My book review of the Koran

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BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
This review is hard to write. I’m really not qualified to write it. I would be hesitant in accepting the word of an outsider who read briefly of the Bible and then offered his “critique” of it. Complicating this even more, technically I did not even read the Qu’ran. I read a translation of it (Dawood). This is an important point, for the word of Allah cannot be spoken outside of Arabic.

(In)consistent Revelations

Mohammed claims that earlier revelations are corrupted. This presents the reader with a problem: Part of Mohammed’s claim is that Allah sent prophets (Moses, Jesus, etc) to the people (57:26; 2:136), but for one reason or another were rejected. On one hand we are told that the Quran’s revelation is in line with previous revelations (which assumes some sort of verifiable standard) but we are also told that the previous revelations are corrupted, which renders any verification moot. The problem is that he doesn’t show us these extant mss copies where we may see the corruptions.

The problem is exacerbated when Mohammed tells these communions to accept him because he is in line with previous revelations (10:94). If previous revelations are corrupted, then on what basis may we trust his message? Why should we be held accountable for not listening to previous prophets if our only access to these prophets is corrupt?

Folklore Worldview

There is a certain charm in the Quran. I enjoyed it in the same way I enjoy reading Middle Eastern fairy tales. Despite some tendentious repetition and non-sequiturs, there are some interesting and amusing parts. A case in point is the Qu’ran’s view of paradise. One cannot help but smile at the repeated references to “heavy-breasted,” dark-eyed girls and that man’s “vigor” will be sufficient for the task at hand (and contrary to popular opinion, I only saw the Qu’ran list 70 virgins, not 72). The Qu’ran even specifies that these girls were not defiled by jinn (think: genies). Given that this view of paradise is likely a projection of Mohammed’s desires (or those of his followers), pace Feuerbach, one must wonder if 7th century Arabian man struggled with constant problem of genies’ defiling of virgins. (And there might even be some substance in that point. In the TV-drama “The Devil’s Mistress,” which takes place in Stuart England, a nobleman, upon hearing a rumor that his wife copulated with the Devil during her teenage years, began to accuse her of various things related to it. We expect such silliness in ancient man. It’s startling to see it in post-medieval European man, too) This isn’t a snarky point: throughout the Qu’ran one is struck by the fact that genies are a persistent theme.

There are other eye-openers, such as the passage noting where Alexander the Great discovered the mud pit into which the sun sat on a daily basis.

Inconsistent Morality

I understand some can critique the Bible for “brutal parts.” Fair enough. Some commentators will defend it by saying “This was part and parcel of ancient daily life.” I guess that’s true in a sense. When we read the life of the prophet, we are tempted to brush away the unsavory parts by saying “such was Middle Eastern culture then” (and likely now, too; Does Surah 4:25 still apply today in Middle Eastern cultures?). I do not think that line can work, though. One of Mohammed’s wives(!) caught him having sex with a Coptic slave girl. (Surah 66:4; this action is not explicitly stated in the Surah, but most Muslim scholars consider it authenticated by true Hadiths. We then have a subsequent revelation from Allah which justifies Mohammed’s actions. The implication is clear: even Mohammed’s own time and culture would not justify such an action outside of divine warrant. If they would not casually justify such an action, on what grounds does Western liberalism do so?

The Sword of the Prophet

Does Islam promote violence? More specifically are the violent texts in the Qu’ran seen as normative in Islamic praxis? To make the critique even more difficult, can one condemn the violent texts in Islam without also condemning Christianity by the same standard? I think we can.

There are numerous violent texts in Islam, but we will only focus on one: The Surah of the Sword, Surah 9:4-5: “When the sacred month is over slay the idolater wherever you find him.” Is it fair to blame Muslim violence today based on this text, and by implication Islam, in such a way that doesn’t also blame the book of Joshua as causing Christian violence? Part of the difficulty is that the Qu’ran doesn’t have anything like a narrative that would alert the reader that some details don’t apply in the same way as they once did (e.g., Yahweh’s orders to Joshua concerned specific tribes and was not an invitation to world-wide slaughter). Does this Surah apply today? Historically, Islam has not been embarrassed by it. In Samuel Huntingdon’s memorable words, “The borders between the Islamic world and the non-Islamic world are always violent.” Islam has historically interpreted and practiced as though this text were still binding.

The elephant remains in the room. An objector could grant that the Christian story has a change of praxis between the Book of Joshua and the Sermon on the Mount, but the fact remains that Christians have behaved violently based on readings of certain Biblical texts. That cannot be denied. Some Protestants and most Catholics (at least the important ones in power) have behaved this way (the same Council [IV Lateran] that codified transubstantiation also required that Jews be ghettoed in certain parts of the city. What kind of reasoning allows transubstantiation to stand today, but not the anti-semitic parts of the Council?). One could say that they are acting inconsistently with the life and message of the Messiah, whereas Muslims are acting consistently with the life of Mohammed and his followers: Mohammed personally led raids on caravans and was caught having sex with slave girls (Surrah 66; her name was Mariyah). Islam expanded exponentially over the next few centuries and not by peaceful missionary endeavors.

Is the book worth reading?

Absolutely. We need to be informed about others’ faiths and sacred texts. It is common courtesy and improves our ability to speak intelligently in the forum. Parts of the book are laborious, but some parts are quite interesting. Oddly enough, and this might seem incongruous with the above review, I think the book effectively captures the spirit of its age. One can easily imagine Arabic warriors singing and chanting surahs as they charge into battle.
 

earl40

Puritan Board Professor
If you want to open a great dialog with a Muslim get into The Lord's impassibility. I have found this a fantastic common point of reference that most Christans do not want to speak about. I was suprized how easy it was for this converstion to flow into how it was needed for Jesus to take on humanity and die for us to be reconsiled to The Father.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
If you want to open a great dialog with a Muslim get into The Lord's impassibility. I have found this a fantastic common point of reference that most Christans do not want to speak about. I was suprized how easy it was for this converstion to flow into how it was needed for Jesus to take on humanity and die for us to be reconsiled to The Father.

That's a good point. If you compare medieval Islamic writings on "God" with that of Jewish adn Christians, they all use the same philosophical apparatus
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
I highly recommend Ali Dashti's fine book, "23 Years" - Twenty Three Years: A Study of the Prophetic Career of Mohammad: Ali Dashti, F. R. C. Bagley: 9781568590295: Amazon.com: Books

With regard to the issue of the Qur'an only being able to be read in Arabic (a "translation" is not possible, but only "the meaning" or an "interpretation" is possible): We are faced with the conclusion that either their god is too dumb to speak any other language, or else adopting their religion also entails the necessity of adopting Arabic culture as well. Whereas Christianity has no geographical center (not even Jerusalem), Islam must remain as a religion that resembles the time and culture from which it originated (which produces a retarding effect on all countries that hold to that religion...especially since the "gates of Ijtihad" - interpretation, were closed in the Middle Ages and new theological innovation are disallowed).
 

Leslie

Puritan Board Junior
I highly recommend Ali Dashti's fine book, "23 Years" - Twenty Three Years: A Study of the Prophetic Career of Mohammad: Ali Dashti, F. R. C. Bagley: 9781568590295: Amazon.com: Books

With regard to the issue of the Qur'an only being able to be read in Arabic (a "translation" is not possible, but only "the meaning" or an "interpretation" is possible): We are faced with the conclusion that either their god is too dumb to speak any other language, or else adopting their religion also entails the necessity of adopting Arabic culture as well. Whereas Christianity has no geographical center (not even Jerusalem), Islam must remain as a religion that resembles the time and culture from which it originated (which produces a retarding effect on all countries that hold to that religion...especially since the "gates of Ijtihad" - interpretation, were closed in the Middle Ages and new theological innovation are disallowed).

In "The Closing of the Muslim Mind," the author makes the point that there is a difference between the Shi'ite and the Sunni. The Shi'ites admit rationality, whereas the Sunnis at some point rejected it. Therefor the Sunnis gave rise to the Islamists. I'm not sure if this rationality extends to admitting to translating the Koran or if it extends to making a systematic theology. But, in theory anyway, one can talk and discuss with the Shi'ites.
 

a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
If you want to open a great dialog with a Muslim get into The Lord's impassibility. I have found this a fantastic common point of reference that most Christans do not want to speak about. I was suprized how easy it was for this converstion to flow into how it was needed for Jesus to take on humanity and die for us to be reconsiled to The Father.

That's a good point. If you compare medieval Islamic writings on "God" with that of Jewish adn Christians, they all use the same philosophical apparatus

Would the concepts not be vastly different? If I understand correctly, the Christian view of impassibility springs out of God's eternal blessedness -- surely this is unique to Him as being (I don't know how best to express this) the holiness that is love, the Triune God. How can a monad be eternally blessed? The impassibility is mere stoicism, not joy. It cannot be holiness, for holiness is love.
 

GloriousBoaz

Puritan Board Freshman
I am about a third of the way through the Quran and one thing that jumps out is the repeated mentioning of bodily fluids, odd.

Also Surah 109 sounds exactly like what my Lutheran uncle said to me on Christmas a few years back when I first was regenerated and asked him how I can encourage his family, with prayer or anything, and he said "The best way you can encourage me and my family is to have your own faith, and I will have mine." Here's Surah 109:

109:1 Say: O disbelievers!
109:2 I worship not that which ye worship;
109:3 Nor worship ye that which I worship.
109:4 And I shall not worship that which ye worship.
109:5 Nor will ye worship that which I worship.
109:6 Unto you your religion, and unto me my religion.
 

earl40

Puritan Board Professor
If you want to open a great dialog with a Muslim get into The Lord's impassibility. I have found this a fantastic common point of reference that most Christans do not want to speak about. I was suprized how easy it was for this converstion to flow into how it was needed for Jesus to take on humanity and die for us to be reconsiled to The Father.

That's a good point. If you compare medieval Islamic writings on "God" with that of Jewish adn Christians, they all use the same philosophical apparatus

Would the concepts not be vastly different? If I understand correctly, the Christian view of impassibility springs out of God's eternal blessedness -- surely this is unique to Him as being (I don't know how best to express this) the holiness that is love, the Triune God. How can a monad be eternally blessed? The impassibility is mere stoicism, not joy. It cannot be holiness, for holiness is love.



Try discussing God in His divine essence does not have emotions with the average Christian. :)
 

One Little Nail

Puritan Board Sophomore
Muhammadanism.org Books*—Muhammadanism.org is probably the best online resource that I have found, hope it is of help.
as a historicist I believe that Islam is associated with the 5th,6th & 7th Trumpets in The Book of Revelation, as such
these are the 3 WOE Trumpets mentioned, we can't escape the fact that these specific Trumpets are God's Ordained
judgment upon apostate & Idolatrous "Christendom" & can't change the fact either, as there is an apostate & Idolatrous
Christianity that The Tri-Une Lord God Jehovah hates & He will send judgements upon it much like He did upon Rebellious
Judaism in The Old Testament with the Assyrians & Babylonians, sure there will be a remnant of "muslims" who will be saved to The Praise of His Glorious Grace but the majority are wicked instruments of judgment and have been hardened & blinded that God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, has endured with much longsuffering these Muhammadan vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
If you want to open a great dialog with a Muslim get into The Lord's impassibility. I have found this a fantastic common point of reference that most Christans do not want to speak about. I was suprized how easy it was for this converstion to flow into how it was needed for Jesus to take on humanity and die for us to be reconsiled to The Father.

That's a good point. If you compare medieval Islamic writings on "God" with that of Jewish adn Christians, they all use the same philosophical apparatus

Would the concepts not be vastly different? If I understand correctly, the Christian view of impassibility springs out of God's eternal blessedness -- surely this is unique to Him as being (I don't know how best to express this) the holiness that is love, the Triune God. How can a monad be eternally blessed? The impassibility is mere stoicism, not joy. It cannot be holiness, for holiness is love.

Maybe. The Christian God is different because of the other two persons. But Maimonides, Ibn-Sinna, and Aquinas were all reading the same Greek philosophy and saying what sounded like similar things. Of course, Aquinas would disagree with Averroes and Ibn-Sinna, but the philosophical agreements are also striking.
 

a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
I understand about striking philosophical agreement from some of my favorite translations of Greek plays. But is there not also striking disagreement -- where philosophy doesn't go far enough, where it falls short of revelation? In another area, but to illustrate -- doesn't John use a lot of the same language Philo used about the Logos? But the Logos becomes flesh and that transfigures all of Philo's conceptions. I was reading an essay last night about one ray of the divine light being given to the Jews and another to the Greeks etc., and it seems important that whatever we are able to use in common with other religions via human philosophy, the content of our belief is unique, not derivative from human thought, in its divine revelation? I sense the Greek conception of God's impassibility in Edith Hamilton's Agamemnon: the Triune God doesn't so much negate, but transfigures that sense. (I'm not opposing a method of finding common ground in talking to people: I think some Christians may react against divine impassibility if they see it as merely that philosophical conception shared by Islam -- it seems important somehow.)
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
I understand about striking philosophical agreement from some of my favorite translations of Greek plays. But is there not also striking disagreement -- where philosophy doesn't go far enough, where it falls short of revelation? In another area, but to illustrate -- doesn't John use a lot of the same language Philo used about the Logos? But the Logos becomes flesh and that transfigures all of Philo's conceptions. I was reading an essay last night about one ray of the divine light being given to the Jews and another to the Greeks etc., and it seems important that whatever we are able to use in common with other religions via human philosophy, the content of our belief is unique, not derivative from human thought, in its divine revelation? I sense the Greek conception of God's impassibility in Edith Hamilton's Agamemnon: the Triune God doesn't so much negate, but transfigures that sense. (I'm not opposing a method of finding common ground in talking to people: I think some Christians may react against divine impassibility if they see it as merely that philosophical conception shared by Islam -- it seems important somehow.)

I agree with what you are saying. I was comparing and contrasting medieval thinkers, not John. My point was that medieval Christian usage of philosophy ended up sounding a lot like the Arabic and Jewish god. Absolute Divine Simplicity ended up being too powerful a philosophical tool at times. I hold to divine simplicity, of course, but that's not to deny some of the problems that one encounters in the Middle Ages.
 

a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
I was comparing and contrasting medieval thinkers, not John.

I understand. I was citing John as an example of how the Bible itself seems to employ common philosophical ideas -- it does employ them, but then they get turned on their heads in the shock of the unthought of revelatory element, until one could never confuse John's Logos as the same with Philo's.
 
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