5 Ramadan Surprises: Quran readers are a lot like Bible readers

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series 5 Ramadan Surprises
Holy Quran open by photographer Habib M'henni via Wikimedia Commons

HOLY QURAN. Photograph by Habib M’henni, released for public use via Wikimedia Commons.

From Dr. Baker: This week, Read the Spirit Editor David Crumm reports on 5 things that may surprise you about Ramadan.

The Quran plays a central role in Ramadan. Muslim tradition holds that God chose to reveal the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad during Ramadan. The entire reception of the Quran is a long and dramatic story that Wikipedia outlines. To this day, listening to the Quran is one of the most beloved Ramadan traditions around the world. Major Muslim centers invite talented orators to recite passages from memory.

This summer, we also are seeing news headlines—specifically, now, headlines from Egypt—pointing out that 6 out of 10 Muslims think Egypt’s government should be based on the Quran. According to Pew polling reports, an even higher percentage of Egyptians say that religious leaders should have some influence in their government. In some stories, these data are presented as scary signs.

But, are they alarming? Or are they much like religious reverence in America?

Turns out, more than 9 out of 10 American evangelicals think that the Bible should be the basis of our government policies. And, it’s a well-known assumption in American politics that a candidate for public office had better claim some faith in God—or the candidate will face an up-hill battle to attract voters. That’s why presidents since Franklin D. Roosevelt regularly repeat, “God bless, America.” The famous Irving Berlin song by that title became an official campaign song for FDR in 1940.

We Americans love our scriptures and hold them up as the highest standards of truth and justice—whether we read and understand them, or not.

Polls over many years show that half of Americans can’t name the four Gospels. The late pollster George Gallup Jr. (1930-2011) liked to say: “Religion in America is miles wide and an inch deep.” Global polling suggests that Quran readers in many parts of the world follow a similar pattern. A vast Pew study of religious practices around the world, reported in depth last year, points out that across central Asia (including Turkey) and south-eastern Europe (including Kosovo and Albania), Muslims rarely read or listen to the Quran. That’s in sharp contrast with Muslims in the Middle East—where half of poll respondents claim to read or hear a portion of the Quran every day.

Still, these patterns suggest: We love our scriptures a whole lot more than we read them.

What truly matters to religious people on a daily basis? Most studies show: Prayer. That’s the No. 1 practice, whether Christian or Muslim. And No. 2, we hold dearly to basic moral beliefs we ascribe to our faith.

Our collective knowledge of our scriptures? Well, I suspect after decades as a journalist reporting from the U.S. and abroad: Quran readers are a lot like Bible readers. If we call ourselves Muslim or Christian, then we also claim to know and revere the truths found in our scriptures—even if we don’t spend as much time as we’d like actually reading them.

But what do you think? And, please, consider sharing these columns with friends by clicking the blue-“f” Facebook icons and “Liking” this column—or use the little envelope icon to email this to friends.

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