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Ebook The Qur'an: A User's Guide by Farid Esack read! Book Title: The Qur'an: A User's Guide
Language: English
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 12.62 MB
City - Country: No data
The author of the book: Farid Esack
Edition: Oneworld Publications
Date of issue: February 1st 2005
ISBN: 1851683542
ISBN 13: 9781851683543
Loaded: 2171 times
Reader ratings: 3.9

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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)


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