Hans Jansen: Reading the Quran yourself (about Islam and the Quran)
Hans Jansen: Read the Quran yourself. After 9/11 and the murder of Theo van Gogh, interest in Islam has increased. However, anyone who takes up the Quran himself will inevitably run into a number of difficulties. The book ‘Self Reading the Koran’ by the Arabist Hans Jansen is an extremely clearly written introduction to, as the title indicates, to read the Koran yourself.
Read the Quran yourself
- Author: Hans Jansen
- Publisher: Van Praag, Amsterdam
- Year: 2008
- ISBN 978 90 490 2403 1
- Pages: 199
- Price: ?? 16.95
Reading the Quran yourself is an accessible book – although not too popular – in which the author discusses and clarifies a number of linguistic, textual and theological problems for the layman. He also discusses current themes such as jihad (holy war) and the submission of women to men. He does not shy away from? as we are used to from him? to put your finger on the sore spot. He calls man and horse. He can sometimes be mercilessly critical, without falling into ordinary gall-guzzling. No, he looks more like a down to earth scientist who notes his findings from a distance. Light-hearted, occasionally witty, but with the necessary depth.
According to Jansen, there are many problems that complicate the interpretation of the Koranic text. In Self-reading Koran Jansen quotes the researcher Christoph Luxenberg, who makes plausible that Quranic Arabic is partly a mixed language of Syriac-Aramaic and Arabic. About 20% of the Quran consists of dark passages that can hardly be deciphered. Luxenberg’s hypothesis turns many vague and obscure texts “for which the translators and the Quran commentators come up with all kinds of wonderful and improbable solutions.” suddenly clearer. This does lead to problems for the theology of Islam, which after all states that the Quran is written in “clear Arabic language”. The results of Luxenberg’s research can therefore be called blasphemous in the eyes of Islam. Reason he writes under a pseudonym.
Then there are the dots below and above the Arabic letters. The current Arabic alphabet uses dots to distinguish letters from each other, also called diacritic dots. The oldest Quran manuscripts do not contain these dots. There are different variants of the Koran text. According to Jansen, these variants probably arose from the many possibilities for interpretation that the defective pointless old writing offers.
The Doctrine of Revocation
In Self Reading the Quran Jansen claims that the famous verse “in religion there is no compulsion”. (2: 256), has been revoked (replaced) by later, more militant verses. This is an interesting point. The doctrine of recantation of certain Quranic verses (abrogation or naskh in Arabic) is based on Sura 2: 106 and Sura 16: 101. (The Quran is divided into chapters called suras). Because of this doctrine, the contradiction between the different verses in the Quran is not a problem, but it does complicate the independent reading of the Quran. The peace-loving verses of the Quran are all from the Meccan period, when Muhammad had few followers and his power was limited. The violent verses, on the other hand, date from his time in Medina, where the Prophet gained many followers. Now that he had established a base of power, he could go to war against his enemies. The more than 100 violent verses in the Quran are therefore of a later date and have replaced the more tolerant verses.
One shortcoming is that Jansen does not clarify on which source or sources he is based. There are many classical reference books in Islam dealing with suras that have been replaced by later Quranic verses. A whole genre has emerged in this field; Naskh is a recognized method in the Islamic legal tradition. In view of the far-reaching consequences this has with regard to the interpretation of the Quran, Jansen should have considered this more extensively as far as I am concerned.
Given this doctrine, it is therefore not surprising that Sura 2: 256 is not mentioned at all in, for example, the handbook of the holy law (called sharia) Reliance of the Traveler of Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri and that in it the theory of jihad is attached to Sura 9:29. After all, that’s the ?? fresh off the sword ?? which has replaced many peaceful verses including 2: 256. According to the manual you must therefore understand naskh in order to interpret the Quran.
Source: Book cover
Christmas sura and suicide bombers
A whole series of fascinating facts is discussed in this book in Self-reading Quran. I will mention a few. Is there a Christmas sura? A Muslim who performs his five daily prayers says five times a day that Allah is angry with the Jews and that the Christians are erring. According to the Quran, the Jews say that a certain Uzayr is God’s son, while Judaism does not teach that God has a son and, moreover, does not know a figure named Uzyr. One theme that plays a major role in both the Bible and the Quran is “the turning of the odds”. Read and find out for yourself.
However, there is one topic that stands out as far as I am concerned, mainly because of the topicality of the theme and the aversion it evokes in many Westerners. Suicide bombers and other so-called martyrs who fight under the banner of Islam believe they are being treated in paradise to virgins, called harlot in the Qur’an. But is it really in the Quran? With Luxenberg’s explanation in hand, it could very well be that it is not about virgins, but about grapes. For the martyrs sour grapes in this case. Interesting as this hypothesis may be, no Muslim has ever understood the Qur’anic text in the way it proposes.
It is a sobering book for those who believe that Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance. The Quran writes the well-known “golden rule”. (Matthew 7:12) not before. On the contrary, the Quran prescribes to fight for Islam ?? until there is no more temptation and the religion belongs to God ?? (2: 193 and 8:39). Let’s hope this appeal falls on deaf ears.
Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri, Reliance of the traveler, a classic manual of Islamic sacred law, 1994, p. 752.