216. The Koran (Qur’an) c. 609-632

An introductory note. My reading and comments on The Koran, like The Holy Bible and other religious texts before now, are solely in regard to the text itself and my reaction to it as a piece of literature. No insult or judgment on the religious nature of the text is intended, and comments assuming such will not be responded to.

The Koran is the Holy Book of the Muslim religion, believed to be in large part the absolute word of God (Allah) transmitted to Mohammad over many years.

I started with the Penguin Classic edition translated by Dawood but found it unsatisfactory as (i) the ordering of the suras had been rearranged to make it ‘easier for novice readers’, which brought much repetition of the same themes to the fore and was not a true reflection of the text (a fact Penguin themselves obviously recognised since their edition is now restored to the traditional ordering) and (ii) the translation did not live up to The Koran‘s reputation as the richest highpoint of classical Arabic literature. I tried some other editions, then returned to Dawood, instead reading in the traditional order (a listing at the back provides this order)

Thoughts

I confess I only read about 30% of the Koran before giving up. As with many religious texts from the ancient world, there is a huge amount of repetition in what would have been for many believers an aural text usually read aloud by holy men. Repetition does not make for a great literary experience. Nor was the language particularly beautiful in its own right.

Mohammad is the latest and last of a string of prophets sent by God (Allah) to carry His Word to the peoples of Earth. Jews and Christians have been deluded in their interpretation of the Scriptures or have abandoned the Word entirely, rejecting His earlier prophets (Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Moses, David, Solomon and Jesus).

What struck me was the core starting point and many similarities to the Torah and Bible. In the essentials, it is the same God that Jews, Christians and Muslims worship, and I felt therefore a great sense of sadness that there has been and continues to be so much hatred across believers of these three religions. The core difference between them is the status of Jesus as the Son of God, with the Koran stating that such an idea is  blasphemous.

The fact that The Koran was written 1500 years ago makes some of its directions (just like The Bible and The Torah before it) in conflict with modern 21st century life and universal human rights, particularly concerning the place of women.

Its depiction of Paradise (Heaven) as a garden with free flowing cool water and chaste virgins is not particularly inclusive either.

So having honestly said I have tried to read the Koran, and gained some exposure to it as literature, I decided to move on to other reading.

Also in the years 550-630

  • Buddhism reaches Japan 552
  • England split into 7 Anglo-Saxon kingdoms : Essex, Sussex and Wessex (Saxons), East Anglia, Mercia and Northumbria (Angles) and Kent (Jutes)
  • Muhammad born in Mecca 570, begins to teach Islam 612
  • Persia and Byzantium continue to war 572-589, 603-630
  • Pope Gregory I sends Augustine to Britain as archbishop 596

 

 

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