It’s a tale of two faiths, so interwoven with similarities, that one key difference has changed the course of history.
When Pastor David Beal and Imam Muhammad Musri came together to speak at Valencia’s Osceola Campus on Wednesday night, the cultural divide was made apparent in the very tension of audience members who came to listen to the panel.
Humanities professors Adrienne Tribbel and Paul Chapman facilitated the series in cooperation with the Peace and Justice Initiative of Valencia to demonstrate the similarities and differences between the Muslim and Christian perspectives of Jesus.
Each panelist was given 20 minutes to highlight the main chapters of the Book.
Musri used a PowerPoint presentation, representing the corresponding passages from the Qu’ran and the Bible, placing in red type the different words which have similar meanings within two columns, side by side.
“There’s a difference in what the imam and I believe,” said Beal. “It’s that I believe He’s coming back as God.”
Christians believe that Jesus is Lord, who is also the son of God, and that humans were made in his image.
Those of the Muslim faith believe that a prophet will bring them into the light at the end of days, because the human mind can’t conceive of the sight of the one true God.
“He doesn’t have eyes and ears and arms and legs,” said Musri. “He is nothing like anything in creation.”
Ashlee Poroco, who’s studying occupational therapy at Valencia, approached the discussion with the mindset that the two religions were almost the same.
“I didn’t know that Mary was never married,” Poroco said. “And Jesus talks as a baby?” At this thought, she scoffed.
She was an altar girl when she was younger and ascribing to the Catholic way of life, she attended church almost every day.
“I now know that the two religions are completely opposite,” said Poroco.
Beal explained that all people are born as sinners and it is their soul purpose in life to redeem themselves in the eyes of God.
Musri, on the other hand, said all people are born pure and begin to stray from their sense of right and wrong over the course of their time on Earth.
In Chapter 3 of the Qu’ran, it states that a prophet named Imram has the power to lead his sheep to the path of righteousness, sharing the Injel, or Good News, along the way. Isa, or Jesus, is the most recent prophet of our time, according to the text.
In Chapter 9 of the Bible, it states that Jesus, himself, is God and has the power to change the commandments over time.
Beal said it doesn’t matter whether you follow the Old Testament or the New, as the New Testament upholds the same guidelines which govern the lives of the devout. It’s simply an abridged version, rewritten for this generation.
Musri said that Muslims should take the words of the Qu’ran literally.
“We believed what He said, not what we infer or determine today,” said Musri. Beal countered in saying that the gospel and the epistles were written in the first century in the Jewish way and that the meanings that were derived from the text back then, don’t directly apply to the life of Christians today.
When it came time for Musri to answer questions posed by the audience, he was interrupted mid-sentence by the same man who made the inquiry.
“There are more holes in the Qu’ran than in a donut factory,” said Nabil Shaib.
Shortly after Musri described the tolerance people of the Muslim faith have for other religions around the world, another audience member spoke up, saying that Muslims were burning churches and synagogues in Bosnia and Egypt, as we sat comfortably in those seats Wednesday night.
Beal spoke for Musri and said, “There are ignorant folks on both sides.”
In summation of the panel, the lesson is that everyone makes mistakes. “And when people make mistakes, God will forgive them,” said Musri.
“It’s that easy to forgive.”
For more information on Valencia’s Peace and Justice Initiative, go to valenciacollege.edu/pji.