Islam has worldwide influence, and even in the United States is experiencing a period of unprecedented growth. Islam and its sacred book, the Koran, have been the subject of voluminous commentary and, recently, great popular interest; yet it has rarely received the kind of ojective critical scrutiny that has been applied to the texts of the Bible for more than a century.
Though some scholars of note have raised crucial questions about the authenticity and reliability of the Koran and Muslim tradition, Koranic studies by and large have failed to take advantage of critical skeptical methodologies. Today the majority of interpreters of Islam's sacred text appear content to lie in the Procrustean bed prepared by Muslim tradition more than a thousand years ago.
To correct this neglect of objective historical scholarship, Ibn Warraq has assembled this excellent collection of critical commentaries on the Koran published by noted scholars from the beginning of the twentieth century to recent times. These important studies, as well as his own lengthy introduction, show that little about the text of the Koran can be taken at face value. Among the fascinating topics discussed is evidence that early Muslims did not understand Muhammad's original revelation, that the ninth-century explosion of literary activity was designed to organize and make sense of an often incoherent text, and that many of the traditions surrounding Muhammad's life were fabricated long after his death in an attempt to give meaning to the Koran. Also of interest are suggestions that Coptic and other Christian sources heavily influenced much of the text and that some passages even reflect an Essenian background reaching back to the community of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Complete with a glossary of Arabic terms and appendices on Semitic languages and scripts, this outstanding volume is a welcome resource for interested lay readers and scholars alike.
About the Author
IBN WARRAQ is the author of WHY I AM NOT A MUSLIM and the editor of THE ORIGINS OF THE KORAN and THE QUEST FOR THE HISTORICAL MUHAMMAD.