I worked my way through a copy that had the English translation alongside the Arabic alongside the transliterated Arabic pronunciation. This copy has the title prominently displayed across the front. The title is "The Meaning of the Holly Quran".
I feel as though something may have been lost in translation. Unless this particular copy was actually part of a limited-edition Christmas release.
So I assume that this version is not perfect. And even with the little Arabic I have, I was able to tell that it wasn't quite right. Many times a single word would be translated into several, and sometimes whole extra sentences were thrown in. Furthermore, the English was written to mimic the bible. So there are a lot of 'shall's and 'ye's, which strikes me as kind of silly. I didn't have much choice though- it would take years of studying Classical Arabic (an older version of the current standard language in media across the Arab world) before I could read the original. And even then it would be hard.
The book continually refers to past events and stories. It refers to the Ad and Thamud people who were destroyed. It refers to Moses throwing his snake-rod which ate up the Pharoah's wizards' magic tricks. It refers to Jesus being born next to a palm tree. And it is very repetitive. Continually, ad nauseam, it talks about the gardens in heaven and the fires in hell. Over, and over, and over, and over again.
Now it makes sense when people tell me about the fire and the gardens. You remember that stuff when it's drilled over and over and over again. And over again. Of course, now that I've read it, it's expected that I believe it. Surprisingly, I am able to read hundreds of pages telling me I will go to hell and come out totally enervated.
There are, however, a number of things I took away from slogging through it.
- It is clear that the book comes from desert people. The good things are what people living in the desert want (streams, cool water, shade, gardens), and the bad things are what people living in the desert are stuck with (boiling water, fire, thirst).
- Muslims are really into there being only one God. He can't have any kids. Because he is too great to be divided.
- It was a huge deal that a holy book was in Arabic. A huge deal- over and over again, it explains that it's in Arabic so that the people can understand. It is the sign to them as the scriptures were to other peoples in the past.
- Most of the stories are poorly told- they are choppy, start and end immediately, and constantly refer to other, totally unrelated events.
- Everybody is either going to heaven or to hell, but it's gonna be at some indeterminate point in the future, and everything will be judged.
- God chooses who are believers and who are non-believers. But the non-believers will go to hell because of their actions. So, basically, you're screwed if you're a non-believer and there is nothing you can do about it. God wanted you to go to hell.
- There are a lot of arcane laws- a number of them regarding wives and slaves
- Paying back murder with murder has God's 'okay'. But you can also choose to pay the family of the murdered instead. -- "We ordained for them: life for life, eye for eye, nose for nose, ear for ear, tooth for tooth, and wounds equal for equal. But if any one remits the retaliation by way of charity, it is an act of atonement for himself, and if any fail to judge by what Allah hath revealed, they are no better than wrongdoers"
- Praying is important
- Charity is important
- You're not supposed to get too mixed up with orphans
- God has a lot of names
- The jews and christians were wrong and are going to hell. But the Jews more so: -- "Strongest among men in enmity to the believers will thou find the Jews and Pagans; and nearest amont them in love to the believers wilt though find those who say "we are Christian": Because amongst these are men devoted to learning and men who have renounced the world, and they are not arrogant."
- Basically, you need to become Muslim because otherwise you're going to Hell. -- "What cause can we have not to believe in Allah and the truth which has come to us, seeing that we long for our Lord to admit us to the company of the righteous."
- Don't look for, nor point out, contradictions. It will go badly for you if you do so. -- "Some people before you did ask such questions, and on that account lost their faith."
And then there's this:
Surah 33, line 53: "O ye who believe enter not the Prophet's houses until leave is given you for a meal, and then not as early as to wait for its preparation: but when ye are invited, enter; and when ye have taken your meal, disperse, without seeking familiar talk. Such behavior annoys the Prophet: he is ashamed to dismiss you, but Allah is not ashamed to tell you the truth."
This comes about 2/3 of the way into the Quran. By this time, Mohamed has been revealing the surahs for a long time and there are, I would think, a lot of people stopping by to ask him for certain favors. He probably doesn't like this.
But my favorite part came at the end. And I plan on using it when pushed about Islam and becoming Muslim:
قل يأيها الكفرون
لا أعبد ما تعبدون
و لا أنتم عبدون ما أعبد
و لا أنا عابد ماعبدتم
و لا أنتم عبدون ما أعبد
لكم دينكم و لى دين
Say, you unbelievers:
I do not worship what you worship.
Nor do you worship what I do.
And I will not worship that which you worship.
And you will not worship that which I worship.
You have your way (religion) and I have mine.
Now this I can work with!
I admit, I am guilty of giving the "highlighter version" of the Koran. The one that is favored both by fundamentalists and Islamophobes (as the woman in the video link below explains). But I'm not sure how else to present it. I can't recite it for you. It'd be very long, and not comprehensible, even if you were a fluent Arabic speaker.
In short, I remain unconvinced.