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In the weeks after September 11 2001, several American friends asked me: “Which translation of the Koran should I read?” It was a good question, if a bit naïve. Would anyone ask which translation of the New Testament they should read in order to understand the Troubles in Northern Ireland? If my friends got as far as the ninth surah (or chapter) of the Koran, they would have read: “Kill the polytheists wherever you find them, arrest them, imprison them, besiege them, and lie in wait for them at every site of ambush.” This is how Tarif Khalidi’s new translation, The Qur’an (Penguin, 556 pp, £25), has it. The verse is much quoted by al-Qa’eda spokesmen; it is reputed to be one of Osama bin Laden’s personal favourites.

My friends might also have noted the eerily apposite verse in surah 4:76: “Wherever you may be, death will overtake you, even if you live in loftiest towers,” or felt a shiver of belated premonition at surah 74:30, with its mention of the 19 “scorching” angels who stand at the brink of hell, eternally stoked for “unbelievers”. But doesn’t the Koran also say, in a justly celebrated verse (2:256): “There is no compulsion in religion”? Puzzled as they might have been to find themselves lumped with polytheists, my friends would also have noted that the Koran contains many sublime passages, such as the beautiful “light verses” of surah 24:35, again in Khalidi’s translation:

God is the light of the heavens and the earth.
His light is like a niche in which is a lantern,
The lantern in a glass,
The glass like a shimmering star,
Kindled from a blessed tree,
An olive, neither of the East nor of the West,
Its oil almost aglow, though untouched by fire.
Light upon light!

At least four new translations of the Koran into English have appeared since 2001. These include the superb, if rather staccato, version of M.A.S. Abdel Haleem (now available in Oxford World’s Classics), and — in 2007 alone — The Sublime Quran (Islamicworld), a feminist translation by Laleh Bakhtiar, touted as “the first English translation of the Quran [sic] by an American woman”, and The Qur’an (Gibb Memorial Trust), a magisterial version by Alan Jones, professor of Arabic at Oxford and a leading authority on early ­Arabic; his translation is to be followed by a commentary volume next year. (Incidentally, Jones is the only one of the three translators who transliterates the title correctly as “The Qur’?n” with a long final “a”. To avoid confusion, I use the long-accepted English form “Koran” here.)

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Stand To
July 28th, 2008
8:07 PM
Contrary to the comment of "Shafi", a knowledge of Arabic is not necessary for understanding the Koran; after all, at least 80% of the Moslem world-wide community is unable to read/write Arabic. There are at least 11 translations into English of the Koran and I suggest that any interested reader go to: http://www.jihadwatch.org which is administered by Robert Spencer (author of The Truth about Muhammad, Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam, etc) and on the top right-hand corner, simply link to "Qur'an Blog" in which Spencer has been blogging the Koran, Sura by Sura. He provides links to three authoritative translations of the Koran for each verse and discusses varying interpretations and answers questions from readers. Also on the top right-hand corner of that site is a link to "Islam 101" which provides a basic resume of the major aspects of Islam's doctrines and history. Since Sura (Chapter) 8 ("Booty", as in 'war booty') and Sura 9 ("Repentance") are the two suras which take precedence and deal principally with the treatment of the non-Moslems ("kuffir") by the Moslems, these will prove especially enlightening. Also, the ahadith, which relate the words, deeds and character of Islam's warlord founder, can be read (Bukhari being the most respected) at this site: http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/fundamentals/hadithsunnah/bukhari/ The article mentioned above in my earlier comment, about the Doctrine of Abrogation, is necessary for understanding the Koran.

Shafi
July 26th, 2008
11:07 AM
Dear Eric, Arabic is one of the easiest to learn to read.For a starter -instead going for indepth analysis which 'd better left to Islami scholars- you can read Maurice Bucaille's " Bible, Quran & Science". BBC often stage talk shows on "Jihad" alone as though "Jihad" consists of the whole Quran which in fact in only a tiny part among the hundreds of day to day issues that confront our lives & so perfectly revealed. No disrespect intended but its not easy to comprehend The Quran without being a Muslim & do please do not jump to conclusions before sitting with a Islami scholar should you find a text or verse not readily defineable. Thank you for your time.

Stand To
July 9th, 2008
10:07 PM
Such a long article, with not a word of the Doctrine of Naskh (Abrogation), by which earlier verses of the Koran are abrogated by later ones. For example, the most notorious example of this is the oft-quoted Sura 2:256 "Let there be no compulsion in religion" which Moslems use to present, quite falsely, the notion that Islam is tolerant. But, by the Doctrine of Abrogation, this verse and hundreds of others in the Koran are abrogated by the Ayt al-Sayf (the Sword Verse 9:5 "Fight and kill the disbelievers wherever you find them, take them captive, harass them, lie in wait and ambush them using every stratagem of war." Suras 8 and 9 abrogate a considerable part of the Koran: the following article may prove informative: http://www.meforum.org/pf.php?id=1754 As to any gentler translation of the notorious 4:34, that is merely taqiyya; all 11 authoritative translations render the Arab word as either strike, hit or chastise and Al-Azhar University, the foremost in the Islamic educational world, states of this verse: "If admonishing and sexual desertion fail to bring forth results and the woman is of a cold and stubborn type, the Qur'an bestows on man the right to straighten her out by way of punishment and beating, provided he does not break her bones nor shed blood. Many a wife belongs to this querulous type and requires this sort of punishment to bring her to her senses." I am unimpressed at the attempt to draw a moral equivalence between the New Testament and the Koran in regard to slavery; the Koran, unlike the New Testament, actually mandates FOR slavery "the necks of those which your right hands possess" and the example of Islam's "prophet" as one who took captives for slaves and "wives" makes that quite clear in the supporting ahadith, as well as many other aspects of his conduct which are unlikely to be regarded by Westerners as those of an "excellent model of conduct" (Koran 33:21) or demonstrating "an exalted standard of character" (Koran 68:4). After all, if one is going to speak of Islam, one must speak, very openly, of Muhammad because, "he who obeys the Messenger (Muhammad), obeys Allah" (Koran 4:80). I await an article from Standpoint which will strip the veil from he whom mainstream media seems so shy of mentioning. I wonder why...

Anonymous
July 9th, 2008
10:07 AM
Whichever translation you read, it is undeniable that the 'Prophet' led armies, attacked cities and killed people. Whatever is said about Christ, he never swung a sword. The Koran should be confined to the library, along side Greek and Roman mythology.

CrusaderKnight
July 3rd, 2008
7:07 PM
The teachings of the Koran encourage or allow, if not command: Murder, rape, genocide, robbery, perpetual war and ill treatment of all women and all non-Muslims.

Muhammad bin Sharmutah bin Qahbah bin Mitnakar
July 3rd, 2008
12:07 AM
Imam Ormsby, I utterly disagree with your assessment of Muhammad bin Abdullah’s alleged disapproval of violence towards women. According to some of the earliest traditions, not only did he condone wife-beating, but he actively participated in it with his ‘favourite’ wife: Sahih al-Bukhari 5377 - ‘Ikrima narrated that Rifa’a divorced his wife whereupon ‘AbdurRahman bin Az-Zubair Al-Qurazi married her. ‘Aisha said that the lady (came), wearing a green veil and complained to her (Aisha) of her husband and showed her a green spot on her skin caused by beating. It was the habit of ladies to support each other, so when Allah’s Apostle came, ‘Aisha said, “I have not seen any woman suffering as much as the believing women. Look! Her skin is greener than her clothes!”When ‘AbdurRahman heard that his wife had gone to the Prophet, he came with his two sons from another wife. She said, “By Allah! I have done no wrong to him but he is impotent and is as useless to me as this,” holding and showing the fringe of her garment, ‘Abdur-Rahman said, “By Allah, O Allah’s Apostle! She has told a lie! I am very strong and can satisfy her but she is disobedient and wants to go back to Rifa’a.” Allah’s Apostle said, to her, “If that is your intention, then know that it is unlawful for you to remarry Rifa’a unless Abdur-Rahman has had sexual intercourse with you.”Then the Prophet saw two boys with ‘Abdur-Rahman and asked (him), “Are these your sons?” On that ‘AbdurRahman said, “Yes.” The Prophet said, “You claim what you claim (i.e.. that he is impotent). But by Allah, these boys resemble him as a crow resembles a crow,” 5377 - ?????????? ? ?????????? ???? ???????? ? ??????????? ? ??????? ??????????? ? ???????????? ? ????????? ? ????? ? ??????????? ????? ? ?????????? ? ???????? ? ???????????? ? ??????????????? ? ??????? ??????????? ???? ?????????? ???????????? ? ???????? ? ?????????? ? ???????????? ??????? ???????? ???????? ????????? ??????????? ???????? ??????????? ???????? ????? ??????? ??????? ? ??????? ??????? ???????? ????????? ? ????????????? ???????? ??????????? ??????? ??????? ? ?????????? ? ???? ???????? ?????? ??? ??????? ?????????????? ??????????? ??????? ???????? ???? ????????? ????? ???????? ???????? ???? ?????? ??????? ??????? ? ??????? ??????? ???????? ????????? ? ???????? ???????? ???????? ???? ???? ????????? ??????? ????????? ??? ??? ???????? ???? ?????? ?????? ????? ??? ?????? ?????? ????????? ?????? ???? ?????? ?????????? ? ????????? ? ????? ????????? ??????? ???????? ????????? ??? ??????? ??????? ?????? ????????????? ?????? ? ??????????? ? ????????????? ? ???????? ? ???????? ? ?????????? ? ???????? ??????? ??????? ? ??????? ??????? ???????? ????????? ? ??????? ????? ?????? ???? ???????? ???? ???? ???? ????????? ???? ?????? ??????? ???? ???????????? ????? ?????????? ?????? ????????? ???? ??????? ??????? ????????? ????? ?????? ????? ????? ??????? ??????????? ??? ??????????? ??????????? ?????? ???????? ???? ???? ?????????? ???????????? Sahih Muslim 1619 - Muhammad b. Qais said (to the people): Should I not narrate to you (a hadith of the Holy Prophet) on my authority and on the authority of my mother? We thought that he meant the mother who had given him birth. He (Muhammad b. Qais) then reported that it was ‘A’isha who had narrated this: Should I not narrate to you about myself and about the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him)? We said: Yes. She said: When it was my turn for Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) to spend the night with me, he turned his side, put on his mantle and took off his shoes and placed them near his feet, and spread the corner of his shawl on his bed and then lay down till he thought that I had gone to sleep. He took hold of his mantle slowly and put on the shoes slowly, and opened the door and went out and then closed it lightly. I covered my head, put on my veil and tightened my waist wrapper, and then went out following his steps till he reached Baqi’. He stood there and he stood for a long time. He then lifted his hands three times, and then returned and I also returned. He hastened his steps and I also hastened my steps. He ran and I too ran. He came (to the house) and I also came (to the house). I, however, preceded him and I entered (the house), and as I lay down in the bed, he (the Holy Prophet) entered the (house), and said: Why is it, O ‘A’isha, that you are out of breath? I said: There is nothing. He said: Tell me or the Subtle and the Aware would inform me. I said: Messenger of Allah, may my father and mother be ransom for you, and then I told him (the whole story). He said: Was it the darkness (of your shadow) that I saw in front of me? I said: Yes. He struck me on the chest which caused me pain, and then said: Did you think that Allah and His Apostle would deal unjustly with you? She said: Whatsoever the people conceal, Allah will know it. He said: Gabriel came to me when you saw me. He called me and he concealed it from you. I responded to his call, but I too concealed it from you (for he did not come to you), as you were not fully dressed. I thought that you had gone to sleep, and I did not like to awaken you, fearing that you may be frightened. He (Gabriel) said: Your Lord has commanded you to go to the inhabitants of Baqi’ (to those lying in the graves) and beg pardon for them. I said: Messenger of Allah, how should I pray for them (How should I beg forgiveness for them)? He said: Say, Peace be upon the inhabitants of this city (graveyard) from among the Believers and the Muslims, and may Allah have mercy on those who have gone ahead of us, and those who come later on, and we shall, God willing, join you. ?1619 - ? ?????????? ? ????????? ???? ??????? ???????????? ? ??????????? ? ??????? ??????? ???? ?????? ? ???????????? ? ?????? ???????? ? ????? ? ??????? ??????? ???? ??????? ???? ???????????? ? ???????? ?????? ? ?????????? ???? ?????? ? ???????? ???????? ? ?????????? ? ?????????? ????????? ? ?????? ????????????? ???? ?????????? ? ??????? ??????? ???????? ????????? ? ????????? ??????? ????? ? ?? ? ?? ?????????? ? ????? ? ??????? ? ?????????? ??????????? ? ???????????? ???? ? ?????? ?????????? ? ????????? ???? ????????? ? ??????????? ? ?????? ???????? ? ???????????? ? ??????? ??????? ? ??????? ???? ? ????????? ? ????? ? ?????????? ???? ?????? ???? ?????????? ???? ???????????? ????????? ????? ??????? ????? ????????????? ?????? ?????? ?????? ????? ?????????? ??????? ??????? ??????? ??????? ?????????? ????? ??????? ? ?????????? ? ?????? ????????????? ?????? ?????? ??????? ??????? ? ??????? ??????? ???????? ????????? ? ???????? ????? ????? ??????? ?????? ??????? ????????? ??????? ????? ?????????? ? ??????? ??????? ???????? ????????? ? ??????? ??????? ? ?????????? ? ????????? ????????? ???????? ?????????? ????????????? ?????? ?????????? ???????? ?????? ????????? ????? ????????? ??????????? ?????? ???????? ?????? ? ?????????? ? ?????? ???? ???? ???????? ???????? ????????? ????????? ??????????? ????????? ???????? ???????? ???????? ????? ? ?????????? ? ?????????? ?????????? ??????? ??? ??????? ? ?????????????? ? ?????????????? ? ????????? ????? ??????????? ????? ???????? ?????? ????? ? ??????????? ? ???????? ????????? ?????????? ????? ?????? ???????? ??????? ???????? ????? ????????? ????????????? ?????????? ???????????? ?????????? ???????????? ? ??????????? ? ????????????? ? ????????????? ?????????? ???????? ?????? ???? ??????????? ???????? ??????? ??? ???? ??? ? ???????? ? ???????? ? ?????????? ? ???????? ?????? ??? ?????? ????? ?????????????? ???? ?????????????? ?????????? ?????????? ??????? ?????? ??? ??????? ??????? ??????? ?????? ???????? ?????????????? ????? ???????? ? ??????????? ? ???????? ???????? ???????? ?????? ?????? ? ???????????? ? ???? ??????? ? ????????? ? ?????????????? ????? ????? ?????????? ???? ? ???????? ? ???????? ???????? ??????????? ??????? ??????? ? ????????? ? ????????? ?????????? ??????? ?????? ????? ? ???????? ? ?????????? ? ????????? ????? ???????? ??????????? ??????????? ?????? ???????????? ?????????????? ?????? ?????? ?????? ???????? ???????? ?????? ???????? ????????? ?????????? ???? ???? ???????? ?????????? ???? ????????? ????????? ???? ????????????? ??????? ????? ??????? ?????????? ???? ???????? ?????? ? ??????????? ? ??????????????? ?????? ??????? ?????? ?????? ??????? ?????? ??? ??????? ??????? ????? ?????? ? ??????????? ????? ?????? ?????????? ???? ?????????????? ???????????????? ?????????? ??????? ?????????????????? ?????? ???????????????????? ???????? ???? ????? ??????? ?????? ???????????? Sunan Abi Dawood 1834 - Iyas ibn Abdullah ibn AbuDhubab reported the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) as saying: Do not beat Allah’s handmaidens, but when Umar came to the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) and said: Women have become emboldened towards their husbands, he (the Prophet) gave permission to beat them. Then many women came round the family of the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) complaining against their husbands. So the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) said: Many women have gone round Muhammad’s family complaining against their husbands. They are not the best among you. 1834 - ?????????? ? ????????? ???? ????? ?????? ? ??????????? ???? ??????? ???? ????????? ? ??????? ?????????? ? ?????????? ? ????? ? ????????????? ? ????? ? ??????? ??????? ???? ?????? ??????? ? ?????? ? ?????? ????????? ? ????????? ??????? ???? ?????? ??????? ? ????? ? ???????? ???? ?????? ??????? ???? ????? ???????? ????? ??????? ??????? ? ??????? ??????? ???????? ????????? ? ???? ?????????? ? ???????? ??????? ? ???????? ? ??????? ? ?????? ??????? ??????? ? ??????? ??????? ???????? ????????? ? ???????? ? ????????? ? ??????????? ????? ?????????????? ????????? ??? ??????????? ????????? ????? ??????? ??????? ? ??????? ??????? ???????? ????????? ? ???????? ??????? ????????? ?????????????? ??????? ?????????? ? ??????? ??????? ???????? ????????? ? ??????? ????? ????? ? ?????????? ? ???????? ??????? ????????? ?????????????? ?????? ????????? ????????????? Sunan Abi Dawood 1835 - “The Prophet said: A man will not be asked as to why he beat his wife.” 1835 - ??????????? ? ????????? ???? ?????? ? ??????????? ? ??????? ??????????? ???? ????????? ? ??????????? ? ?????? ????????? ? ????? ? ???????? ???? ?????? ??????? ???????????? ? ????? ? ??????? ??????????? ???????????? ? ????? ? ???????????? ???? ?????? ? ????? ? ??????? ???? ??????????? ?????? ?????????? ? ??????? ??????? ???????? ????????? ? ?????? ? ???? ???????? ????????? ?????? ?????? ??????????? No, the trilateral root ‘daraba’ most certainly could never mean anything as feeble as ‘smack’ for this would run contrary to the established and historical usage of the verb. The Qur’an’s injunctions can never be temporal, as this would effectively invalidate portions central to the text itself and Muhammad’s tradition. To rule out a section or verse as anachronistic or obsolete would contradict both the Qur’an and the Sunnah. This would obviously be a good thing as it would free millions of Muslims from the yoke of tyranny imposed on them by a 7th century figure of ill-repute. Islam would dissolve and once flourishing Christian communities in the Middle East would return.

Susiet
June 25th, 2008
3:06 PM
How refreshing to come across this erudite, enlightening yet highly readable article by someone with a profound and objective knowledge of Islam and its sources. Makes at least something of a counterbalance to the tone of some of your other articles on Islam/Muslim related themes.

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