Why I Am Reading the Quran

I’m reading the Quran.

I’ve read excerpts and quotations from it before, but now I am reading the whole thing. At least I am reading a particular translation of it. An old one. I picked up my copy at a used book sale last year sometime; it was published 60 or so years ago. I don’t know where scholarship stands on this translation. Perhaps I should have done research into that aspect before I started reading it, I don’t know. Maybe I messed up in that regard. But this is the version I have, by an esteemed publisher I might add. Though decades old, I’m going with the assumption that it’s probably still a respectable translation, unless and until I learn otherwise.

As I said, I’ve had it about a year. I’ve not been putting off reading it. I just wanted to make sure I had a consistent block of time on a regular basis to read it, as opposed to skimming through it every few days. Thanks to a morning routine I established about a year ago, I have the time, and I’ve made my way through a cue of books that have been waiting.

I am not a Muslim, nor do I intend to become one. But I have over the years read the religious texts of other religions, and I plan to do so in the future. A time would have come for me to read the Quran, regardless.

The timing isn’t purely circumstantial, though. With both fake and legitimate Muslims in the news so much in recent years, fear and misinformation have spread around the globe, especially here in the United States. I am proud to say I already have a basic working understanding of Islam’s mechanics which I use to deflect some of the ignorance as needed. Yet until I read the sacred book of the religion, I can’t claim familiarity with the heart of Islam. Only perhaps with its mind in some ways. In these difficult times I think all literate people owe it to themselves and to Islam to rely on more than pundits and speeches and movies and news reels to establish an understanding of this religion. If we can’t do that, we are obligated to shut up about it, in the very least.

This isn’t about parsing Islamic theology, or arming myself with quotations. I won’t be offering public thoughts on the literature of the book or in this case its translation. And I will be light years away from being a Quran scholar by the time I finish reading it. At that time I will in fact just be a somewhat better informed non-Muslim.

In another lifetime, years ago, I ran for the United States House of Representatives. Obviously, i was not elected, nor even nominated by my party of the time. Yet from the moment I came in last in that primary election, I could stamp one of my cards, so to speak. “If you don’t like what’s going on, why don’t you do something about it,” is a question I can answer with pride by saying. “I have.” I have a similar feeling about reading the entire Koran. In these times when Islam plays such a critical role in world affairs, and when lunatics corrupt it as many lunatics have corrupted Christianity over the years, I want to at least be able to say, “I’ve read it,” when I observe something. I don’t want to bloviate on something with which I have no direct experience.

I also refuse to fear something I know little about just because much of the world assures me I should. I fear ignorance far more than most things, anyway.

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