Advent With Islam: Reading the Quran in 29 Days

My name is Jake Hofmeister. I’m a Presbyterian Church (USA) pastor, hospital chaplain, and interfaith activist.  I’ve recently moved to Michigan, where my wife is pastor of First Presbyterian, Jonesville.  Jonesville is a small village of a couple thousand people, surrounded mostly by cornfields and lakes. It’s about an hour drive to any sizable metropolitan area.  I was disappointed about moving to a small town because, stereotypically, rural areas in America lack diversity.  While many are homogeneous in southern Michigan, I was surprised to find a diversity I was not expecting…religious diversity.  

On the drive up to Michigan through Ohio, I passed a very large Islamic Community Center in Toledo with the minarets towering over the cornfields.  In the Detroit Metro Airport, there is a multi faith prayer room complete with a Quran and directions pointing to Mecca.  Dearborn Michigan, an hour away, has the highest percentage of Arab Muslims of any other area in America.  Even in rural Coldwater, Michigan only 17 miles away from our small town, there is one of the largest Muslim communities outside of metro Detroit, complete with a Masjid.  Muslims are my neighbors, they are my friends, and they are my community.  

So as I begin my new life in Michigan with my Muslim neighbors and I begin my new call as hospital chaplain in Kalamazoo where colleagues, patients, and their families are Muslim, I have decided that I need to connect with them more deeply.  

In Christianity, we are approaching a very special time in the life of the church–Advent.  Advent is derivative of the Latin adventus, meaning “coming”.  It is the time where we anticipate the incarnation of Jesus at Christmas.  And for me, the incarnation of Jesus represents God’s radical love, openness, and compassion being made real in the world.  

So during this Advent season, I aim to make real God’s radical love, openness, and compassion by reading the 114 Surah of the Quran, that’s about four “chapters” a day.  But, I won’t stop there.  I will visit the local Mosques, speak with my Muslim friends, and try to raise awareness of Islam and advocate for interfaith cooperation.  I do this to stand in solidarity with my Muslim sisters and brothers who have been suffering in a post 9/11 atmosphere of prejudice.  I do this also to be better able to understand and minister to my Muslim patients as a hospital chaplain.  I do this, too, as a personal journey in hopes to deepen my own spiritual life.

So starting this Sunday, I will be reading 4 Surah a day through Christmas.  I will be blogging about my experience daily.  I hope to travel to Coldwater, to Dearborn, and to other communities to connect with Muslims, talk about this project, and to stand in solidarity with them.  I will also be attending my wife’s church and participating in the season of Advent from the Christian perspective.  Hopefully, some deep insights will emerge from this juxtaposition. 

My first blog post will be the first Sunday in Advent, Nov. 28.  Until then, I will be in conversation with my friends and neighbors about the background and techniques to best read and understand the Quran, especially coming from a non-Muslim perspective.  I’m counting on you Hamza and Zair!

 

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14 thoughts on “Advent With Islam: Reading the Quran in 29 Days

  1. Good luck in your journey, Jake. My prayers will be with you and our Muslim friends. I share your hope and pursuit of better relationships with these neighbors. I will be following your blog and will be glad to share in some of your visits if you wish. God be with you and those with whom you visit.Peace.Ron

  2. Salams Jake,As a revert to Islam from Christianity, I am so proud of you for taking the time to discover Islam. I personally do not think that there are many differences between Christianity and Islam and Judaism as the 3 Abrahamic faiths as some refer to them. I personally believe God has left many doors open for humankind to receive Him. You must have a really big heart, strong faith and open mind to journey into Islam as a minister. Please take a little time to explore the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) which I am sure your Muslim friends have explained what it is. As a Christian I had longed for more information about Jesus’s (peace be upon him) way of living for I was suppose to follow Jesus’s example but there just isn’t that much information in the Bible. Plus what is available is very disputed about how closely to follow it. When I discovered the Sunnah, I was thrilled to have the beautiful stories of the life of the Prophet (PBUH) to follow and live by… an answer for almost everything. Best wishes on your journey. May you bring some peace and understanding into this world of confusion. We are all brothers and sisters in humanity. Best Regards,Julie

  3. Wow, thanks Julie. I will definitely look into the Sunnah. Your story of conversion is a very interesting one, and I am glad that you have found what you were looking for in Islam. I’d love to hear more of you thoughts and suggestions as I go along on my journey. Best, Jake

  4. Someone shared this on their Facebook wall. I’m usually reluctant to read shared stories only because I often get so caught up in them that I lose track of time. However, I found this be an interesting and worth-while read. Your initiative to learn about other religions and talk about it openly, especially a religion that has been under much scrutiny in the political arena for some time now; is inspiring, courageous and bold of you. Thank you for sharing. 🙂

  5. Dear Pastor Hofmeister,My congratulations on your reaching out and your heartfelt intentions to read Al Quran. Just as with any theological subject it is best to have a guide who can assist you in understanding certain things that are implied by the English translation of the meaning of Al Quran that at first glance are very easily misunderstood and unfortunately widely abused by political pundits and religious bigots as theire meanings do not begin and end with the blunt word by word translations.The Quran must be understood in light of the way it was revealed…there was a period of revelation over 23 years that strengthened the faith of the believers as each verse was revealed over time, so some dealt with very time limited subjects and situations, and others dealt with broad subjects and matters of faith that are universal…as well, there are two phases of the revelation to keep in mind, the initial phase wherein the revealed verses are categorized as Mekkiah ( revealed in Mecca) and are simple straight forward personal matters of self realization of God and our responsibilities in obedience as individuals to that God and the legislation revealed then dealt with the basics of the religion on a personal level, the other phase of revelation is the Madenih (revealed in Madina) and these verses began dealing with the religion as a community, and society, and then as a state, and so the nature of the legislation was commensurate, it dealt with the management of a diverse faith community under one government.So being aware of which verses one is reading and the political and military realities in the background of the time period it was revealed in adds a depth of understanding in the reader and a richness in the subject that is lacking in the blunt #1 through #114 reading of the book.I would greatly appreciate, with humility and love, if you would ask me any question on what you read if it does not makes sense or you think it means something that does not sit well with your heart…the "kill them where you find them" verse is the most abused of all, when you get there, the 9th chapter definitely communicate with me…it was revealed at a heightened time of persecution and internal conlflict between the Pagan Quraish and the Muslims…a guide is best used when reading that. The Tafsir, in depth explanations of the verses, are good to have as well if you are blessed enough to have a copy that contains these chapter by chapter, if not I will be your guide and can direct you to resources to the TafsirIn all, enjoy your time reading it, and please wear me out with questions, as I love to write about my religion, and if there is something I can’t explain there are a number of local scholars and imams where I live in Texas that I am close to that are always eager to help me.In this, what I feel is truly the greatest nation on earth with the most opportunity and freedom of religion, enjoy the time with your family in your holiday season, you are one of the best examples of a person of concience, respect, and faith.Abdullah Mikail Agent/Producer, Envoy Films (Just Say Go LLC)http://www.americanramadan.com/ The latest film in post production from Envoy Films: http://www.teawiththetaliban.com/

  6. Hi Jake, or should I call you Saikh Jake. I find it very immazing for you to read the Quran in 29 days. WOW, believe it or not, that was the recommednation of beloved Prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him and upon all prophet before him. He was advicing to finish the Quran in 30 days, which is 1 chapter a day. May God guide us all to the turth and bring our hearts together and use us for the best of His way. Amen. God bless you and your family.

  7. Dear Rev. Hoffmeister,Apropos Julie Parker’s exhortation to also study the Sunnah of the Prophet, a caveat. While some of the Hadiths (often mistakenly labeled the Sunnah of the Prophet) – about 10% in all – are indeed sublime and worthy of study, the rest are only attempts to sneak the pre-Islamic Jahaliya (age of ignorance) back into the corpus of Islam or, worse still, complete fabrications. The Holy Quran is the only true word of God and let nothing else distract you – believers and non-believers alike – from it All the regressive dogmas often attributed to Islam spring from the Hadiths and are really scourge upon the great and noble religion. which was originally completely devoid of the Mumbo-Jumbo that the Hadiths invested over it in the decades and centuries following the birth of Islam.

  8. Hello Jake! I extend to you the greeting that is prescribed in the Quran "Assalam o Ala Manit-taba al huda" ~ Peace on those who follow guidance [20:47]Greeting from Louisville! 🙂 I am here these days and checking out the city you spent so much time in. I do however live in a small detroit suburban township.I know many preachers study other religions so its not a surprise that you are doing this, nonetheless it is encouraging that you have taken this brave step and amazing to see that you have assigned yourself such a steep task of finishing the Quran in 29 days. Coincidentally, I have an acquaintance who was used to be an Ordained Minister and had obviously spent time in seminary. He is now a muslim for several years and also lives in Michigan. I would certainly like to hear about your observations and whether the Light of Quran will guide you to the truth or not!? Furthermore, since I actively participate in an interfaith resource group and also moderate its discussion forum inside the company I work for, any exchanges with you will certainly be educational for me!Peace out!

  9. Thanks to all for your encouragement, guidance, and recommendations. I will definitely reach out throughout my journey to ask your continued support. Especially since many of your have much more expertise on the subject than I do, I greatly appreciate your help.

  10. And special thanks to Abdullah, Omer, Monzer, Julie, Inayat, and Kinna for taking the time to begin conversation with me during this project. Looking forward to hearing from you all in the future. I start the reading the rest of the Quran one week from today, Sunday, Nov. 27.

  11. Dear Inayat, <br/> <br/>I am not sure how to respond to your comment, it is very broad and sweeping in it’s condemnation. I do not believe that 90% of the hadiths are some insidious plan to "sneak the pre-Islamic" ignorance back into the religion. <br/> <br/>It is important to note the level of research that Bukhari and Muslim put into their works weeding out those purported sayings and arriving at the truth. These two scholars were humble and know the limitations of human beings despite the level of their research and verification they both noted for any student of their research to eturn it to the Quran and if we find any that does stand up to that test then for us to throw it out. <br/> <br/>Recall that before God justice is such that reconcilliation between human beings will take place. <br/> <br/>Before God we will be accountable to these two scholars for any insult to them or their work, so we owe it to ourselves as well as these scholars to show respect to their work and any question we have to the validity of their research must be adressed by us politley and with proof in hand tha rises to the level of the research they did and in a manner such as not to insult. <br/> <br/>Peace. <br/> <br/>Abdullah Mikail

  12. Excellent. Good luck. We’re rooting for you and praying for you. This is an incredible book. You are so so lucky to have a chance to read it. Regards.

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