The Koran: A Very Short Introduction

The Koran: A Very Short Introduction

The Koran: A Very Short Introduction

The Koran: A Very Short Introduction

Synopsis

The Koran has constituted a remarkably resilient core of identity and continuity for a religious tradition that is now in its fifteenth century. In this Very Short Introduction, Michael Cook provides a lucid and direct account of the significance of the Koran both in the modern world and in that of traditional Islam. He gives vivid accounts of its role in Muslim civilization, illustrates the diversity of interpretations championed by traditional and modern commentators, discusses the processes by which the book took shape, and compares it to other scriptures and classics of the historic cultures of Eurasia.

Excerpt

George Sale, who published the first good English translation of the Koran in 1734, hastened to assure his readers that no good Christian 'can apprehend any danger from so manifest a forgery'. Taking a swipe at 'the Romish communion', he went on to observe that 'the Protestants alone are able to attack the Korân with success; and for them. I trust. Providence has reserved the glory of its overthrow'. Providence, of course, has done nothing of the kind. Sale's remarks nevertheless served their purpose. Having established his credentials as a Christian, and, perhaps more important, a Christian of the right kind, he felt free to renounce 'opprobrious appellations, and unmannerly expressions' in speaking of Muhammad and his Koran. When he came to discuss the character of the book, he described its style as 'generally beautiful and fluent', and 'in many places, especially where the majesty and attributes of God are described, sublime and magnificent'. An example he singled out in his translation is the 'throne verse' (Q2:255); he hastened to add that 'it must not be supposed the translation comes up to the dignity of the original', a problem we still share with him.

Fortunately it is no longer necessary for a Western author to open a book on the Koran in the way in which Sale did. In Britain today, even the adherents of the Romish communion have been emancipated. My own starting point is perhaps closer in spirit to the idiom of Sale's contemporary Edward Gibbon, who in his chapter on the career of the Prophet wrote as . . .

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