Taking the Qur’an out of Context
I recommend that believers of any faith when engaging believers of another faith, read the commentaries of the scholars of the other faith that help interpret or contextualize the scripture of the other faith. For example, regarding the Qur’an 2:191, a Christian might read the commentary of Ibn Kathir that contextualizes the verse to mean something quite different than the meaning given to it by the Christian reading the verse without the context and without access to the centuries of commentary around the verse.
Will contextualizing the verses solve the problem completely? Absolutely not. Why not? Because ignorant believers in a particular scripture often decontextualize or misinterpret a verse in their own holy book. Let’s look at some examples.
Have Christians at times treated the Bible to justify Jesus as the Lord of Wars more than the Prince of Peace because they read a verse such as Matthew 10:34 and believe that Jesus is advocating violence? Absolutely! This happened in the Crusades, which was actually a string of crusades, some launched by Muslims and others by Christians, each resorting to brutal violence. It was a horrible time in the history of both Christianity and Islam.
Have Muslims at times treated Muhammad as advocating violence without any constraints when convenient for Muslims? Absolutely! ISIS does it daily.
Even acknowledging these horrendous events in our histories doesn’t solve the problem because believers often get into a game of “your sin is worse than my sin,” “your transgressions are worse than our transgressions.” Or believers of different faiths often engage in the dubious logic of comparing the ideals of their faith against the realities witnessed in the lives of those of the other faith. I don’t find it morally sensitive or helpful to justify sin in any way.
Sinful people are often not interested in the truth but instead on misusing words of truth to justify sin rather than promote goodness.
Jesus warned us about this and directed us to remove the log in our own eye before addressing the speck in another’s eye.