Thursday, April 14, 2011

"Koran Reading Group" begins May 10

Amy Peikoff, JD and PhD, has formed an online "Koran Reading Group." It begins weekly online meetings on Tuesday, May 10, 5-6 pm, Pacific Time (USA) and continues until September 6.[1]

REQUIREMENTS. Her weblog, Don't Let It Go, in an April 11, 2011 post, identifies the cost ($20), reading materials (a Qur'an and R. Spencer's online commentary), and procedures for participating (written comments or phone).[2, 3]

Caution: Do not rely on my description of the reading group arrangements; verify everything at Don't Let It Go.

MY PURPOSE. My personal purpose in participating in the reading group is to systematically read one of the most "inspiring" supernaturalist texts of our time and note its uses of and calls for mysticism. In my experience, the Qur'an (Koran) is the text that Muslims most often cite for the ideas that motivate them.

MY MATERIALS. I plan to use the following materials, for my own purposes:

- The Holy Qur'an: Text, Translation and Commentary, editor Abdullah Yusuf Ali, 3rd edition, Elmhurst (NY), Tahrike Tarsile Qur'an, Inc., 1987 (U. S. edition). When I was a post-bac student at Portland State University (Oregon), ten years ago, Muslims there recommended this bilingual text. They said the English text is an accurate translation, and the editor's commentary is informative. (My knowledge of Arabic is at the kindergarten level, if that.) Note that Amy Peikoff is using another translation.

- Robert Spencer, "Qur'anic Commentary," on his website, Jihad Watch. Spencer has many insights to offer, but I am wary. He is a monotheist. I doubt that he will criticize any Islamic practice or principle found also in Judaism or Christianity. We will see.

- Cyril Glassé, Concise Encyclopedia of Islam, NY, HarperCollins, 1989. (I highly recommend this volume or its later version, The New Encyclopedia of Islam, 3rd edition, 2003.[4] It is a rich source of cross-referenced, clearly written, fully explained descriptions of the concepts and persons who appear in discussions of Islam. The photographs show the sense of grandeur Muslims seek in their architecture.

- A chronological listing of the surahs (chapters).[5] Traditional Qur'ans show the surahs in order by length of each surah, with the longest given first. By contrast, the chronological listing shows the order in which to read the surahs if you want to follow the historical line of events. The historical order makes clearer, my sources say, that Muhammad changed his behavior once he acquired political power. Islam, a religion drawn from both periods, is thus a "cafeteria religion," offering a seeming jumble of gentle models (the earlier Muhammad) and rapacious models (the later Muhammad) of Muslim behavior.

CONCLUSION. The "Koran Reading Group," in my view, offers great value for some individuals -- especially certain activists -- but at the price of a long and deep commitment. The readings and interpretations (of both the Qur'an and monotheist Spencer's possibly biased commentary) are not light or easy reading. I am looking forward to the challenge.

Burgess Laughlin, author,, The Power and the Glory: The Key Ideas and Crusading Lives of Eight Debaters of Reason vs. Faith

[1] [2] [3] [4] [5]

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