I’m a big fan of the Qur’an. Like a lot of other people, I read it after 9/11, taking tons of notes. Though there were some things I didn’t understand, and others that I disagreed with, my overall impression was very positive. For every verse that seemed to promote violence of any kind, there were twenty others that clearly demanded peace. The most famous example of a “jihadist” verse–Sura 9:5–is obviously, when read in context, a limited injunction pertaining to one certain time and place.
Among my many notes on the Qur’an I included comparisons with LDS doctrine and scriptures where similarities were strongly evident. (For some of these notes, please see the charts at the end of the article posted here.) However, the strongest parallel isn’t with “scripture” at all.
In the Qur’an, Sura 7, verses 16-18, one reads this portion of the story of the Fall in the Garden of Eden:
He said: “Because thou hast thrown me out of the way, lo! I will lie in wait for them on thy straight way:
“Then will I assault them from before them and behind them, from their right and their left: Nor wilt thou find, in most of them, gratitude (for thy mercies).”
(God) said: “Get out from this, disgraced and expelled. If any of them follow thee,- Hell will I fill with you all.
There are two major elements there that should make LDS readers sit up straight and pay attention (and the next few verses after that continue to present a version of the Fall that sounds very comfortable to Latter-day Saints): Satan, angry at being chastised by God, threatens to subvert God’s work with humanity, and God responds by sending Satan away. Now, the Bible as well as the Book of Mormon are clear that Satan is a deceiver and tempter who opposes God–and the Book of Mormon emphasizes that Satan wishes to make mankind miserable by separating them from God (2 Nephi 2:18,27)–but these specific elements of the Fall aren’t mentioned in either of those holy books. They’re not even hinted at, anywhere. In the Bible and in the Pearl of Great Price, for example, God curses “the serpent” after he gets Adam and Eve to eat the fruit, but nowhere else do we see God expelling Satan after he threatens to sabotage God’s work with humanity.
Except in an LDS temple. And that’s the thing: the only two places in the world, that I know of, where one finds this information, are in the Qur’an and in a modern Mormon temple. (I don’t think I’m sharing anything irreverent about the temple here; this kind of minor trivia is often referenced in respectful, scholarly works published by the Church.) Now, how does one account for this? If one accepts as legitimate, as I do, the spiritual authority of the LDS Church, then how did Muhammad know these two details about the Fall?
Parallels between LDS scripture and unrelated material from the ancient world are usually explained as the product either of dispersion or inspiration. The first theory–dispersion–posits that far more ancient Ur-texts inspired a multitude of varying texts today, with pieces of the original popping up in scattered places in currently-available texts. But since these details are to be found only in these two sources–the Qur’an and the temple; if there are other sources, please let me know–that explanation doesn’t satisfy.
The other theory is the only one that makes sense, then: The Qur’an–or portions of it, at least–was genuinely inspired by God and includes revealed material that is true. This demands respect. This is well withn orthodox LDS thought. For example, in 1978, the First Presidency wrote a statement that
specifically mentions Muhammad as one of “the great religious leaders of the world” who received “a portion of God’s light” and affirms that “moral truths were given to [these leaders] by God to enlighten whole nations and to bring a higher level of understanding to individuals.”