Cannot find the source of this image, would love to credit them
I read half the Koran in the Dubai airport. Not to edify myself per se, just had a massive amount of time to kill. I was looking through the Magrudy’s bookstore trying to find something to help me understand A-rabs, and like them more. A lot of books, but I figured I might as well go to the source. The Koran is certainly very powerful. The first part is rather defensive, but then it gets into the meat of what’s what. I can’t say inshallah anymore without a certain fear of God It is actually very very good, I would guess that the original Arabic is sublime. I read it with a bias, actually a few. Actually, there’s a lot to go through, so I’ll just focus on the Koran and violence here.
I should make clear that I think the Koran is a very a positive thing. It has a strong emphasis on a life beyond this material one, which is easy to forget. Just reading it made my life a little easier in that I could have faith in something bigger than the small problems of this world.
Fair in the eyes of men is the love of things they covet: women and sons; heaped-up hoards of gold and silver; horses branded for blood and excellence; and wealth of cattle and well-tilled land. Such are the possessions of this world’s life; but in nearness to God is the best of the goals to return to. (3:14)
which I would update as,
Fair in the eyes of men is the love of things they covet: women and sons; heaped-up hoards of capital; cars branded for blood and excellence; and wealth of oil and land. Such are the possessions of this world’s life; but in nearness to God is the best of the goals to return to.
I feel like it’s easy to go crazy chasing material success in this world, and ultimately unrewarding. Or, ultimately punishing as the Koran would have it.
If any do wish for the transitory things of this life, We readily grant them – such things as We will, to such persons as We will: in the end have We provided Hell for them: they will burn therein, disgraced and rejected. (17:18)
As far as I can tell the Koran is very clear about Heaven and Hell, and the End Times and Judgement Day. Besides that, it’s very rich metaphorically with the emphasis on Angels (who are the ‘We’ quoted here, I think) and Jinns, which are a brother race it seems. The Jinns were created from flame, while we were created from clay. I’d be interested to learn more about them. The general tone of the Koran seems to come from the time that it was delivered. Mohammed faced some stiff opposition from local Arabs, to the point that they attacked him. Christians and Jews that one thought would be receptive weren’t, and they’re criticized in the Koran too. Especially in the early Surahs there is a strong emphasis on belief, and the threat of non-belief – especially polytheism.
After those Surahs it gets into the instructional stories of other prophets – Abraham, Noah, Moses, Jesus, etc. It seems to be build on these examples to place Muhammed and the Koran on this continuum. It is only after this buildup – the consequences of disbelief – that they start to get into the real teachings. I would say that it’s an effective method. The Koran says that time after time people have rejected their prophets and the signs, and those populations have either been destroyed or will face reckoning in the hereafter. As such, it’s not much different from the Old or the New Testament.
Loosely, the Koran does seem to support War. In fact, Muhammed was a formidable warrior who unified much of Arabia under the sword. The early Surahs, especially ‘The Spoils of War’ (8) and ‘The Repentance’ (9) are focused on the self-defence of a religion in a hostile environment. Specifically the military victories of Islam. Repeatedly it says that Islam is worth fighting for, notably in the section ‘Believers Permitted to Fight’
To those against whom war is made, permission is given to fight because they are wronged; – and verily, God is Most Powerful for their aid; – They are those who have been expelled from their homes in defiance of right, for no cause except that they say, “Our Lord is God” (22:39)
Those who leave their homes in the cause of God, and are then slain or die, – on them will God bestow verily a goodly provision (22:58)
War and violence is accepted, but seemingly only in self-defense. There is, however, pretty severe admonition for misusing or appropriated the Koran in any way for false causes. I’d say, from my brief reading, that the Koran is assertive, aggressive, and tells the story of a powerful and vengeful God. It is very clear on hell for Heretics and non-believers, and paint a picture of a world and hereafter of suffering – with blissful escape in submission to God. I don’t think this is necessarily bad. Religion has to address suffering in some form, and in a turbulent world I think it makes sense to acknowledge that –
There is not a population but We shall destroy it before the Day of Judgement or punish it with a dreadful Penalty: that is written in the eternal record. (17:58)
In this way the Koran acknowledges human suffering and offers a way out. I think that’s an important job of Religion, a kind of ‘break glass in case of fire thing’. I mainly look to faith when things fall apart, and I need something that speaks to that condition. That is, I don’t want to hear that everything is OK or that God is going to give me everything I want. By the time I open the book that’s probably not the case. In a turbulent world where war is a reality, the Koran speaks to that. In that sense, I don’t think it’s negative at all, it offers a positive solution. After the tsunami people kept asking ‘how could God do this?’, or ‘doesn’t this prove that God doesn’t exist? and I wanted to slap them. People seem to treat God like a candy shop, here to give people whatever they want. The God I felt in the Koran was much more harsh (like reality) but incredibly powerful and warm once you submit to and love him. As per Islam, which means submission.