Sunday, October 28, 2007

There's Only One Way To Know For Sure: Read The Koran Yourself

Does the Koran urge Muslims to kill infidels? Or is it a book of peace? You can read commentary on the Koran all day long, but in the back of your mind you know you may be getting more spin than facts. The only solution is to find out for yourself. And it is easy to do.

Here is the table of contents of the Koran (click on a chapter to read it):
The Holy Qur'an. Here's another one: The Koran.

On this next version, scroll down a little and you see each chapter of the Koran as a link. On each chapter (114 in all), you see three different English translations of the Koran: The Noble Qur'an. Here's another one: Holy Qur'an.

These translations are all very similar, but I thought it was a good idea to give several sources in case one of these providers disappears.

Does the Koran tell Muslims to make war on unbelievers? I originally wanted to check this out for myself because I was skeptical that the villainizing of Islam could be Christian or Jewish or Hindu propaganda.

So I found web sites that have English translations of the Koran online like the ones above. Here is another one. And this is one of the chapters. Now keep in mind all of these are Islam-promoting web sites rather than anti-Islamic web sites. Here are some of the passages from that last chapter:

57. So if you gain the mastery over them in war, punish them severely in order to disperse those who are behind them, so that they may learn a lesson.

58. If you (O Muhammad ) fear treachery from any people throw back (their covenant) to them (so as to be) on equal terms (that there will be no more covenant between you and them). CertainlyAllâh likes not the treacherous.

59. And let not those who disbelieve think that they can outstrip (escape from the punishment). Verily, they will never be able to save themselves (fromAllâh's Punishment).

60. And make ready against them all you can of power, including steeds of war (tanks, planes, missiles, artillery, etc.) to threaten the enemy of Allâh and your enemy, and others besides whom, you may not know but whom Allâh does know.

65. O Prophet (Muhammad )! Urge the believers to fight. If there are twenty steadfast persons amongst you, they will overcome two hundred, and if there be a hundred steadfast persons they will overcome a thousand of those who disbelieve, because they (the disbelievers) are people who do not understand.

67. It is not for a Prophet that he should have prisoners of war (and free them with ransom) until he had made a great slaughter (among his enemies) in the land. You desire the good of this world (i.e. the money of ransom for freeing the captives), butAllâh desires (for you) the Hereafter. And Allâh is All-Mighty, All-Wise.

On the other side, I did see a hopeful passage in that chapter:

61. But if they incline to peace, you also incline to it, and (put your) trust in Allâh. Verily, He is the All-Hearer, the All-Knower.

But the downside is that this quote is within the context of having defeated an enemy and gained the country. And the peace has lots of stipulations, including a choice of conversion to Islam or death, or for Christians and Jews, a heavy tax and fewer rights.

I recently read a great version of the Koran. One of the things that makes Korans difficult to read is their strange organization. The chapters are not arranged in the order they were written. The traditional arrangement is from the longest chapter to the shortest. So the events jump around, seemingly at random, and often the reader feels confused about what's going on.

In addition, the passages in the Koran sometimes refer to events in Mohammad's life, but the Koran doesn't tell you what those events were.

And the third thing that makes the Koran difficult for a modern reader is the strange tendency of many English translations to use King James' Bible-style Old English, using "thee" and "thou," for example.

A Simple Koran fixes all three of those problems without losing the meaning of the passages. Every passage of the Koran is in A Simple Koran, arranged in the order it was written. The book fills in the events of Mohammad's life so you understand what the passages are about, and the writing is normal, modern English. This is the best, most readable version I have yet to come across.

I wanted to make sure this version said the same thing as the authoritative version I already own (The Holy Qur'an by Maulana Muhammad Ali), so I took specific passages (the Koran is numbered, chapter and verse, just like the Christian bible) from one Koran and compared it to the same passage in the other. And I found the meaning was identical. But A Simple Koran was much easier to read.

A Simple Koran is available at in paperback.

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