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martes, 14 de julio de 2015


** If you have 10 minutes today, please invest them reading this post. It's long, but the topic is too rich to be put in a nutshell. The Quran is a human heritage book shaping the lives of a quarter of the population of our planet. Regardless of religion or culture, we all need to have a general idea of its contents **
What's In The Quran? Where Did It Come From?

“Read!” This is the first word of the Quran, and the simplest answer to this question smile emoticon How else can anyone form an educated opinion about a book’s contents and its value without reading it? Especially if it’s a unique, highly sophisticated, 600-page literary work, shaping the lives of a quarter of the population of our planet. (Link below for those interested)
Besides being a religious text, the Quran is a unique masterpiece of classical Arabic literature unlike any other. This is not my personal opinion; this is an established fact by world linguists, who use it as a language benchmark regardless of whether or not they are Muslims, or whether they believe it to be the word of God. In Arabic-speaking countries, even non-Muslim writers, speakers and politicians quote its eloquent verses as a source of timeless global wisdom for all humanity. It’s also the opinion of respected international personalities who authored books about it.
** My Experience Reading The Quran:
When I first decided to take a closer look at Islam about 15 years ago, I quickly discovered that you can’t read the Quran with half a mind like you read the newspaper or someone’s biography. It is intellectual hard work to try to get the multiple layers of meaning, complex imagery, and scientific hints, all while being probed deep down to your soul and fiercely challenged to use your intellect to it’s limits.
On the first reading, the overwhelming feeling is of awe. If you were a Muslim and you already believed this is God talking to you directly, your belief will be confirmed. If you were not a Muslim, you’ll probably be surprised because the book is not at all what you expected it to be.
It's highly spiritual but also very practical. It's powerful and tender, beautifully musical to read aloud, yet it's neither poetry nor prose. I wanted a fresh look at the Holy Book from a more objective perspective, so I looked for the writings of non-Arabic speaking and non-Muslim international scholars. That offered me totally new perspectives on the text and the message it conveys, even to those who are not Muslim. I would like to share some of my findings with you.
** How Some Non-Muslim Thinkers See The Quran
-- Dr. Jeffry Lang, an American professor of mathematics at University of Kansas, in his book, Struggling to Surrender, challenged the Quran as a fierce atheist, yet he could not help but surrender to it eventually. He writes of his first reading:
“You cannot simply read the Quran, not if you take it seriously. You either have surrendered to it already or you fight it. It attacks tenaciously, directly, personally; it debates, criticizes, shames, and challenges. From the outset it draws the line of battle, and I was on the other side. I was at a severe disadvantage, for it became clear that the Author knew me better than I knew myself. The Quran was always way ahead of my thinking; it was erasing barriers I had built years ago and was addressing my queries.”
Dr. Lang became a Muslim shortly thereafter, without being influenced by anyone preaching the religion to him, and as he details in his book, he made that decision completely on his own after studying the Quran.
-- Dr. Gary Miller, Canadian preacher and lecturer of logic and mathematics at Toronto University, decided to expose scientific and historical errors in the Quran. But he approached the book with such scientific fairness that the results were totally unexpected. He reached the conclusion that it cannot be a work of a human. In his book, The Amazing Quran, Dr. Garry Miller writes: “Calling the Quran amazing is not something done only by Muslims who have an appreciation for the book and who are pleased with it; it has been labelled amazing by non-Muslims as well. In fact, even people who hate Islam very much have still called it amazing.”
Dr. Miller then explains his surprise as a scientist during his first reading: “Within the last century, the scientific community has demanded a test of falsification for any new scientific theory. This is exactly what the Quran has. Basically it states, ‘If this book is not what it claims to be, then all you have to do is this or this or this to prove that it is false.’ Honestly, I was very surprised when I first discovered this challenge. In 4:82 the book openly invites you to find a mistake. In 1400 years, no one has been able to do that, and thus it is considered true and authentic.”
-- Dr. Maurice Bucaille, French medical doctor and Egyptologist, also reached the same conclusion. He studied the Quran to try to understand the exact circumstances surrounding the story of Moses to try to determine who the Pharaoh of the Exodus was.
In his book, The Bible, The Quran, and Science, Dr. Bucaille argued that the Quran is not in conflict with scientific facts. He states that in Islam, science and religion have always been “twin sisters”. He noted the astounding verses in the Quran about natural phenomena and said it is impossible to explain their presence in the ancient text in human terms, given the level of knowledge at the time the Quran was revealed. Those facts on the cosmos, embryology, geology and other sciences, were only discovered recently and could have never been written by a person who lived more than 1400 years ago by mere observation of his surroundings or even reading older works. Bucaille then concluded that the Quran is the word of God.
-- Dr. Lezley Hazleton, Jewish scholar and British-American writer, explains what she thinks of the Quran in an eye-opening TED talk called, “On Reading The Quran” describing her first reading. She can read Arabic, and she said she had planned to read the book within a few days, but ended up spending weeks on that first reading. She talks about her experience so passionately that few Muslims could ever outdo her. Watch:
** The Topics Of The Quran:
The Quran discusses a wide range of subjects: wisdom, doctrine, worship, and law, in addition to everyday interactions and relationships, such as trade, marriage, war, international relations, science, nature, parenting, social manners and many other topics. But its basic theme is the relationship between people and God.
It's not a biography of Muhammad's life. He's only mentioned in it 4 times by name. It tells of previous nations and how they perished, of Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Jesus, and so many previous prophets and saints and their stories with their people to teach courage and perseverance. It mentions Jesus Son of Mary more than it mentions Muhammad, and the only verse bearing a woman's name is not Muhammad's wife or daughter, but Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus. Many verses subtly point you to a scientific mystery to encourage you to study it and use that knowledge to produce something useful. (There’s a modern branch of science called Bionics (or biomimetics) that studies nature in order to come up with technological innovations based on how plants and animals function)
For those who believe this system comes from the God who created the universe, it is logical to assume that He knows how to operate what He created with optimum results. The text explains in great details both the lifestyle and the faith components of the system to create peace and harmony, both in the heart and in the world.
It’s like a user’s manual for human life and the universe, including how to interact with others and the environment, but above all, how to discover who you really are and what you are here for, and consequently, how to reach harmony and tranquilly through this knowledge, and how to lead a life of achievement and contentment.
The aim of this information is to minimize the inner struggle and the restlessness of not knowing the answers to important existential questions, and to cut down the time and effort trying to find this basic information. Some of us are lucky enough to find answers, and some use up their entire precious lifetimes searching without success. So the Quran puts those facts on the table right from the beginning, and then builds an entire system based on them. This helps you to focus your energy on utilizing your skills to improve yourself, your community and your environment.
I know how draining this struggle can be because I have been there. I have tried being on a constant search for an elusive “something” I don’t even know. I have also tried the contrasting state of being on a constant journey of self-discovery and growth, using that growth as a tool to accomplish a life mission that is larger than my narrow personal interests. It is certainly an empowering feeling that I wish I had discovered much earlier in my life.
** How Did The Quran Reach Us Today?
Muslims believe the Quran to be the unchanged, literal word of God, transmitted to Muhammad in small chunks by the angel Gabriel across 23 years. Individual verses were revealed to address specific situations from the time of his appointment as a prophet until his death.
The first word revealed to Muhammad in the Quran was in command form, “Read!” not pray or worship, but simply read. This first verse was revealed while he was contemplating in seclusion in a cave atop a mountain in Mecca. It happened during the month of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, and it was the first time Muhammad encountered Angel Gabriel and became appointed by God as a prophet. Muslims believe Muhammad is God’s final prophet until the end of the world.
The rest of the chapter beginning with the command to read talks about the process of creating humans from sperm (unknown information back then) and about education using the pen; a clear indication that the type of reading referred to in that command is scientific research and thorough education.
Unlike previous prophets, Muhammad did not perform any super-human miracles. The Quran was his only miracle, believed by Muslims to mean that the age of knowledge and technology doesn’t need physical miracles, instead, people who will live from Muhammad’s time until the end of time need a timeless intellectual challenge. This understanding was clearly applied in the Islamic golden age of scientific advancement which lasted 1000 years (More:
Muhammad lived at a time when people were undereducated and superstitious. They believed in magic, demons and supernatural phenomena. Arabic language skills determined the level of someone’s prestige. Famous poets improvised eloquent poems, sometimes thousands of lines long, which were memorized by everyone to be transmitted from memory across hundreds of years until this day. Muhammad had never been a poet; he was a merchant and a shepherd. And since he could not read, he had never read any books either.
So when he suddenly started telling people exceptionally eloquent verses with unusual information, they could not categorize him: was he a poet or a man possessed by demons? They finally decided he was a sorcerer who was casting a spell on people with his powerful words, because they could see the mesmerizing effect of listening to Muhammad’s recitation of what he said were the words of God.
When Muhammad first heard each verse, he recited it publicly several times. His companions memorized it and scribes wrote it down. Muhammad’s job was to teach the Quran to the people of his time so that they could teach it to those who came after them and until the end of time. He was also responsible for explaining and demonstrating the application of the manners, rules, and worships contained in the Quran, effectively becoming a role model of the ideal for all Muslims of all times to try to emulate.
Shortly before his death, he made sure that several of his companions memorized the entire Quran by heart. Then it was collected in a complete book, which became the prototype of every Quran in the world until today. Not one word of its 114 chapters has been changed since its revelation more than 1400 years ago. The oldest manuscripts have the exact same Arabic text as the modern copies we hold in our hands today.
** Interestingly, the very first and only copy of the written Quran that was available to Muslims after Muhammad’s death was entrusted to a woman—not a man—for safekeeping. It remained in her house until copies were made.
** Arabic, The Language Of The Quran:
Arabic is an extremely rich and sophisticated language in its vocabulary, grammar, shades of meaning and syntax. That is why translations of the Quran in any other language are a lot less powerful, no matter how skilled the translator. I can read English and French, and I have read several translations, but neither language could match that of the original Arabic. Translations would give you just one layer of the complex meaning and feeling you get when you read and understand the Quran in its beautiful classical Arabic.
I’m grateful my classical Arabic is very good. But still, what I thought I understood at first glance kept accumulating deeper meanings and more profound feelings each time I re-read the same text. So I eventually realized that a constant reading of the Quran is one of the regular activities of a practicing Muslim, and amazingly, it never runs out of charm and surprises in every new reading.
Muslims recite their choice of verses while making their 5 daily prayers. Here's what a short verse from prayer sounds like:
Only the original Arabic is considered a real Quran, which does not contain any human editing or personal opinions. Scholars write separate books detailing their understanding of the text, and often, new layers of meaning appear as the world advances and new discoveries are made in sciences and humanities to give new depths of meaning to some of the ancient verses.
Millions of Muslims around the world today memorize the entire 600 pages of text. The recitation rules were also written to teach Muslims to recite the Quran exactly as it was heard from Muhammad, who heard it from Gabriel, who heard it directly from God himself.
Recently, education in my part of the world is infatuated with foreign languages to replace Arabic. Depriving people of their language is depriving them of their cultural and historic memory. In the case of Arabic in specific, it is also depriving millions of Muslims of their religious heritage recorded in that language.
This basically means opening the door for undereducated extremists to manipulate them by offering distorted interpretations of the complex text. This in my opinion, is one of the reasons of what we see happening in our world today in the name of the Quran and of Islam.
I actually believe that just by teaching Muslims good Arabic again to enable them to read and understand on their own, we could eliminate many problems of our modern world resulting from ignorance, manipulation by extremists, and a serious cultural deficiency.
** How to get a Quran:
If you’re interested to read, here’s the English translation I recommend, written in simple modern English, no Arabic text or personal interpretations form the translator, just the closest possible translation, taking into consideration the huge vocabulary discrepancy between English and Arabic. It also has a very good historic introduction that gives context to the text. You can either get the book on Amazon, or read it online for free:
Professor AbdelHaleem who authored this translation was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the Queen's 2008 Birthday Honours in recognition of his services to Arabic culture, literature and to inter-faith understanding
You'll find more in my book (click BOOK-->Table of Contents):
I lecture on diversity and inter-cultural topics
You can reach me through my site:

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