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Colby College. Jewish Studies Program


In sharp contrast to the Torah’s hierarchical conception of society, the Quran articulates an egalitarian worldview in which all humanity has equal access to the holiness that comes from being in relationship with God. Quranic egalitarianism serves to undermine biblically-grounded Jewish and Christian claims to elevated status. The significant differences in quranic and biblical discourse about both holiness and the antithetical state of impurity, however, can best be understood as existing within the framework of a common typology. Both the Torah and the Quran distinguish between impurity that results from physiological events and impurity caused by sin. These works, moreover, describe in similar ways the entirely different implications of these two types of impurity for a person’s relationship with God. This essay demonstrates how the juxtaposition of the Torah and the Quran can enrich our understanding of these works and of broader religious phenomena.

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