Studying the Bible and the Quran side by side helps us understand that the two are fundamentally part of the same narrative tradition.

The Open University will offer a course examining themes common to the Bible and the Quran and their significance to modern interfaith dialogue.

The course will be instructed by Ilkka Lindstedt, postdoctoral researcher of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, and Nina Nikki, postdoctoral researcher of New Testament Studies at the Faculty of Theology.

What is the reason for arranging this course?

 “Studying the Bible and the Quran side by side helps us understand that the two are fundamentally part of the same narrative tradition in which later texts build on earlier ones, providing comments and critique and further developing the tradition,” say Lindstedt and Nikki.

Judaism, Christianity and Islam have common historical and theological roots, but this similarity has also caused rivalry throughout history. Parts of the Quran, for example, criticise polytheism and the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, while other parts take an inclusive and positive view of the Jews and Christians, known as the “people of the book”.

 “We hope to dispel harmful and unfortunate prejudices and open doors for deeper, meaningful dialogue between religions,” the coordinating teachers summarise.

 “Our increasingly multicultural society and its various challenges, not to mention the refugee situation, also call for a better understanding of religions and for interfaith dialogue,” Lindstedt and Nikki point out.

Understanding through cooperation

Lindstedt and Nikki believe that the introductory course into a comparative analysis of the Bible and the Quran is a great example of the increasing cooperation between the University’s faculties and departments.

 “We have made the alarming observation that students of Christian history and scriptures often learn very little about the Quran, even though Islam and cultures influenced by it are important discussion partners for representatives of the culture drawing on the Judaeo-Christian tradition.”

During the course instructed by Lindstedt and Nikki, students will read a great deal of the Bible and the Quran in small groups and make comparative observations on their reading.

 “We will discuss key topics and individuals who appear in both the Bible and the Quran, such as Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Mary. Of the common themes, we will handle the Creation, the concept of God and the afterlife.”

Students’ observations will be discussed jointly from the perspective of historical-critical research, and their significance will be analysed from the point of view of interfaith dialogue.

 “We will also examine the status of the Bible and the Quran in their own communities and what a sacred text or pronouncement means, in general, in the two traditions,” Lindstedt and Nikki explain.

The course, which will be held in May and June, will get continuation.

The Faculty of Theology’s new degree programme in Theology and Religious Studies will feature a thematic course on sacred texts next year. It will examine the concept of sacred texts and broaden the scope outside the Bible, especially to include the Quran.