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The Koran, a very short introduction

Incidentally, this may be the only book I have read in which the author specifically invites communication from his or her readers. Part One: Introduction Chapter 1: Preliminaries Chapter 2: The message of the Koran Part Two: The Koran in the modern world Chapter 3: The dissemination of the Koran Chapter 4: The inte Cook surveys the subject matter and all its aspects, not with the secular snootiness I had expected, but with a frank and generous curiosity.

Mar 20, Mark James rated it liked it. His potshots and misunderstandings of the Bible as Christian Scripture notwithstanding, this is a useful introduction to the Koran. A simple and readable place to begin with if you want to start understanding Islam. Given its brevity, it does an amazing job of covering a lot of ground about the subject, from the medieval doctrines and arguments that it gave rise to, to some of its linguistic paradoxes and their historical and literary implications. Highly recommended. May 19, Justin Tapp rated it really liked it Shelves: islam , history.

The history in this "short" introduction is substantive and it eventually deals with modern textual criticism. As a student of Arabic, I enjoyed how the author delves into the development of Arabic language. I listened to the audio version of this, which is helpful in many ways, especially in explaining the Arabic pronunciation and grammar. This book is a great supplement to any study of Islamic and Arab history. The following are my notes and gleanings: You can't understand the Koran without understanding some of the nature and history of Arabic and how the Koran brings unity to the language.

Arabic is the only scriptural language to become the language of a worldwide civilization. One cannot attain literacy in Koranic Arabic and colloquial Arabic at the same time, this would be like akin to obtaining fluency in Latin and Spanish at the same time , so there is a tension between the language, particularly in how to translate difficult or archaic words. The first English "translation" of the Koran was not until , and not without controversy. Only in the 19th century was the Quran actually printed on a printing press, again with great controversy.

The codex was already common at the time of Muhammed, and the most influential versions of the text come from early codexes compiled by those close to Muhammad. The physical Koran itself is a sacred object, and the Arabic used is also considered sacred, hence adding markings like diacritics to provide pronunciation, particularly for words or objects not found in modern Arabic, was quite controversial.

Adding diacritics came later in Koranic history but is now considered important if the Koran is to be recited correctly, which is an ultimate purpose of the book-- to be recited. The diacritics [or vocalizations] are colored whereas the actual Arabic text is in black. Historical criticism, as is commonplace with biblical manuscripts, largely does not exist in Koranic scholarly thought.

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Similarly, much of Islamic commentary on the Koran involves contextual analysis. There are lists of lawyers and academics critically analyzing the Koran, but these efforts are often criticized as heretical and sometimes these progressives are denounced or pay with their lives. As told in Tom Holland's book, when early manuscripts of the Koran were found in Yemen in the s, the research was cancelled when a German researcher found "aberrations" between the early manuscripts and the official Koranic text today. Cook does not deal with this incedent, but later in the book does mention comparisons of manuscript fragments, some deviations, and later standards that developed.

Commentators on the Koran have to deal with the modern post-Western values that the world has adopted through history such as logic, the scientific method, and concepts like universal human rights. The Koran itself was canonized quickly, perhaps helped by the idea that Arabs were already familiar with the idea of canon from Christian and Jewish scriptures.

The final redactors edited little, leaving parallel passages in place. Cook compares the Arabic used in various places to note difference is rhyme, suggesting different times for authorship. There are also the obvious differences between what was recorded in Medina versus Mecca, etc. Cook does examine some of the recent scholarly proposals for various sources, perhaps some sayings in the Koran have origins that precede Mohammed.

It's clear someone used to know, but like some of the archaic words in the text the meaning or precise definitions have been lost to history. Given the importance of Arabic as the language used by Mohammed to recite, and the doctrine that the Koran itself is eternal, it is impossible to consider the Koranic text as containing foreign words. Reading a Koran is not considered good practice--Muslims have criticized this practice as being Jewish.

Instead, only recitation is proper in worship. The Koran must not be read, but chanted. It is an art form and can be emotional, depending on the school of thought. The author examines many of the surahs in the book, and I only noted a few. Chapter Two delves into the Al-Fatihah, containing the fundamental principles of the Koran.

The goal is the Sirat al-Mustaqim-- the straight path that pleases Allah.

Mohammed on Cook, 'The Koran: A Very Short Introduction' | H-Mideast-Medieval | H-Net

Failture to worship Allah alone is the ultimate sin. There is a surah that Muslims are to respond to repentance of enemies with forgiveness and compassion contrary to what we see with ISIS. Surah 2 says that there is no religious compulion while surah 9 creates the way for the "people of the book" to pay a tax rather than submit to Islam. Surah writes that Allah creates evil. In other places in the Koran, Allah leads people astray. The "satanic verses" in the Koran are mentioned along with their purported history; even the Prophet sinned.

Does the verse require a story, or was there a story behind the verse? Mohammed himself is only mentioned four times in the entire Koran, making it difficult to know much about him. Commentators have always resisted any western change to the suras about beating your wife-- acrobatics surrounding the Arabic in this surah are found in Reza Aslan's book.

I learned a great deal about the Koran and even Arabic comitic grammar and nuances in this "brief introduction. Dec 03, Nelson rated it liked it. On the evidence of this volume, Cook is a formidable linguist, not just Arabist. For some, I imagine, this will contain far too much discussion of what will seem like recondite matters of Arabic pronunciation, dialect and so forth. His knowledge of the schools of interpretation that have built up around the text feels encyclopedic. Together, these skills might make this an extremely frustrating volume.

Cook has the skill, however, to tie these realms of erudition back into a reasonably brisk beg On the evidence of this volume, Cook is a formidable linguist, not just Arabist.


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Cook has the skill, however, to tie these realms of erudition back into a reasonably brisk beginner's guide to thinking about the compilation and meaning of the Koran. Perhaps most importantly and surprisingly, for such a volume , he has a lightly worn sense of humor that crops up in a number of places.

The Koran: A Very Short Introduction

It leavens what could otherwise be a dry book and lends a welcome sense of warmth to the proceedings. Can't rate it higher, just because some of the extremely detailed discussions of pronunciation and recitation were still a bridge too far for this reader.

For those with an at least beginning sense of Arabic however, I can imagine this would rate much much higher. Sep 08, Caleb rated it liked it. This is a good book, but I'm not sure who it is written for. It is exceptionally dry, and speaks at length about subjects like the formation of the Quran, linguistics, and the Quran's liturgical roles. Dryness isn't necessarily a problem, but being a Very Short Introduction, it is And it is unlikely that someone seriously interested in these subjects would find this book adequate. But someone looking for a brief overview will quickly find themselves lost in a sea of details.

Essen This is a good book, but I'm not sure who it is written for. Essentially, the book tries to have it both ways, with middling results. EDIT: I should probably add, this book focuses exclusively on the Quran itself, and offers little information about Islam.

In fact, only two Suras are consistently quoted, that of the Sabbath-breakers and of the Elephant. This is to be somewhat expected, but it might still surprise some readers. Jan 16, Justin Evans rated it liked it Shelves: history-etc. I was initially enthusiastic, but it turns out I was just enthusiastic to be reading something on the topic; a friend and I discussed the book, and he's right, it's just okay.

Cook's decision to tell the story backwards is terrible, and makes everything harder to understand. He does deal with a lot of material, and this is probably a solid enough place to start, but most of what I learned was general stuff about Islam, not about the Quran itself. Jul 25, Mike Panton rated it really liked it. This book helps explain the place and meaning of the Koran within Islam, while demonstrating how it differs from all other scriptures. It also tackles some of the major issues that Muslims have dealt with in regards to the Koran.

Nov 05, Jyothis James rated it really liked it. There were analyses of the Koranic passages and commentary with different view points that were not that necessary to go into in order to get the gist of the topic. However, it did provide a perspective on how current discussions around critical passages are discussed. Could have been much shorted, but a useful introduction to the Koran. Jul 22, Terese rated it did not like it.

The linguistics are interesting, much of the rest Basically, only the linguistic portions felt scholarly, the rest can be found in other sources. May 16, Justin Effler rated it liked it. A good introduction on the Qur'an. Covers a good amount of historical and practical aspects regarding Islamic practice with the Qur'an. There were some interesting tidbits on the origin of the Qur'an from various perspectives. I would recommend it. The downside was the linguistics studies was quite dry and hard to comprehend and follow.

Mar 17, Simon rated it it was ok Shelves: religion. Seems not quite intended for a lay audience. Wonderfully written - the authors vocabulary is clearly way more elaborate than mine - yet it actually says surprisingly little about the contents of the Koran. Jun 20, Wasi Rizvi rated it liked it. Well-written but shallow. Maybe i am used to in-depth exegesis tafseer by supreme religious scholars so this surface attempt of making sense of verses systematically seemed bland.

I did learn a few new aspects, esp small details in comparison to other religions. Although it is a god introduction the Holy Quran for someone who has no idea what the book is all about but certain details do need to be altered. Oct 21, Chris Callaway rated it liked it Shelves: nonfiction. I love the VSI series, and this was just what you expect from one devoted to the Koran.

Nov 26, Ethan rated it liked it. I don't feel like I gained any real insight from this, but it was a very short introduction so you know Nov 10, Ushan rated it really liked it. A few years ago I read a book on the Koran by an American scholar that never deviates from the traditional Muslim narrative and never questions it. Imagine a book on the Bible that goes through the Ten Plagues of Egypt without once saying that there is absolutely no archeological evidence for them and no mention of them in Egyptian writings! As I read it I was wondering whether the scholar was afraid that, should he write anything that could be construed as disrespectful of the Koran, he would b A few years ago I read a book on the Koran by an American scholar that never deviates from the traditional Muslim narrative and never questions it.

Very Short Introductions

As I read it I was wondering whether the scholar was afraid that, should he write anything that could be construed as disrespectful of the Koran, he would be assassinated by Islamists. Fortunately, this is a very different book; it presents what I presume is the scholarly consensus on the Koran and the Muslim narrative side by side, and lets the reader choose. Scripture is not a good term for those classics that were traditionally recited rather than written down; however, specifically for the Koran it is.

Its text was standardized soon after it was written down, much sooner for the Koran than for the New Testament and the Hebrew Bible, after the death of Muhammad. There is, however, no consensus on who ordered it to be collected in one book: different stories name three different khalifs. The Hebrew Bible has a romance the story of Joseph , a collection of erotic poetry the Song of Songs , a law code Deuteronomy , and much more.

The Koran has no large texts in the major genres; most of it consists of disordered calls to the believers to do this and that. Some of these calls contradict each other: a verse calls for religious tolerance, and another calls for killing unbelievers; which verse supersedes which? The legend is that God revealed the Koran to Prophet Muhammad through Angel Gabriel, though once Satan got Muhammad's ear, and dictated a few verses that affirmed the divinity of three pagan Arab goddesses, violating the strict monotheism of the book; however, these verses were immediately struck from the Koran.

Some scholars noticed that the author of the Koran knew seafaring much better than Muhammad would have, and wondered whether he could have borrowed the relevant material from someplace else. The consonantal text of the Koran has been stable through most of the history of Islam though some old manuscripts show variations , but as for vowels, there are seven traditions that differ on things like whether a particular noun is in the nominative or in the accusative case.

In printed Korans, the consonants and the vowels are sometimes printed in different colors. The Koran is as revered by the Muslims as Jesus is by the Christians. This extends to physical copies of the book and even coins with Koranic quotes. A man can sit of the floor, and read from a copy of the Koran that is put on an X-shaped chair.

While fundamentalist readers of the Bible are a powerless minority among today's Christians, fundamentalist readers of the Koran are a powerful majority among Muslims. When in a liberal Islamic theologian at Cairo University applied for promotion to full professorship, it came to light that he wrote on why the Koran mentions jinnis. The Koran does mention jinnis, like the Gospels mention a demon that possessed a Gadarene man, which Jesus drove from him into a herd of swine.

The scholar wrote that this was because the culture of the Arabs in Muhammad's time included belief in jinnis, and the Koran had to be made intelligible for them. So the Koran is not a timeless revelation but a product of a specific time and place, written for a specific audience? Fundamentalist lawyers sued for the scholar to be declared an apostate and forcibly divorced from his Muslim wife; the scholar and his wife left Egypt. Unlike the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, the Koran explicitly talks about itself; one verse says, "We have made it an Arabic Koran that you might understand.

Sep 14, Mark rated it liked it Recommends it for: Angel. Crossing posting to LibraryThing, here, and perhaps my blog. Cook, M.

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The Koran, a very short introduction. Very short introductions I ordered this a few weeks back around the time of that idiotic Burn a Koran day. Figuring I needed to know more about the Koran and discovering that Oxford University Press Very Short Introductions were on sale at amazon I ordered myself a copy of this. I must also give a quick shout out to Angel Rivera for helpi Crossing posting to LibraryThing, here, and perhaps my blog. I must also give a quick shout out to Angel Rivera for helping me realize I need to learn more about the Koran.

As for as Very Short Introductions go, and I have read at least a dozen, this one, to me, was probably in the middle. Which is to say, it is fairly good. You will probably learn something from it. I did find the layout of the book a bit odd, and I found the author's reasoning for it also odd: "After a couple of introductory chapters Part One , I have chosen to write history backwards. The reason for this choice is straightforward: for any but a specialist, the phenomena of our own times are easier to grasp than those of the past" [iv]. As true as that may be, this book is a VSI and there is nothing approaching the "specialist" in it.

I personally find that explanation condescending and insulting.


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  4. And I imagine many others who read VSIs would also. From there he goes on to explain why he has "stuck to the old Anglicized form 'Koran'" for which I am culturally incompetent to judge whether it is a good reason or not but it sounds more acceptable to me [iv]. The author early on discusses 'The idea of scripture' and does a good job throughout relating the Koran to other scriptures; Christian, Jewish, Zoroastrian, Hindu and Buddhist. Despite the more or less backwards chronology I did learn quite a bit about the Koran.

    These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable. Part OneIntroduction. Chapter 1Preliminaries. Chapter 2The message of the Koran. Part TwoThe Koran in the modern world. Chapter 3The dissemination of the Koran.

    The Koran: A Very Short Introduction

    Chapter 4The interpretation of the Koran. Chapter 5The very idea of scripture. Chapter 9The Koran as truth. Chapter 10The Koran as an object of dogma. Javascript is not enabled in your browser. Enabling JavaScript in your browser will allow you to experience all the features of our site.

    Learn how to enable JavaScript on your browser. About the Series: Combining authority with wit, accessibility, and style, Very Short Introductions offer an introduction to some of life's most interesting topics. Written by experts for the newcomer, they demonstrate the finest contemporary thinking about the central problems and issues in hundreds of key topics, from philosophy to Freud, quantum theory to Islam.

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