- Audio Download
- Listening Length: 5 hours and 5 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: Audible Studios
- Audible.co.uk Release Date: 4 Aug. 2009
- Language: English
- ASIN: B002SQH7ZK
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank:
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The Koran: A Very Short Introduction Audiobook – Unabridged
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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.
In approaching this book, then, in the hope that it will go someway to filling a hole of ignorance. Already, one may think it wrong to refer to the Koran as opposed to the Qur’an. In his introduction, Cook states that while Qur’an is the more faithful rendering, Koran is readily recognised as an anglicised form that lends itself to a correct stressing of the syllables. As this is the way Cook refers to it, then so shall this review.
The manner in which Cook approaches the book is unlikely to be one that people expect. He works roughly in a sort of anti-chronology, looking at the modern usages of the Koran, moving back in time to tell its story. Though at times, this timeline gets a bit jumbled, that seems to be in order to avoid the exposition itself becoming jumbled. In case it needs highlighting, this is the VSI of the book of the Koran, it is *not* a VSI of Islam. If that it was you’re looking for, then this is not the right book for you.
We begin by considering what the notion of ‘scripture’ is and what the overall message of the Koran tries to tell us. The emphasis Cook brings out is that of the straight path and the nature of God (though I did wonder why Cook referred to God, rather than Allah).
After this introduction, we get to see how the Koran is used today and its influence, which is quite evident to many if you either live in an area where there is a high Muslim population or by putting on the news. Yet the disparity between these two is clear and not a little confusing for the non-Muslim. Such misunderstanding can give birth to Islamophobia.
After looking at how the Koran is communicated (both as a written text and as a self-contained oral tradition in and of itself), there’s a general discussion as to what it means for any text to be regarded as “scripture”. Of course, any writing is, etymologically scripture. Even this review is; but that’s not the common usage of the word, which tends to denote some sacred text of a religion. Contrasts are drawn between the Koran and some of the Vedas, though to many a reader, especially christians like me, the comparisons to the bible are rather thin and it left me feeling a little flat.
One of the bits that didn’t seem to make a lot of sense was the idea of coloured text. There is talk of it, but as the book is published in black & white, apart from the cover, then one cannot tell about the red and gold punctuation marks. It was only when I visited the British Library’s collection of Koran’s that this became clear.
What we don’t get is one clear story of how the Koran is said to have come about. There are hints here and there, but the whole story of Mohammad being told to read is rather lost in amongst the other chapters, partly as the story of where he was when various bits of the Koran were revealed.
Overall, it is a useful VSI, though I can’t say it was particularly memorable. I’m publishing this review some time after having finished it and find myself having to keep opening it to remind myself of the book’s contents. It’s one to keep and refer to, yet I couldn’t help but think there are better introductions available.
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