Unlike the Bible, the Koran was allegedly dictated by a single individual, the Prophet Muhammad, rather than set down by multiple authors. Mohammed was illiterate and, therefore, he was unable to personally write the messages from Allah himself.
Arabic scholars claim that the Koran is the most perfect Arabic writing in history and that the beauty of the poetry cannot be accurately translated into other languages. To be true to the meaning of the words, they can only be recited in Arabic. Furthermore, only an Islamic holy man can interpret those words. While that may be a valid aspect of Islam, it is also a convenience in the sense that it becomes more difficult to dispute the meanings of the text by sources outside the faith.
But there are other factors that make the Koran complicated. First, the book is not arranged in any chronological order of the various revelations and teachings of the Prophet. The Koran contains 114 chapters known as Surahs. For the most part, the Surahs are organized by length going from the longest to the shortest.
The early portion of Mohammed?s teaching was done in his home of Mecca. Oddly enough, during this period of the Prophet?s life, he was very much supportive of Christians and Jews. The early chapters of the Koran were written while Muhammad was in Mecca making up approximately two-thirds of the text. These are also the more peaceful aspects of the manuscript.
By the year 622 Mohammed became disillusioned and angered by the response, or lack of response, to the teachings he received in his home city. It was then that he traveled to Medina where there was growing support for his faith. In that day and time, leaving your tribe and moving to another city was a significant act. It was not a simple matter of packing one?s bags and getting out of town as it would be today.Thus, Mohammed rejected his tribe to pursue his beliefs.
Mohammed?s move to Medina in 622 is known as the Hijra, and it is regarded as the year when Islam was born.
About one-third of the Surahs of the Koran were written during the last ten years of Mohammed?s life, until 632, when he was in Medina. These are considered the most violent, warlike chapters of the book and are also generally the longest.
Writing in the New English Review in 2008, Bill Warner stated that ?the most dramatic change between the Meccan and Medinan Surahs is concerning the Muslim relationship to Jews and Christians.? Here lies the seed that eventually grew into much of the conflict between Islam and unbelievers we are experiencing today.
If you read what is considered a ?good? translation of the Koran, you will quickly discover that the language is rambling, repetitive and difficult to follow. The rambling is largely inherent to the Arabic language. For proof, all you need to do is watch some old video clips of Osama bin Laden?s messages. Even without being able to understand the Arabic, it was obvious that the sentences went on and on and on?..
The repetition, however, was by design. Just as modern-day politicians constantly repeat their messages in an effort to resonate with their followers, Mohammed used a similar strategy to ingrain his concepts in his believers.
To make the Koran more comprehensible, Bill Warner writes, ?If we take and weave Mohammed?s life into the Koran, then the Koran has a context and all of the mystery is gone. What is interesting is that by weaving Mohammed into the Koran, we have reproduced the original Koran. It unfolded as needed by Mohammed. His life is integral to the Koran.?
When you organize the Koran according to Mohammed?s life, the confusion disappears and, as Warner says, ?the Koran becomes an epic story that ends with the triumph of political Islam.?
But something else occurs when the Koran is chronologically arranged with the timeline of Mohammed?s life that is usually overlooked when the media pontificates about the subject. That?s because the idea is virtually hidden in the standard format of the Koran. The concept is called abrogation which is referred to in the fourth line of the paragraph above which states, ?It unfolded as needed by Mohammed.?
?Abrogation? is defined by The Random House College Dictionary as ?to abolish or nullify by formal or official means.? It is a critically significant idea that becomes even more transparent when the Koran is rearranged according to Mohammed?s life. By allowing an earlier belief to be overridden by a newer thought was a convenient device for advancing the Prophet?s agenda.
Much of Mohammed?s career as a teacher was based on revelations. His first alleged encounter came in the year 610 when the angel Gabriel appeared to him as he meditated during his annual pilgrimage to Mount Hira near Mecca. Once established in Medina, Mohammed?s revelations became more frequent and increasingly intense.
As his power expanded, the Prophet found that he could manipulate his needs and desires with a new manifestation that repealed a previous idea. And being the conduit between Allah and mankind, it could not be disputed as stated clearly in Surah 2:106: ?We do not abrogate a verse or let it be forgotten without brining a better or similar one. Do you not know that Allah has power over all things??
That being the case, it becomes obvious that it is relatively easy to take the Koran out of context to prove a point that disagrees with the religion. It also emphasizes the futility of efforts to negotiate with countries like Iran, because an agreement that is made in the morning can easily be ?abrogated? in the afternoon if it is more advantageous to their position.
Diplomacy in the Middle East is the preferred method of conducting foreign policy, but it must be done with extreme caution and awareness. Perhaps Robert Spencer states it best when he writes, ?In Islam, virtually anything is acceptable if it fosters the growth of Islam.?
Whether abrogation is intentional or otherwise in diplomatic discussions in the Middle East, the concept only highlights the folly of negotiations because it is an integral part of Islamic philosophy. And that philosophy is a significant facet of the Koran.
(Vins Note: This article first appeared in the Washington Times. A portion has been edited to remove it’s dhimmified tone)