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I've received a packet of Islamic materials which include the "Holy Quran" among other materials explaining the relation of Judaism with Islam.

I guess we should be open to all spiritual materials which have the possibility to complement the Torah, and I've found that we don't have a basic creed-based, theological difference, except that they believe in two additional prophets.

Can such books be read by an Orthodox Jew just for curiosity sake and would a rabbi approve that?

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Rav Saadiah Gaon used to study parts of the Koran:

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Prof. Meir Bar Asher gave a lecture regarding Saadia Gaon and the Quran at the Bernard Revel Graduate School. An article about that lecture can be found here.

Below is a summary of the lecture:

Saadia’s endeavor to harmonize the Hebrew Bible with reason is not unlike similar Muslim attempts—through interpretation—to reconcile rational difficulties posed by the Qur’an. Indeed, this rationalist tendency is evident in some of the commentaries on Qur’an 3, 7 that Bar-Asher presented to the audience. The very early Qur’an exegete Muqatil ibn Sulayman (d. 767) explains that the muhkamāt are prescriptive verses dictating laws such as: “be good to your parents, and [do] not slay your children because of poverty…that you approach not any indecency outward or inward…and fill up the measure and balance with justice” (Qur’an 6:151-153). Bar-Asher suggested that this definition of muhkamāt parallels Saadia’s category of “rational commandments” (mitzvot sikhliyyot). According to Muqatil ibn Sulayman the mutashābihāt are the mysterious letters alif, lam, mim, etc. appearing at the beginning of some sura’s of the Qur’an—the meaning of which is unknown. Also giving Qur’an 3, 7 a “halakhic” valence, abu Ubayd (d. 838), another early commentator, equates the muhkamāt with the so-called “abrogating” verses of the Qur’an, while the mutashābihāt are the “abrogated” verses, i.e., laws that were given at an early stage but superseded by (“abrogating”) verses given later.

However, the Rambam describes the Koran in very negative terms calling it invented and confused stories.

ואינו מותר דבר מזה לישמעאלים, לפי מה שידוע לכם על אמונתם, שתורה זו אינה מן השמים, וכאשר ילמדום דבר מן כתוביה (וימצאוהו) מתנגד למה שבדו הם מלבם לפי ערבוב הסיפורים ובלבול העניינים אשר באו להם, (הרי) לא תהיה זו ראיה אצלם, שטעות בידיהם, אלא יפרשוה לפי הקדמותיהם המופסדות ויוכלו להשיב עלינו בזה בטענתם ויטעו כל גר וישראל, שאין לו דעת, ויהיה זה מכשול לישראל האסורין ביניהם בעונותם.

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    Can such books be read by an Orthodox Jew just for curiosity sake and would a rabbi approve that? I see no evidence whatsoever from your post that Rasag, thus, it does not address the OP. Having a negative view of something and thinking that it may not be read are two different things. This does not answer the question and should be a comment. – mevaqesh Oct 13 '16 at 4:31
  • @mevaqesh do you consider professor shneuer leiman Orthodox? If so he quoted this Rasag in a class – Shoel U'Meishiv Oct 13 '16 at 10:46
  • To repeat my comment very clearly, Rassag and Rambam make for fine sources; if they discuss the issue at hand; in this caseCan such books be read by an Orthodox Jew just for curiosity sake. Sadly neither of them do, so this is a non-answer, (consider relegating it to a comment). – mevaqesh Oct 13 '16 at 14:23
  • (my original comment should have had the word "does" after the word "Rasag".) – mevaqesh Oct 13 '16 at 14:24
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    Note that the rabbis in the Talmud outlawed Ben Sira's writings even though they read them (as evidenced by them quoting it when explaining why it was outlawed) – Menachem Oct 23 '16 at 18:36
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you're allowed to enter a church in order to gain understanding about the differences between Christianity and Judaism, according to Rabbi Riskin. Otherwise, it's forbidden. If it's understanding you wish to gain, and it's permitted for avodah zarah, I can't imagine Islam (which isn't "avodah zarah" technically) being off limits. At worse, it is the same as walking into a church to study Christianity so you can hold your own with Christians (which is permitted).

And who knows: Maybe you'll find something that when questioned on by Muslims, you can have an answer ready.

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    "in order to appreciate the art with an eye towards understanding Christianity and the differences between Judaism and Christianity so that you can hold your own in discussions with Christians, then it is permissible" (emphasis added) is what r riskin wrote – Double AA Dec 7 '14 at 6:20
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    Learning something with the intent of using it to "hold your own" is very different from learning something for fun with an unintended consequence of the off-chance that it may prove useful in holding your own in the future. – Double AA Dec 7 '14 at 6:22
  • My experience has been that once you receive these type of "packages" they will visit. If you're in America, JW's will leave a pamphlet and then visit again shortly after. That has been my experience. The Muslims might want to talk to him. My thought is that better he be prepared. – Nail Dec 7 '14 at 6:28
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    @Nail, there is no obligation to enter into conversation with missionaries. Refusing to do so trumps an necessity for preparation. – Isaac Moses Dec 8 '14 at 14:26
  • @IsaacMoses I do say in the answer that its forbidden otherwise, and give the reason why it's permitted. – Nail Dec 8 '14 at 17:52

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