from New English Review, June 2008

http://www.newenglishreview.org/custpage.cfm/frm/20959/sec_id/20959

 

Understanding The Koran

by Bill Warner (June 2008)

Have you ever heard someone say: “What we need is a new translation of the Koran.” What they really mean is that we need a Koran we can read and understand. The difficulties of reading the Koran are notorious and common.

The Koran is repetitious and chaotic. Who do you know who has read the Koran and says that they understand it? The muddled chaos is passed off as profoundness. The confusion is proof of the Koran’s deep wisdom. Right. But, if the Koran were handed to an English teacher, it would receive an F as a grade. And as it turns out, the translation has almost nothing to do with the problem.

CHRONOLOGY: Imagine that you are an English teacher or an editor and the Koran manuscript landed on your desk. You would not ask for a better translation.

Your first step would be to put the document in order. That turns out to be almost trivial. Your Koran from the bookstore has the long chapters up front and the short chapters at the end. The correct time order of the chapters is well known to scholars. Anybody with access to the Web can download a version of the Koran and use any word processor to produce a Koran in the right time order.

This is the crucial first step. When you turn the page of the Koran, you advance in time. The first step produces a chronological Koran.

CATEGORIES: The next problem you face in preparing a readable Koran is deciding how to break up the suras (chapters) into topics and paragraphs.

How do you break it up into topics and paragraphs? The Koran is filled with stories that allow easy categorization. The story of Moses is easily recognized as a topic. Then there are the endless repetitive Arabic stories of Thamud and others. But there remains a lot of verbiage that is not a story. How should it be arranged into topics?

The stream of violence that runs throughout the Koran gives insight into its structure. The violence is not random, but turns out to have a internal order to it. Take Hell, for instance. If you highlight the violent references to the unbelievers, you will find that there are five elements that accompany the violence:

A description of the threat or violence

Whom is threatened

What they did to deserve the violence

How they are wrong

Words from Allah to support his messenger, Mohammed

I call this structure the Koranic Argument. The argument is that the kafirs are wrong, Mohammed is right and violence will come to those who deny him.

The Koranic Argument is a natural organizational element of the Koran. The verse is useful but it does not allow analysis of ideas and thought. After all, a verse is usually just a sentence. People who use individual verses to prove anything about the Koran would never turn around and analyze Kant or Marx on the basis of sentences. No, you want to analyze thoughts, and a sentence is too small a unit for critical, systemic thought. The Koranic Argument allows easy textual analysis of thought, ideas and theme.

As a measure of the importance of Koranic Argument, consider:


Private teaching

Public

Teaching

Meccan–

Argument

Medina

Number of times Koranic Argument is used2

40

65

70

36

Percentage of text devoted to the Koranic

Argument

category

70.5%

63.7%

67.2%

12.8%

The Meccan Koran can be divided into three phases. At first Mohammed only told those who were close to him about his message in private teachings. Then he publicly taught Islam in public teachings. The third phase in Mecca took place during the intense resistance of the Meccans.

In the second and third phases of the Meccan Koran, some of the ancient tales from Arabic lore and the Jewish literature are of the Koranic persuasion category since they have the same structure in distant time. In the second phase, 20 of the ancient tales are also Koranic persuasion. In the third phase there are 12.

This data mirrors the history of Mohammed’s life. In the Meccan religious phase, the violence took the form of threats of punishment that were to occur after death in Hell. Or the mentioned violence was in ancient history, i.e. the Pharaoh being destroyed because he would not listen to Allah’s prophet, Moses. In Mecca the Koranic violence referred to the far future or the distant past. However, in Medina, there is less talk about Hell, and much more physical violence against political enemies. The action of jihad replaces the rhetoric of the threat of punishment.

Approximately two thirds of the Koran of Mecca is devoted to the Koranic Argument of “listen to Mohammed, the prophet of the only god, Allah, or you will suffer eternal torture in Hell.” When Mohammed achieved political power, the religious threats became political reality. The Koranic Argument of religion in Mecca became the political practice in Medina.

Approximately 51% of the Medinan Koran text is about jihad and verbal threats directed against Jews, non-Muslims and hypocrites (half-hearted Muslims). The Koran of Medina is 10.8% Jew hatred in nature. By comparison, only 6.8% of the text (measured by paragraphs) of Adolph Hitler’s Mein Kamph is anti-Jewish.

REPETITION: Once the Koran is placed into the right chronological order, the next step is to group together all of the similar repetitive material. One of the most tiresome things about the Koran is the endless repetition. The story of Moses is told 39 times.

Once the Koran is categorized, the similar topics can be grouped together. This greatly simplifies the understanding and ease of reading. When similar topics are grouped, it becomes easy to skip over them and not feel like you are missing anything. It also allows the reader to see the small changes in the stories.

When the stories are grouped, another thing really stands out. Allah was no story teller. A story has a beginning, a middle and an end. Not one story in the Koran can stand on its own. There are always missing pieces. Even the Joseph story, which is the best in the Koran, is incomplete.

CONTEXT: There is one missing piece to Koranic puzzle. The missing piece is Mohammed. Only Mohammed makes the Koran make any sense. Take as an example:

Koran 59:5 Allah gave you permission to cut down some palm trees and leave others intact so as to shame the wicked [the Jews]. After Allah gave the spoils to His Messenger, you made no move with horses or camels to capture them [the Jews], but Allah gives His messengers power over what He chooses. Allah is all-powerful.

If you are reading along, this verse just jumps out at you without any context. Why is Allah suddenly talking about palm trees? The answer is that Mohammed attacked the Jews and part of his jihad was to destroy their economy by cutting down their date palm plantations.

If we take and weave Mohammed’s life into the Koran, then the Koran has a context and all of the mystery is gone. What is interesting is that by weaving Mohammed into the Koran, we have reproduced the original Koran. It unfolded as needed by Mohammed. His life is integral to the Koran.

When Mohammed’s life is integrated into it, the Koran becomes an epic story that ends with the triumph of political Islam.

AN HISTORICAL TEXT: The Koran is a precise historical record of Mohammed’s political campaign. The repetition shows it to be a history of Mohammed’s campaign in Mecca. The Meccan Koran is an record of Mohammed’s attempts to convince the Arabs of the superiority of Islam. Imagine that as a reporter you followed and recorded a candidate over the course of his campaign. You would hear the same story again and again. Repetition is the best way to convince the public. Witness the repetition in any ad or PR campaign. It is not enough to say it once. You must say it again and again.

The Koran was delivered by Mohammed to the Arabs. And like any other campaigner, he repeated the same stories and arguments. The Koran faithfully records his political campaign. The Koran of Mecca is an exact description of what took place in the intellectual and political sphere. Koranic Argument is a recording of actual events of debate and argument. In many cases, there are actual quotes of Mohammed’s opponents.

The Medinan Koran chronicles the exact history of the rise of Islamic political power. The Koran is both a religious text and a political/historical text. The Koran contains an intimate and exact view of Arabian history. As a political/historical text, the Koran can be viewed as a biography of Mohammed.

SUMMARY: The Koran can made to be simple to understand by using:

Chronology—putting the verses in the original historical order.

Category—the method of grouping verses around the same subject. There can be discussion about which categories to use, but the Koranic Argument method of categorization produces the simplest text.

Context—using Mohammed’s life to give the circumstances and environment of the text.

With the analytic tools of Chronology, Category and Context, the Koran becomes a clear and simple text. The CCC analytic method most closely duplicates the historical words spoken by Mohammed.

The classical method of presenting the Koranic text is based upon the length of the chapters. It starts with the longest sura and ends with the shortest sura. It is an arbitrary method of presenting the words spoken by Mohammed. It has failed to produce a text that can be easily understood. (It is my opinion that the Koran, Sira and Hadith were deliberately made difficult to understand.)

In scientific philosophy the term, Occam’s Razor, refers to the principle that the simplest theory that will explain the facts is the best theory. Using the criteria of Occam’s Razor shows that Chronology, Category and Context is the best method to reveal the meaning of the Koran. No other method produces clarity, hence, CCC is the best method of organization of the Koran and is superior to the standard Koran text.

The CCC method was used by the Center for the Study of Political Islam to produce the Simple Koran and the Abridged Koran.

"Bill,

Is there an English translation of the Koran that has been put in the right chronological order?

Can I get a copy of this document. I would much appreciate it, as a research tool."

Kalyan — June 6, 2008 @ 9:20 PM

"
We have it in both full edition and an abridged edition. Mohammed's life has also be woven into it.
Without Mohammed, the Koran has no meaning.

http://www.politicalislam.com/store/primary-doctrine-books/product/a-simple-koran/ "

Bill — June 7, 2008 @ 10:24 AM

"Many muslims who wish to better understand the quran read the Quran with Tafseer, which is background information of the events which which led the the revelation of verses in the Quran.

This is a common thing among muslims especially those who get a religious education. Im Pakistani and even though i wasn't taught in a religious shcool and went in a common English medium school was taught Islamiat and selected surahs from the Quran with their background info, such was what was going on in the history of the early muslim community when that surah was revealed.
also
this site is just weird. you make issues out of nothing, like the topic above, the issue was resolved about a few centuries ago.

im a shia muslim and there are huge differences in the Political attitudes of Shias and sunni and you cant lump sunnis and Shias with the Salafi and Wahabi movements, unlike shia and sunni which are more sects with long histories the Salafist are quite new and they simplify everything, they are literalist, try not to use commonsense in their intepretation of anything and prefer to go hyper emotional about everything. the current salafist driven political Islam in palces like Pakistan, really isnt so deep. Its not a system, its just claiming to follow an Islamic system while the followers have no idea what they are doing. they are simply led on by promises of power and the righting of past wrongs.

The only ones who have some structure and a true hierarchy of religious authority are shias, and traditional sunnis have that to a lesser extent and the salafist have very little central authority and are led by loud screamers than good teachers

just thought you people could use some comments from the people whose beliefs you are trying to dissect and whose beliefs you are grossly misunderstanding."

Karim Qaiser — November 13, 2008 @ 2:41 PM

"Everyone misunderstands Islam except for the people who felt Dr. Nidal Hasan's bullets passing right through their body. They understood what Mohammed was driving at. Does Mr. Qaiser understand that? To quote the greatest Shi'ite leader of all time:
'“Those who know nothing of Islam pretend that Islam counsels against war. Those [who say this] are witless. Islam says: Kill all the unbelievers just as they would kill you all! Does this mean that Muslims should sit back until they are devoured by [the unbelievers]? Islam says: Kill them, put them to the sword and scatter [their armies]….Islam says: Whatever good there is exists thanks to the sword and in the shadow of the sword! People cannot be made obedient except with the sword! The sword is the key to Paradise, which can be opened only for the Holy Warriors! There are hundreds of other ayahs and hadiths urging Muslims to value war and to fight. Does all this mean that Islam is a religion that prevents men from waging war? I spit upon those foolish souls who make such a claim.” -Ayatollah Khomeini

Darn, Khomeini misunderstood Islam too!"

Democracyistheanswer — November 30, 2009 @ 1:42 AM

"Ayatollah Khomeini was a not the "the greatest Shi'ite leader of all time".And was not the only great Ayatollah of that time either.You say this because hes probably the only one you know of. I bet you're one of those who think Osama bin Ladin is the greatest Sunni leader of all time too. Khomeini was more a politician than a scholar, he a was a militant leader aspiring towards greater influence and thus needed to prod his follwers onwards with such statements. Like Mao said, "a revolution is not a tea party"
But Khomeini was not wrong in saying Islam does not forbid war, indeed war is for self defense, and Khomeini despite his failing was an effective war leader, rallying his people against the Iraqi invasion.

The greatest Shia leader of all time is Imam Ali(as) and these are his orders to Maalik the Governor of Egypt
"Do not feel ashamed to forgive and forget. Do not hurry over punishments and do not be pleased and do not be proud of your power to punish. Do not get angry and lose your temper quickly over the mistakes and failures of those over whom you rule. On the contrary, be patient and sympathetic with them. Anger and desire of vengeance are not going to be of much help to you in your administration. Never say to yourself, "I am their Lord, their ruler and all in all over them and that I must be obeyed submissively and humbly" because such a thought will unbalance your mind, will make you vain and arrogant, will weaken your faith in religion and will make you seek support of any power other than that of Allah . If you ever feel any pride or vanity on account of your sway and rule over your subjects then think of the supreme sway and rule of the Lord over the Universe, the extent of His creations, the supremacy of His Might and Glory, His Power to do things which you cannot even dream of doing and His control over you which is more dominating than that which you can ever achieve over anything around you. Such thoughts will cure your mental weakness, will keep you away from vanity and rebellion (against Allah), will reduce your arrogance and haughtiness and will take you back to the sanity which you had foolishly deserted... Try carefully to realize that a ruler can create goodwill in the minds of his subjects and can make them faithful and sincere to him only when he is kind and considerate to them, when he reduces their troubles, when he does not oppress them and when he never asks for things which are beyond their power. These are the principles which you should keep in mind and act upon."

Such was he that even in the aftermath of a Battle in which he was victorious he did not rejoice, he mourned.
"When Ayesha was defeated and Ali saw the corpses on the ground he began to beat his thighs"

You need to actually read the Quran instead of being judgmental, basing your opinions on the statements of politicians like Khomeini or depressed deranged men like Nidal. The Quran says, "the servants of Allah are those who walk on earth in humility and when the ignorant address them they say "peace".""

Karim Qaiser — December 24, 2009 @ 1:56 PM

"Just for the ease of convenience of you frothing-at-the-mouth Islamophobes im giving you ae link where you can read the Quran in English

http://www.al-islam.org/Quran/

What the hell would you know eh, my name means 'generous'"

Karim Qaiser — December 24, 2009 @ 2:03 PM

"I have arranged the Koran into reverse chronological order.

It is available here, as a printed book, as an eBook, and as a free PDF download:

http://sola-virtus.blogspot.com/2010/07/chronological-koran.html

Please take the time to browse the books that I have written. They address a number of the issues that the West is having to deal with now.

Many of our politicians have not yet understood the truth regarding Islam, and I am doing what I can to correct their misunderstanding."

SolaVirtus — July 5, 2010 @ 3:21 PM

"Hi Sola

I had a look at your blog; Jesus was 'probably' a vegetarian...the verses which say He ate fish were 'probably' added later... Muhammad was 'probably' vegetarian....etc.

Not much academic content there. What do you suppose Jesus ate at Seder, a nice nut roast? What do you think Muhammad did for protein in the desert? Why did he leave clear instructions for Halal slaughter? How do his followers know his favourite meal was shoulder of mutton?

When you claim Jesus eating fish was an interpolation you may as well throw away the scriptures, for there is no critetia by which you can be sure any part of the text is authentic.

Wake up and stop imposing your personality
n to the text, you may end up being guilty of creating God in your own image!"

Scottish Knight — April 17, 2013 @ 4:31 AM

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