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The Quran

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  • Brian McCarthy
    The understanding of the biblical writings has been advanced in many ways by the application to them over the last couple of centuries of modern disciplines of
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 13, 2000
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      The understanding of the biblical writings has been advanced in many ways by the application to them over the last couple of centuries of modern disciplines of historical enquiry and literary critique.
       
      At first this was met by hostile reactions from the churches and synagogues, but now many have come to accept their legitimacy--which is not the same thing as accepting every new scholarly idea put forward or every journalistic report on the latest spectacular discovery.
       
      It is not clear that similar investigation of the Quran and the origins of Islam has advanced very far. Which is a pity. For one journalist's overview of recent work done in the west, one can consult the Jan 1999 issue of the Atlantic Monthly.
       
      (I just found the article, plus a number of responses, mostly Muslim and critical, via a Google search. I simply typed in the three words atlantic monthly and koran. If you type in Quran instead of Koran you will find further responses and discussion.)
       
      Some of the questions being investigated concern the sources for our information about Muhammad, the occasion of their production, their tendencies; the  origins of the Quran--the process whereby written texts came into being from the many year's of M's religious experiences; the process of assembling them; the processes whereby we got a standardized written text etc.
       
      It seems that we are still only in the preliminary stages of these investigations, and that only limited scholarly resources, whether western or Islamic have been devoted to them. And that what has been done is little known in the general scholarly community or among otherwise well-informed lay folk.
       
      The same is true of the history of cultural influences--I know a little about the vast enrichment of western Europe from Islamic sources in the Middle Ages.
       
      And when we did an introductory class on Islam in our church last year, with the help of UWMadison faculty, it was a revelation to almost everyone when some American Sufis spoke to us of their spiritual journeys. We had never imagined that Islam had such a spiritual tradition, or that it was so alive today.
       
      Which is a very unsatifactory state of affairs, given the ever increasing interactions between the Islamic world and the west, and the increasing numbers of Muslims who, for whatever reasons,  want to come and live in the U.S., Canada etc.
       
      Brian McCarthy
      Madison WI
       
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