Lesley Hazleton: On reading the Koran

'Lesley Hazleton sat down one day to read the Koran. And what she found -- as a non-Muslim, a self-identified "tourist" in the Islamic holy book -- wasn't what she expected. With serious scholarship and warm humor, Hazleton shares the grace, flexibility and mystery she found...' [source]

I would have given this lady an enthusiastic clapping myself.

[Hat-tip: Bilal Munir]


stumblingmystic said…
It's a nice lecture, but the problem is that the Islamic orthodoxy that congealed around the 8th century interpreted the Qur'an through the lenses of the hadith and Sira (biographies of Muhammad and his companions). I like mystical interpretations of the Qur'an quite a lot myself, but the Islamic orthodoxy doesn't, and that's the whole problem.

Plus, she's unnecessarily disrespectful toward Christian and Jewish symbols ... the symbolism of the Virgin Mary in Christianity represents the Divine Shakti.

Overall ... there are far too many overprivileged white people who flatter Muslims and Arabs mostly because they feel sorry for them ... it's the "rich man's contemptuous dole to the pauper" (quoting Sri Aurobindo there).
Awais Aftab said…
Islamic orthodoxy that congealed around the 8th century interpreted the Qur'an through the lenses of the hadith and Sira (biographies of Muhammad and his companions). I like mystical interpretations of the Qur'an quite a lot myself, but the Islamic orthodoxy doesn't, and that's the whole problem.

I totally agree with this. It was the worst thing that happened to Koran.
Komal said…
I dislike Islamic apologetics, which is why I won't watch this video.
Anonymous said…
Komal: why don't you like Islamic apologetics? Is that what this video is?
Komal said…
That seems to be what the video is. I define 'Islamic apologetics' as any attempt to make Islam seem more benign or pleasant than it really is.

I dislike it because it obscures the truth. I don't think we can afford to be wrong about how problematic Islam is.
Anonymous said…
Komal: If this was the west, and we were talking about Christianity, the apologist would say but what you have been presented with is not Christian teaching; persecution is not advocated in Christ's teachings; oppression is not advocated in Christ's teachings; war is not blessed by Christianity, and so on. Yet men (and it was men, and not women) went out and did those things in the name of Christianity. Might it not be the same with Islam? I ask this purely in the spirit of enquiry. Perhaps Islam needs apologists as much as Christianity.
Komal said…
Oh no it doesn't. Islam has far too many apologists, and fairly incompetent ones generally. But no matter how smart anyone is, they can't make a case for Islam without lying, because Islam as a religion just sucks (sorry for the crude word).

Of course much horror has been perpetrated in the name of Christianity. That goes without saying. I'm not pro-Christianity generally, though I do think Christianity is better than Islam.

But the discourse on this subject needs to go deeper than whether people do bad things 'in the name of' a religion. A religion isn't just a word: it has content.
Komal said…
Ok I watched the video. It's not Islamic apologetics after all, but merely an exoticization of the Quran. I was thoroughly unimpressed.

Yes of course the Quran is incantatory! Those of us who grew up Muslim know this already. It is written as liturgy, not as literature.

Speaking of which, I should warn that the musical quality of the Quran seduces the less mentally disciplined among us. People feel moved by the music, and are caught into Islam without thinking properly about the implications.

I'm surprised you're impressed by this, Awais, given that it's the usual tripe about how the Quran is nice and lovely, verses should be taken in context, and it sounds really beautiful.

Oh, and the description of paradise is corrupted version of the Old Testament's description of the land of Canaan, which is promised to the Jews (according to the OT).
Komal said…
Some things she does not mention:

1. The Quran is inherently political, for example conceiving of the Kingdom of God as a particular kind of regime, rather than a spiritual state.

2. The Quran is supremacist, elevating Muslims above non-Muslims, including non-Muslim monotheists, and promising the final victory of the Muslims. Sharia law -- largely based on the Quran -- is supremacist for this very reason.

3. The Quran is anti-Semitic.

4. The Quran emphasizes God's transcendence, and is missing references to the love of God, and to the loving nature of the Spirit of God. The experience of the Holy Spirit is not important in Islam, except to some degree in Sufism.

5. A Muslim is supposed to accept Muhammad as the perfect example. He may have been an okay guy, but when masses of people take him as the perfect example, problems may arise.
Awais Aftab said…
I don't really wish to say much about the merits and demerits of Koran at the present moment (Komal has mentioned some of them) or even make any over-all judgement of its value.

What I saw in the video: It is possible to read the Koran in a (personal) sympathetic way, and discover something of value in it, and appreciate some traces of wisdom and beauty.

My mind is gracious and unbiased enough to at least genuinely believe that. And you don't even have to be pro-Islam to concede that much.
Komal said…
Yes, there is some spiritual value in the Quran. I have found that as well.
stumblingmystic said…
The Meccan verses are quite beautiful and mystical. It's really the Medinan verses where the trouble starts.

Unfortunately for us, the Sunni orthodoxy decided that the Medinan suras abrogate the Meccan ones.
Anonymous said…

Islam is not only a religion. It is a 'deen', a way of life.

Therefore it gives us a complete system, including political. The beauty lies in the fact how far reaching the principles are, and incredibly they will fit for any period in history and for all times to come.

Pray to God, to guide you to the right path, and you will see the evident.

If you are even an occasional student of Quran, you will not cease to be amazed at this miraculous Book. It covers everything and anything.

About the Prophet of Allah (saws), he is indeed a model for all of us.
And has been sent down as Rahmat ul Alimeen. A mercy for all words.

Even a non-muslim in his book has adjudged him as the No. 1, in being the most influential man in history. If everyone aims to be like him in all manners how can this be harmful. Even his enemies knew him as Sadiq(truthful) and Ameen(trustworthy)