 2014), xiii.

[3] F. E. Peters, “The Poet in Performance: the Composition of the Qur’an,” in Sacred Books of the Three Faiths: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, ed. John Reeve (London: British Library, 2007), 26, 28.

[4] This is the essential argument of Raymond Farrin, Structure and Qur’anic Interpretation, xvi, whose book aims, “To refute—indeed, to lay to rest the longstanding criticism of ‘disjointedness’ and to encourage in its place an increased appreciation for the organization of the Qur’an. Second, insofar as structure can serve to frame meaning, it aims to show how a better understanding of the Qur’an’s structure may, in fact, aid in our interpretation of the text.”

This post is adapted from The Qur’an and the Christian: An In-Depth Look at Islam for Followers of Jesus by Matthew Bennett. This title was released on April 26, 2022. If you are interested in adopting this book for a college or seminary course, please request a faculty examination copy. We will also consider requests for your blog or media outlets.

Understanding Islam’s sacred text is integral to understanding your Muslim neighbor

Cross-cultural missionary and scholar Matthew Aaron Bennett blends the insights of Islamic believers, secular Qur’an scholars, and missionaries to Muslims, making The Qur’an and the Christian like no other resource for Christian ministry to Muslims. Combining these perspectives in one guide better equips Christians to communicate the biblical gospel to friends and neighbors who are adherents to Islam–both in and out of majority-Muslim cultures.

The Qur’an and the Christian addresses issues both simple and profound, such as:

        • How the Qur’an came to be, including Muhammed and the Qur’an’s textual precursors
        • The major themes of the Qur’an and how these shape the practice of Islam
        • The presence of Bible characters, Jews, and Christians in the Qur’anic text
        • Whether and how a Christian should read the Qur’an
        • Avoiding miscommunication with Muslims when the Qur’an and Christian teaching seem to overlap

This book will help Christians learn how to explore Islamic faith with missiological wisdom and biblical precision. The Qur’an and the Christian will give believers the insight to deepen friendships, promote understanding, and clarify the biblical gospel among Muslim friends and neighbors.


About Author

Matthew Aaron Bennett (PhD, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Assistant Professor of Missions and Theology at Cedarville University. He has over seven years of intercultural ministry experience, including leadership and teaching in majority Muslim contexts.

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