Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Koran: A Very Short Introduction by Michael Cook

Cook's book is a decent introduction of the Koran as book/codex and as a sacred object. Aptly named, the emphasis is about the Koran, not Islam (even though I think I was hoping it would be more about Islam).  Cook intended to work backwards, by discussing the Koran as it is used and seen in the present and proceed (recede?) to discussions of the book and its followers in earlier years. A decent enough idea, but not entirely successfully executed. There were many interesting bits and I learned many things, but I don't think he managed to pull it off.
Part of what I learned was about how any text would have to be reproduced and preserved over time, both in terms of accuracy, translation and different concepts of accessibility. An example of the last point is when Cook described how a preface to an English translation of the Koran said something like, "Make sure not to confuse this with the real Koran."  Cook said how odd it would be to see something similar at the beginning of the King James Bible.  On a related note, some of the most interesting parts were about how the book/text is seen as sacred so it should not be held below the waste, nor be on the bottom of a stack of books, nor read aloud (reciting is okay though), and that some die-hards think that non-muslims shouldn't even touch it. 
I would still like to learn more about Islam but this work seemed to be sufficient to temporarily cure my curiousity regarding the Koran.


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