I still haven’t finished reading the Qur’an

I started blogging about the Qur’an last year, and I’m still reading it. I haven’t dedicated it much time, really, although I do intend to finish it one day. In fact, I’m almost there. At times I’ll read a sura on the toilet, other times over breakfast. The truth is that it’s pretty boring, the poetry is mediocre, the wisdom juvenile and the threatening tone cloying.

Take this example, from “Arrayed in Ranks”:

“Is this a better welcome or the tree of Zaqqum, which We set
as an ordeal for the wicked?
It is a tree which grows in the pit of hell, with fruit like heads of demons.
They shall eat from it and fill their bellies;
Then, in addition, they shall have a scalding drink,
Then will they be returned to hell.” (trans. T. Khalidi)

That’s really spooky, I suppose, if you’ve been raised to believe in an omnipotent being whose arch-enemy is the unbeliever. More than any other religious scripture that I’ve read, the Qur’an relishes in this kind of gratuitous punishment for – as they are quaintly called – “wrongdoers.” But the wrongdoers aren’t people who murder, enslave, mistreat others, lie and steal  – as one may suppose – but rather they are those who simply don’t believe. “All they can expect is a single Scream, which shall sieze them while they dispute…” Ah, disputation, the enemy of God! 

“You shall surely taste of the most painful torment,” it reminds us. That kids are taught to memorize this nonsense, often in place of actual education, is tragic.

5 thoughts on “I still haven’t finished reading the Qur’an

  1. So of all the reading you manage to do within a year the only statement you brought up about the Quran is the punishment of the “wrongdoers”?

    What made you assume that ” wrongdoers” equates with ” Atheism”? The word is very self- explanatory. Those who acknowledge the Creator and those who don’t will all pay for the “wrongs” they have committed. Did you not read this verse?
    ” Whoever does an atom weight of good will see it, and whoever does an atom weight of evil will see it.” Quran 11:114

    I don’t blame you for your poor understanding of the Quran. I know I wouldn’t be able to understand it properply if I was reading it while using the toliet.Hopefully this will clear up your misconception of the word “wrongdoers” in the Quran

    P.S An advice. If you want to quote the Quran, please post up the chapter and verse number, that way the readers will know where to look for that verse in the Quran.


    1. Kafiya,

      For your pleasure, the quote I used is from Qur’an 37:68. The verse you quoted above is not easily found in my volume: perhaps we’re using two very different translations, and there’s no analogous wording.

      Nonetheless, cherry-picking is easily done with any “holy” book. Bible-thumpers do it all the time, and Qur’an-thumpers are no different. You say I have a poor understanding of the Qur’an. Maybe so. But what would a superior understanding of it yield me? Certainly nothing which is compatible with a modern, humanistic conception of the world. For that no “holy” scripture will do.

      One reason I began reading the Qur’an was to dispel some of the myths that are built up around it. Mainly, I find the book to be somewhat more banal than I’d imagined it. It’s hard to really give it the respect so many people think it deserves (no book deserves our a priori respect, of course). In my posts I’ve tried to reflect this…disappointment. I was almost hoping it would make a persuasive case for itself. It doesn’t.


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