C1: The Qur'an in the Lives of Muslims

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C1: The Qur'an in the Lives of Muslims

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1Rosinbow
Aug 15, 2009, 1:01pm

The Qur'an: A user's Guide

Chapter 1 –The Qur’an in the Lives of Muslims

This chapter compares and contrasts the tensions between Qur’an recitation and Qur’an interpretation within traditional and progressive Muslim communities. It also highlights different ways the Qur’an is experienced and utilized. For example the author gives some examples of passages from the Qur’an being recited to protect, ward off evil, and bring blessings. He also gives examples of the Qur’an being memorized but not understood, and then the relatively recent occurrence of Qur’an Study groups.

Some notes, questions, observations—
Esack notes tension between “non-‘ulama Muslims who desires a more intellectual or socially relevant appreciation of the Qur’an” and those who strictly memorize and recite the Qur’an without a deep understanding or ability to utilize its message for the modern world (24-25).

I wonder how traditional Muslims feel about the Qur’an being read in translation?

Is it possible and accepted to study and interpret the Qur’an without a teacher?

How popular are Qur’an study circles? I would imagine this depends on the Muslim country –the Muslim community.

Is recitation part of the Jewish or Christian tradition? How does recitation in these traditions compare?

Lastly, Esack discusses the Qur’an, or ides from the Qur’an being used for social action. I never really thought of this text as being interpreted for positive social change—such as environmental issues and social justice policy.

Would appreciate your perspectives on any of these questions—thoughts.. thanks, rosinbow

2vpfluke
Aug 15, 2009, 6:58pm

Most Muslims I have met think the Qur'an should be read in the original Arabic. I think that reading the Qu'ran is somewhat more involved in community than reading the Bible for Christians, where private devotions and interpretations, particularly among Protestants, can be quite common.

I think that recitation of longer Hebrew scripture pasages (e.g. the Bar Mitzvah) is more common for Jews than for Christians, where memorization is usually restricted to favorite verses or the Beatitudes (or passages turned into cnticles). Christians almost never believe that one has to read scripture in the original Greek or Hebrew. Christians do use the Psalms frequently in worship (i.e. in the recitative mode, rather than listening to 'bible lessons').

3John5918
Aug 16, 2009, 3:10am

I agree with vplfluke about the Qur'an being read in Arabic. Translations are generally not referred to as "the Qur'an" but as an "interpretation" of it. My copy, which has Arabic, English and a transliteration of the Arabic text in Roman script side by side, refers to an "English translation of the meanings" rather than simply a translation of the Qur'an.

4Rosinbow
Aug 18, 2009, 12:58pm

Thank you vpfluke and johnthefireman for your comments.

I came across this Qur'an recitation some months ago done by a young boy. It seems quite remarkable. I wonder what section of the Qur'an he is reciting. I hope my link works for you...

I got directions for how to do this from Essa, and I hope I have interpreted them correctly.

If this link is not live, you came find this by entering these terms --Amazing recitation of the Qur'an by a young child!

5Rosinbow
Aug 18, 2009, 1:00pm

{http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lsj9GPd5YTg}

6John5918
Aug 18, 2009, 1:14pm

Classical Arabic can be incredibly beautiful when proclaimed publicly, whether the Qur'an, poetry or whatever.

7Essa
Aug 18, 2009, 1:14pm

Rosinbow, thanks for the link! And I apologize if my instructions were faulty or unclear. In HTML you have to use the pointy brackets . I used { } because it's not possible to show actual HTML code without LT turning it into HTML on the page. You can post a plain, URL without doing any HTML at all, though -- just paste the link as you did above, without { } . LT turns it into a clickable link. :)

There are a number of Qur'an recitations on YouTube, including some by women -- it's interesting to hear them. Also, Michael Sells' book, Approaching the Qur'an: The Early Revelations, which is said to be quite good, comes with a CD containing oral recitations of portions of the Qur'an, to help the reader hear and "feel" what s/he has read about in the book.

I have acquired Esack's book now and am playing catch-up. I hope to have enough read by this evening or tomorrow morning in order to be able to comment thoughtfully. :)

8MMcM
Aug 18, 2009, 2:21pm

> 4 I wonder what section of the Qur'an he is reciting.

Ya Seen (Surah 36). Listen right after the Bismillah.

9Rosinbow
Aug 25, 2009, 1:01am

> 4 I wonder what section of the Qur'an he is reciting.

Ya Seen (Surah 36). Listen right after the Bismillah.

Thanks MMcM; I was able go to my Oxford translation and read Yasin.
I've been away for four days...

Do you think or know if the boy knows the meaning behind what is he reciting? rosinbow

10Essa
Aug 27, 2009, 12:38pm

Okay, I've finally finished one of my previous books and had a chance to start in on the Esack book. Things have been busy lately though and I haven't had much time for reading; I'm hoping to pick up the pace a bit over the weekend.

I completed the Introduction and Chapter 1. I actually struggled a bit, at first, with Esack's analogy of the Qur'an as female body (in the introduction). I think it's because I, as a female, sometimes feel tired of the clichéd trope of male observer/female subject, and Esack's analogy seemed to fall right into that category. So I did some eye-rolling for awhile, until I got over it and moved on.

To his credit, he did state that he was aware of this situation; and that he is aware that it is often mostly men who are writing about and commenting on the Qur'an. He did mention a couple of female Qur'anic scholars although it seemed to me that there were some he omitted, such as Kecia Ali, Asma Barlas, Fatima Mernissi and Amina Wadud. (Those last three do have entries on LibraryThing but their touchstones won't work for some reason.)

Chapter 1, I thought, did a fine job of conveying the reverence in which Muslims hold the Qur'an. I mean, we know, of course, intellectually, that Muslims do revere the Qur'an. But his descriptions help to convey this on an emotional level, too. I thought that was illuminating.

Also interesting was his brief description of the Qur'an and Qur'anic study in a specifically South African context. I don't know much about the history of Islam there, so that part was interesting. I expect there's a lot more to the story than his outline, which was necessarily brief.

11Rosinbow
Aug 28, 2009, 1:11pm

Hi Essa
So glad you have been able to join in!

I also had a response to Esack's portrayal of the Qur'an as a female body, and I just barely touched upon this in my first post. Funny my take was surprise, because I have the notion that viewing the Qur'an as a female body would be banned--blasphemy or something along those lines. My having this view --shows the bias I have toward thinking the feminine in Islam as being oppressed and not spoken of. I saw that bias right away, and wasn't sure what to do with, so I just carried on reading.

But, so interesting to me that your response was "well here we go again." Interesting.

And I also agree his South African and childhood perspectives of Qur'anic study and what it means to be a Muslim are compelling.

I hope to read the next chapter by Monday. Classes begin for us on Thursday, so I have been distracted. But, I will keep going --though, perhaps slowly. Thankfully we don't have a schedule. sigh.... of relief for me.

rosinbow

12John5918
Sep 22, 2009, 4:54am

I'm struck by two things in this chapter.

Firstly, the Qur'an is alive. The bible was also described in a similar way by my seminary professors (and no doubt by many distinguished authors and scholars before them). It's not just a dead old book. This follows on from the idea in Easck's introduction of the Qur'an as beloved.

Secondly, Esack insists on the importance of context, in his case a South African Muslim during the apartheid struggle. He deliberately identifies with other forms of praxis theology such as liberation theology and feminist theology. Subjectivity is part of life and part of a study/understanding of our scriptures.

13Rosinbow
Sep 23, 2009, 12:27pm

I'm struck by two things in this chapter.

Firstly, the Qur'an is alive. The bible was also described in a similar way by my seminary professors (and no doubt by many distinguished authors and scholars before them). It's not just a dead old book. This follows on from the idea in Easck's introduction of the Qur'an as beloved.

johnthefireman--"alive" I came away from the book with a definition of alive being --alive through God...the breath and spirit of God.. but more from a traditionalists viewpoint. Would progressives also describe the Qur'an as "alive" and if so --in what way?

Secondly, Esack insists on the importance of context, in his case a South African Muslim during the apartheid struggle. He deliberately identifies with other forms of praxis theology such as liberation theology and feminist theology. Subjectivity is part of life and part of a study/understanding of our scriptures.

Yes, and he follows this line in various ways until the end.. :) rosinbow

14CassandraStrand
Edited: May 24, 2011, 3:32am

I just wanted to try and answer a few of your questions here (I realize this thread has been fairly inactive for quite some time but someone else might still benefit from reading this)

"I wonder how traditional Muslims feel about the Qur’an being read in translation?"
The Qur'an can only be truely understood in all of it's complexity in the original Arabic. Most Muslims are overjoyed that someone is reading a translation and trying to better understand the Qur'an but the also worry about the readers of these translations not understanding the passages in context especially if the translation does not have a very thorough commentary section which attepets to give the original context. Some parts of the Qur'an can be interpretted in different ways and a single word can change the whole meaning of the passage. This is why sometimes in religious debates a person will qoute a passage in english and a Muslim will respond by saying it's not translated right and is taken out of context. Translating it at all was a major debate in the Muslim world. All muslims even those of us who do not speak Arabic try our hardest to learn Arabic to understand our Qur'an in it's original form.

"Is it possible and accepted to study and interpret the Qur’an without a teacher?"
It can be done but the person would never be considered a scholar on the subject without appropriate training through a university program. All Muslims are required to read and study the Qur'an as an ongoing education and connection with Allah. We are expected to read the Qur'an in it's entirity every year minimum (we read through it completely every Ramadan). We do not need a teacher to read and study Qur'an and Hadith although this can often be beneficial as they can provide more direction and further understanding of the material.

"How popular are Qur’an study circles? I would imagine this depends on the Muslim country –the Muslim community."
They are quite popular. We refer to them as halaqas. A halaqa usually focuses on Qur'an and hadith together though and usually not just on Qur'an. There are study groups which focus only on memorizing the Qur'an as well.

Is recitation part of the Jewish or Christian tradition? How does recitation in these traditions compare?
The Qur'an is recited in every prayer a Muslim makes so minimum of 5 times a day. When we read it we also recite it out loud. I don't recall ever reciting the Bible when I was Christian and the only time I heard it was when it was being read during a church service. Other than that quiet reading of it seemed to be the norm. The Qur'an is almost sung when recited and is sort of like listening to a poem recitation. I believe Jews also recite their scriptures but I don't really know what this is like or how it compares.