The Koran For Dummies

The Koran For Dummies

by Sohaib Sultan


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With the current turmoil in the Middle East, there is a growing interest about Islam—the world’s second largest religion and one of the fastest growing—and its holy book, the Koran (or Qur’an). Now, with this easy-to-follow, plain-English guide, you can explore the history, structure, and basic tenets of Islam’s sacred scripture.

The Koran For Dummies is for non-Muslims interested in the Koran as well as Muslims looking to deepen their understanding. Islamic scholar Sohaib Sultan provides a clear road map, revealing:

  • The meaning of Koran and its basic message
  • The Koran’s place in history and in Islamic spiritual life
  • Explanations of its language, structure, and narrative style
  • How to live by the Koran’s teachings
  • The Koran’s role in key global issues, such as Jihad vs. terrorism
  • Different interpretations of the Koran

No other book provides such a straightforward look at what the Koran says, how it says it, and how believers live according to its guidance. From how the Koran was received by Mohammed and how it was compiled to how it’s interpreted by Islam’s two main branches, you’ll see how to put the Islamic faith in perspective.

Plus, you’ll discover:

  • What the Koran really says about women and civil law
  • How Islam relates to Judaism and Christianity
  • The Koran’s view of God, prophets, mankind, and the self
  • How its teachings are lived and recited every day by devout Muslims
  • Common misconceptions of the Koran
  • How to raise a family the Koranic way

Complete with lists of important passages, Koranic terminology, famous quotes, and further reading resources, The Koran For Dummies makes it easy and enjoyable for you to grasp the teachings and significance of Islam's holy book.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780764555817
Publisher: Wiley
Publication date: 05/10/2004
Series: For Dummies Books
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 275,124
Product dimensions: 7.25(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.75(d)

About the Author

Sohaib Sultan is a freelance journalist and student of the Islamic tradition who has studied the Koran and Islam extensively with Islamic scholars in the United States and Saudi Arabia.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1

About This Book 1

Conventions Used in This Book 2

Foolish Assumptions 3

How This Book Is Organized 4

Part I: Revealing the Word of God: The Book 4

Part II: Searching for the Soul of the Koran 4

Part III: Seeing the Koranic Worldview 4

Part IV: Living the Koran 5

Part V: Relating the Koran to the World 5

Part VI: The Part of Tens 5

Icons Used in This Book 5

Where to Go from Here 6

Part I: Revealing the Word of God: The Book 7

Chapter 1: Getting to Know the Koran 9

Receiving Revelation Straight from the Source 9

Guiding the Way: Prophet Muhammad 10

Discovering the Basic Messages of the Koran 11

The unity of God 11

Worship and service to God 11

Prophets to teach and guide 11

Completion of past revelations 12

Guidance to a spiritual path 12

Movement for social change 12

Accountability of deeds 13

Naming the Revelation 13

The Guidance 13

The Criterion 14

The Proof 14

The Reminder 15

The Healing 16

Hearing the Words: The Audience of the Koran 16

Knowing the Essentials about Islam and Muslims 17

The Six Pillars of Belief 17

The Five Pillars of Islam 18

Muslims: The followers of Islam 19

Chapter 2: From Revelation to Written Book 21

Revealing the Koran to Muhammad 21

The beginning of revelation 22

The stages of revelation 24

The Meccan and Medinan periods 24

Transmitting revelation to the community 26

Collecting the Koran as a Book 27

Conforming the Koran’s dialects 28

The Koran in modern-day print 29

Memorizing Miracles: Preserving the Koran throughout History 31

Experiencing the Koran as Divine Art 32

Recitation 32

Calligraphy 35

Chapter 3: Mapping Out the Structure of the Book 37

Discerning the Structure of the Koran 37

Ayat 37

Surahs 38

Juz’ 39

Discovering Surah Names and Themes 40

Finding Your Way through the Moral Narrative 46

Through divine signs 47

Through laws 47

Through stories of the past 48

Simplifying the Moral Narrative of Shorter Surahs 52

Chapter 4: Discovering the Language of the Koran 53

Arabic: Plain, Clear, and Eloquent 53

Digging down to the roots 54

Reading translations of the Koran 56

Literary Style in the Sacred Scripture 57

Key literary elements of the Koran 58

Clear and figurative passages 60

Hearing the Voice of the Koran 62

Chapter 5: Relating the Koran to Abrahamic Revelations 65

Previous Revelations: Between Sacred and Corrupted 65

Linking the Three Faiths: Common Experiences in the Scriptures 66

Uniting faiths with belief in One God 67

Bridging the gap between divine laws 67

Sharing the legacy of prophetic stories 69

Contrasting the Koran with Judeo-Christian Scriptures 70

Finding a worldview of history in the Scriptures 70

Reforming laws 72

Reforming religious rituals 72

Extending God’s covenant to all peoples 73

Giving a new angle on prophetic stories 73

Checking the prophetic pulse of Muhammad in the lBiblical Scripture 75

Differing on Mary and the message of Jesus 76

Part II: Searching for the Soul of the Koran 79

Chapter 6: Interpreting the Koran 81

Coming to Know the Guidance 81

Having room for interpretation 82

Knowing the key terms of Koranic interpretation 82

Finding the Tasfir that fits 84

Drawing out Interpretations 85

Looking at clear and ambiguous passages 85

Interpreting outer meanings 86

Interpreting inner meanings 88

Examining general and specific passages 88

Keeping circumstances behind revelation in mind 90

Abrogating passages 90

Chapter 7: Understanding Interpretations of the Koran Today 93

Getting to Know Famous Commentators of the Koran 93

Among the companions 94

In successive generations 95

Classic works of Koranic interpretation 96

Influential Movements of the Twentieth Century 98

Mawdudi: Framework for a movement 99

Qutub: The controversial revolutionary 101

Muhammad Rida: The influential reformer 103

Muhammad al-Ghazali: Thematic Tafsir 103

Another School of Thought: The Shi’ites 104

Ali 104

Two famous Shi’ite Koranic interpreters 105

Part III: Seeing the Koranic Worldview 107

Chapter 8: Meeting God, Prophets, and Mankind 109

Conceptualizing God 109

“A” is for “Allah” 109

Exploring the concept of God 110

Experiencing God through divine attributes 113

Knowing God 117

Prophets of God: Preaching a Divine Message 119

Prophets and messengers 119

Abraham: Beloved Friend of God and Father of Faith 120

Moses: The Liberator 122

Jesus: The Spirit of God 125

The Status and Nature of Man 128

Human nature through Adam 129

The purpose of human life 131

Chapter 9: Divining Nature, the Universe, and the Unseen 133

The Divine Ways of Nature 133

Patterns of creation 134

God’s creations in the skies 134

Earthly creations 136

Inheriting the Earth: The Role of Mankind in Nature 139

The Unseen World: Angels versus Satan 140

The angels: Pure creations of God 141

Satan: An avowed enemy 142

Accounting for the Soul 143

The Day of Judgment 143

The eternal bliss of heaven 144

Hell: Torment of the fire 145

God’s Mercy, God’s Wrath: Reconciling the two 145

Chapter 10: Taking the Koranic View of Other Faith Traditions 147

Islam: One Religion under God 147

A brotherhood of Muslims 148

Limits to an inclusive theology 149

Honoring Freedom of Choice and Respecting Diversity 151

Protecting freedom of choice 152

Embracing diversity as the Will of God 152

Examining Some Controversial Passages on Interfaith Relations 153

Fighting against “unbelievers” 154

Forbidding “friendship” with People of the Book 156

Part IV: Living the Koran 157

Chapter 11: Following in the Footsteps of Muhammad 159

The Scripture Speaks about Muhammad 159

Servant of God and mortal man 160

Muhammad’s divine mission 160

Muhammad as the best example for humanity 161

Muhammad’s mercy for humanity 161

Muhammad as a seal of the prophets 162

Doing as God and His Messenger Do 163

Looking at Some Key Prophetic Sayings 165

Muhammad speaks about God 165

Muhammad speaks about virtue 166

Chapter 12: Putting Meaning into Ritual 169

Declaring Faith: More than Just Words 170

Conversing with the Divine: Prayer 170

Understanding the purpose of prayer 171

Approaching prayer: Purity of mind and body 172

Let the prayer begin! 175

Raising the Soul over the Ego: Fasting 180

Remembering and thanking God 180

Enjoying the communal aspects of fasting 182

Purifying Wealth, Uplifting the Needy: Almsgiving 183

Opening your wallet and improving the world 183

Receiving alms 184

Journeying to the House of God: Pilgrimage 186

Following the path of Abraham 186

Journeying through the pilgrimage 186

Chapter 13: Understanding the Koranic View of Self 191

Connecting the Three Dots of Self Awareness 191

The wild horse and the rider 192

The three states of self 193

The Seven Gates to the Heart 194

The ears and tongue 194

The eyes 195

The hands and legs 196

The stomach 197

The sexual organs 197

Blessed Is the Baby’s Soul, a Soul without Sin 198

The Soul’s Journey: From Pre-Birth to the Hereafter 199

Pre-worldly existence 199

Earthly life 199

The grave 200

The Day of Judgment 200

The final abode 201

The Muslim Self: A State of Being 201

The Kafir: A Faithless Self 202

Chapter 14: Achieving Koranic Ethics and Morality 203

Discovering Ethical Principles in the Koran 203

Preserving religion 203

Preserving life 204

Preserving lineage 205

Preserving property 206

Preserving honor 206

Leading the Life of Good Virtue and Character 207

Discouraged behaviors 207

Encouraged behaviors 210

Purifying the Heart 212

Remembering the Divine: Dhikr 212

Following God’s laws 213

Keeping company with pious people 214

Controlling passion and struggling for good 214

Chapter 15: Raising a Family the Koranic Way 215

Healthy Family Equals Healthy Society 215

Looking for a Spouse: Let the Search Begin 216

Looking beyond the surface 216

Making sure the marriage is legal 217

Giving equal time: Polygamy for men 218

Celebrating Marriage as the Basis of Family 219

Practically speaking: Basic functions within a marriage 220

Intimacy: Both spiritual and physical 222

Preserving modesty through Scriptural teaching 223

Bringing Up Children 224

Treating parents well: The best act of piety 225

Raising children with wisdom 226

Parental responsibilities to their children 227

A Matter of Inheritance: Who Gets What 228

Tackling Divorce in the Koran 229

Part V: Relating the Koran to the World 231

Chapter 16: Connecting the Koran to Society 233

Divining a Community of the Middle Path 233

Having a balanced approach to the Divine 234

Balancing the worldly and the spiritual in society 234

Managing justice and mercy in society 235

Avoiding extremes in religious practice and manners 236

Witnessing the Truth 237

Enjoining Good and Forbidding Evil 238

Uniting a Community with the Rope of God 240

Equality of mankind before God 240

The brotherhood of man 241

Leadership and Citizenship in the Koran 243

Forming a political identity 244

Governing by the Book 245

Living up to citizenship 246

Receiving the rights of citizenship 247

Non-Muslims living in Muslim lands 249

Jihad: Struggling in the Path of God 252

Struggling against evil 252

Jihad as armed struggle 253

Chapter 17: Purifying Society through Islamic Law 255

Defining Shariah 256

Extracting and Interpreting Sacred Law 257

Searching for Rulings and Principals 258

In the Koran 258

In the prophetic tradition 261

In the consensus of the scholars 263

In juristic analogy 264

Exploring the Contents of the Sacred Law 264

Understanding the Islamic Penal Code 265

Punishing murder 266

Punishing the spreading of violence 267

Punishing theft 268

Preventing unlawful sexual relations 269

Looking at the Four Schools of Law 270

The Hanafi School of Law 270

The Maliki School of Law 271

The Shafi’i School of Law 271

The Hanbali School 272

Chapter 18: Struggling for God: Jihad 273

Finding the Spirit of Jihad 274

Defending life and religion 274

Defending human rights and freedom of worship 275

Dispelling the myths behind passage 9:5 276

Connecting Qital with Islamic Law 279

Understanding Martyrdom 279

Looking at Jihad in today’s World 280

Chapter 19: Discussing Women in the Koran 283

Finding Equality in the Scripture 284

Eve: A model for gender equality 284

The Virgin Mary: A divinely inspired woman 286

Other famous and infamous women in the Koran 288

Discerning Women’s Rights in Divine Law 290

Right to inheritance 291

Right to own property, manage business, and control wealth 291

Right to work and equal pay 292

Right to education 292

Right to social and political participation 293

Rights of marriage 293

Right to initiate divorce 293

Right to bear witness to business transactions 294

Chapter 20: The Koran and Modernity 295

Differentiating between Modernity and Modern Culture 295

Promoting Social Progress 296

Focusing on Issues of Modernity 297

Science 298

The arts 298

Human rights 299

Economics and free trade 300

Morality and secularism 301

Imagining an Islamic Democracy 302

Debating the rule of law between citizenry and God 303

Expressing the will of the people through elections 305

Holding public officials responsible 305

Liberty and Koranic ideals 306

Social equality and Islamic law 307

Part VI: The Part of Tens 309

Chapter 21: Ten Misconceptions about the Koran 311

Misconception #1: Muhammad Wrote the Koran 311

Misconception #2: The Koran Is Incoherent and Unorganized 312

Misconception #3: The Koran Is Void of Reason 313

Misconception #4: The Koran Espouses Polytheism 314

Misconception #5: The Koran Says That God Belongs to One People 315

Misconception #6: God Is Wrathful and Unloving in the Koran 316

Misconception #7: The Koran Preaches Fatalism 316

Misconception #8: Jihad Means “Holy War” 317

Misconception #9: The Koran Discourages Interfaith Dialogue and Cooperation 318

Misconception #10: The Scripture Values Men More than Women 319

Chapter 22: Ten Ways to Dig Deeper into the Koran 321

Comparing “Translations” 321

Listening to the Koran 323

Looking at Different Interpretations 324

Reading Books 325

Studying Arabic 326

Studying the Koran 326

Surfing Web Sites 327

Taking Classes 328

Talking to Muslims 328

Visiting Your Local Mosque 329

Appendix A: Glossary of Koranic Terms 331

Appendix B: Finding Prophets in the Koran 339

Index 341

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