The Koran, the holiest book of the Islamic faith, often comes up when the subject turns to terrorism.
But does the public, or even our highest elected officials, for that matter, understand what’s in the text itself? And, more importantly, any connections between radical Islam and the Koran?
The Complete Infidel’s Guide to the Koran by Robert Spencer helps decode and decipher the holy text in a way that’s both illuminating and hard to ignore.
The newest Guide is as complicated as its subject matter, but Spencer methodically addresses the source material’s many facets while drawing key contemporary comparisons.
The Koran remains open to endless debate, but Spencer tries to find the most respectable scholars to weigh in when murkier parts of the text doesn’t provide solid answers. Spencer freely admits when some interpretations are muddier than others, but stands firm on areas where there’s little wiggle room.
The truth behind some passages depends strongly on who is doing the translating, since Arabic to English translations can be imperfect at best. The author brings in a multitude of voices in some such cases to offer a more comprehensive assessment.
Spencer begins, appropriately enough, with the reasons why western minds need to know what’s in the Koran, even if they have little interest in spiritual matters.
” … many Muslims themselves find calls to warfare in the Koran. And this group of ‘misunderstanders’ is not as insignificant as Western analysts contend,” he writes.
Radicals routinely quote from the Koran and Spencer shows why. The text offers plenty of calls to action against nonbelievers.
Getting to know the book, he argues, is a matter of “self protection.”
The Complete Infidel’s Guide explores the creation of the Koran, how the Prophet Muhammad received the information that would comprise the holy book from Gabriel slowly over 23 years. The text is said to be unchanged for centuries, but Spencer reveals how modest modifications occurred over time. It all often depends on who you ask, and what the passage in question means for modern-day Muslims understandably eager to defend their faith.
“A passage mandating death by stoning as the penalty for adultery was originally part of the Koran but was later omitted,” he writes as just one example.
The holy text also shares similarities with Jewish Scriptures. People ranging from Noah to Moses “figure prominently throughout the Koran,” he says, although not always exactly in the manner presented elsewhere.
Perhaps the most important chapter concerns the titular infidels — and what the Koran thinks of them.
“Most Muslim commentators believe that the Jews are those who have earned Allah’s wrath and the Christians are those who have gone astray,” he writes. And while eternal damnation awaits the infidels, their suffering doesn’t begin and end with the afterlife, he writes.
“As to those who reject faith, I will punish them with terrible agony in this world and in the Hereafter, nor will they have anyone to help,” he quotes the Koran (3:56).
But it’s the Jews who feel the brunt of the radical Islamist’s ire, and Spencer breaks down some reasons why.
The Koran repeatedly states Jews are prophet killers — without proof. The passages in which a group of Jews are transformed into apes and pigs is used by some to cast all Jews in such animalistic fashion.
The Koran’s conflicting words come into sharp focus when dealing with women’s rights. The text often speaks to equality and progressive stances regarding women, but other times the holy book includes less tolerant instructions. Consider phrases like, “men are a degree above them,” regarding women, and how a good wife “obeys when instructed.”
Politicians often speak of Islam as a religion of peace, even moments after the latest terrorist bomb has just been detonated. Their words are meant to defuse situations and not blame the millions of decent, peaceful Muslims for the actions of their radicalized peers.
The Koran speaks of nonviolence as well, but it also tells followers to take defensive actions against nonbelievers. “The mere presence of unbelief constitutes sufficient aggression to commence hostilities,” he writes.
Failing to understand the Koran, and how many terrorists envision its text, leads to “careless statements” and “policy errors,” he says. That’s a recipe for disaster.
“The willful blindness of western leaders threatens us all,” he writes.
The Complete Infidel’s Guide to the Koran tries to correct those mistakes and set the record straight without overtly demonizing those who seek solace in Islam.