Was Eddy familiar with the Qur’an?

November 8, 2021

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Marginal note penciled by Mary Baker Eddy
in a printed sermon of Lyman Abbott. SB024.02, 91.

We know that Mary Baker Eddy was aware of the Qur’an, or Koran. But we find no evidence that she owned a copy of the Islamic sacred book, or that she had read it.

Eddy did not refer to the Qur’an in her published writings. She did, however, mark mentions of it in several newspaper clippings contained in her scrapbooks. For example, in “The Fatherhood of God,” a printed sermon by Lyman Abbott, she bracketed a sentence discussing how God might make Himself known through writings such as the Koran, the Vedas, or the writings of Confucius. Beside this she penciled the question “What of C.S.?”1

She made similar notations in her copy of Philosophic Nuggets. This 1899 collection included part of a lecture by Thomas Carlyle, “The Hero as Prophet.” She bracketed a sentence in a paragraph describing the Qur’an from Carlyle’s position far outside the Islamic tradition:

The panting, breathless haste and vehemence of a man struggling in the thick of battle for life and salvation; this is the mood he is in! A headlong haste, for very magnitude of meaning, he cannot get himself articulated into words. The successive utterances of a soul in that mood, colored by the various vicissitudes of three-and-twenty years…this is the Koran.

That description apparently resonated with Eddy as paralleling her own early efforts to share her discovery of Christian Science in Science and Health, which she had published in 1875. She noted on a flyleaf: “S. & H. as first written.”2

Although references to Islam appear infrequently in Eddy’s published writings, she did mention the Islamic faith several times in critiques of religious or medical systems—although never as the sole object of her appraisal. For example, she said this in an 1898 message to her church, “Christian Science versus Pantheism,” which was also published as a book: “We know of but three theistic religions, the Mosaic, the Christian, and the Mohammedan. Does not each of these religions mystify the absolute oneness and infinity of God, Spirit?”3

Eddy’s library included The Man Mohammed: A Dramatic Character-Sketch, by Tom Stecker. She marked several passages, perhaps seeing in the script something of her own life experience:

Here many a cloudy day and storm-torn night
I dwelt alone, with naught for my companion
But solitude, the ever silent stars,
And the torment and craving of my soul
Outdrained by prayer;….

Mine is a stern commission from on high;
Shall I be doubtful? Shall I hold my tongue?4

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  1. Lyman Abbott, “The Fatherhood of God,” The Outlook, 16 July 1898, 682; Eddy’s copy of the article and her notation are found in SB024.02, 91.
  2. Thomas Carlyle, “The Hero as Prophet,” in Philosophic Nuggets, ed. Jeanne G. Pennington (New York: Fords, Howard, and Hulbert, 1899), 45, emphasis added. Mary Baker Eddy Book Collection, B00261.
  3. Mary Baker Eddy, Christian Science versus Pantheism (Boston: The Christian Science Board of Directors), 7. Other references to Islam and Mohammed in Eddy’s published writings occur on page 8 of Christian Science versus Pantheism; page 166 of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures; and page 124 of Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896. Both Science and Health and Miscellaneous Writings are currently published by The Christian Science Board of Directors.
  4. Tom Stecker, The Man Mohammed: A Dramatic Character-Sketch (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Co-operative Press, 1900), 2, 5. Mary Baker Eddy Book Collection, PE00139.