The sura is named after Imran, the father of Moses, Aaron and Miriam. It has four sections:
1. Explaining the nature of the Qur’an.
2. Muhammad’s discussion with the Christians from the Najran.
3. Explaining the Muslim military defeat at the battle of Uhud.
4. Closing reflection and prayer.
What I found interesting:
1. This sura still has the strong theme that the Qur’an confirms the previous scripture.
He hath revealed unto thee (Muhammad) the Scripture with truth, confirming that which was (revealed) before it, even as He revealed the Torah and the Gospel. 3:3
Say (O Muhammad): We believe in Allah and that which is revealed unto us and that which was revealed unto Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes, and that which was vouchsafed unto Moses and Jesus and the prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and unto Him we have surrendered. 3:84
2. Interpreting the Qur’an. I wonder which bits are allegorical?
He it is Who hath revealed unto thee (Muhammad) the Scripture wherein are clear revelations - they are the substance of the Book - and others (which are) allegorical. But those in whose hearts is doubt pursue, forsooth, that which is allegorical seeking (to cause) dissension by seeking to explain it. None knoweth its explanation save Allah. And those who are of sound instruction say: We believe therein; the whole is from our Lord; but only men of understanding really heed. 3:7
3. I found this verses to be very liturgical as it seems to be a response to 3:7
Our Lord! Cause not our hearts to stray after Thou hast guided us, and bestow upon us mercy from Thy Presence. Lo! Thou, only Thou, art the Bestower. 3:8 (also 3:192-194)
Again, the Qur’an does not sound like Allah speaking but a community speaking about Allah.
4. This verse makes it hard for Muslims to have non-Muslim friends.
Let not the believers take disbelievers for their friends in preference to believers. Whoso doeth that hath no connection with Allah unless (it be) that ye but guard yourselves against them, taking (as it were) security. ... 3:28
I could see Islamic Fundamentalists using this verse to attack Muslim governments which are friendly with non-Islamic countries.
5. There is a big section in this sura about Mary (Miriam) Jesus’ mother (3:35-45). But the she is the daughter of Imran the father of Moses and Aaron. Here we see that Muhammad confuses Mary the mother of Jesus with Mary (Miriam) the daughter of Imran.
6. There is a big section about Jesus. The stories of Jesus speaking in the cradle (v. 46) and making birds of clay (v. 49) come from well known apocryphal gospels. This gives us an insight as to the sources that were available to Muhammad.
Muhammad seeks to explain Jesus’ relationship to the Torah:
And (I come) confirming that which was before me of the Torah, and to make lawful some of that which was forbidden unto you. I come unto you with a sign from your Lord, so keep your duty to Allah and obey me. 3:50
And for those Christians who do not access Muhammad’s teaching Muslims are to solve the issue with a curse.
And whoso disputeth with thee concerning him, after the knowledge which hath come unto thee, say (unto him): Come! We will summon our sons and your sons, and our women and your women, and ourselves and yourselves, then we will pray humbly (to our Lord) and (solemnly) invoke the curse of Allah upon those who lie. 3:61
7. There is much about Abraham in this sura but Abraham is portrayed as a monotheist and not a man of the covenant. The result is the theme of the covenant which unites the Torah and Gospel is not understand.
O People of the Scripture! Why will ye argue about Abraham, when the Torah and the Gospel were not revealed till after him? Have ye then no sense? 3:6
Lo! those of mankind who have the best claim to Abraham are those who followed him, and this Prophet and those who believe (with him); and Allah is the Protecting Guardian of the believers. 3:68
It seems that being a monotheist is all that matters (v. 95) and the unifying promises given to Abraham are not present. This shows that Muhammad has no understanding of the main themes of the prophets.
It seems that the Christians were trying to explain the scriptures to the Muslims but Muhammad is telling the Muslims not to listen to the Christians or Jews but instead to only listen to what he is saying and that this is the way of Abraham. Muhammad has turned Muslims away from the writing of the prophets.
I think that we need to see what the Qur’an says about Jesus and Christians in order to understand an important aspect of how Muslims think of Christians. Imagine if there were Pharisees around today. Would not Christians think of them in terms of their NT description? I think that this is how Islamic culture sees Christians.
8. There was a lot about how to be “saved”
And obey Allah and the messenger, that ye may find mercy. And vie one with another for forgiveness from your Lord, and for a paradise as wide as are the heavens and the earth, prepared for those who ward off (evil); 3:132-133 and 136, 157, 163
Say, (O Muhammad, to mankind): If ye love Allah, follow me; Allah will love you and forgive you your sins. Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. 3:31
Every soul will taste of death. And ye will be paid on the Day of Resurrection only that which ye have fairly earned. Whoso is removed from the Fire and is made to enter paradise, he indeed is triumphant. The life of this world is but comfort of illusion. 3:185
There was a very strong martyr theme saying that the martyrs of Jihad are the ones in paradise. 3:169-172
9. In the second half there were many verses about giving away/using your wealth to follow Muhammad and join the Jihad. It is interesting to compare this call to the call of Jesus to give away and use our wealth to follow him.
10. A Common Word
Say: O People of the Scripture! Come to an agreement (common word) between us and you: that we shall worship none but Allah, and that we shall ascribe no partner unto Him, and that none of us shall take others for lords beside Allah. And if they turn away, then say: Bear witness that we are they who have surrendered (unto Him). 3:64
This verse is a key verse for how Muslims are to approach Christians. It is the call for Christians to be true monotheist like Muslims. It calls on Christian to worship God alone and not to associate (shirk) anything or anyone with God. This is a significant verse for Christian Muslim relations.
The assumption of the verse is that Christians do associate others with God and that Muslims do not, however, Christians need to realize that Muslims kiss the black stone in an animistic practice, that Muhammad in included in the Shahada, he is prayed to him in the Salaat, relied on for his intercession on the last day, his tomb is in the mosque in Medina and he approved of the collecting of his relics. Muhammad is associated with Allah at every point of Islamic practice. I am currently writing an article about this where I will provide all the references. 3:64 is indeed a key verse for Christian Muslim relations because Islam is Muhammadism.