In this lecture, Vivienne Stacey explores how both the Quran and the Bible represent women. These lectures were given at Columbia International University in partnership with the Zwemer Center for Muslim Studies. The Zwemer Center was founded in 1979 and exists to offer comprehensive courses on Islam, facilitate research, foster dialogues, offer seminars, conduct training, and provide resources for effective witness and ministry among Muslims. We also have a course study guide for these lectures that you might find helpful.


Here starts the auto-generated transcription of Vivienne Stacey’s Lecture on women in the Qur’an and the Bible: 


This session is about Muslim women and scripture. And by scripture, I mean Quran and Bible. I mean their scripture and our scripture, but it’s it’s theirs their their their bible as much as our bible. And, personally, I like to read the Quran because I spend a lot of time thinking and working with Muslims, so I think it’s good if we study the Quran, which is for them scripture, and of course, the bible, which can be for all people scripture. But, so first of all, let’s be sure that we take a careful look at what many people hold in such high honor, the Quran.


It’s held in extreme honor because God is eternal. It’s one of his attributes where he’s he’s, well, he’s speaker. Let me say he’s speaker, and as the eternal speaker, he speaks the eternal word, which is the eternal Quran. But, we are wanting our Muslim friends, to read the Bible, and, I think it’s one of my ambitions always to be able to persuade Muslims to read the Bible, and I delight in studying the Bible with them and helping them in one way or another anyway to read it. There’s a great depth of devotion and reverence for the Quran, among Muslims, and there is an acknowledgment in the Quran, that it confirms the previous scriptures.


It confirms the law given to Moses, the Psalms which came down on David, and the Injeel which came down on Jesus according to the Quran. So the Quran confirms the word is tastiq. It’s, like confirming your ticket. It’s it’s stamped or it’s approved. It’s valid.


So the previous scriptures are confirmed. They’re not Muslims say that whatever is needed from them is included in the Quran, But there’s no reason why a Muslim should not be very open to reading part of the Bible because it is confirmed. Now here’s a a prayer which I believe I read the other day. It’s a prayer for readers of the Quran, but I want you to I’m going to read it, and you can see that it’s, a prayer with which we can closely identify. So we are people of the script of scripture.


We come near in our acknowledgment of 1 God, even though we view him differently. And, we come near in the question of prayer. Muslims and Christians are people of prayer. This was, a text, a prayer book bought in Cairo by, Constance Padwick and included in her book, of Muslim Devotions. You’ll find it, I think, in the library, Muslim Devotions.


It’s got a lot of prayers, and you would enjoy reading some of them. So here it is, increase our longing for it. And by this, the man person praying means increase our longing for the word of God in the Quran. Multiply our delight in it to the number of raindrops and the leaves on the trees. Through it, perfect our confidence in the guidance of the good and the glad tidings of men of spiritual experience.


Bring to our minds what we have forgotten of it. Teach us what we do not know of its radiant truths and secret touches of meaning. Make it for us an imam. Now an imam is generally a religious guide, a person, but make it for us an imam, a religious guide, and light and guidance and mercy in the abode below, here in this world, and the abode everlasting, and grant us the reading of it in the hours of night and the seasons of the day. So we can identify very closely with this prayer.


And, when I study with Muslims, I generally ask them, let’s pray before we look at the scripture, and we can not offend our Muslim friends by using a prayer of David, who is a prophet in Islam. Psalm a 119 verse 18, open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law. And then I often ask my Muslim friend, will you pray this prayer? Because, teaching people to pray is also appropriate in discipling. So they will not be offended to quote the words of the prophet David as a prayer, and there are other pieces that you can choose from the Psalms, very useful and wonderful prayers.


Here’s a collect which, I have sometimes used. I’ve read it. It comes from the Book of Common Prayer. Blessed lord, who cause all holy scriptures to be written for our learning, help us so to hear them to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest that through patience and the comfort of your holy word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the hope of eternal life, which you have given in our savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.


It’s a very, very ancient prayer, going back centuries. So when you’re doing bible study, teach your person studying with you to pray as well, to pray before reading. And, if you can get them to pray I I had a problem with someone with whom I studied Romans for a long time, and, this young man I’ve mentioned before. And he well, he thought I should do the praying, and I thought he should do the praying. And so we tried to work it out.


But he was afraid that he would make a mistake, so that’s why he was hesitant. So if you tar start with something simple, which is written, open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law, He’s not like to make a mistake on that. So when he’s got confidence about that, then something a bit more. And then another person who, became a Christian, actually, and came to, we used to meet sometimes, who was my bank manager. And he always wanted me to pray because he thought I was more holy than him, and I assured him that, we would one in Christ, and, there wasn’t this trouble really.


So, he his prayers are just as valid as mine, but it’s quite difficult sometimes. So start early with prayer and scripture. Now here is the, key part of it, perhaps. How you read a holy book depends on your on your background. So Muslims who are schooled in things Quranic, will treat the Bible as they treat the Quran.


How would they treat it any other way? Because they don’t know another way. So whatever is their approach to the Quran, they will apply it to the bible. And I think herein for us lies something that we, need to think about very much. So let me tell you a bit about how Muslims, use the Quran.


I was once invited to a Quran reading. Ladies have groups of people who groups of ladies who get together, perhaps once a month or once in 2 weeks. It’s not a it’s not a well, you might call it a Quran study, but it’s a Quran reading. And in Banu, I remember being invited. I wasn’t able to go for some reason, but what would happen was, would there be, say, 30 women present, and they would read the whole of the Quran in one morning.


Now they would do it because if you look carefully at the Qurans you’ve got, you’ll probably find them divided into 30 sections, 60 sections, or a 120 sections. So if you’ve got a big group, it’ll be a 120. If it’s a medium sized group, they may use the 60 sections. If it’s a group of, 30, they’ll use 30. And everyone, has a section, section 1, 2, 3, 4, and so on.


And, everyone starts off at the same time, and they read aloud. And, if, if number 1 has finished and number 2 is behind, when you finished your section, you’ll help number 2, And so you you might be reading again, so to help her help her finish. So everyone will feel that they when they finished, it takes about 2 hours, that they have been greatly blessed because the whole of the divine scripture has been read aloud in their presence at that time. One of my friends, went to a Quran reading. It was a group of men.


It’s men who who meet with men and women with women for this, and, he was present and, observed. So the actual reading of scripture was very important to them even though they obviously only concentrated on one section. So if you give a gospel of Matthew to a Muslim and you don’t tell them how to read it, maybe, this lady will go home and and and decide, well, yes, I I I like that Christian, and it’s true. The Quran confirms the previous scriptures, and here is part of the previous scripture. I’ll read it.


And her natural way to read is probably to read aloud, and then she’ll read it fast aloud, and probably start at the beginning and get through the whole of Matthew in the same way that she would tackle a piece of the Quran if she was one of the 30, if you don’t tell her otherwise. And my mistake has been that, I’ve given out 1,000 and perhaps tens of thousands of scriptures in my time, but, it was only some years ago that I thought I better start giving instruction about how one should read. So how should you read? You pray first, and then you don’t have to read the whole lot quickly, aloud. You can read as aloud, but, better to take a a section, perhaps even a chapter or piece of a chapter, and read it and think about it and pray about it and see what God is saying to you about it.


And then in instructing a Muslim on this, if it’s time to explain them explain to them how you read the scripture this morning and and and what it did for you. Or if you could if nothing happened to you in the morning, it didn’t do much for you, try last Thursday or something, okay, So that they see how a scripture applies. Now I’ll just give you an example. I was flying from Lahore to Peshawar. That’s about an hour’s flight, in Pakistan, and, I was sitting next, to a a nice looking lady, obviously, middle class or upper middle class, and so I just greeted her.


We greeted each other, and then I, in my rather relaxed fashion perhaps, I just carried on doing something I was doing. But after a little while, she started talking to me. She was curious. I like curiosity. It’s very strong, draw.


Okay? So I tend to say nothing to start with, and then people get very curious. And so, anyway, so she asked me what I did in Pakistan, and, so I said, well, I’m working at a a bible training center, helping to train leaders, women leaders for the church in Pakistan. I have different answers according to what people ask me. They’re all true.


But, anyway, that’s one of them. Being a writer is another one. So she said, oh, she said, I’ve got a I’ve got a Christian maid. And I said, oh, really? Yeah.


She and she said, my my Christian maid, she says, your prophet, is alive, and ours is dead. So I said, oh, well, our prophet is alive. He is And I agreed with that, you see. I didn’t pursue that theirs was dead, but I thought, well, I’d never dare say that to a to a I wouldn’t have said that to her, but, good for the Christian mate that can say it and get away with it, and it’s remembered, and it’s thought about, and she tells a stranger on a plane. So so I said after a while, then, what do you do?


And she said, I’m in the air force. So I said, oh, I didn’t know Pakistan had women in its air force. And she said, yes. There are about 6. So I said, oh, so what do you do in the air force?


Oh, I’m a psychiatrist, and I help in screening candidates. So that’s what she did. Then she started attacking the Christian position, and she quoted Maurice Bucail, his book on Quran, Bible, and Science, if that’s the right way around, which first appeared in French and now is in many languages. Well, she couldn’t remember his name, so I supplied the name, but I knew the book. And so she so she went on, and I let her attack for a few about 10 minutes or so.


And then I said, well, have you ever read the Bible? And she said, no. And I said, well, do you think it’s fair? I mean, you’re a well educated person. Do you think it’s fair to attack a book you haven’t read?


And she eventually agreed. So I said, now, if I if I send you a copy of the Bible, will you read it? And she said, yes, she she would. Alright, so I spent another 5 or 10 minutes explaining to her how I read the Bible and how she might read the Bible, and, we talked about other things as well. So it was all sealed up, really.


When I got back, I was to send her a copy of the Bible, and, she would read it. So I wrote a letter when I sent the Bible. I wrote a letter saying all the things I had already said, so that she’s gotten down for the record about how to read. And, I don’t know. I haven’t heard from her again, but I suppose if I’d met her 15 years previously, I wouldn’t have thought so much about explaining to her carefully how she should read the Bible, but I realize that, there’s nothing else to go by, is it, if the Quran is your holy book and you know how people read it?


You’re obviously gonna apply whatever you know about the way to read a holy book to this holy book. Whether you think it’s so holy or not so holy is another matter, but you will consider it scripturate in a sense because the Quran confirms the previous scripture. Sometimes people use Muslim women use the Quran in different ways, but but we’re trying to help, the Muslim woman in in reading the bible. Now I suppose a large percent of Muslim women are illiterate, and I meet quite a lot of Muslim illiterate women. I met 1, when I was traveling by boat in Bangladesh.


You do most things by boat, it seems, in Bangladesh. And, so I was on this 3 hour journey. And I was sitting next to a woman on the boat, and she was a Muslim, and she spoke Urdu. It was her mother tongue. She must have been a Bahari or something.


I don’t know who she was exactly, but she spoke Urdu. And so we talked about all this and that, and, she didn’t read very much. I don’t I think she might have read a little, so, I asked her when we got on to the subject of Christian things, have you ever, do you know have you do you know any verses from the bible? And, no, she didn’t. Maybe I asked her, what is this around your neck?


And she said, oh, this is a charm. And I said, okay, well, I don’t think I said okay, but, this is a charm. I said, well, what’s in it? And she said, a verse from the Quran. So I said, oh, do you think God prefers his words around our neck or in our hearts?


And so she said, oh, well, in our hearts. So I said, shall I teach you a verse of God for you to put in your heart? And, she said that she’d like that. So I told her a verse of, a verse from the Bible. I actually used Romans 5 verse 8.


God commends his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. So I taught it to her in Urdu. I explained it. She didn’t have any theological hang ups about it, because she didn’t know so much theology, I think. So there was no problem.


She was willing to accept that cry Christ died for her, and and she she studied the verse, learned the verse. And we went over it and over it and, explaining it as well. So she put it in her heart to hang to put there rather than to hang around her neck. And I gave her one of these nice calendar cards with the verse on it. We should cash in on the fact of rote learning.


I’m going to talk about rote learning later, but, there’s a great facility for rote learning. Some of these people are very good at learning by rote, much better than I am, and, memorizing and so on. So don’t let’s leave it I I admire the navigators. They use lots of texts to teach new believers, but what about lots of texts to teach people who we hope will believe? Because, rote learnings right into the culture, it’s right into the, Quranic way of doing things.


And if you can persuade a Muslim woman that, this is a word of God, Mostly, they will accept it is, and they will put it in their hearts. And I can tell you other women who’ve been influenced by a verse like that. I I get several of these. I I go in for them, and I I find them very useful, and I think I was, yeah, well, I don’t know if I’ve got time to tell you any more of my stories, but sometime or the other, I’ll tell you another story. So I want to stress that, we can use Bible verses like Romans 5 verse 8, we can use John 17 verse 3, and this is life eternal that we might know him, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he has sent.


Not too, revolutionary. It’s not too revolutionary because most Muslims would not regard Jesus as one of the 6 prophets, main prophets, but it has the idea of relationship. This is life eternal that we may know Thee, the only true God. Okay. One God.


1 Timothy 2 verse 5 to 6 a, there is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus. Okay? Not too revolutionary, but it’s got the gospel there. There is one God, one God, one mediator. They’re used to mediators, and, one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.


Okay. It’s, it’s a seed. It’s a word. It’s something that’s it’s a a very important type of seed, that kind of verse. So we could look out for these things.


I think the my basic point this morning is definitely Because people read the scripture that they have in certain way, they will apply it. I mean, if we’re given the Koran, we tend to look at it to start with as the way we look at the Bible, and we don’t appreciate it. And that’s why most of us don’t appreciate it because we haven’t studied its structure. We haven’t considered, how Muslims use it, and we’re looking at something from a different perspective. We have to try and educate each other, I think, But, we’re on strong ground because the Quran confirms the previous scriptures.


I mean, I give, these kind of cards to to taxi drivers, and, I have they’re not not women, but, anyway, taxi drivers. I give them to other people, give them to women in shops and so on when it’s appropriate, not in every part of the world, because it’s not appropriate to use literature in every part of the world. It’s a bit dangerous in some countries, but or offensive or anyway, I think it’s very valuable to be able to give these kinds of things. And, one woman I know, to whom I gave a card on which Romans 5 verse 8 is was written, She was illiterate. Well, when I went back to her home, she lived in a village, and I went back to her home once, and she said she had put her card into the Quran.


She had taught it to her children, this verse. And, so she put it inside the Quran, taught it to her children, and she was being visited many times by, by Christians, and she was acting as a midwife or birth attendant or something of this sort in her village areas. And, she came to faith. One of the Christians who visited her came and said to me, so and so is ready to become a believer, ready to come to Christ. So I said, well, okay.


That’s fine. She said, will you come with me and talk with her? So I said, well, I’ll come with you and you talk with her, but anyway, we went. I said, I don’t I think she should we don’t I said, I don’t think we should in any way we should suggest to her that she she accept Christ by herself. But, anyway, we went, and, we talked to her about the verse, Behold, I stand at the door and knock, and so on.


She did have a door. So, so I said, I’m gonna act this out. So I went to the door. I went outside the door, and I knocked and so on, and we did it all, acted it out. So we explained more, gave her more teaching, and said, well, when we’ve gone, why don’t you pray?


And you’ve you’ve learned a lot about Jesus and, not just this, but many other things. Okay? So you ask him into your life. And she did. She when we mixed we got in touch with her, she had invited him into her life.


And, as a birth attendant, she went to many homes, a midwife. So she had many opportunities, illiterate, really, but able to understand, able to to to do what we had done and give her, one of these and explain it, but able to freely move around that community. As far as I know, she’s still there, still doing it, not baptized. If she got baptized, I think she would be, extracted or, sent away from her home and community, but she’s getting on very nicely, this way. I hope the day will come when there will be many others and they will can be more open in their, faith and in their expression.


Meanwhile, she’s a quiet evangelist of our Lord Jesus Christ. So remember the power of learning by heart, pieces of scripture and helping other people to do that. Remember, to try to teach to pray and how to pray before reading the scripture. Muslims in the very first Surah asked to be shown the straight way, the way. Well, we we’re wanting, this kind of thing, and I’ve I have correspondence with Muslims who are doing exactly the same as me.


We are seeking the way. We are walking in the way. Christ is for us the way and the truth and the life, and, scripture, play plays a very large part in this. So this is Muslim women in scripture. We’re gonna go on and develop our thinking about the problem of the of rote learning.


I put it down in this sheet as the problem of the programmed mind, but I think I should have put the challenge of the programmed mind because it’s all problems have their challenges, and they can have creative, answers. So we’ll come to that next.