Read a Koran/Qur’an Day

September 10, 2010

Heard about the Dove World Outreach Center’s plan to publicly burn a stack of Korans on September 11th? Just in time for Banned Books Week, many organizations around the world are promoting September 11th as “International Read a Koran Day”. For those wishing to participate, or who simply want to know more about his highly influential, much misunderstood text, here are some suggestions.

There are several free online editions; a great, easy to use site is the Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement, which presents the entire text in 3 parallel English translations. Beliefnet’s collection of Qur’an quotations, indexes and commentaries is another terrific online resource.

The Evanston Public Library owns several editions, including  The Qurʼan : a new translation from 2008; a parallel translation with English and Arab text; and  al-Qurʼān : a contemporary translation from Princeton University. Some excellent commentaries and histories of the Qur’an:

Opening the Qur’an : introducing Islam’s holy book by Wiliam Wagner, an overview specifically for Christina and Jewish readers

The Qur’an: a biography,  by Bruce Lawrence. Part of the “Books That Shook the World “series, Lawrence looks at the roles of the Prophet Muhammad;  then  considers early commentaries, later interpreters, echoes in other Asian religious, the the use of the Qur’an by various factions in the modern world.

For those looking for a simple accessible introduction, the “Dummies” and “Complete Idiot” series may be useful (no insult to the reader intended!).

As with any religious text, the subtleties of translation are highly relevant to  interpretation. For an illuminating look at translation issues, see, “Assessing English Translations of the Qur’an,” by Khaleel Mohammed in  Middle East Quarterly.

–Lesley W.

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