Taylor Cambridge of Midland, said Ingrid Mattson's presentation at Saginaw Valley State University on the "Qur'an: Text, Context, and Tradition" Thursday, enlightened her.
"She presented the Qur'an as much more peaceful than I expected," said Cambridge, who attended with her mother because both were interested in the topic. "I've never read it, but I guess I just always thought it was harsher."
Mattson spoke at the Rhea Miller Recital Hall as part of SVSU's Dr. Raana Akbar Memorial Lecture series. The late Dr. Akbar was an advocate for religious tolerance and also served on SVSU's Board of Fellows. Mattson is an Islamic studies scholar, expert in interfaith relations and a Muslim religious leader. She also authored "The Story of the Qur'an." It is an academic bestseller.
"The Qur'an is our constitution," Mattson said of Muslims.
No matter where Muslims live, Mattson said they should be loyal and tolerant of other religions.
"There is multi religions where we live and we should be loyal to people we live with," she said. "There's no question about these two things for most Muslims."
"We're not here for no reason, but for spiritual divine. We're not the only living beings that matter," Mattson said, citing one of her favorite Qur'an passages.
Mattson said the Qur'an says, "We are part of life, but there are other creatures we have to listen to and take care of."
The Qur'an also encourages Muslims to pay attention and think, she said.
"We're not supposed to be mindless robots," she said.
In addition, she noted that the religious book emphasizes diversity, helping the needy and women's rights.
She said diversity isn't an accident, it is purposeful.
"The Qur'an has so much emphasis on orphans, needy and the marginalized," she said. "The Qur'an really calls to us. Are we doing enough?"
She said there is no way for this society or any society to achieve perfect justice, but Muslims are called to do what they can.
"It was very informational," said John Kinkena, of Midland, who attended because he was interested in learning more. "I don't have a lot of knowledge of the Qur'an."
Muslim Annie Martin, of Saginaw, who was a friend of Akbar's, enjoyed the lecture.
"I thought it was very informative," she said. "She covered many areas of society and many areas of Islam."
For Muslim Abeer Al-Gharaiben, a Central Michigan University sophomore, she said the lecture equipped her with many answers to questions she had about the Qur'an.
"The strong message of the Qur'an," Mattson said, "is it is possible to be better."