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The Syro-Aramaic Reading of the Koran: A…

The Syro-Aramaic Reading of the Koran: A Contribution to the Decoding of…

by Christoph Luxenberg

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This is not an easy read because it is a doctoral thesis. As such, it gives a lot of detailed linguist 'proofs' for each of the arguments it presents. He'll start with the Arabic, then go into Syro-Aramaic, give a few side examples of variations on diacritical marks, etc. After a while, I found myself reading the accepted Arabic version of the ayah and then skipping down (sometimes 5 pages later!) to the Syro-Aramaic re-translation.

Luxemberg thinks that the Quran was only considered as a written text. But, in the Islamic tradition there was always supposed to be people around who had memorized the Quran and this oral transmission was supposed to be intact and overlapped the written book. With Luxenberg's findings, one questions, "Why would the written book trump the oral transmission?" If there were errors in the diacritical marks, then why weren't those corrected by the hafizs? If there was confusion about the meanings, then why didn't the hafiz explain to their students? The problem is boiling down to Muslims are being asked to verify an oral transmission of scripture within the standards of accepted Western academic practice. How could you identify a biodegradeable society to an archeologist when the archeologist is trained to only look for stone monuments?

Luxemberg also comes across as a prude because he is most interested in 'translating away' any references to sexual pleasure in paradise and instead wants everyone to be happy eating and drinking- particularly grapes.

Luxemberg's houri analysis is thoroughly torpedoed by Stefan Wild in his article "Lost in Philology? The Virgins of Paradise and the Luxenberg Hypothesis" which can be found in the book "The Qur'an in Context: Historical and Literary Investigations into the Qur'anic Milieu" edited by Angelika Neuwirth, Nicholai Sinai, and Michael Marx. Prof. Wild notes:

"Theses like those of Bell, Luling, and Luxemberg display an evident charm. Their common feature is that they seem to give a new shape and a new sense to an old text, which emerges as having never been really understood. This is, of course, a bold and noble undertaking. It also puts the philologist into a very enviable position, one which most philologists dream of. He has a magic wand. Some dots are changed here and there- and a whole mythology, and with it a holy book, collapses. This gives a cabbalistic twist to their efforts. The intended effect resembles Rashad Khalifa's (d 1990) esoteric attempt to read the number 19 into the letters of the Qur'an, and his claim that only by accepting this "mathematical miracle" can a full understanding of the Qur'anic message be achieved. For Luling and Luxemberg there is an added element. Implicitly, these authors seem to say: "the Muslims do not even understand their own revelation. An outsider has to come to tell them what their holy text really means.'" p 645 ( )
  nabeelar | Apr 19, 2011 |
The book argues that the Koran at its inception was drawn from Christian Syro-Aramaic texts in order to evangelize the Arabs in the early 8th century.

Cf. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Syro-Aramaic_Reading_of_the_Koran; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christoph_Luxenberg
  gmicksmith | Jan 31, 2010 |
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