Reading the Quran through Western Eyes

in Varieties of Muslim Experience

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print June 2008 | ISBN: 9780226726168
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226726182 | DOI:
Reading the Quran through Western Eyes

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Understandably, non-believers will not approach the Quran with the same assumptions as a believing Muslim—that it is the exact and unaltered word of God handed down through His last Prophet Muhammad, that much of the Hebrew Bible and Gospels was altered and now only the Quran contains God's unchanged truth, and that (at least for a vast majority of the faithful) the Quran contains all knowledge within the compass of its verses. Readers from the West may reject the characterization offered by Thomas Carlyle, who called the Quran “a wearisome confused jumble, crude,… insupportable stupidity, in short”, adding, “Nothing but a sense of duty could carry any European through the Koran.” That Westerners could ever have spoken of Islam as “Muhammadanism” was wildly off the mark, but it would not have been altogether incorrect to have coined a term like “Quranism” to describe Islam. Some of the differences in textual interpretation between Westerners and Arabs relate to problems of translation. The standard theory among Muslims is that the Quran is untranslatable.

Keywords: Quran; Muslims; God; Prophet Muhammad; Bible; Thomas Carlyle; West; Islam; Muhammadanism; Quranism

Chapter.  7934 words. 

Subjects: Anthropology

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