Saturday, 8 June 2013

The Koran

Why I read it: Western Canon, Philip Ward's A Lifetime's Reading

Podcasts: Minnesota Atheists Koran Curious I didn't actually mean to listen to an atheist podcast about the Koran, but there was very little available.

Brow: Like all religious books, your brow rating for reading the Koran depends on why exactly you're doing it: if you use it like some bible readers do, opening it to a random page to either solve a problem or find out what's going to happen to you today, that's pretty lowbrow, but if you're reading it out of a genuine curiosity to figure out what your Muslim friends are always going on about, it's very highbrow. 

Summary: Allah doesn't fuck around:  if you follow him and obey his rules (in sum: believe in Allah), he'll reward you in heaven with virgins, or possibly grapes. The translation isn't clear. Failure to believe in Allah will result in an eternity of torture in hell. There's also some stuff in there about how Muslims should be Unitarians because Jesus, although a prophet, was not divine, when you can have sex with your slaves, and what you can and cannot eat, but 85 percent of it consists of admonishments to believe in Allah or else.

What I liked about it: Surah 109 is nice and tolerant:

Say: Unbelievers, I do not serve what you worship, nor do you serve what I worship. I shall never serve what you worship, nor will you ever serve what I worship. You have your own religion and I have mine.

But then right there on the same page of my translation, The Penguin Classics version, is this:

There are some who in their ignorance dispute about Allah and serve rebellious devils, though these are doomed to seduce their followers and lead them to the scourge of the Fire.

What I didn't like about it: It feels like every religious book is a dumber version of whatever it's based on. So the New Testament is a simplified version of the Old Testament, and the Koran is a simplified mishmash of the New Testament with a few nods to Leviticus and Exodus and a couple of the prophets thrown in. By the time it was written, the message was reduced to 450-odd pages hammering you over the head with the punishments for disobedience. By the end, I was just shell-shocked. Maybe that's the point. Thank goodness the Book of Mormon doesn't appear on any of my reading lists, as I understand it's a dumbed-down version of the bible written in pseudo-King Jamesese.

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