Winds of War: Can The Koran Be Reformed?
Robert Spencer said that Islam can not be reformed until the Koran itself is reformed. Muslims say that’s impossible because the Koran is the verbatim transcript of the word of Allah as transmitted to Mohammed, his prophet.
But is that really true? Is the Koran we see today the actual recitals of Mohammed?
Let’s look at the facts.
Mohammed was born in 570 CE in what today is
Now Mohammed was illiterate. He couldn’t read or write so his words or ‘recitations’ – or what is known as – ‘Quran’ were memorized by his followers. This is in keeping with Arabic culture which has an oral tradition rather a written one. Muslim tradition also mentions that there were scribes who were responsible for writing down these memorized recitations. Mohammed’s revelations were written down on palm leaves, pieces of bone, or whatever was handy at the time.
It wasn’t until after Mohammed’s death that his words were ‘codified’ into a written book known today as the Koran. Muslim sources give different accounts of this process.
At the battle of Yamama (633 CE), six months after the death of the Prophet, a number of Muslims, who had memorized the Quran were killed. Hence it was feared that unless a written official copy of the Quran were prepared, a large part of revelation might be lost. So, Mohammed’s successor, Abu Bakr, ordered a text to be compiled and compared with the memorized text.
Now let’s go back a few hundred years to the First Council of Nicaea, held in
That’s same codification process took place in Islam.
Othman, the third Caliph, ordered a leading Muslim scribe, to head a team to examine all written and oral records. There work was to yield a complete and accurate account of Allah’s word.
All other texts and oral accounts were ordered destroyed. This Othman Quran, was unanimous approved by the whole Muslim world. Muslims claim that an error even of a single alphabet in transcribing the Quran, the Qurra (memorizers of the Quran) which totaled in the tens of hundreds would have caught it right away and correct it.
But Dr. Gustav Weil has another view.
In consequence of the multiplied variations which had crept into the readings of the Koran, Othman had caused all the different copies which could be found to be collected together and burnt, excepting one, which alone, sanctioned by his own authority, he directed all believers to receive as the only genuine transcript of the revelations of the prophet. Moreover, he confided the editorship and revision of this new and authentic edition to those men who were the most devoted to him, rather than to those who were the most learned.
But what we have here is the problem of the fallacies of memory and the cultural dictates of the time as grist for what is known as the Koran today. But faith and religions organized around that faith see no problem in the cultural intrusions into a belief system. AKA: not eating pork – Muslim and Jew, not killing cows – Hindu, etc.
Are you getting the picture? Perhaps, the Koran we have today is not truly the words of Mohammed and earlier versions or sources, if they were ever studied, might shed light on the problem.
Guess what. There may be such a source.
January 12th, 2008, the Wall Street Journal published a lengthy report entitled , “The Lost Archives” by Andrew Higgins on the early Muslim archives, allegedly destroyed in an April, 1944 British air bombing of a Bavarian Academy of Science in Munich that housed these treasured scholarly documents. The story behind how these archives came to
Germanyand their status during the Nazi regime has elements of IndianaJones, the Da Vinci Code and the files. The archives were never destroyed, and were secreted by an Arabic scholar and translator, Anton Spitaler, who was liaison to Nazi sponsored Waffen SS battle units composed of Middle East Arabs sponsored, in part, by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Amin al Husseini, Hitler’s house guest in Berlin during WWII. ODESSA
Some Koranic critics, notably the pseudonymous scholar “Ibn Warraq”, claim that Professor Angelika Neuwirth, the archive’s custodian, has denied access to scholars who stray from the traditional interpretation.
Public pressure may finally be brought to bear to throw open to Islamic scholars and not simply handed over to Islamic clerics for ’safekeeping’ Safekeeping akin to that of the biblical ark of the covenant buried in an Army Intelligence depot at the end of the original Spielberg film, “Raiders if the Lost Ark”. It may take a decade or more to both catalog and review these documents. Doubtless, fatwas was will be issued upon release of interim analyses of what surfaces from this process, as the Koran appears to be redacted by many writers over many years and includes both Christian and Jewish sources in languages like Syriac-Aramaic, which may explain the ‘72 raisins’ interpretation according to one German philologist expert at the “Christoph Luxenburg”.
What other redactions will be found once the archives are released? When they are, scholars could put the Koran under the same scrutiny that the Bible has gone through and in the end give those Muslims who truly believe in peace to have a tool in reforming the Koran.
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