Instead of doing the MFRW Hooks blog hop, I decided this week to participate in Long and Short Reviews weekly blogging challenge. The topic for this week is “Books I keep meaning to read (but haven’t)”.
I knew immediately what book I wanted to write about, but I didn’t know if I dared, particularly given the date (September 11th). I finally decided that if I get trolled, spammed or hate-bombed, that says a lot more about the people reacting than it does about me.
You see, the book I keep meaning to read is the Koran.
I was brought up Jewish, but my spirituality has always been eclectic. I’ve been subject to influences ranging from Roman Catholicism to Hinduism. I don’t follow any organized religious tradition, but I am convinced that our existence has a spiritual dimension, that this spiritual dimension represents fundamental Truth or Reality and that our material world arises from and reflects this Reality. I also believe that the essence of Spirit is love or compassion, and that we are all connected, all drops in the ocean of Spirit.
Many evils have been perpetrated in the name of organized religion. Millions have suffered, not only the perceived opponents of these religions but also their fervent adherents. For me, that doesn’t invalidate the basic human search for some sort of transcendent truth.
There are those who maintain that the material world is all there is, that God is a delusion humans create for themselves in order to deal with a meaningless universe. I am not among those people; my personal experiences have convinced me that Spirit is real – maybe all that is real. I think every religion tries to capture this same basic realization and to communicate it in a way that matches the psyche and culture of its followers. Looked at another way, all Gods are one God – though my own view doesn’t necessarily consider Spirit as a supreme being.
In any case—I’ve read scriptures from many religions. However, I’ve never read more than a verse or two from the Koran, with no context provided. All I have is hearsay. Some people claim that the Koran encourages jihad and suicide bombers. Others claim that Islam is a religion of peace. Some people use the Koran to justify abuse of and discrimination against women. Others argue that this is a misinterpretation, an excuse to prop up a patriarchal society that existed before Islam was founded.
I really need to find out for myself. I think this is important, at least partly because Islam is so vilified these days in many Western countries. When someone tells me that the Koran says such and such, I want to be able to respond with some authority.
Of course, what I will probably find, if I ever do read this book, is that there’s some support for every interpretation. Even with a novel, readers will often disagree on the meaning, the author’s intent, even the details of the plot. Religious scriptures are far more complex and more ambiguous. There are many stories in the Bible, supposedly the fundamental authority for Judeo-Christian beliefs, that really give one pause. I could (but won’t) cite many Biblical stories in which God, or someone chosen by God, behaves in ways that are hardly consistent with compassion or truth.
There are many answers to this conundrum. Scriptures are transcribed by people (whether or not you believe they’re divinely inspired). They tend to be ancient, and to have been translated and adapted again and again, for different languages, societies and time periods. (In that sense, the Koran one would read today is probably closer to the original, since it has mostly been preserved in the original Arabic.)
In any case, the Koran is on my TBR list, though I do wonder how well an English translation would capture its essence. Unfortunately, I worry that if I were to buy a copy in today’s society, I might be opening myself up to all sorts of trouble – surveillance, persecution, maybe even violence. I wouldn’t download it from an Islamic site, either, for similar reasons.
Maybe it’s available at Project Gutenberg, where you don’t have to identify yourself.
Eighteen years ago today, a group of men supposedly inspired by the Koran perpetrated the deadliest terrorist attack in human history. I can’t begin to understand their motivations; it’s just too foreign to my world view.
It is hard to believe in a benevolent Spirit of compassion when faced with such atrocities.
I will, however, continue to try.
Visit the other authors taking today's challenge: