Thursday, April 06, 2006

Religion: Taking a look at the Koran, part I

Like most Americans, I know next to nothing about Islam. I must say even though I live in the cultural melting pot of Los Angeles, I don't know any Muslims personally. I've attended one presentation about Islam which I blogged about and I hear what is in the popular media on television.

As a Christian, I do have a religious perspective to begin with. Nonethess, as a thinking person living in this world at this moment in history, I decided it was time to try to understand Islam a little bit better. I went to Amazon and ordered up a copy of the Koran.

Since the original Koran is in Arabic, there are many English translations.

In Christianity, the Bible's original language is Hebrew and Greek; thus, there are many options for English translations.

I chose the Koran prepared by Abdullah Yusuf Ali because one of the Amazon reviews said this, "This translation is considered the most authentic by Muslim scholars. It is the one that is supported by the government of Saudi Arabia and is most widely read by English-speaking Muslims."

I took his word for it and ordered it up.

In the table of content, one finds that the Koran is divided into 114 Suras.

A visit to the University of Southern California Muslim Student's Association gives the following introduction to the Koran:
The Qur'an ("Qor-Ann") is a Message from Allah to humanity. It was transmitted to us in a chain starting from the Almighty Himself (swt) to the angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad (saas). This message was given to the Prophet (saas) in pieces over a period spanning approximately 23 years (610 CE to 622 CE). The Prophet (saas) was 40 years old when the Qur'an began to be revealed to him, and he was 63 when the revelation was completed. The language of the original message was Arabic, but it has been translated into many other languages.
Wikipedia offers these items about the Koran:
There are numerous traditions, and many conflicting academic theories, as to the provenance of the Qur'anic verses that were eventually assembled into a single volume. (This is covered in greater detail in Qur'an). Most Muslims accept the account recorded in several hadith, which state that Abu Bakr, The First Caliph, ordered his personal secretary Zayd ibn Thabit to collect and record all the authentic verses of the Qur'an, as preserved in written form or oral tradition. Zayd's written collection, privately treasured by Muhammad's wife Hafsa bint Umar, was, according to Muslim sources, later used by Uthman and is thus the basis of today's Qur'an.

Uthman's version, organized the suras roughly in order of length (excepting the brief opening surah Al-Fatiha), with the longest suras at the start of the Qur'an and the shortest ones at the end. More conservative views state that the order of most suras was divinely set. Later scholars have struggled to put the suras in chronological order, and at least among Muslim commentators, there is a rough consensus as to which suras were revealed in Mecca and which at Medina, with distinctive characteristics observed within these two subgroups. Some suras (e.g. surat Iqra) are thought to have been revealed in parts at separate times.
Hopefully, my examination of the Koran will become a periodic feature at this blog.

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