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The Koran: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) [Paperback]

Michael Cook
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
RRP: £7.99
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Book Description

24 Feb 2000 Very Short Introductions (Book 13)
The Koran has constituted a remarkably strong core of identity and continuity for a religious tradition that is now in its fifteenth century. This Very Short Introduction explores the significance of the Koran both in the modern world and in traditional Muslim culture. Michael Cook provides a lucid and direct account of the Koran as codex, as scripture, as liturgy, and as the embodiment of truth, and examines its means of formation and dissemination. He also discusses issues of interpretation for certain key verses, demonstrating that fecundity of the text for readers throughout the world.

ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks; Oxford University Press edition (24 Feb 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192853449
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192853448
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 11 x 17 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 120,358 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"In a beautifully written, concise, and insightful study... Michael Cook makes clear some of the mysteries of this holy book....Evocative and explanatory.... For anyone, at almost any level of knowledge, wanting to learn more about the Qur'an, this is a wonderful place to start."--First Things"Professor Cook's book is informative, witty, and rich with insight. The author firmly places the Koran within its broader context, lending his treatment depth and vigor."--Mohamed Mahmoud, Tufts University

About the Author

Michael Cook is Cleveland E. Dodge Professor in the Department of Near Eastern Studies, University of Princeton. His publications include the Past Master on Muhammad.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
With only a general background knowledge of Islam, and coming from a Christian background, I wanted to know more of what the Koran taught: it's themes and teachings and structure.
The first thing I learnt was that the Koran is not an Islamic Bible. The two are not only different in style and content but very different in the way they are used. This is evident from the way that this short introduction is organised. Of its 14 chapters, just one is devoted to the message of the Koran, and that's placed in the Introduction. This whole book is organised into four main sections: Introduction, The Koran in the modern world, the Koran in the traditional Muslim world and the Koran in the lifetime of the Prophet.
What I had to come to terms with is that the Koran does not contain the same kind of narratives and teachings as a Bible and neither is it used in worship in the same way. It is recited rather than read; memorised not referred to, and the detail and organisation of the original Arabic script is really important in a way that never arises in a Bible, which is by its nature a translation from Hebrew and Greek through Latin into English. Most of Michael Cook's work is about the Koran's language and text, as codex, truth and holy object. I realised how important it is to understand that to Muslims the Koran itself is a holy object, not just its teachings. This affects everything in the way it is used and regarded.
If you're looking for a textbook to teach you the contents of the Koran I'm not sure this will help, but if you are prepared to accept the profoundly different way of thinking between Muslims and Christians about their respective holy books then this has much to offer. I'm very glad I read it, and if nothing else I realise how different are the thought-worlds and assumptions of Muslims and Christians. We need to understand each other better. Here is a good start.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like a brilliant introductory series of lectures 11 July 2002
By A Customer
I have been impressed by the "Very Short Introduction" series, and this is perhaps the best of them that I have seen so far. It is like attending a series of brilliant introductory lectures - it isn't so much that it gives you basic facts (although these are covered) as that it enables you to make sense of the topic, and to get some orientation. Most westerners have some idea about how the Bible is interpreted by Christians (fundamentalist or otherwise), but would not realize that the interpretation of the Koran "works" differently. For example, one part of the Koran may be held to be abrogated by another part. At the end of the book, you realize that you only know a little, but you feel that you know enough to start making sense of more advanced books.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Rather anthropological view 26 Feb 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This small book is nice to get basic knowledge on the Koran. It also shows how the Koran functions within in Islam and muslim societies. If you are looking for ideas on the origins of the Koran the conext of Late Antiquity you will by dissapointed because the author only devotes a few pages on that subject.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not for beginners ... but essential 26 April 2007
This book is not for beginners. If you only want to know what the Quran says and what its teachings are, look elsewhere (and not the least in the Quran itself ...). But for those, who already have some ideas about the content of the Quran, Cook's book is essential reading: It will tell you neatly what the problems are in interpreting the Quran; what its role in daily Muslim life was and still is; what impact it has had as a sacred Scripture down the centuries. And yes, it does demand some attention from the reader, and it is not the classical book to be read in the tube, so the book's designation as "Introduction" comes with a grain of salt. But things are not easy, and it is much to the credit to the author that he doesn't shun difficult and long-winding explanations if they seem necessary. There is, simply, no "Quran made easy", and if you don't like putting your brain in motion then just get interested in other arguments. After all, mankind's sacred Scriptures are not meant to entertain people going to work or getting bored on a sunny afternoon. I like to add that the book contains numerous illustrations which are very helpful to the lay reader and the non-Muslim in general.
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