Title: How to Read the Qur’an
Author: Mona Siddiqui
Publication Year: 2008
Source: Purchased from BMV Bookstores
From the cover:
The Qur’an is the scripture of Islam, sacred to over one billion Muslims worldwide. It is regarded by Muslims as the direct word of God, timeless and unchanged. Muslims turn to the Qur’an not only for prayer and worship but also to understand the essence of their relationship with God. Mona Siddiqui considers how the Qur’an has been understood by Muslims in the intellectual traditions of Islam as well as in popular worship. She explores the “big themes” of prophecy, law, sin, and salvation, and what the Qur’an teaches about the particular place of Islam as God’s last revelation in human history. Siddiqui’s central concern is that Muslims must look to the Qur’an to breathe new life into the social and ethical relations between Muslims and non-Muslims.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect of this book, but I just couldn’t help myself when I spotted it at the bookstore. It looked so interesting! And it’s part of a series that explores “important” texts, so I figured it couldn’t be all that bad.
And it wasn’t (all that bad, I mean). It was actually rather clear and straightforward. How to Read the Qur’an isn’t intended to tell you everything there is to know about the Qur’an – but it is meant as a guide for where to start and how to go about it in the beginning. I think that’s a rather noble intention. In the grand scheme of things, I think that it might be a little bit too simplistic for anyone looking to really get into the Qur’an in depth, and a little bit too complicated for a first timer’s survey of the text. But this is just my opinion; your mileage may vary.
It’s a pretty short book, but there were quite a few bits that caught my attention. I’m going to share a few that illustrate the overarching theme of the book, talking about the Qur’an as both a religious text and a product of its time:
The Qur’an was revealed in a historical context. The awareness of changing contexts is fundamental to understanding the eternal value and relevance of scriptural texts. If the Qur’an is, as it claims, ‘a straight path in which there is no doubt’, the book must be able to offer guidance of eternal value and application, its verses unchanging but open to a variety of interpretations, receptive to exploration as society itself changes.
This came back again in the end, as Siddiqui came full circle to talk about the Qur’an and Muhammad in the context of today’s world:
As God’s final prophet, Muhammad’s teaching remains the source of religious and moral behaviour for Muslims. However, this teaching must be seen within the overriding theme of the Qur’an – God’s eternity and mercy. Though inspired and directed by God, he remains a voice responding to the historical exigencies of his time. If the purpose of the prophetic voice is to inspire moral and ethical frameworks for society, that voice must not be trapped in seventh-century Arabia, but be allowed to speak through humanity’s changing circumstances; the message of divine mercy must never be forgotten.
If you’re interested in learning about Islam and particularly the Qur’an, this might be a good place to start, but I think it would be better as one piece in a puzzle of learning as a whole. Whatever you choose, though, I think that you’ll find How to Read the Qur’an to be a clear, concise, and ultimately valuable resource.
You can find other posts in the series by clicking on the image to the right, or by taking a look at the schedule of posts and reviews.