The Koran - What It Is And What It Isn't


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The "people of the book" are referred to in the Koran.

The Arabic can be transliterated as Awhl al Kitab ("Kitab" means book), and they are stated in the Koran to be those who have had revealed to them a revelation of a montheistic god prior to Mohammed. This is mainly in the Sura called The Dinner Table.

The peoples mentioned as "people of the book" are the Israelites, the Christians, and some people called the Sabians, whose identity is disputed. Many Shia consider them to be the Zorastrians, which the Sunni in general do not - (Saba is also the name of an ancient city state which was located in South Oman/Yemen at the height of the incense boom, which had faded away by Mohammed's time, and which is one candidate for Sheba where the Queen came from...I've visited its ruins).

The books mentioned are called in the Koran "Tawrat" "Zabur" and "Injeel", which are generally understood within Islam to mean the Torah, the book of Psalms, and the 4 Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

The revelation of these books are considered in Islam to have come from God, just as the Koran is, but that these early revelations are capped or completed by the revelations given to Mohammed, which are seen as the final and absolute message from God to the world. Thus Mohammed is referred to as "the seal of the prophets".

So Islam reckons Abraham, Moses, Jacob and Jesus (to name a few) as divinely-inspired prophets prior to Mohammed.

Basically, the "People of the Book", for Muslims, are believers in a monotheistic Creator God who reveals himself through prophets, and who believe in a Day of Judgement, Heaven and Hell, angels and Adam and Eve.

It is usually only applied to the pre-Islamic revealed religions, because of this idea that Mohammed's was the final revelation.

Early-ish Christianity took a similar view, and regarded Islam (bizarrrely) as a Christian heresy because it came after the final revelation (which, to them, was Christ's).

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I actually picked up a Koran and started to read it once. I opened the book randomly and read a passage which seemed to rate women as half as valuable as men and I tossed it in the trash.

That's funny. The same thing happened to me.

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That's funny. The same thing happened to me.

I must admit though that looking back on the incident that some prejudice must have played a large part in my actions. I had the same disgusted reaction when I started reading the Book of Mormom and saw Adam and Eve's name and yet I still read on.

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I must admit though that looking back on the incident that some prejudice must have played a large part in my actions. I had the same disgusted reaction when I started reading the Book of Mormom and saw Adam and Eve's name and yet I still read on.

Were you surprised to see Adam and Eve's names?

I must admit that I had spiritual blinders on at the time. I was a devout Christian but also pretty egalitarian so the sexism in the Quran was enough to get me to stop reading. The sexism in the Bible, however, wasn't enough to get me to stop reading the Bible. I could always rationalize the defects away.

Edited by Etherman
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Asalaam Alaikum,

Hehehe..No offense Mark, been a while since I have had the opportunity to be on the forums, but I hope to be back more regularlly in the near future. The Koran as it is, was revealed in parts as God deemed the Muslims needed such revelation for guidance. Therefore, to truly understand the texts of the Koran we must also look at what particualr situation or crisis the fledgling nation of Islam was facing at the time of the revelations.

Something else that must be taken into consideration when looking at English translations is the actual root of certian Arabic words used that may have more than one meaning that may cause for misinterpertation. Many times during the past English translations of the Koran were translated by people whose primary language was not Arabic leading to some misinterpertations. Having said that, I myself must rely on these English translations as Arabic is not my primary language. It is important to find a good source or translation. Personally for my studies I look at several translations and examine each to see the varying perspectives of the translators.

Unfortunately I have to keep this short, but I will attempt to answer some of the questions regarding this thread in the next day or so...

Abdullah

Since you are a Muslim - - - or at least know the Koran - - - please post the Sura often called The Throne. If ever there was a favorite Sura of mine, that would be it. I so much would appreciate it, Abdullah!

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No, but treat them with a suitable caution...

The article is interesting on a number of grounds.

One is the (bleeping obvious point but it still needs to be said) fact that there are numerous interpretations of Sharia and ways of understanding the Koran and Hadith teaching on this, as on many other issues - no one interpretation is going to be acceptable to every single Muslim.

Islam, no less than Christianity, is full of different schools of thought, and it's a foolish attitude that sees either as monolithic.

Another is the point on translation - usury or interest or "eating" for riba?

Arabic is a richly allusive and metaphorical language (I believe: I'm not in a position to appreciate how far this is true, but all Arabic scholars seem to agree it is).

The other point (which the author does not make directly) is that Islam continues a prohibition on usury that the Christian world divested itself of many centuries ago.

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Since you are a Muslim - - - or at least know the Koran - - - please post the Sura often called The Throne. If ever there was a favorite Sura of mine, that would be it. I so much would appreciate it, Abdullah!

Asalaam Alaikum

GOD - there is no deity save Him, the Ever-Living, the Self-Subsistent Fount of All Being. Neither slumber overtakes Him, nor sleep. His is all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth. Who is there that could intercede with Him, unless it be by His leave? He knows all that lies open before men and all that is hidden from them, whereas they cannot attain to aught of His knowledge save that which He wills [them to attain]. His eternal power overspreads the heavens and the earth, and their upholding wearies Him not. And he alone is truly exalted, tremendous. [The Quran, 2:255]

This is indeed a powerful verse which encompases many of the aspects of God relayed to us by the Prophet in an attempt to explain to us his power and or everlasting presence. In many ways if sums of the overall perspective of Allah for Muslims as well as most of the Abrahamic religions. This verse in very much an affirmation of the opening verse of the Quran. This technique is often used in the Quran to help to emphasize the importance of and to impress upon the people the power of God, that his being is unique and none are his equal.

In the name of God, The Most Gracious, The Dispenser of Grace: All praise is due to God alone, the Sustainer of all the worlds, The Most Gracious, the Dispenser of Grace, Lord of the Day of Judgment! Thee alone do we worship; and unto Thee alone do we turn for aid. Guide us the straight way. The way of those upon whom Thou hast bestowed Thy blessings, not of those who have been condemned [by Thee], nor of those who go astray! [The Quran, 1:1-7]

As you can see these verses are similar, they are both favorites of mine and both are often recited by Muslims during thier evening prayers. These concepts are not uniqe to the Quran, the Bible and Torah often speak of these same attributes in relation to God. This is no surprise to Muslims as the consider the God of the Bible and that of the Torah to be the one and the same. This should not be of any surprise to many of you here as the Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Judisim, and Islam) all come from the same basic theological principles as we have discussed here on many occasions.

Anyway, thanks for remining me of that verse, it is definately one of my favorites as well.

Adbullah

Edited by Abdullah
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Asalaam Alaikum,

Hmmmm.....A complex topic started on this thread is that of translations and versions of the Quran. First, I will tackle the topic of variations of the Quran. I will attempt, in my own humble way, to explain my views on this topic and attempt to reveal the more common Islamic thoughts on these subjects as I can. Please note that although I have studied the Quran somewhat extensively, I am not an Islamic scholar by any means, and my command of written Arabic is almost non-existent. In addition, I am an American born and raised and having served my country as many have here. I have never had the opportunity to travel to the Middle East or any other Islamic country as of yet, but I have met many people from this region and formed some lasting frendships with many Muslim brothers and sisters. In many ways, I have come to find that this allows me to read and study the Quran without any 'cultural bias's' if you will that have worked their way into the practice of Islam, but are not necessarily a part of the Quran.

From a Islamic perspective, the original revelations of the Quran were presented or revealed to Mohammad from God. As he could not write Arabic (or any language for that matter), he recieted these revelations to his closest followers until they could recite these revelations word for word. Some of these companions of the Prophet could read and write and began to write these verses on various media that was available at the time. Having said that, it was the spoken word or recitation of the Quran that was considered most important. During the time of the Prophet these companions would then teach the recitation of the Quran to new Muslims. After the final revelation of the Quran, the Prophet made sure that these islamic scholars were able to recite the Quran word for word before he died (a skill and practice that is still looked on with reverance in the Islamic community).

After the death of the Prophet, Islam began to spread quickly throughout the Middle East as there were many new converts from various nations. As Ilsam expanded to far away lands and Muslims founds themselves further away from Mecca and Medina scholars began to see that in the farther reaches of the Islamic nation where Arabic may not have been the dominant language that there began to be some variations in it's teachings as some Muslims knew some of the verses of the Quran but not the entire recitation. During this time of expansion and conflict, many of the original companions of the Prophet began to die off of either of old age, or through battle. Fearing that the revelations of the Prophet could be lost, the current Caliph (leader of the Islamic nation) placed a call for the remaining living companions of the Prophet and those who were known to be able to recite the Quran word for word in it's original revaltion to come together and write down the Quran in one complete concise document or book.

In order for this 'Quran' to be seen as authentic, each word was verified by the companions of the Prophet and all had to be in agreement before is was written down. When this task was completed, the original manuscript was then copied and a copy was sent to each major Islamic seat of power. Once this was done all exisitng written material such as partial copies, or verses which did not meet the scrutiny of the Prophets comapanions (would could recite the Quran word for word as taught to them by the Prophet) were ordered burned or destroyed.

The destruction of these partial documents was done in order to keep the Quran from being changed over time by mankind so that an original concise document or Quran would be available for the growing Muslim population. The verses of the Quran are often grouped in chapters by subject matter and sometimes by the time of there revelation which can in some ways make it somewhat difficult to read. Having said that the basic Islamic principle is that the Quran we use today is in essence the Quran revelaed by Go to the Prophet Mohammad. The oldest existing Quran known, I believe, is over 1600 years old, it is said that the Quran of today is an exact duplicate word for word.

Abduallah

Next: I will look at English traslations, which one I prefer, and the general Islamic perspective regarding the translation of the Quran for non-Arabic speaking Muslims.

Edited by Abdullah
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English Translations of the Quran

Asalaam Alaikum,

There are many different English versions of the Qur’an. The word "version" means a Qur’an written in a language different from that in which God's Word was originally written. There are two types of English versions of the Qur’an: translations and paraphrases.

Translation - A translation is an effort to express what the Arabic words actually say into another language. It gives as nearly as possible a literal word by word translation. Extra words may be inserted only when it is necessary in order for the reader to understand the meaning of a particular passage or to make it grammatically correct.

Paraphrase - A paraphrase does not attempt to translate word for word. It translates thought by thought. A paraphrase is a restatement of the meaning of a passage. Paraphrase versions are easier to read and understand because they are generally written in modern vocabulary and grammar, but they are not an exact translation of God's Word.

The Qur’an was originally written in the Arabic of the tribe of the Quarish to which the Prophet Muhammad belonged. The dialect of the Quarish was considered Arabic of the highest level or the most eloquent of that time. Therefore, a proper understanding of the Qur’an is based on the knowledge and appreciation of its language.

No translation is exact because no two languages are exactly alike. In the case of English translations of the Qur’an, some words used in the Arabic of the Qur’an do not exist in the English language. In addition, some words in Arabic have multiple meanings and must be examined carefully to determine the correct message God was revealing to Muhammad. These are just two examples of the difficulties in translating the Qur’an into modern English.

It is because of this that Muslim scholars view translations of the Qur’an, regardless of the language, as improper, but necessary in order to spread the message of the Prophet. The reasoning being that any translation will make the original meaning weaker and or may change the meaning of the text no matter how faithful and efficient the translator. Therefore, any translation which is performed by a man is prone to be flawed. Because of this Islamic scholars contend that these translations of the Qur’an should not be considered as ‘The Qur’an’ itself, but rather an interpretation of the Qur’an.

Translations of The Qur’an

The following are the most common English versions of the Qur’an. Personally, I recommend using The Holy Qur’an, Translated by: Muhammad Asad. It is one of my favorite translations, Asad had a good command of the English language and he gives very insightful notes and information regarding Qur’anic Arabic and the multiple meanings or interpretations of key terms. However, if a English speaking person is really interested in studying the Qur’an, I recommend having as many different versions of the Qur’an in English as possible for reference when studying the Qur’an as each translation is only as good as it’s author and inevitably their own biases may influence their choice of words during translation.

Muhammad Marmaduke William Pickthall – Was an Englishman who embraced Islam, his translation of the Qur’an “The Meaning of the Glorious Quran” (London, 1930) holds the distinction of being one the earliest first-rate renderings of the Qur’an in English. It keeps scrupulously close to the original in elegant, though now a somewhat archaic for of the English language. Although it is one of the most widely used English translations, it provides scant explanatory notes and background information. This in of itself is not a reason to not choose this Qur’an, however this obviously restricts its usefulness for an uninitiated reader of the Qur’an.

Abdullah Yusuf Ali – Perhaps the most popularly produced English translation, “The Holy Quran: Translation and Commentary” (Lahore, 1934-37) stands as another major achievement in this field. Yusuf Ali was not a classical Muslim scholar; however, he was one of the few Muslims who enjoyed an excellent command over the English language and this is reflected in his translation. Although this translation is considered more of a paraphrase than a literal translation, it faithfully represents the sense or theme of the original. This is the Qur’an that many English speaking peoples receive. It is most often seen in paperback form and is relatively cheap to purchase and reproduce. Like Pickthall’s translation, this paraphrased version of the Qur’an contains it provides scant explanatory notes and background information.

Abdul Majid Daryabadi – This complete translation, “The Holy Quran: with English Translation and Commentary” (Lahore, 1941 - 57) has a distinctive Muslim viewpoint. Like Pickthall's earlier attempt, it is a faithful rendering, supplemented with useful notes on historical, geographical and eschatological issues, particularly the illuminating discussions on comparative religion. However, it contains minimal background information regarding the revelation of the chapters of the Quran.

Muhammad Asad – This translation The Message of the Quran (Gibraltar, 1980) represents a notable addition to the body of English translations couched in chaste English. This highly readable translation contains useful background information about the Qur’anic chapters and even provides exhaustive notes on various Qur’anic themes. Some Islamic scholars challenge his non-traditional unorthodox viewpoint of some Islamic doctrines. This translation is one of the most modern and Asad attempts to bring the true meaning and essence of the Qur’an to English speaking peoples.

It cannot be denied that at the time of its revelation, the divinity of the Qur’an remained questionable among many of the Arabic people, primarily those of the Quarish. However, no one was able to challenge the grandeur of its Arabic, the Qur’an proclaimed that it was a miracle of language, literature and expression, and challenged the Quarish (the tribe of the Prophet who became the enemies of the Muslims) to come up with just one chapter like it. In fact, God called upon them in the Qur’an to call upon all their poets, orators, soothsayers, and their false Gods to help them refute its divinity.

And if you doubt any part of what We have, bestowed from on high, step by step, upon Our servant [Muhammad], then produce a surah of similar merit, and call upon any other than God to bear witness for you if what you say is true! [Holy Quran 2:23, Asad]

Say: "If all mankind and all invisible beings would come together with a view to producing the like of this Qur'an, they could not produce its like even though they were to exert all their strength in aiding one another!" [Holy Quran 17:88, Asad]

In my personal studies and theology, I believe that the meaning, theme, or lesson that the text is trying to impart to the reader is as important as the words themselves. When looking at and interpreting scripture one must be aware not only of the words, the verses, and the chapters but also the theme of the scripture. In addition, one must be aware of the underlying events that were present at the time of the revelation of the scripture to the Prophet Muhammad. As English speaking people (Americans) we live in a totally different culture, time, and mindset than that of the people who lived during the time of the Prophet Muhammad or any of God’s prophets (Abraham, Noah, Jesus etc.). When we look at, and attempt to interpret scripture whether it is the Qur’an, the Torah, or the Bible we must keep these things in mind so that we can find the true meaning of these texts in relation to their revelation.

Peace Be With You…..

Abdullah….’The non-Islamic Scholar’.

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While responding to all of the verse’s posted in the original message by Fawzo would take more time than I have available anytime soon, I have chosen a few primarily because to the uninitiated reader these verses seem to have very anti Jewish and Christian overtones. It is important to note that at the time of the Prophet Muhammad the term “Christian” was not used, or at least not in the Mecca and Medina area. It is also important to note that while in Medina the Jews, Muslims, and early Christians all worked and governed together. Some early translations may have added the term Jews or Christians in brackets [ ] to help the reader understand who was being spoken about in the verses of the Qu’ran.

I did not go through all the translations of the Qu’ran, but the three most common: Pickthall, Asad, Yusaf Ali and none of them used the terms “Jews” or “Christians” in any of the verses quoted by the original poster of this message, therefore, I am not aware of which translation is being used. However, because these do have such potentially harmful overtones I decided to respond to these verses specifically.

Fawzo: Allah stamped wretchedness upon the Jews because they killed the prophets and disbelieved Allah's revelations. 2:61

And [remember] when you said: "O Moses, indeed we cannot endure but one kind of food; pray, then, to thy Sustainer that He bring forth for us aught of what grows from the earth - of its herbs, its cucumbers, its garlic, its lentils, its onions." Said [Moses]: "Would you take a lesser thing in exchange for what is [so much] better? Go back in shame to Egypt, and then you can have what you are asking for!" And so, ignominy and humiliation overshadowed them, and they earned the burden of God's condemnation: all this, because they persisted in denying the truth of God's messages and in slaying the prophets against all right: all this, because they rebelled [against God], and persisted in transgressing the bounds of what is right. [The Quran, 2:61]

As in the latter instance, this revelation is in the form of the story of the Children of Israel’s (Jews) flight from slavery at the hands of the Egyptians. In this instance, while they gained their freedom and God had provided them with sustenance, the Children of Israel wanted more. They were not content with what God had provided and wanted Moses to ask God for a better variety of food. If you go back and read the previous verses you will see that more than once God had provided for the Israelites, and forgave them of their sins. Their response was not unlike my thirteen year old grandson who always seems to want more and often does not seem appreciative of what he has.

This verse then makes a literacy shift and speaks of the how they rebelled against God covenant and killed his prophets, this combined with their unceasing happiness of what God had provided them led to their condemnation.

The literary shift mention in the previous paragraph is not uncommon in the Qu’ran and relates to a later time in Jewish history in which they actually killed some of the prophets of God such as John the Baptist. In deed, Jesus himself accused the Jews of such crimes in the New Testament “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killeth the prophets, and stoneth them that are sent unto her! how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! [Matthew, 23:37]

This revelation is meant as a warning to those who do not follow God’s laws, or seek to cause

Havoc among the community, and those who are not grateful for all that God has provided for them. Rather than complain we should be like Moses, thankful and praise God for all he does for us everyday. This verse is not meant to be anti-Semitic, the same fate will befall anyone of us if we act in the way that the Children of Israel did. God is telling us that we are responsible for our actions and that our actions have consequences if not in this life than in the afterlife.

Fawzo: Allah turned the Sabbath-breaking Jews into apes. 2:65-66

VERILY, those who have attained to faith [in this divine writ], as well as those who follow the Jewish faith, and the Christians, and the Sabians - all who believe in God and the Last Day and do righteous deeds-shall have their reward with their Sustainer; and no fear need they have, and neither shall they grieve. AND LO! We accepted your solemn pledge, raising Mount Sinai high above you, [and saying;] "Hold fast with [all your] strength unto what We have vouchsafed you, and bear in mind all that is therein, so that you might remain conscious of God!" And you turned away after that-! And had it not been for God's favor upon you and His grace, you would surely have found yourselves among the lost; for you are well aware of those from among you who profaned the Sabbath, whereupon We said unto them, "Be as apes despicable!" and set them up as a warning example for their time and for all times to come, as well as an admonition to all who are conscious of God. [The Quran, 2:62-66]

This verse is an example of what happens to those who break from God’s law’s or covenant; in this instance, the Jews who broke the Sabbath but such a warning applies to Muslims or anyone breaking God’s covenant or law. The term or expression “like an ape” or “be as an ape” is often used in classical Arabic to describe a person who is unable to retrain his/her gross appetites. Therefore, we see that their hearts and minds were transformed, but they were not actually turned into apes. Rather, God cursed them to become slaves of their worldly desires and appetites, which would doom them to the hell-fire, a theme we see often in the Qur’an, the Bible, and the Torah.

Fawzo: Jews are the greediest of all humankind. They'd like to live 1000 years. But they are going to hell. 2:96

And, lo, We accepted your solemn pledge, raising Mount Sinai high above you, [saying,] "Hold fast with [all your] strength unto what We have vouchsafed you, and hearken unto it!" [but] they say, "We have heard, but we disobey" - for their hearts are filled to overflowing with love of the [golden] calf because of their refusal to acknowledge the truth. Say: "Vile is what this [false] belief of yours enjoins upon you-if indeed you are believers!" Say: "If an afterlife with God is to be for you alone, to the exclusion of all other people, then you should long for death - if what you say is true!" But never will they long for it, because [they are aware] of what their hands have sent ahead in this world: and God has full knowledge of evildoers. And thou wilt most certainly find that they cling to life more eagerly than any other people, even more than those who are bent on ascribing divinity to other beings beside God: every one of them would love to live a thousand years, although the grant of long life could not save him from suffering [in the hereafter]: for God sees all that they do. [The Quran, 2:93-6]

Moses having traveled to the top of Mount Sinai returned to find that the Children of Israel had made the golden calf idol during his absence. Idol worship was common in the Arabic subcontinent during the time of the Prophet Muhammad therefore this story was of grave importance to the new Muslim community. It taught them that the worshiping of false God’s or attributing divine status to others besides God was a sin of utmost gravity. Again we also see the reoccurring theme that those who disobey God’s laws or commandments will be punished. Indeed, anything that we do good or evil cannot be hidden from God for he has full knowledge of those who do evil. While again this story is in regards to the Children of Israel, it is not a blanket statement that “Jews are greediest of all humankind.” Rather the revelation of this verse is to once again emphasize the importance of obeying the laws of God, and the punishment for not doing so.

Fawzo: "They [Christians and Jews] say: The Fire will not touch us save for a certain number of days. That which they used to invent hath deceived them regarding their religion." (The Fire will burn them forever.) 3:24

Verily, as for those who deny the truth of God's messages, and slay the prophets against all right, and slay people who enjoin equity - announce unto them a grievous chastisement. It is they whose works shall come to nought both in this world and in the life to come; and they shall have none to succour them. Art thou not aware of those who have been granted their share of revelation [aforetime]? They have been called upon to let God's writ be their law - and yet some of them turn away [from it] in their obstinacy, simply because they claim, "The fire will most certainly not touch us for more than a limited number of days": and thus the false beliefs which they invented have [in time] caused them to betray their faith. How, then, [will they fare] when We shall gather them all together to witness the Day about [the coming of] which there is no doubt, and every human being shall be repaid in full for what he has done, and none shall be wronged? [The Quran, 3:21-25]

This verse is simply a retelling of the story outlined in verse 2:61, although here it specifically speaks of the Day of Judgment and expands on the theme that mankind will be judged for his actions or deeds. Again, this verse does not specifically mention the people of Jewish or Christian faith, Rather the implication is that those who believe that they cannot be punished or do not believe in hell will be unpleasantly surprised on the Day of Judgment. As we have seen in verses 2:65-66, of the Qu’ran, God tells us there is a place in paradise for Muslims, Christians and Jews who believe in God and follow his laws and obey do good deeds. VERILY, those who have attained to faith [in this divine writ], as well as those who follow the Jewish faith, and the Christians, and the Sabians - all who believe in God and the Last Day and do righteous deeds-shall have their reward with their Sustainer; and no fear need they have, and neither shall they grieve.

As we can see there are just as many bad English translations of the Qu’ran as there are good ones, especially if someone is politically or philosophically motivated to use such texts to further their agenda. Unfortunately, if you do not have some knowledge of the Qu’ran or have access to a Mosque or informed Muslim you may be mislead be the multitude of misinformation on the internet.

That being said, there are probably just as many or more Muslims in countries throughout the Middle East who are more misinformed about Christianity and Judaism. The media as well as religious and political leaders on both sides have had a hand in stirring up mistrust among the East and the West. Maybe one day there will actually be peace in the Middle East, but this American is not holding his breath.

Peace Be With You,

Abdullah…..The non-Islamic Scholar

Edited by Abdullah
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