Debut author Fārābi offers a critical reading of the Quran from a secular, skeptical perspective.
“There is only one way to understand a book: read it,” writes Fārābi in this book’s preface. “I have read the Koran, and I am going to read it again, with you, in this work.” The Quran is used to justify all sorts of behavior as being the will of God, often by people who don’t have a complex understanding of the text itself. In this work, the author attempts to offer a critical analysis of this holy book of Islam, seeking to remind readers that it’s an undeniably human text—transcribed and edited by humans for humans and often dealing with mundane subjects. His goal, ultimately, is to place the text into the original historical, cultural, geographical, and even biographical contexts in which it was composed. The book considers the idea that the Quran was written for an exclusively Arab audience, as well as issues such as jihad and attitudes toward women. It also addresses the jarring structure of the text: “A modern reader will often find an absence of the logical sequence normally required of every book.” The discussion here is far from comprehensive, and Fārābi organizes his arguments by topic rather than by the Quran’s running order. Even so, he packs a tremendous amount of information into his highly readable prose. Although he’s not a trained scholar, he notes that he was raised in a devout Muslim household and is well-acquainted with the Quran in Arabic, English, and his native Bengali. His book also boasts a substantial bibliography. His commitment to a critical approach is demonstrated by his use of a pen name, which he says he used to protect himself and his family from readers who might take issue with his conclusions. The work is a good starting place for secular readers who are interested in knowing more about the contents of the Quran, its history, and its influence on contemporary Islam.
A thoughtful, enlightening look at the Muslim holy book.