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Questioning the Qur’an

Earlier today, David asked me if I was aware that the idea that 72 virgins are awarded to martyrs might actually come from a mistranslation. He encouraged me to Google it and see for myself.

So I did, and among the varied results I came across this interesting article:

The Virgins and the Grapes: the “Christian” Origins of the Koran (Surprise!)

I don’t really know anything about FreeRepublic.com. It appears to be a conservative activist website. The article includes a translation of an interview (originally in German) with the scholar who’s proposing that the Qu’ran is mistranslated. Some good questions are asked and answered.

Q. – Professor, why did you think it useful to conduct this re-reading of the Koran?

A. – “Because, in the Koran, there are many obscure points that, from the beginning, even the Arab commentators were not able to explain. Of these passages it is said that only God can comprehend them. Western research on the Koran, which has been conducted in a systematic manner only since about the middle of the 19th century, has always taken as its base the commentaries of the Arab scholars. But these have never gone beyond the etymological explanation of some terms of foreign origin.”

Q. – What makes your method different?

A. – “I began from the idea that the language of the Koran must be studied from an historical-linguistic point of view. When the Koran was composed, Arabic did not exist as a written language; thus it seemed evident to me that it was necessary to take into consideration, above all, Aramaic, which at the time, between the 4th and 7th centuries, was not only the language of written communication, but also the lingua franca of that area of Western Asia.”

Q. – Tell us how you proceeded.

A. – “At first I conducted a ‘synchronous’ reading. In other words, I kept in mind both Arabic and Aramaic. Thanks to this procedure, I was able to discover the extent of the previously unsuspected influence of Aramaic upon the language of the Koran: in point of fact, much of what now passes under the name of ‘classical Arabic’ is of Aramaic derivation.”

I’m all about the historical-linguistic point of view. :D Presuming the article isn’t mistranslated (wouldn’t that be ironic), it raises some really interesting questions.

I had a friend who converted to Islam, and she once mentioned the Qur’an passages that only God could understand. That always seemed weird to me. “Luxenberg” offers a pretty logical explanation.

A good read. Thanks for the tip, David.