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The Syro-Aramaic Reading of the Koran: A Contribution to the Decoding of the Language of the Koran 1st Edition

5 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-3899300888
ISBN-10: 3899300882
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Christoph Luxenberg is a German scholar and professor of ancient Semitic and Arabic languages.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 349 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books; 1st edition (March 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 3899300882
  • ISBN-13: 978-3899300888
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #303,584 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The author presents an analysis of the Koran that in an enlightened world would not be expected to excite controversy of any sort. The tone of the book is one of benevolent calm and carefully balanced reasoning that could hardly be expected to offend any person capable of sentient reflection. Most of the passages analyzed by the author would not seem to be on the verge of overturning Islam and the authority of the Koran. One passage of interest is the one in which Mary gives birth to Jesus. In this account there is an Arabic phrase indicating the existence of a streamlet from which Mary was able to drink while in labor. It is argued by the author, however, the original Aramaic version of this phrase states that the birth is legitimate (pp.141-142; Sura 19:24)) rather than that such a streamlit existed. Somewhat more controversial is the statement in the Koran that when rendered in Aramaic implies that its original language was indeed a foreign one and not Arabic (pp.123-124).

The topic that brought this book to the attention of the news media, that it is white raisins rather than willing virgins that the devout Muslim will encounter in Paradise, is given ample space. Indeed, pages 247-283 are devoted to this topic. The author regards his efforts as helping "the Koran to achieve its original inner coherence" (p.264) so that the notion of Paradise depicted by Ephraem the Syrian is restored to its proper place. The chapter "Virgins in Paradise" is followed by the chapter "The Boys of Paradise" (pp.284-291). Although the author does not suggest that any interpretation of the role of "boys" in such a place might be salacious, devout Muslims might take comfort in the author indicating that the Arabic word "walid" (i.e.
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Format: Hardcover
Have you ever read the Quran and wondered why some words don't seem to be translatable? The author of this book capitalizes on his erudite knowledge of Syriac and Arabic and does a fantastic job in unfolding the text of the Quran. He always addresses the Quran respectfully and strives to show the hidden beauty in some semitic cognates in the Quran. He compares Hijazi codex as well as other ancient codices in their script with Aramaic early script, thus dispelling all ambiguity. He focuses on that part of the Quran where it might have some commonality with the Quran. I can't recommend that book enough. It is a real masterpiece.
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Format: Hardcover
Just a warning: don't pick this book up on an evening when you feel like an Agatha Christie mystery. I might even forewarn you that at least some knowledge of Aramaic/Syriac and Arabic will help things along. But the book is a concentrated argument which you will want to taste and digest slowly.

An excellent companion book, by the way, is Jenkins' The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia--and How It Died, which came as a complete surprise to me --- the fact that Christianity flourished in the EAST for a thousand years: in Syria, Iraq, Iran, India, China, and Japan. For that thousand years (longer than Protestantism) the church language was Syriac (which could be called "Christian Aramaic.) Syriac, Aramaic, Arabic, and Hebrew are all linguistic kissing cousins from the family of Semitic languages, so it would hardly be a difficult job to "borrow" some Syriac hymns or other items from the Syriac lectionary, and put them into Arabic to make a new holy book. A problem which arose was incomplete understanding of the Syriac, or a clumsy rendition into Arabic, which resulted in what was really an absurd idea --- that the Muslim Paradise was to be given over to orgies with 72 eternally young virgins. It turns out that those "virgins" (never actually mentioned in the Koran) are wrenched out of a terribly opaque Arabic phrase, apparently meaning "white eyes" but actually referring to "crystal-clear white grapes." A similar fate awaits the "eternally young boys," who turn out to be "chilled grapes as lovely as pearls.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a superb work of Quranic scholarship, and a marvel of linguistic ingenuity, but heavy going for non-specialists.

Given the highly controversial ideas expressed by Luxenberg, a credible review can perhaps only be offered by scholars equally skilled in Aramaic and Arabic.

Fellow dilettantes may get a more complete and contextualized introduction to the broader thesis in play, from a more recent publication, 'Hidden Orgins of Islam." This is a collection of 10 essays, including one by Luxenberg, all bearing on different facets of the same broad revisionism directed at Islamic origins that Luxenberg explores here, limited to the Quran. By all means, read both, but I think one will relish 'The Syro-Aramic Reading' more, and will appreciate what Luxenberg has acccomplished, by digging into 'Hidden Origins' right away. Also, many of the understandably sensitive and incredulous reactions against' Luxenberg's views, which came out some years ago, can be finessed by seeing how well supported his thesis is, against this broader background of historical data and corroboration.
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