Another atheist reads the Qur’an

Alright, so I finally bought a copy of the Qur’an with the intention to read it. I was inspired by the fact that two new translations have recently been published by those erstwhile publishers of the world’s best books, Oxford and Penguin Classics. The Oxford edition is weighted down by lots of notes and footnotes, and the text is cluttered. That’s no way to approach a book like the Qur’an for the first time. After much reflection, I opted for the Penguin, which has the advantage of alternating between prose and verse. The pages are neat and there are spaces between the paragraphs. So Penguin won my hard-earned 10 euro.

For the record, I’m not out to diss the Qur’an. So no death threats, please.

Update: Halfway through the sura The Cow – which is the longest one – I’m getting a bit tired of being called names. Deaf. Dumb. Blind. I do not understand. I am as dumb as an ox. Why? Because I ask too many questions. The Qur’anic message thus far is, believe because I say so. Oh, yeah? Even the Bible tries to draw you in with finely woven tales of God’s miracles, good and evil behavior, natural wonders. It makes an attempt to convince. It goes out of its way to persuade. The Qur’an is the realm of absolute certainty, utter piety and eternal fire for the unbelievers.

Nonetheless, I’m enjoying it despite pronouncements like, “Your women are your sowing field; approach your field whenever you please.” That wouldn’t go down well in our home.

8 thoughts on “Another atheist reads the Qur’an

  1. actually, the best way to read the Quran is to ask a lot of questions. Also, try to approach the Quran without presumptions—for example, you might have a certain presumptive definition of the word “unbeliever”—but if you pay close attention—you will find that the Quran defines words such as “believer”, “unbeliever”, hypocrite—etc in a different way than what is commonly understood from a “christian”-centric perspective.(—even if you are an athiest)

    I am a Muslim and don’t want to in intrude on this blog, but if you are genuinely interested in another perspective and would like to dialogue/ask questions, I would be interested in responsding…..let me know.

    Also, if you had asked, you could have read the Quran for free, Pickthall, Yusuf Ali, Asad are more or less accepted mainstream translations (they are imperfect–but they are for free on the net. The Asad translation comes with commentary and puts the verses of the Quran in historical context—the Quran was revealed over a 23 year period so it is important to know the events surrounding the revelations)

  2. Dear Marc,

    Read the Quran with an open mind. Do not take as you say “name calling” to heart. Obviously you have proved not to be ‘deaf, dumb and blind’ as you quoted if you are attempting to give the Quran its due reading. As a muslim, I would encourage you to read the entire book with an open mind and heart and not taking it personally. If you give the Quran a good reading, trying to understand what God is saying, you will come to reason with it. God commands us to reason and think, to reflect upon His Words. He does not command this of just any body but to all of humanity, including the muslims. The Quran is for all of humanity, even I, if not reflecting on God’s words, am ‘deaf, dumb, and blind’ . One more thing to keep in mind while reading is that the Arabic written part is the actual words of GOD Himself, but when the Arabic is translated into English, this is done by humans, not GOD, so most of the time, the English words do not directly reflect the true Arabic context…loosing most of its originality. Most of the time there is no direct word in english that can truely capture the meaning of the arabic word.

    anyway, thank you for trying to give the Quran an honest reading.


  3. I appreciate your comments. I am indeed reading the Qur’an with an “open mind”. It is near impossible, however, to read it uncritically. My point is not to take pot shots at a book that many people take seriously as the word of God, but rather to read it as I read any other book, including the Bible. I begin, obviously, by assuming the Qur’an is the work of humans, not gods or a God. So no, ms, I cannot keep in mind that this is a translation of the words of God himself, but rather that many people in the world believe just that. My reading is that of an open-minded skeptic.

    1. That is great Marc. Please excuse me if I came across offending you in any way…that was not my intention. I would however like to know as you progress reading the Quran, how you are feeling and what you are thinking…let’s just say I am intrigued and highly curious how some one else understands the Quran.

      1. ms…from time to time I’ll be posting thoughts on my reading of the Qur’an, so stay tuned if you’re curious. I don’t think you could easily offend me, so no worries there.

  4. First off, there is no such thing as atheist, it is indeed plain simply arrogance and utter rudeness to the scientific community let alone the religious one, their claim in itself is a positive one, u can not provide proof of his existence, whihc make u logically at best agnostic who lack humility to accepting lack of knowledge.
    in so far as the quran goes, seems like u were expecting mathematical notions, or some scientific formula “although there scientific stuff in there”. are u mad ?
    the point is about, the highly likelihood of his being, rather than nothing coming out of nothing, and forget about the quantum fluctuation and string ripples, the numbers dont add up. and there is already been proved that universe paradox, is a logical fallacy in itself.

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