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The Qur'an: A User's Guide

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Esack - a Muslim committed both to his religion, and to critical thinking about all aspects of it - explores how the Qur'an came into being and examines its structure as a unique literary work. Esack - a Muslim committed both to his religion, and to critical thinking about all aspects of it - explores how the Qur'an came into being and examines its structure as a unique literary work.


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Esack - a Muslim committed both to his religion, and to critical thinking about all aspects of it - explores how the Qur'an came into being and examines its structure as a unique literary work. Esack - a Muslim committed both to his religion, and to critical thinking about all aspects of it - explores how the Qur'an came into being and examines its structure as a unique literary work.

30 review for The Qur'an: A User's Guide

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kitap

    After finishing Craig Thompson's Habibi , and being inspired by the beauty of the Arabic calligraphy, I decided to read the Qur'an. I read the Bible last year, and figured it was high time to read the whole Qur'an as well, rather than get by on the mere handful of snippets I once read in the context of an undergrad course on Islam; I guess Habibi gave me that final push I needed. At the same time that I began reading Ahmed Ali's translation of the Qur'an, I decided that it certainly couldn't After finishing Craig Thompson's Habibi , and being inspired by the beauty of the Arabic calligraphy, I decided to read the Qur'an. I read the Bible last year, and figured it was high time to read the whole Qur'an as well, rather than get by on the mere handful of snippets I once read in the context of an undergrad course on Islam; I guess Habibi gave me that final push I needed. At the same time that I began reading Ahmed Ali's translation of the Qur'an, I decided that it certainly couldn't hurt to have this "user's guide" as a companion for the journey. It hasn't hurt, for sure, but it hasn't helped much either. Instead of being a "user's guide" (which to me suggests an easy to read compendium of information needed to explicate and flesh out the primary text) this book provides a scholarly look at the history of the Qur'an and of Qur'anic scholarship, both within and without the Muslim world. It explores questions around the meaning of revelation in Islam; the distinction between the Qur'an as a history-bound revelation and as an eternal, absolute Logos, independent of history and humanity; and the role of orality and aurality, and not just literacy and textuality, in understanding the Qur'an. All of which is fascinating, if a bit overwhelming, to this reader who is neither a Muslim nor a scholar of Islam. The concluding chapters of the book are more straightforward and are probably the most useful to the non-Muslim reader of the Qur'an. They summarize the Quranic basis for Muslim faith and practice, revealing the scriptural basis for some beliefs and activities while challenging the legitimacy of other practices and attitudes. These chapters were so well written and so full of useful information that they brought my estimation of the entire book up by one star. I definitely recommend this book, and am interested in reading others by Esack, especially Qur'an Liberation & Pluralism and The Qur'an: A Short Introduction . I also want to read more books by Oneworld Publications (which is good, because I have plenty of them on my shelves!) While for outsiders the Qur'an exists primarily as a literary text (al-kitab, the book), for Muslims it continues to function as both a written text (mus-haf) and an oral one (al-qur'an) with an organic relationship between these two modes.... In other words, comprehension can follow from the emotive and intuitive response that is evoked in the hearer and reciter rather than from a study of its contents. (56) Somewhere between the confessional insistence on a neat and clinical collection process and the critical position that the process of compiling the Qur'an took several centuries one may find a way of reconciling some of these tensions ; and the faithful may retain the deep seated belief in the authenticity of the text while being able to look the facts of history in the eye. Alas, the facts are never as uncomplicated as the fundamentalist (religious or secular) may want to insist; even if they are, they still require a person to approach them and people, like facts, also exist within history and carry their own histories within them. Any scripture should be understood in terms of its relation to its audience at any given point in time. (99) While the eternal relevance of the Qur'an has for long been regarded as synonymous with a Qur'an divested of time and space, the history of the Qur'an and of its interpretation prove otherwise, as anyone concerned with the Qur'an as a functional or contextual scripture will soon discover. In order to relate Qur'anic meaning to the present, Muslims are compelled to relate to it from the distance of some historical moment. (101) The Qur'an, despite its inner coherence, was never formulated as a connected whole, but was revealed in response to the demands of concrete situations. The Qur'an is explicit about the reasons for the progressive nature of its revelation. (122) The contents of the Qur'an as the message of God to humankind and Muslims have been the focus of scholarly Muslim approaches to it. "How do I fulfill the requirements of God for me, in this day and age?" is the question that drives the Muslim. (146) Despite the claims that anyone may make about God, he is really free from whatever people ascribe to Him. In other words, despite what we learn about God or His nature of characteristics of God elsewhere in the Qur'an, God remains free from not only the confines of biology and paternity, but also from the confines of human language....The Qur'anic portrayal of God is thus of a deity beyond the religious community that serves "Him"—and refers to God as "Him"—and which, perhaps inevitably, seeks to limit God by preconceptions and socio-religio-political horizons. God is also greater than the law and to elevate the law to the level of the divine and the immutable is, in fact, to associate others with God, the antithesis of tawhid. (148) There is no direct reference in the Qur'an to any notion of an Islamic state.... Any assumption that an Islamic state is the will of God for all humankind rather than the results of a particular set of political circumstances as they unfolded in Medina during the lifetime of the Prophet is based on an interpretation of what the Qur'an says rather than any explicit statement to this effect.... Contrary to what observers of the contemporary world of Islam may imagine, there are very few specific duties explicitly spelled out in the Qur'an for an Islam wielding political power and all of these revelations pertain to the Medinan period. (183) Texts, we now know, answer to questions asked of them and in the same manner that the taliban (the searchers) are not innocent and void of a context, similarly the text is also not free from a history and a context.It is in the ongoing interrogation of us as readers and our contexts that shape our questions and responses on the one hand, and a careful study of the text and its engagement with its context—both then and now—that we may gather some approximation of its meaning. None of us who approach the Qur'an are gender-neutral, classless, disinterested and disemboweled figures who "just want to understand." The need for understanding is driven, at least in part, by who we are and what our interests are in retaining or shedding our gender, race, class, clan, or ethnic positions. As misguided as it is to approach the text ahistorically, so it is to pretend that we are ahistorical beings. (192)

  2. 5 out of 5

    Dave Maddock

    As short introductions to a religion written by one of its believers go, this one is pretty good. Esack lays out various views of the Qur'an and Islam more generally, not just the one he favors. Of course, he's not entirely objective and doesn't claim to be. In fact, he readily admits the opposite and asserts further that everyone brings their own biases to a text. As such, fundamentalists and non-muslim scholars and critics all receive jabs from Esack one way or another. That said, I think he is As short introductions to a religion written by one of its believers go, this one is pretty good. Esack lays out various views of the Qur'an and Islam more generally, not just the one he favors. Of course, he's not entirely objective and doesn't claim to be. In fact, he readily admits the opposite and asserts further that everyone brings their own biases to a text. As such, fundamentalists and non-muslim scholars and critics all receive jabs from Esack one way or another. That said, I think he is overly critical of scholars who study the Qur'an from a non-confessional, literary perspective. He begins by dubbing them "voyeurs" in the introduction and at every point they are discussed in a negative light. But at least he engages with them in a serious and respectful manner, which is more than one can say for the Muslim world in general. (The vast majority of Muslims are presumably reasonable, peaceful people but they are not a political or religious force that matters, sadly.) Case in point, while he does vaguely state that sex with women slaves and other bullshit might not be a great thing regardless of Qur'anic endorsement, he does not take the next step to openly condemn Muslims who use these passages to justify their repression of women, etc. Presumably because some of those folks are not above killing his ass. However, he's more than willing to talk about how misguided scholars can be with their insistence on actual literary evidence. Several such scholars publish under a pseudonym precisely because they fear violence. Does Esack acknowledge this fact? No. (See Christoph Luxenberg and Ibn Warraq.) Compare this state of affairs with secular scholars of Jewish and Christian traditions. Saying that "this approach [..] has not been welcomed [by Muslims]" (p. 9) has got to be the understatement of the decade. But like I said, given that stating the wrong opinions can get you killed for apostasy, I can't really fault the guy too much for hedging. At least I know where to look for the real scholarship now. It is also fascinating to look at theological battles in which you don't buy either side. You realize how dumb theology is as a mode of inquiry. Argue about the theological subtleties of the "begotten not created" nature of the Qur'an until the cows come home and it doesn't become any less pointless an argument in my eyes. You're all wrong; it's just a book written by fallible humans, just like the Hebrew Bible, New Testament, Bhagavad Gita, Moby-Dick, US Constitution, or anything else I could name. (Of the above, Moby-Dick is most likely to be divinely inspired as far as I'm concerned.)

  3. 4 out of 5

    Rahemah Siddiqui

    A beautiful introduction

  4. 5 out of 5

    Craig Bolton

    The Qur'an: A User's Guide by Farid Esack (2005) The Qur'an: A User's Guide by Farid Esack (2005)

  5. 5 out of 5

    James Davisson

    Informative and thought provoking. Contains a fairly high number of typographical errors. Seeks to introduce the reader to both Islam and the Qur'an, but with much more emphasis on the latter. Informative and thought provoking. Contains a fairly high number of typographical errors. Seeks to introduce the reader to both Islam and the Qur'an, but with much more emphasis on the latter.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ekaterina

  7. 4 out of 5

    Katrina

  8. 4 out of 5

    Naomi

  9. 4 out of 5

    Amy

  10. 4 out of 5

    Khalid Al Taei

  11. 4 out of 5

    Monica Dobbins

  12. 5 out of 5

    skuldd

  13. 4 out of 5

    Shareef muhammed

  14. 5 out of 5

    Umm Yasmin

  15. 4 out of 5

    Hina

  16. 5 out of 5

    Max Grozovsky

  17. 4 out of 5

    AlixLogan

  18. 4 out of 5

    Muhammad Syazwan

  19. 4 out of 5

    Carson

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sandra

  21. 4 out of 5

    Afshan

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ben

  23. 5 out of 5

    Landon

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mobashwir

  25. 5 out of 5

    Julaihah

  26. 5 out of 5

    Mahmood Yoosuf

  27. 5 out of 5

    'Izzat Radzi

  28. 5 out of 5

    Scott S'Berg

  29. 5 out of 5

    Hayden

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ellen

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