69 of 80 people found the following review helpful
It ain't the Bible...and that's okay.,
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This review is from: The Koran: A Very Short Introduction (Paperback)I really appreciated this (very) short introduction to the Koran. As a Christian who is fairly familiar with my own tradition's sacred book, the Bible, I found it helpful in explaining how the Koran and Bible are different. The books that make up the Bible were written over many centuries, the Koran was written and compiled in less than a century (and five centuries after the latest book in the New Testament). Most Jews and Christians read their Bibles in a translation (leaving it to their biblical scholars to learn the original languages); the Koran is read and recited exclusively in its original Arabic, even in countries where Arabic is not a native language (Iran, Malaysia). The Bible contains many types of literature--poetry, wisdom sayings, compelling narratives, prophetic utterances; the Koran refers to events and stories (including some, like Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, from the Jewish and Christian Scriptures) but has no narratives of its own (not even the story of its primary prophet, Muhammad) and consists only of prophetic utterances. The Bible is quite long; the Koran is relatively short and some Muslims have memorized it in its entirety. The Bible plays a significant role in the liturgy of Jews and Christians; public reading of the Koran is not part of Islamic public worship.
However, like the Hebrew Bible with its Midrashim and Talmud, and New Testament with the writings of the church fathers, the Koran has gathered around itself a enormous body of commentaries to help explain its difficult and contradicory texts. Many Islamic beliefs that are attributed to the Koran are actually based on the commentaries of its interpreters.
I liked this book because it focused solely on the Koran itself. Most books I've picked up on Islam don't give this much attention to the Koran, or only refer to it intermittently. For a "very short introduction" there's a lot here to digest.
The photos and illustrations are interesting and instructive. The book also includes a short chapter on reading Arabic transliteration, an annotated bibliography, and an index.
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Initial post: Aug 29, 2009 9:35:12 PM PDT
A. Al-Matti says:
I just have a few comments on your review.
1- "Some Muslims have memorized it". Actually many Muslims since the time of the Prophet (Peace and Blessings upon Him) till day have memorized it. Its size is about the same as the New Testament.
2- Concerning the role of the Qur'an in Islamic public worship. I would argue that it actually plays a much larger role, since the five daily prayers of Muslims must include the recitation of Qur'an in them. Three of these prayers are read out loud, and most practicing Muslims around the world pray at least a few of their prayers a day in congregation. During the month of Ramadan, the custom practice is the recitation of the whole Qur'an in super-obligatory night prayers that most people participate in. Also, the Islamic friday sermon often revolves around the meanings of different verses.
3- Any Muslim would deny that there are "contradictory" texts in the Qur'an. Though, it may be said some texts may seem to be contradictory without proper understanding of the Book.
Other than that, I thought your assessment of the book was fair. Thank you.
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