Monday, 12 September 2011

The Qur’an states in verse 195 of chapter 26 that it is written in ‘plain Arabic’. Aside from the fact that the language of the Qur’an is far from plain, some of the words it uses are not Arabic at all but Ethiopic, Hebrew, Greek, Persian and Syriac, with the latter supplying by far the greatest number (around 70 per cent) of the Qur’an’s non-Arabic words.

Until it was supplanted by Arabic, Syriac was one of the main religious languages of the Middle East. It was used by the region’s Christian communities and when the Qur’an came to be written (discounting the Islamic tradition of the book’s supernatural origins), its authors often turned to Syriac to help express their new theology. Nearly all the Qur’an’s religious terms are drawn from Syriac, including the very name Qur’an with its meaning of a scriptural lesson or reading.

The Qur’an contains many obscure sections of text that have baffled scholars throughout the history of Islam. (It has been suggested that much of the historical record about Mohammed was fabricated in the early centuries of Islam to explain away the obscurities.) However, when those sections are read with their Syriac—rather than their Arabic—meanings, the difficulties disappear.

Christoph Luxenberg (a pseudonym) has been in the forefront of reinterpreting the Qur’an by substituting Syriac for Arabic, but his work will not endear him to Muslims who are looking forward to spending the rest of eternity in Paradise with their virgins.

One of the Qur’an’s descriptions of Paradise reads:

[52:17] But in fair gardens the righteous shall dwell in bliss, [52:18] rejoicing in what their Lord will give them. He will shield them from the scourge of Hell. [52:19] He will say: ‘Eat and drink in joy. This is the reward of your labours.’ [52:20] They shall recline on couches ranged in rows. To dark-eyed houris [virgins] We shall wed them.

In Luxenberg’s Syriac reinterpretation, ‘They shall recline on couches ranged in rows. To dark-eyed houris We shall wed them’ becomes ‘We will make you comfortable under white, crystal clear grapes.’ As the previous verse has explained that Muslims will be rewarded by joyful eating and drinking, the Luxenberg version makes far more sense, but whether Muslims are happy to abandon the promise of heavenly titillation for common sense remains to be seen.


Cheradenine Zakalwe said...

It's notable that he uses a pseudonym. Even just doing textual analysis on the Koran puts you at risk of being murdered by these savages.

Johnny Rottenborough said...

Another illustration of the incompatibility of freedom and Islam (aka ‘Submission'). Luxenberg is German, like quite a few of the scholars working in the same field. Some years back, a treasure was discovered in the Great Mosque in Sana’a, Yemen—the remains of probably the oldest Qur’an in the world. It differs in places from the standard Qur’an (very bad news indeed for Muslims who believe the Qur’an was transmitted to Mohammed exactly as it is today) so how it came to be studied by a group of German scholars is pretty well inexplicable. Anyway, they microfilmed the entire stash of decaying parchment and the films are safely back in Germany.

Cheradenine Zakalwe said...

Has it been published? Or is there any published analysis of how it differs?

Johnny Rottenborough said...

The latest definite news I have is from—wait for it—1999. The scholars, having safely got the microfilm back to Germany, are said to be excited at the prospect of analysing the fragments and publishing the results. A quote from a professor of Islamic thought in Paris may be relevant here: deviating from the orthodox interpretation of the Qur’an is a very sensitive business with major implications.

Cheradenine Zakalwe said...

I can see the potential that this kind of textual analysis has to destroy Islam. Maybe this is the most fruitful path for us to pursue.

Johnny Rottenborough said...

When the German team first gained access to the fragments, they were reluctant to publish any of their findings for fear that the Yemeni authorities would suddenly get cold feet; it may be that the authorities simply didn’t realize the implications of the find. Any variant version of the Qur’an, however minor the variations, proves that the book is an historical document that has undergone changes. Under those circumstances, claiming the Qur’an as the perfect word of Allah looks a bit daft. Islam’s own history admits to the destruction of thousands of variant verses by the third caliph; this particular Qur’an seems to have survived because its guardians were reluctant to destroy a divine text and so hid it away in a ‘paper grave’.

F***W*T TW****R said...

It'll never get in the news. Not MSM anyway.

Cheradenine Zakalwe said...

This Corpus Coranicum project seems interesting too. Reading that and a few other things that your article led me to google (some in German) makes me feel more hopeful about the future than I've felt for a while. The biggest threat to Islam may not be in the Pentagon, but a German university.

This research could utterly obliterate Islam's intellectual foundations.

@F***W*T TW****R

Apparently there was an article in Newsweek about Luxenberg's research. And Newsweek was then banned in Pakistan as a result!

Johnny Rottenborough said...

@ F***W*T TW****R—It has got onto YouTube, though.

@ CZ—I’ll take a gander.

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