The Koran is a holy book which Islam maintains was delivered to the prophet Mohammed by the Angel Gabriel. Mohammed thus conveyed the Koran to mankind which is why he is often referred to as the Messenger. Muslims do not believe that the Koran was written by Mohammed , but rather a copy of the book that existed in heaven since the beginning of time. The Koran to most Muslims is timeless. This of course means that no pasage of the Koran can be questioned. Of course some Christians view the Bible in the same way, although now a relatively small minority. In the West historians and even religious scholars are able to argue that the Bible has to be seen in historical terms through the evolution of the Jewish people and early Christians. Scholars are even free to maintain that the Bible is a great work of literature and Jesus a great moral teacher, but not divine. This is not possible in Islamic countries. There are incidents of teachers being attacked and killed, sometimes by their own students for expousing such view. The Koran is of course central to the Islamic faith. Thus a knowledge of the Koran is essential to understand Islam. We have only begun to study the Koran. One topic we have persued is slavery.
The Koran is the holy book of Islam. The term Koran is most commonly used in English. Other terms are "Quran" or "Qur'an". The latter is probably the most literally correct transliteration. Curiously the original meaning of the word "Koran" is unknown. There are theories as to its meaning. Some believed it is derived from the Arabic word for 'collect' or the word for 'tie together'. Others believe that it meant "read" or "recite" both of which are important in Islam.
The Koran is a holy book which Islam maintains was delivered to the prophet Mohammed by the Angel Gabriel. Mohammed thus conveyed the Koran to mankind which is why he is often referred to as the Messenger. Muslims do not believe that the Koran was written by Mohammed , but rather a copy of the book that existed in heaven since the beginning of time. While Mohammed may have been the messenger or author (depending on ones religious and historical perspective), he never personally produced a copy of the Koran. Many passages were at first past on by memory and voice. The Koran we have today includes five types of passages. First are the revelations claimed by Mohammad during 610-32. (Mohammad died in 632.) Second Mohammed's supporters began writing down these passages. This process probably began about the same time Mohammed began describing his relevations, but continued for a few years after his death. Third, the definitive compilation of the varied writings seems to have occurred from the mid-630s through the mid-650s.
Fourth, the compilers added stories relating to Mohammad. These were mostly stories of him communicating directly with God. Most are discussioins of contemporary issues. Fifth, vowelling and dotting had to be added. The original writings were in Ancient Arabic which was written without dots. This was difficult to read because some letters are virtually identical. The lack of vowels also creates confusion. Different words look identical. At first learned opeople around Mohammed remembered the correct word. But eventually the Muslim community wanted the correct meaning of each word be recirded correctly.
The Koran is of course central to the Islamic faith. Thus a knowledge of the Koran is essential to understand Islam. The Koran to most Muslims is timeless. This of course means that no pasage of the Koran can be questioned. Of course some Christians view the Bible in the same way, although now a relatively small minority. In the West historians and even religious scholars are able to argue that the Bible has to be seen in historical terms through the evolution of the Jewish people and early Christians. Scholars are even free to maintain that the Bible is a great work of literature and Jesus a great moral teacher, but not divine. This is not possible in Islamic countries. There are incidents of teachers being attacked and killed, sometimes by their own students for expousing such view.
The Koran is organized primarily by the length of the chapter (surah) as opposed to chronology. The Koran is divided into 114 suras or chapters/books consisting of a varied number of verses (āya). Except for the surah (The Commencement), the longest surah are at the beginning and then gradually decrease in length. Surah 2 (The Cow) is 286 verses long. Surah 114 is only 6 verses long. The shortest surah are 103, 106 and 108--all only 3 verses long. Each Surah begins with an reference as to the origin, either the Meccan oir Medinan period. This creates problems because most Islamic scholars believe that some suras have passages from from period, despite the fact that only one period is indicated. This organization by length makes it difficult to follow any coherent story line and in fact there is much less of a historical content to the Koran compared to the Bible. Much of the Korn is commandments and warnings rather than stories. The lack of chronological order also makes it difficult to discern the Meccan from the Medinan verses. This is important because the later verses are given more authority by Islamic scholars. And as the Koran makes many seemingly conflicting statements, it is important to assess which verses have more authority than others. The organization and structure of the Koran is so complicated that it became a major field of study in the early Islamic period. While there is still some discussion, the basic approach was essentially resolved by early Islamic scholars and generally accepted today.
The original language of the Koran was Arabic, one of the world's great languages. It is notable for the fact that there is no past tense. This both reflects and affects how the Arabs view time.
Some of the major precepts of Islam are in sharp variance to the image of Islam in the West and the image increasingly being promoted by fundamentalist Islamic scholars. The Koran like the Bible has passages that can be used by fundamentalists to butress heir point of view. There are many passages, however, that promote many increasingly accepted principles of modern life.
"Islam was sent as mercy to humanity." [Surah 4: 79]
"Do not make mischief on earth." [Surah 29: 36]
"People, we have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes that you might know one another. The noblest of you before God is the most rghteous of you." [Surah 49: 13]
"There are among the People of the Book (Christains and Jews) standing nations that recite the message of God and worship throughout the, who believe in God, who order honor and forbid dishonor and hasten to do good work. These are the righthous." [Surah 3: 113-114]
Islam advocates plurality and moral equality of other faiths. [Surah 2: 62 and 5:69]
There are many compnents to tje Islamic religious tradition. We have focused on the Koran because it is the ultimate authotity in Islsm. Because the Holy Koran is considered to be the actual word of God, assessing the Koran can be very controversial. Muslims often insist that Islam is on of peace, tolerance, and understanfing. Give the terrible acts of relihious hates committed by Muslims against both other Muslims and against non-Muslims, this seems difficult to understand. So we have decided to study the Koran. We want to be fair. It is easy to take any religious text and unfairly criticise it my 1) creating false quotations, 2) taking excerpts, 3) quoting it out of context, 4) using faulty translations, and 5) failing to understand the meaning. We have tried to avoid these problems through by following a strict methedology. First, we will carefully indicate the sutra and verse so it is simple to verify that it is an actual Koranic passage. Second, we will use complete sentences and not just selected phrases that can be misleading. For example the Koran does say, "And you shall kill them wherever you find them ..." But we want to consider the entire verse to understand what the meaning was. Third, we will not only use complete verses, but also adjoining verses to provide the full context. Fourth, As the Koran is an Arabic text, non-Arabic speakers have to rely on translations. There are varitions in these translations (as there are in the Bible). To make sure that translations do not mislead us, we are willing to add translations which readers may think are more accurate. Fifth, Some Koranic veses are easy to interpret. Others are much more difficult to understand. Thus we hope to add an interpretive paragraph to discuss the verse. This is surely the most subjective part of our assessment. We are quite willing to add here insights that readers may have, including readers who disagree with our assessment. And we welcome comments on our methedology.
Charity is one of the five pillars od Islam. The arabic term is zakat (support of the needy). Muslims believe that all things belong to God. Wealth is thus only held by humans in trust. The original meaning of the word zakat is both ‘purification’ and ‘growth.’ Over time the word has taken on the modern meaning of charity, a kind of fusion od the original meanongs. Pne Muslim source tells us that giving zakat means ‘giving a specified percentage on certain properties to certain classes of needy people.’ The amount of wealth which makes one liable for Zakat is called Nisaab which is fixed by Prophet Muhammad as follows: "The percentage which is due on gold, silver, and cash funds that have reached the amount of about is two and a half percent. Our possessions are purified by setting aside a small portion for those in need, and, like the pruning of plants, this cutting back balances and encourages new growth." Given the imporance of zakat, we are astounded by the lack of support for Syrian refuf=gees from Arab countries and the wider Muslim community (2015). Giving for crisis in Muslkim countries is very limited and even less when Muslims are not involved. And considerable charitable giving appears to be going when relgious issues are involved, including donations to violent groups as long as they claim to be acting to support Islam.
One topic we have persued is the Koran and slavery. While the European Atlantic slave trade was conducted over four centuries, the Arab African slave trade was conducted over 14 centuries, and has not finally ended even in the 21st century. A factor here is that slavery is scationed in the Koran and many Arabs and othet Muslims believe that the Koran is the literal word of God which can not be questioned by our more enlightened modern attitudes on social values and human rights. There are many references to slavery in the Koran. Some authors desribe this as Mohammed's attitude toward slavery, but this is not how many Muslims view it. Remember that Mohammed was a prophet, God's messenger. More correctly, the Koranic verses to many Muslims provide a statement of God's views on slavery. The clear conclusion from all these passages is that God saw slavery as a natural aspect of human relations. This explains why there was been no abolitionist movement within Islam and wehy it was the Brirish Royal Navy that ended the slave trade in the Indian Ocean. The many passages in the Koran mentioning slavery are rather ambigious, not unlike the Bible. Often the point of the passage is not clear. We can offer some suggestions as to the meaning. But we certainly do not pretend to be Islamic scholars. Reader comments are invited to help us better understand these various passages. One interesting aspect here is the number of references to which a Muslim might free a slave as the consequence for violating a Koranic injuction. This would make holding slaves a useful practice beyond the actual services they might render. It is notable the number of the 114 surah/sura (chapters) of the Koran that have refences to slavery.
Another pertinent topic is the Koran and the Jews. The Koran is the fundamental foundation of Muslim society. Thus we need to look at precisely what the Koran says about Jews to fully understand modern attitudes. Many modern Muslims take the Koran as the literal and perfect word of God so Koranic references are very important. The Koran is divided into 114 chapters called surahs each whoch has been given a name. Like the Bible's books, each Koranic surah is divided into verses. with many verses. The Koran is notable both for the number of references to Jews and to the wide variation in the attitudes involved. Some are tolerant while others are highly disparinging and offensive to many modern readers. The meaning of some of the passages are not readily apparent. We encourage reades to add their insights as to these passages. The Koran was of course written in Arabic and the references here are English traditions. We encourage Arabic readers to comment if they believe the translation rendered here is inaccuate or misleading. We will be glad to present alternative translations as well. The actual meaning of some of these references is not always clear and again we invite reader comment to provide further insights.
Women in many Muslim countries are second-class citizens. This results from both the Koran and other Islaamic teachings. The Koran has a great deal to say about the status of women in society and the treatment of women. Some if the most important deal with marriage and divorce, modesty, and inheritance. Some of the passages are quite explicit. Others are a little more difficult to understand. The Koranic passages are very important because so many Muslims believe that the Koran is the litteral word of God transcribed by his Profhet Mohammed. This means that many Muslims do not believe that these passages can be questioned and should be reflected in their country's legal code. Muslims can question the meaning of Koranic passages. And in the case of ambiguous passages this provides some room for moving away from the more extreme interpretation. Many of these passages, however, are very specific and clear and thus there is no way of questioning them.
Many Islamic scholars, almost all men, have written a great length about clothing, especially women's clothing. The Koran which od course is the ultimate authority in Islam, comments only briefly on clothing. About the women clothing the Koran says : "And tell the believing women to subdue their eyes, and maintain their chastity. They shall not reveal any parts of their bodies, except that which is necessary. They shall cover their chests, and shall not relax this code in the presence of other than their husbands, their fathers, the fathers of their husbands, their sons, the sons of their husbands, their brothers, the sons of their brothers, the sons of their sisters, other women, the male servants or employees whose sexual drive has been nullified, or the children who have not reached puberty" (24:31). The Koran don't mention a veil covering the face. However this tradition was introduced in many places. About modesty rules, Koran makes a difference between adults and "children who have not reached puberty". Traditionally in some Islamic communities the little children have no rules about clothing and go usually naked. This was more common in rural communities. It is als observable in modern times when we see younger children, even in conservative Muslim countries, wearing Western dress.
The Koran is generally portrayed as advocating sexual restraint. This is best expressed in the Muslim world as modesty in dress. Many Muslim countries in particular seem obsessed with enforcing extreme midesty in women's dress. Islamic scholars debate just what is required. The most extreme form is expressed in the all-enveloping burqa, a form of dress no where mentioned in the Koran. But what is most starteling about the Koran is the number of sexually charged passages in a religion with believers that advocate draconian repression of sexuality. All of these passages deal wih how male Muslims will be rewarded. Most of these passages describes how deserving Muslims will be rewarded with virgins. But even more astonishingly for a religious community repelled by homosexuality, there are even Koranic passages suggesting that deserving Muslims will be rewarded with beautiful boys. Perhaps our Muslim readers can explain these passages to us, but the wording seems all to clear. Remember that Muslims see these words as the very words of God.
Islam is often desribed as a religion of peace. And there are references toward peace in the Koran. but there are also many references to war and violence. The number of such references is disturbing. Even more disturbing are references to violence as a positive good and references justifying violence against unbrlivers. These passages are unlike any in the religious books of the worlds other great religions. Several of these passages would seem to give a Muslim justification for suiside bombers targetting Jews, Christians, and even Muslims of differing views. The Koran also authorizes violence against women. In reading these passages it should be remembered that Islamic scholars teach that the Koran is the literal, perfect word of God and can not be questined. We have quoted the various pertinent passages from the Koran and attempted to assess their meaning. Some are elusive. Others seem rather straight forward. We do not pretend to be Islamic scholars and welcome any insights that readers might have.
A Muslim reader writes to us, "As for the wide gap that exists between the truth/ the essence of the Quran, and what has been widely practiced under the banner of Islam by the so-called Muslims in the so-called Islamic countries, it is all because of following man-made doctrines rather than the divine word of God. The religion of Islam (Submission to God alone) has been severely corrupted. 200+ years after prophet Muhammad's death, the human being started to innovate some man-made doctrines and lies and falsely attributed them to the prophet and to this great religion. Over the years, these innovations (Hadith and Sunna) have become an official source of laws and Shariaa besides the Quran in most of the so- called Islamic countries. It has been proclaimed that Quran alone is not enough as a source of law. A blasphemy that contradicts what God states about the Quran being complete (6:115), perfect (11:1, 2:2) , fully detailed (6:114) and has all what we need for our salvation (6:51). They have disbelieved in the word of God and uttered the word of idol worship, the only unforgivable sin (4:116). Prophet Muhammad delivered nothing but the Quran, uttered nothing but the Quran and was forbidden to explain the Quran (69:40-47, 75:16-19). Quran is the only valid and divine source of religious laws for us, Submitters to God alone. God the teacher of the Quran (55:1-2), and He is the only entity that explains the Quran (75:19)." We believe that most Muslim scholars would take issue with this, but it is interesting to know that this debate exists within Islam. [BK}
Many of the great religious traditions share important moral teachings. Whike the metaphysics of the relgions commonly diverge significantly, there are many important moral teachings that most important religions agree on or share. It is interesting to assess how the Koran falls into this universiality. One of the key moral teachings is what Christians refer to as the Golden Rule. President Obama tells us that all great religious traditions emrace this teaching (February 2, 2012). It certainly was a central teaching of Jesus. "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them." [Matthew 7:12] This is repeated in Luke. [Luke 6:31] The most common English phrasing is "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you". Jews call it the 'Great Commandment' (ואהבת לרעך כמוך) "The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I the LORD am your God. [Leviticus 19:34] We do not find the Golden Rule in the Koran, perhaps our Muslim readers have been able to find it and we would be intereted in hearing from them. We note that Wikipedia in an essay detailing versions of thge Golden Rule sanctioned by various religions lists several Koranic verses encourafing charity, but nothing sounding like the Golden Rule. And Koranic verses rather than promoting Muslims to love their neighbors, explicitly warns them to be wary ad not associate with non-Muslims. The Koran instructs Muslims, "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. Allah biddeth you beware (only) of Himself. Unto Allah is the journeying. [Qur’an 3:28] This seems to be the opposite of the Christian Golden Rule.
BK. eMail message, December 3, 2007.
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