My reflections in this article come from having studied the Bible and the Qur’an. At the present time I regard myself as an ‘Abrahamic monotheist’ because I am trying to understand how the sacred Scriptures of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam fit together and whether they can be reconciled.
A related issue that I’ve been considering is how in the revelations given to Jews, Christians, and Muslims, there are some writings that are very time-specific, and some that I would regard as timeless. In the Qur’an it is clearly explained that every community is sent a messenger, and so it makes sense that some of what God reveals would relate to the community of the messenger. But at the same time, God clearly knew that his revelations would survive long after the events discussed in them, and it seems he intentionally included teachings that are timeless in the Torah, the New Testament, and the Qur’an.
The Old Testament is of course very Jewish, in that the events described therein relate to the specific circumstances of the Jewish people. One example of this would be the Exodus, which is clearly time-specific and relates to the lives of the Jewish people living at the time of that event. But we also have the Psalms and Proverbs, for instance, which contain wisdom that is applicable to all people for all time.
The teachings of Jesus are firmly grounded in the circumstances of the Roman Empire, and how the Jewish people were dealing with Roman rule. But at the same time, many of the sayings attributed to Jesus that can be found in the New Testament could be considered timeless, especially some of the moral teaching about forgiving our neighbour and praying for our enemies, and the instruction to love God with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength, for instance.
In the Qur’an, there are detailed accounts of the prophet Muhammad being instructed to engage in battles in certain ways, and there are laws that were given to him to govern the Muslim community. The rules could be considered time-specific and it’s questionable whether or not they are intended to apply to all people in the world. There are also timeless teachings in the Qur’an, including the oft repeated phrases that God is one, that we should worship only him, and that he is in control of all things.
Perhaps one of the reasons why there has been so much conflict on Earth in the name of religion is the failure of spiritual people to distinguish between contextual and timeless teaching. Arguably, God doesn’t want an entirely Christian, Jewish, or Muslim world, but instead his creative plan involves diversity of perspectives, and the Scriptures he has sent down reflect this. If we situate each revelation within its community, and appreciate that each revelation also has beautiful and timeless teaching, then there is less need to be defensive and therefore less need for different religious communities to compete and fight with one another.