The Qur'an: A User's Guide Introduction

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The Qur'an: A User's Guide Introduction

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1Rosinbow
Aug 11, 2009, 1:47am

Hello Everyone—it seems we have a few folks interested in reading and “maybe” discussing The Qur'an: A User's Guide, by Farid Esack so I thought I would go ahead and begin with some impressions of the Introduction. I enjoy sharing thoughts, questions, and comments as I read knowing that by the end of the book I may well feel or see things quite differently from where I began. Also, I am not trying to be an expert here but an explorer—ready to take a journey.

I have not read the Qur’an just portions, and I would like to understand better how it is organized and how it is interpreted across the board by various levels of believers. Do you have a copy of the Qur’an –if so what translation? My copy is the Oxford World Classic by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem; I haven’t cataloged it yet.

We have spoken a bit already about Farid Esack, and the introduction to this book has me intrigued.

The interpretations of a reader are not always rational, and we see through own lens colored by many socio-cultural, political, and varying world-views. Esack begins by presenting various ways people have approached the Qur’an, and ends by taking the approach of “beauty” and one of a lover.

Esack then goes on to present 6 types of approaches to the Qur’an: ordinary Muslims, Confessional Muslim Scholars, Critical Muslim Scholars, Participant Observers, Revisionists, and Polemicists. Each type approaches the “beloved” in a different way.

I’d be interested to know your thoughts on his approach and these definitions. I was surprised he made a comparison of the Qur’an with the female body, and that he brought femininity into the picture right off the bat. My surprise, of course, says something mostly about me as the reader. Or is the Qur’an often seen as the “beloved”? I thought the Qur’an was considered to be the direct word of God –at least by traditionalists. I’m sure I will learn more about this as the text proceeds.

It’ll take me weeks to read this text; I’ve got to take it slowly since I’m busy reading some other required works, and caught up in designing my fall classes too, so there is plenty of time for you to get a copy and join in- if you like. More on the introduction soon--rosinbow

2John5918
Aug 11, 2009, 9:12am

Speaking generally, as I haven't got a copy of the book yet, "beloved" is a common image of God amongst the mystics. Also, within some parts of Christian tradition, scripture was always to be interpreted with "charity" or "love" - can't remember whether I saw that in Dei Verbum or in Karen Armstrong's The Bible - a biography or both.

3Essa
Edited: Aug 11, 2009, 12:36pm

I don't have my copy yet, either, but should have it tonight or tomorrow. I, too, have the Abdel Haleem translation of the Qur'an as well as the one by N.J. Dawood (and have read both).

Re: The female body imagery. Amina Wadud, in her book Inside the Gender Jihad: Women's Reform in Islam, provides a transcript of a khutbah she delivered in a South African mosque in the 1990s -- a khutbah at which Farid Esack was present. In it, she commented on the words rahman and rahim, often translated as "compassionate" and "merciful" and considered to be two of the primary names/attributes of God. She notes that the consonantal root (r-h-m) of both words is the same as that of "rahm" ("rehem" in Hebrew), meaning uterus, womb, origin. She commented at length on that and utilized a lot of feminine imagery and symbolism in her sermon.

I am at work and don't have that book here so can't quote from it, but I found that section very interesting, and also unusual -- not being a speaker of the Semitic languages, I hadn't known the word for womb; and I have not often come across female symbolism and imagery in Islamic discussion, at least from male scholars.

I'd be willing to bet that Esack found the sermon and imagery compelling, and that it influenced him in his work, including this User's Guide. :)

Edit: Italics-Be-Gone.

4John5918
Sep 22, 2009, 4:49am

I'm struck by the analogy of engagement with the beloved, which could be true of any sacred scripture, not only the Qur'an. It's one of the reasons why athesist and religious people seem to keep talking past each other in LT threads - one is trying to dissect something purely rationally whilst the other is trying to understand and come closer to their beloved.

5Rosinbow
Sep 23, 2009, 12:31pm

I'm struck by the analogy of engagement with the beloved, which could be true of any sacred scripture, not only the Qur'an. It's one of the reasons why athesist and religious people seem to keep talking past each other in LT threads - one is trying to dissect something purely rationally whilst the other is trying to understand and come closer to their beloved.

Your comments strike me as being true of any topic where polemic views exists--politics come to mind. It seems unfortunate though that little meaningful dialog can take place, because the views are so opposite and the goal so far opposed.
rosinbow