2003 July 25 Friday
Newsweek Article About Christoph Luxenberg On Koran Banned In Pakistan

You have to go read this article "Challenging the Qur’an" about the Koran because it is the reason the current issue of an international edition of Newsweek is banned in Pakistan.

ARGUING THAT TODAY’S version of the Qur’an has been mistranscribed from the original text, scholar Christoph Luxenberg says that what are described as “houris” with “swelling breasts” refer to nothing more than “white raisins” and “juicy fruits.”

Luxenberg—a pseudonym—is one of a small but growing group of scholars, most of them working in non-Muslim countries, studying the language and history of the Qur’an.

Here's a report on the banning in Pakistan of the issue of International Newsweek that contains this article entitled "Challenging the Qur’an".

Pakistan has banned the latest issue of Newsweek's international edition, saying an article on new interpretations of the Quran, the Islamic equivalent of the Bible, is offensive to Islam.

Note that such is the level of intolerance of many Muslim believers that the German scholar who calls himself Christoph Luxenberg has to use a pseudonym.

In the Forward the Philologos columnist indicates Christoph Luxenberg isn't the only Western scholar of Islam writing under a pseudonym.

That Western scholars discussing Islam and the Koran have to publish under pseudonyms to ensure their physical safety is, of course, a sad commentary not only on the intolerance of the Islamic world, but — even after the American action in Afghanistan — on the West's weak posture in the face of this.

Alexander Stille writing for The New York Times points out that Muslims can see from history that textual criticism opens up a religion to a general weakening of its power.

While scriptural interpretation may seem like a remote and innocuous activity, close textual study of Jewish and Christian scripture played no small role in loosening the Church's domination on the intellectual and cultural life of Europe, and paving the way for unfettered secular thought. "The Muslims have the benefit of hindsight of the European experience, and they know very well that once you start questioning the holy scriptures, you don't know where it will stop," the scholar explained.

Luxenberg is the author of The Syro-Aramaic Reading of the Koran which is considered a major work in the field. However, he had a hard time finding a publisher and to date it is available only in German as Die Syro- Aramäische Lesart des Koran. Ein Beitrag zur Entschlüsselung der Koransprache and its availability is limited. The Newsweek article says the English language version will be available some time this fall and I'll post an update here when it becomes available.

The Institute for the Secularisation of Islamic Society (possibly Ibn Warriq) has a brief preliminary review from when the book first came out in German.

If sound in its methodology, Luxenberg’s study will prove the single most important book to be written on the Koran in the last hundred years. Even if his conclusions are only 50% correct, they will totally demolish all the previous Western scholarship on the Koran. The impact on Islamic belief will be profound.

Ibn Warriq (also a pseudonym) briefly reviewed Luxenberg's book for The Guardian.

Luxenberg tries to show that many obscurities of the Koran disappear if we read certain words as being Syriac and not Arabic. We cannot go into the technical details of his methodology but it allows Luxenberg, to the probable horror of all Muslim males dreaming of sexual bliss in the Muslim hereafter, to conjure away the wide-eyed houris promised to the faithful in suras XLIV.54; LII.20, LV.72, and LVI.22. Luxenberg 's new analysis, leaning on the Hymns of Ephrem the Syrian, yields "white raisins" of "crystal clarity" rather than doe-eyed, and ever willing virgins - the houris. Luxenberg claims that the context makes it clear that it is food and drink that is being offerred, and not unsullied maidens or houris.

Writing in Hugoye: Journal Of Syriac Studies Robert R. Phenix Jr and Cornelia B. Horn of the University of St. Thomas Department of Theology have written the most scholarly and in-depth review that I found on this book.

In the Foreword, Luxenberg summarizes the cultural and linguistic importance of written Syriac for the Arabs and for the Qur’ān. At the time of Muhammad, Arabic was not a written language. Syro-Aramaic or Syriac was the language of written communication in the Near East from the second to the seventh centuries A.D. Syriac, a dialect of Aramaic, was the language of Edessa, a city-state in upper Mesopotamia. While Edessa ceased to be a political entity, its language became the vehicle of Christianity and culture, spreading throughout Asia as far as Malabar and eastern China. Until the rise of the Qur’ān, Syriac was the medium of wider communication and cultural dissemination for Arameans, Arabs, and to a lesser extent Persians. It produced the richest literary expression in the Near East from the fourth century (Aphrahat and Ephraem) until it was replaced by Arabic in the seventh and eighth centuries. Of importance is that the Syriac – Aramaic literature and the cultural matrix in which that literature existed was almost exclusively Christian. Part of Luxenberg’s study shows that Syriac influence on those who created written Arabic was transmitted through a Christian medium, the influence of which was fundamental.

German scholars, apparently less under the influence of Wahhabi money and political correctness, have been actively looking at the orgins of the Koran for a number of years. In January 1999 The Atlantic Monthly published an excellent 3-part article by Toby Lester on critical scholarship on the origins of the Koran entitled "What Is The Koran?"

Some of the parchment pages in the Yemeni hoard seemed to date back to the seventh and eighth centuries A.D., or Islam's first two centuries -- they were fragments, in other words, of perhaps the oldest Korans in existence. What's more, some of these fragments revealed small but intriguing aberrations from the standard Koranic text. Such aberrations, though not surprising to textual historians, are troublingly at odds with the orthodox Muslim belief that the Koran as it has reached us today is quite simply the perfect, timeless, and unchanging Word of God.

As some of these articles I'm linking to point out, Muslim scholars who question Islam end up fleeing Muslim lands or being attacked.

For a while Abu Zaid remained in Egypt and sought to refute the charges of apostasy, but in the face of death threats and relentless public harassment he fled with his wife from Cairo to Holland, calling the whole affair "a macabre farce." Sheikh Youssef al-Badri, the cleric whose preachings inspired much of the opposition to Abu Zaid, was exultant. "We are not terrorists; we have not used bullets or machine guns, but we have stopped an enemy of Islam from poking fun at our religion.... No one will even dare to think about harming Islam again."

Critical scholarship on the Koran apparently started with British scholar John Wansbrough.

The person who more than anyone else has shaken up Koranic studies in the past few decades is John Wansbrough, formerly of the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies. Puin is "re-reading him now" as he prepares to analyze the Yemeni fragments. Patricia Crone says that she and Michael Cook "did not say much about the Koran in Hagarism that was not based on Wansbrough."

Update: The Daily Star of Lebanon has an interesting report on a workshop of Koranic scholars recently held in Beirut.

A professor of literature and human science at Sousse University in Tunis, Abdeljelil heads a team of scholars compiling a critical edition of the Koran. The book will publish a number of alternative readings found in a collection of Koranic mashaf (mas-Haf, or manuscripts) ­ some dating from the first Islamic century ­ that had been stockpiled in the Grand Mosque in Sanaa and uncovered three decades ago.

Abdeljelil and his colleagues were in Beirut recently attending a Koranic studies workshop, Modernity and Islam, sponsored by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung ­ the foundation of the German-Christian Democratic Party. The conference brought together scholars from as far afield as Yemen and Germany and approaches ranging from the traditional to the radical ­ the latter potentially quite upsetting to devout Muslims.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 July 25 05:35 PM  Religion Secular Ideologies

JB Marc said at July 31, 2003 6:31 AM:

On a hot Thursday afternoon in June of 1983 I left my office early after closing the sale of an advanced computer system. It was so hot that the two air conditioners in my van were unable to get the temperature below 120 degrees F. I took the backroads from Winter Park, FL to Daytona, trying to calculate how much profit we had made. After turning from route 46 into 415, about 100 yards before the St John's River bridge, a voice as clearly as somebody was standing next to me said: "Bring A (my daughter) to ..." followed by an optical image of what I thought was Switzerland, but that later turned out to be Southern Germany. It was not until three years later that I was able to move to Europe on an assignment. My daughter followed, and other than that she eventually married an idiot, and had a son, nothing realy happened.
I have analyzed this incident many times critically and have come to the conclusion that the voice was a manifestation resulting from a heat-induced bipolar event. That eventually brought me to a troubling question: Why were the prophets, God spoke to, regardless of their respective religions, all located in the Middle East, where temperatures reach 120 degrees easily much of the year? Next, if heat plays a role in such apparitions (I never had such an experience again) are we 'enabled' to link to - let's call it - a 'parallel universe' or is it just a result of our own 'production'. If so, what connected a 'mission in Europe' to the profit calculation of the recent sale?

Rick said at August 2, 2003 4:37 PM:

Maybe you should wait to see what might happen in the future? Have you ever thought that maybe you are being a little hasty here? What if you became rich and prosperous? Would that classify as a miracle then? Would you be a prophet? These things take time. Its like a test to see if you can handle the pressure. After all, we know that patience is undoubtedly a good thing to have.

Professor Mukhtar Ali Naqvi said at August 6, 2003 7:45 PM:

Luxenberg is not familiar with the basic facts about the Koran and the Arabic language. His ignorance can be ascertained from his silly assertion that the Koran was the first book written in Arabic. To him this language was not written at the time of Prophet Mohammad. His letters writeen to the Kings of Ethipia, Byzantine and still exist which prove that Arabic was written in his time.

Kapa said at August 6, 2003 8:23 PM:

The problem is deeper than this. The best Quranic scholarship has been done by non-muslims for a long time, primarily because they are free to do so without retribution for telling the truth. Caliph Uthman destroyed all variants of the Quran, yes there were many, and banned non-Arabic translations in order to keep it pure, according to his own version of it. This became "canonised" and has become a flawed benchmark for muslims to judge their faith, and an important instrument of control. A close study of the Quran and hadith shows plagiarism and inconsistency, as Moh'd changed his views towards Christians and Jews as his life progressed. Unfortunately the majority of Muslims are blind to this, and with the continued banning of the truth they will continue to manipulated to the ends of those who crave power through religion.

Yeung Wai Lung said at August 17, 2003 12:44 PM:

The study of Koran should be done by non-Muslims because Muslims will not accept anything wrong with the Koran. Any study should be free from the influence of Muslims. This will give the study a more reliable and accurate result.
Please, if you are a faithful Muslim, STAY AWAY FROM THE STUDY.
The truth may offend the majority of Muslims but this should not stop the study of the truth.

Mubin Shaikh said at October 24, 2003 1:00 PM:

What is wrong with you people? I am just amazed at the level of ignorance here.

So what - another Islam-bashing book comes out with the stupidest theory to date and we acclaim it as scholarship?!

For starters, do you really think that a German philologist TODAY is gonna teach the Arabs of CENTURIES what the real meaning of the words are?! Get real! Yeah, Islam is promising RAISINS in the next life - HA HA HA HA HA HA - onward Muslim soldiers! Get your white-raisins here! HAHA HAHAH AHAHAH -- don't tell me you people BUY this stuff?!?!

KAPA think sthat non-Muslims were the ones who have done the best scholarship on the Quran? What an idiot! Don't you know that ALL of the information about variant readings, mushafs, etc. are from ISLAMIC sources?! You couldn't know that because you have this idea that only Westerners can criticque the Quran right? The Muslims did it CENTURIES ago, bub.

As for Yeung's post: What a crock. Only NON-Muslims can do objective studies of the Quran? So I guess we should now turn to what the Muslims say about the Bible, right? Let's go to what the skinhedas say about the holocaust - they're more objective than the Jews are right? WAKE UP MAN.

The FACT is, Muslims have done FAR more critical studying of the Quran than anyone else - just look at the volumes of works available on the subjects. I am a student of those works right now and I can promise you - you guys have NO IDEA what you're talking about.

See reviews of the book at:



Mubin SHaikh said at October 26, 2003 10:50 AM:


Here are links to two other reviews by real scholars, not mysterious, pseudonymous pretenders like Warraq (besides, who recognizes him as a scholar anyway and on what basis?).

Don't start waving your pom poms yet folks...



I have a very good response to the Atlantic Monthly article. Don't know if it will fit here....email me and its yours.


Abu Khalil said at October 29, 2003 7:40 AM:

There is an excellent review of the book at the Journal of Syriac Studies. !2 editors from well known universities who all know the Syriac languages of the time. Now these people should know if Luxenberg makes any sense or not. Be your own judge and take a look at the comment:


From the comments I have read here it is shocking to see how scared people are to look critically at an important world heritage as the Quran. Many silly comments have been made by those refusing to look into let alone read the book.

The Journal of Syriac Studies is a peer review, the best I have found to date.

Remember, C. Luxenberg's work is not yet done, an English revised version is expected in 2004. Now that should get the ball of independent non-dogmatic critical thinking rolling again after centuries of stagnation in the Arab world.


Mubin Shaikh said at January 1, 2004 1:47 PM:

Ya Aba Khalil, the Quran has been looked at critically BY Muslims for CENTURIES. Now that the "non-Muslims" (I prefer, "not yet Muslims") have criticized it, now we should be overjoyed at their liberating us?

By the way, maybe you should look at the reviews I suggested to know that the flaw in Luxenberg's work is his entire premise.

In Peace.

Craig said at March 18, 2004 10:47 AM:

I am always shocked at the anger people exhibit when discussing the Quran...I understand the passion one feels when discussing what they belive, but to use a term like "not muslims yet" that alone would turn me away from anything you have to say. The most disturbing idea from my understanding of the Quran is a virtual get out of jail free card for violence and deception commited on non-belivers by belivers? How can that be coming from a religion that teaches tolerance? Show me any real tolerance of non-belivers by Muslims? If violence is not permitted by the Quran, than who is killing all of the westerners and people who are working alongside them in the world? Open interpitation to any religous text is a recipie for disaster? I pose these questions to try to see if the Muslim world and everyone else will ever be allowed to live and exsist together without judgement and intolerance?

Dr. Hozyamama said at March 19, 2004 3:03 AM:

His letters writeen to the Kings of Ethipia, Byzantine and still exist which prove that Arabic was written in his time.

Posted by: Professor Mukhtar Ali Naqvi on August 6, 2003 07:45 PM

Yet another Islamic "myth" as no such letters exist.

Dr. Hozyamama said at March 19, 2004 3:17 AM:

you guys have NO IDEA what you're talking about.

Posted by: Mubin Shaikh on October 24, 2003 01:00 PM

It makes much more sense that the idiotic koranic and hadith that exists now, unless you want to remain backward and ignorant with passages such as:

Tabari I:278 “Adam went inside the tree to hide. Eve cut the tree and it bled. Then feather that covered Adam and Eve dropped off. So Allah said, ‘Now Eve, as you caused the tree to bleed, you will bleed every new moon, and you, snake, I will cut off your feet and you will walk slithering on your face.’”

Inspired by a Deity that created the universe?

Bukhari:V4B55N546 “Allah’s Apostle said, ‘Gabriel has just now told me of the answer. If a man has sexual intercourse with his wife and gets discharge first, the child will resemble him, and if the woman gets discharge first, the child will resemble her.’”

Truly inspired that is!

Bukhari:V4B54N430 “Allah’s Apostle, the true and truly inspired said, ‘Regarding the matter of the creation of a human being: humans are put together in the womb of the mother in forty days. Then he becomes a clot of thick blood for a similar period. He becomes a piece of flesh for forty days. Then Allah sends an angel who is ordered to write four things: the new creature’s deeds, livelihood, date of death, and whether he will be blessed or wretched. He will do whatever is written for him.’”

Again, truly inspired.

Since predestination is the written word, it's pointless to be a muslim, as no matter what you do it has no effect on whether you go for raisins snacks or burn in hell. Why bang your head 5 times a day?

You would do wise to take heed to those studies, at least it makes the Koranic garbage sound much better,

George A. Trosper said at April 1, 2004 7:28 AM:

To place me: I have an M.A. in linguistics from the University of Utah, but am not a practicing linguist. I have hardly any knowledge of any midEastern language. I'm a practicing Catholic.

I would like to recommend http://www.bismikaallahuma.org/Reviews/luxemburg.htm. It's the first review in English that Google finds, which suggests others have found it relevant. Based on that review--which has to be either total nonsense or devastating refutation of what it details--and the precise description of Luxenberg's methodology given in the sympathetic reviews cited in earlier posts, I'm convinced that his conclusions are not worth taking seriously. Yes, the chosen points COULD be the only lapses in an otherwise scholarly work, but I don't find that likely. (And yes, I *did* notice the misspelling of the author's name in the URL.)

A couple of points not made by the review I'm citing. I'm *extremely* leery of positing a "mixed" language for ANYthing serious, and more especially religious. (Can you imagine a GOOD sermon in, say, Spanglish?) Moreover, although the interpretative methodology is stated rigorously enough, it's open to all sorts of distortions by the attitude of the interpreter. It reminds me very strongly of how allegedly Christian interpreters turn the New Testament (let alone the Old) into nothingness.

Massimo said at April 13, 2004 9:59 AM:

That's incredible!!!
I want to read an italian translation!!

Massimo (:-))

Tomasz Lukasiewicz said at April 19, 2004 7:10 AM:

I'm not going to join any pointless debate on the religious implications, neither am I qualified to judge Luxenberg's findings from the point of view of Semitic philology.

But I'd like to make one remark to the address Mr Trosper: Your concern about "a 'mixed' language for anything serious, and more especially religious" seems quite misplaced - and with all due respect I'm a bit surprised to hear it from a linguist. Most, if not all languages are "mixed" to a certain extent, and this is particularly true of English, with its strong admixture of French. (Which in turn was for centuries considered a vulgar pidgin variant of Latin...)

Therefore, whatever Luxenberg's intentions may be, I see nothing quite so radical or even disrespectful in his assertion about the Quran being in a "mixed" language. What is "pure" or "mixed", what is a dialect and what is a standard variant is eventually a matter of definition. And taking up your example: Yes, I CAN imagine a sermon in "Spanglish"; in fact, given the current socio-lingual development in large parts of the U.S., we may even be able to hear one in our lifetime...

Carl S. said at April 19, 2004 1:01 PM:

I'd second Mr. Lukasiewicz opinion here, that mixed linguistics is common, not only in most of the world's major languages, but at least in ancient literature that I'm familiar with. I'm a student of both linguistics and biblical studies, and both my training and research has revealed that both the New and Old Testament times of the Middle East exhibited a reasonable amount of exchange between languages.

In the New Testament Greek, you at least have various technical terms that are borrowed from Hebrew and/or Aramaic (Abba, Sabbaton, Rabboni, etc.). I don't know of any normative words though, off the top of my head. But you also see Hebraic literary formulas for expression, such as the somewhat redundant "he answered them and said" or "answering them, he said". The Old Testament Hebrew, likewise, I believe borrowed words from neighbors.

It would not surprise me if you see the same thing in the written Arabic of Muhammad's time, especially if it was a time when Arabia was subject to exposure to foreign trade, which indeed it was.

Ambrosee Zabiri said at April 20, 2004 1:11 AM:

Hello George and all,

To learn from and understand from other learned Muslim sources about the Quran's interesting idiosyncracies and problems with linguistics, historiography, grammer and history you need only consult the Muslim scholar Ali Dashti's 'Twenty Three Years - A Study of the Prophetic Carreer of Muhammad' available from Amazon.com, he writes with depth and candid clarity and remarkable honesty, rarely found among many Muslim writers these days.

Also, there are more objective studies and reviews of the Quran here:


Dr.Christoph Luxenburg, is reviewed in a SCHOLARLY context as a scholar on middle-eastern history and documents - OTHER THAN THE PROPOGANDISTIC Site recommended, and has outlined a rather complete study of the Quran here :


Regards, Ambrosee.

Assunta Williams said at May 1, 2004 10:29 PM:

Caro Massimo, leggi WWW.Chiesa LE VERGINI E L'ULIVO di Sandro Magister del mese scorso.
Le Origini Cristiane del Corano. Se vuoi piu' informazioni l'articolo fu scritto lo scorso marzo. Ciao, Assunta

Assunta Williams said at May 1, 2004 10:36 PM:

Scusami, ho sbagliato! Il titolo dell'articolo e' LE VERGINI E L'UVA

Paul Whittle said at May 20, 2004 2:49 AM:

Following Tomas Lukasiewicz's and Carl. S's comments re. George Trosper's comments on 'mixed' languages. Well said.
As an MA in Linguistics, George, you ought to be aware that English, is a mixture, of Germanic Anglian, Saxon and Jutish dialects; Old Danish, Swedish and Norwegian; Latin, Greek and Old French, along with a large sprinkling of words from Hindustani, Farsi, and one or two African languages. About as mixed as you can get, really. Incidentally, what was the title of your MA thesis?


Paul Whittle

Seth J. Frantzman said at May 24, 2004 11:36 AM:

Professor Mukhtar Ali Naqvi is an ignorant lier on the first scale. He recently emailed me calling me a 'Jewish Parasite' and a 'traitor' he is not a real 'scholar' he is from the gutter. DOnt beleive his statements. Everyone knows that no such letters ever existed.

Joseph Hashimite said at June 11, 2004 2:05 PM:

If anyone wants to see whether arabic was used at the time of Mohammad, please visit this link : http://www.victorynewsmagazine.com/LetterToTheKingOfEthiopia.htm

Or one might consider taking a trip to the museum in Instanbul for verification.

Be Well !

Joseph Hashemite said at June 13, 2004 3:08 PM:

There is no doubt as to whether Arabic was used during the time of Mohammad, the site I provided shows the seal that Mohammad used to send letters to various kings at the time.
The seal still exist in the musuem in Turkey. Luxenberg allegation is false.

Be Well!

PD said at June 13, 2004 7:20 PM:

Does anyone know when and where (website) would the english copy of Puin's book on Sanaa (koranic) fragments/ study come out?

Zorrow said at June 20, 2004 7:33 AM:

Luxenberg findings are exagerated for sure. eg. from early Islam women were veiled. This could not be a misreading of some aramaic words.
But he has the merit to open a new road for scholars.

Jamil Brownson said at August 5, 2004 12:08 PM:

sadly, confrontational discourse prevails over reasoned listening to all possible various interpretations of any phonomenal issues. aside from being statutorily muslim or non-muslim, a relatively meaningless distinction in any larger/broader context.

however sadly normal such dichotomization of the world, it serves little to push any understanding further than the spy vx. spy cartoon.

Here I would introduce an imortant bridge in scholarship, the Sorbonne scholar Mohamed Arkoun's work on the semiotics of Qur'an. Other bridges include the late Ali Shariati's sociology of Islam, and structural interpretations of primary issues such as property and mobility that affect economic and social relations within an islamic framework, however ambiguously defined.

Mus Zibii said at August 9, 2004 1:24 AM:

I don't like Luxemberg's book or theory for no other reason than its needlessly complex. The Koran can easily be discredited simply by looking at the myths and doctrines it claims are divine. Its nothing more than a mystic amalgamation, like Mormonism... or for that matter, Judaism and Christianity. Islam is possibly the worst because virtually nothing is original except for Mahomet's massive ego, sexual appetite for children and perverted bloodlust.

Asma' was the wife of Yazid Ibn Zayd Ibn Hisn al-Khatmi. She used to revile Islam, offend the prophet and instigate the people against him. She composed verses. Umayr Ibn Adi came to her in the night and entered her house. Her children were sleeping around her. There was one whom she was suckling. He searched her with his hand because he was blind, and separated the child from her. He thrust his sword in her chest till it pierced up to her back. Then he offered the morning prayers with the prophet at al-Medina.

Run far, run long, from the evils of this 1st Century moon god.

Johnny Rotten said at August 9, 2004 7:50 AM:

Professor Mukhtar Ali Naqvi: How did Mohammed send letters to the Bynzantine Kings if he couldn't read or write? You are just like the Muslims that said Jesus used the word Muslim when he died on the cross, which Muslims say he didn't do!! Someone call the logic police!!

Sid Vicious said at August 9, 2004 8:01 AM:

Joseph Hashimite: Those letters are bogus propoganda. They say that Mohammed wrote the letters when it was a well-known fact he was illiterate. In fact, that is supposed to give credibility to his prophecy (although I don't know how). And nobody around him was literate either, otherwise the Koran would have been codified in his time instead of oral traditions. Not that I believe it anyway; Uthman's compilation that is the ancestoral text of all Korans today was just one of the many oral traditions that existed. Who knows, the others might have been completely different and we have no way to tell when those were codified. We only have bits and pieces of others which tell us nothing besides that there were some stories written in Arabic sometime after "Mohammed" and that they later ended up in a book that was titled the Koran and said to be a prophecy. HAHA!

Dr. Christoph Heger said at August 14, 2004 7:31 AM:

Hello PD:

You asked:

>Does anyone know when and where (website) would the english copy of Puin's book on Sanaa (koranic) fragments/ study come out?

I don't know of any book of Puin on the Sanaa Korans till now. He surely would have told me about such a book.

I know however that Luxenberg is publishing an English version of his book this autumn, prior to the Frankfurt book fair.

For some more reviews of this book you may visit my homepage at:


Kind regards,
Christoph Heger

al-haha said at August 25, 2004 3:11 PM:

when primitive people try to explain the world around them with insufficient knowledge of the chemistry and physics of it all the result is a primitive mumbo-jumbo called religion.
how could so many people around the world be duped by belief in gods that patently do not exist except in the heads (maybe schizophrenic or turned by the heat of the middle eastern summer)of a few power hungry people using memories of the dim past and its ice age civilizations the predated egypt and sumeria
as far as i can see all of the "books" (torah, bible and q'ran) rank only as also-rans to a jeffrey archer novel and nothing more or less!

Liaquat Samma said at September 29, 2004 1:52 AM:

I am a linguist teachig English and a graduate from Warwick University England. I've studied reviews on Luxxenberg's book. This is no research. It is a biased approach of trying to prove that the Quran is not in pure Arabic; whereas the fact is, it is.His so called evidence doesn't fit into the context of the verses.He dosn't seem to have studied the Quran in depth. For example, hoorun een means wide black eyed fair maidens,but he says white grapes. Where is the word in the Quran in this context for grapes. Arabic word is a'naab which is not used here. Then 'een means wide black eyes; but he does't translate it here. The thinking of the author is not rational and logical. This is pure misguidance and imaginatively jumping at conclusions. The Quran says that one should not engage in speculation for finding the truth, but demand evidence.
Prof. Liaquat Samma

LogicDictates said at November 10, 2004 9:02 AM:

I just want to know one thing - when is an english version of this book going to be available?

Tufayl said at November 11, 2004 10:27 AM:

To those people who cannot fathom the fact that Muhammad was illiterate, while it was mentioned he wrote letters to the kings of his time....

Wake up from the depths of your ignorance and racial hatred. It does not take a rocket scientist to envisage how he composed letters to the kings of his time. Ever heard of the words dictate? Simple isn't it.

There is so much to clarify from above - if you really and utterly believe that the Qur'an is not the word of God, then please email me with your concerns.

Mafagafo said at November 30, 2004 4:42 AM:

My comments are simple. I used to be a muslim, but not anymore. The Koran and Hadith advocate some very harsh teechings and unless you can prove beyond doubt the neccesity for the hypothesis that the "Koran is divine", we need not take it seriously. For too long i and other people have suffered social rejection for not accepting the Koran as the word of God. What's the need for all this religious pride? We are all humans! There is no need for any social rejection if former muslims do not wish to believe in Islam anymore! Can the Koran guarentee us salvation? Why are their soo many harsh teechings and contradictions? Havent any muslims noticed the latest findings upon the text of the Koran? A lot of mulsims make some bold claims about their religion and book (the Koran), and it seems to me that these standards are too high indeed. After all, the sole reasons why mulsims ask us to take the Koran as divine, is because it is the perfect, unchanging miraculous text of God. That even is being disputed, so what does Islam have to offer spiritual minded people apart from returning to the belief in pure monotheism?

Mafagafo said at December 2, 2004 7:24 AM:

By the way, i just would like to say that i wish to tell muslims about my faith and why i chose it. I think Mulsims would find it interesting and would love share myself with spritualy minded people. Thanks, God bless.

Mafagafo said at December 2, 2004 7:24 AM:

By the way, i just would like to say that i wish to tell muslims about my faith and why i chose it. I think Mulsims would find it interesting and would love share myself with spritualy minded people. Thanks, God bless.

Hamid S. Aziz said at January 6, 2005 4:33 AM:

Re:-Christoph Luxenberg's book which tries to prove that the Quran can be better understood if the words in the Quran are seen as derived from Syriac and Aramaic languages.

From the Islamic point of view, this book can be dismissed completely because:-

(1) The Quran has not been read according to the instructions in the Quran as to how it should be read and understood. It was constructed to be understood that way.

(2) The author has made certain false assumptions about the Quran. He has failed utterly to understand its nature i.e. that it was a revelation and then a recitation designed to produce certain effects in certain people, particularly in a certain community in the past, which it did. It was not a literary work.

(3) It contradicts the statement in the Quran that it is in Arabic (12:2, 13:37 16:103, 20:113, 26:195, 39:28, 41:3, 42:7, 43:3, 46:12)

(4) We know that words in one language do derive from words that existed in other languages in the past. E.g. there are words in English that come from the French, German, Greek, Latin, Sanskrit, Arab and so on. But when we read English now we understand them as they are used in English now and not how they were used in the past in the other languages. It is present context that counts.

(5) The description of Paradise in the Quran is symbolic. That is, it uses familiar worldly experiences to describe unfamiliar spiritual experiences.

"But bear the glad tidings to those who believe and work righteousness, that for them are Gardens beneath which rivers flow; whenever they are provided with fruit there from they say: This is what we were provided with before, and they shall be provided with their similitude; and there are pure companions for them therein, and they shall dwell therein for ever.
"Behold! Allah does not disdain to set forth a similitude even of a gnat, or anything lower or higher; and as for those who believe, they know that it is truth from the Lord; but as for those who disbelieve, they say, "What is it that Allah means by this as a parable? He leads astray many and He guides many;"- but He leads astray only the evildoers;
"Those who break Allah's covenant after the fixing thereof, and cut asunder what Allah has ordered to be joined, and do evil in the earth, these it is who are losers." 2:25-27

(6) The Quranic word in question is "Houri" which, being associated with "mutahharutun", signifies "pure and holy companions". This has been translated as "virgin" because that word has a similar significance. The Quran does not mention 72 virgins. Obviously, in Paradise things are not like on earth. But the phrase "white raisin" makes no sense in the verses containing "houri". Try making the substitution.

It cannot be denied that some Muslims, usually uneducated ones, have a naive, material and literal understanding and that others use this to make them do whatever political or commercial agenda they have. But this kind of cultivation and exploitation of superstitions has taken place in all religions and is not confined to religion. This does not, however, imply that it was originally meant to have that meaning, use or effect.

(7) The author has brought to bear no understanding of symbolism. Literal meanings have been taken. Some of the verses in the Quran that mention Houri are the following:-

"Thus shall it be, and We will join them with Houris (pure and beautiful companions) with wide, lovely eyes." 44:54

"Reclining on thrones set in ranks, and We will unite them to large-eyed beautiful ones (Houri)." 52:20

"And pure, beautiful companions, eyes like well-preserved pearls. A reward for what they used to do. They shall not hear therein vain or sinful discourse, except the saying: Peace! Peace!" 56:22-26

"In them shall be those who are chaste with restrained glances; whom neither man nor jinn shall have touched before them." 55:56

The eyes are a window to the soul and the description implies innocence, truth and friendliness that is permanent. The verses refer to congenial companionship, free from frivolity and conflicts and full of inner peace and fulfilment.

Note also the symbolism in 56:10-40, 76:12-22 and in

"And they will be served by youths never altering in age; when you see them you will think them to be scattered pearls. And when you look, you will see blessings and a magnificent kingdom. Upon them will be garments of fine green silk and gold brocade, and they shall be adorned with bracelets of silver, and their Lord will give them a drink pure and holy." 76:19-21

(8) Non-Muslim (often hostile) commentators have not considered the verses in context with reference to other verses and the thesis in the whole of the Quran. Compare, for instance, the verses dealing with houris with verses such as the following:-

"But O, you soul in peace and fulfilment! Return unto your Lord, well pleased and well pleasing unto Him! Enter you amongst My servants, Enter you My Garden (Paradise)!" 89:27-30

"And the soul and Who fashioned it, and enlightened it with what is wrong and right for it! He indeed is successful who causes it to grow (or purifies it)! And he indeed is a failure who corrupts it!" 91:7-10

"Thee alone we serve and Thee alone we ask for aid. Guide us in the Straight Path, the path of those whom Thou hast favoured; not of those who earn Thy wrath; nor of those who go astray. " 1:4-7

Sorry, Luxenberg and his like cannot be taken seriously by Muslims. But no doubt people who do not understand or are hostile to religion or Islam will accept whatever confirms their prejudices. Such beliefs cannot, however, be attributed to Islam.

The answer is: No. There is no validity in the claim that the word means "white raisin". It makes no sense.

ruth said at January 8, 2005 2:18 PM:

Oh, so the number 72 doesn't occur?
In astro-archaeological terms, it stands for the length of a human life 'three score years and ten'- rounded up because that's the time the sun takes in years to travel one degree from its point of rising due to the phenomenon of precession. Based on that, I would have said that the symbolic interpretation was that the martyr - which means 'witness' in New Testament Greek, so god knows what's intended by the word in Arabic - gets a new life of 72 unsullied years. Also, ancient saviour figures tended to rise again/return from hell after 3 days - 72 hours, so we know what the authors though about our sojourn on earth and what kind of place this is for a divine spirit to have to dwell in.
What we call scripture is poetry about God and humankind's relation to It. Priests and lawyers and politicians and even linguists and historians can't get to the heart of these things. Only poets who love can do that.
I've tried reading the Qu'ran in a couple of translations, but it's a puzzle and a disappointment in English. And Mohammed is portrayed as someone who forces religion on people by the use of the sword. Now, in the Bhagavad Gits, for example, the battle the hero is enjoined to fight is against his relatives, but it is pretty clear that the meaning is that he must free himself from the cultural and psychological baggage passed to him by his relatives as part of his process of innner liberation, not literally kill them.
Menawhile in some of the books of the old Testament the great metaphor of exile that runs through them is used as justification by jewish settlers to take people's homes away, because they believe the land to have been promised to them by God. The 'home' of course, is a spiritual, inner place, existing in elevated consciousness, from which they
(and we) are exiled because of our incarnation into matter and our consequent forgetfulness of our true origin and nature, except for our yearning. Certain great individuals pop up in different times and places who remember where they and we come from - and have the power to lead us 'home.' this great miracle is then pictured as for example, raisng the dead, or getting the crippled to walk, or the blind to see ( the glory within to which they open our eyes.)
Literal minded 'fundamentalism' is the curse of our age, a symptom of our dullness and lack of imagination. Mythology - by which i don't mean lies, but a way of describing what cannot even be approached in logical terms - cuts across religious, cultural and national borders and can render a text comprehensible to one who does not know the original language, because myths recur, and their imagery is so strong that that one can get by without translation.
I believe that you cannot understand scripture without reading several of them, from different religions,and making a study of ancient literature in general. ( The Odyssey was like scripture to the classical Greeks.)
I've always found the Qu'ran puzzling because i can't get past the opening bit where Mohammed goes to war to propagate religion, and in the translations i've read it is written in a very literal way, very hard to read as a holy war within the self against one's own dark thoughts and impulses.
So: is that a fault of the translations? Or of early priests or imams, the mediating caste that bedevils the legacies of all the great teachers and tries to control what the rest of us think or believe? Did they make sure the best bits were missed out?
As for the position of women in islam, i have always understood that the Greeks introduced the veiling of women to the middle East. The great Teachers have always treated women as equal to men, and sought to mitigate the worst sexism in the cultures in which they found themselves.
People who consider themselves Christian, or Muslim, or whatever, can be terrible advertisements for the life and works of Jesus or Mohammed or whomever. The real blasphemers are those who insist upon promoting a concept of God and Teacher based on their miserable narrow minded life hating agendas. So many insults are offered on a daily basis to the memories of individuals so much more loving and conscious than their so-called followers can ever hope to imagine. It doesn't matter who you claim to worship; the real worship is in the heart, for God is love, love is God, and every act of kindness is an act of worship.
For what it's worth, the grape thing sounds like rubbish to me in terms of poetic symbolism, which is my area of expertise.

mattanyah zohar, ph.d. said at February 10, 2005 2:22 AM:

Being an archaeologist, historian, and linguist, speaking and writing German, English, French, Italian, Greek, modern Hebrew, Arabic, and Turkish, having studied classical Greek, Aramaic (Talmudic), biblical Hebrew, Ugaritic, and above all Assyriology, I can only confirm that Luxenberg's work is sound and according to academic standards. There is, however, some scholarly criticism possible on purely linguistic basis. The ignorance of most abobe contributions is simply shocking.

Liaquat Samma said at August 17, 2005 4:10 AM:

Now I've read some of his views about the Quran. They are wrong and based on misunderstanding.The Quran can be read ONLY IN ONE WAY. The seven redaings are based on false and misunderstood Hadith. All the words are original Arabic words and they have NO EVIDENCE for their being Aramaic.
Luxenberg has provided no evidence for the meanings in context and in continuity.
L. Samma

Omar Abdilla said at December 8, 2005 8:17 AM:

I have not yet read "Christoph Luxenber"'s book yet. So I am not in a position to comment. It has however brought up a very relevant theme. Are all the Muslim scholars, including puritan fanatics like Osmana Bin Laden unable to understand one simple thing: namely that the idea that God should provide virgins to be sexually exploited by the mu'minin (believers in Him and in his prophets, peace be upon them all!) diminishes the concept of God who being a spirit and the creator of Nature transcends that same nature and the "tricks" in uses on creatures, e.g. sexual pleasure as an inducement to procreation, and certainly has no time to motivate those same creatures with sexual, carnal pleasure after their carnal nature is finished! I simply cannot understand this puerile, naive approach to the idea of God, whether seen as Jahweh, the Triune God or the One God known as Allah. Can any serious Muslim, no matter whether he be bearded or clean-shaven - but certainly after clearing his conscience - please enlighten me? I might be wrong after all, but I definitely think that this virgin thing smacks of a backward, primitive religion and not the sophisticated, elegant, supernatural word of God. And may I add, that when I use the term "God" or "Allah" I prostrate myself in all humility before Him and ask for His forgiveness if I may sound presumptuos by appearing to know so much about Him and His will.

yasminasafali said at January 20, 2006 1:52 AM:

On Luxenberg's thesis let there be scholarly and objective discourse. Unfortunately, this cannot be expected from a muslim who swears by Allah, Quran and the prophet, for whom 'Truth' is what Allah has said. If Allah mean that the earth is flat it should be flat, even if the spherical earth has become a matter of common knowlege. 'Justice' is what Allah does, say by sending non-believers to hell irrespective of their deeds. Principal of Natural Justice is not be sought in Allah's dictionary. Every individual on this planet is entitled to a decent life with dignity and self respect.

Christopher Lord said at February 9, 2006 6:22 PM:

Let me applaud the comments of Dr Zohar above. Having waded through the depressing catalogue of ignorant and malicious slanders forming the majority of the contributions to this page, is there any responsible reaction but despair for the future of humanity? It should be clear to all but the most simple-minded that there are some questions which rigorous analysis can answer better than the reflexes of prejudice and the delusions of fanatics. It reminds me of the 'debate' in North America over what to do about bones found in tribal burial grounds which evidently predate the arrival of the tribes in question by thousands of years. The answer of the judiciary? To accept the holiness of these traditional relics. Is there anything more than this infantile fear of the truth at work here? If so I fail to see it.

Amit said at February 15, 2006 10:24 PM:

Christoph Luxenberg is not a 'Western' scholar. He is a Lebanese Christian. Want to see a real scholarly article on Luxenberg? Journal of Qur'anic Studies, 2003, Volume V, Issue 1, pp. 92-97. http://www.islamic-awareness.org/Quran/Text/luxreview2.html

George Josef said at February 28, 2006 6:22 PM:

I read koran and its translation from time to time, I think it does not take a genious to realise how poor it was written, most the verses written are not in logical order (I remember once I had to take a tablet of panadol just to get rid of the effect after reading it for 60 minutes straight), it really is not like the bible, someone can actually follow, for example, one story like Abraham, where he came from, what he did, who his friends and family members were, then continued on with the story of his son's life and so on. Reading the bible is like reading a history book, so easy to understand and follow. The koran on the other hand, is not like a history book, it's more like a book which tries to look as a wisdom book but yet fails to qualify as one, even the book of proverbs in the bible is far better, it contains far better amazing and beautiful words of wisdom.

I think Islam has to develop a study of koran in a way that it allows critical analysis of the book. For a critical analysis to be good, one should argue like he doubts every single verse. Every book and verse in the koran has to explored and be doubted and hence critised. Anger should not be involved in arguing. Faith and belive must be put aside for a temporary time, let alone the book (koran) prove its truth by itself in front of scholars who doubt the truthfullness of it. Question to ask, who wrote the book, how do you know that it was written that way, how many scripts of the book are available, how to determine which script is original, who compilled all the books to become one compillation which now is known as koran, then move on to the chapters and verses, are they in contradiction to each other, are they logical, are they proven by historical archeological findings when telling history, and so on and so on.

Critical analysis can also be extended to the teaching of the book and the life of the prophet. Is the teaching still applicable to present day situations, like wife-beating, polygamy, sharia law (cutting hands, legs, etc..). All of these must be put to be examined without anger and with an open heart. One should not be offended.

I am awaiting for muslims to stand as real scholars who do a sound critical analysis to koran. Let alone the book prove itself to the readers.

Skeptic said at March 13, 2006 10:14 AM:

I am aghast at several posters above who claim to be scholars on the english language, or in linguistics who dispute Luxenberg because (a) no serious religious tract is written in a mixed language or (b) the koran is in arabic because the koran itself says it is written in arabic.

Have these MA Linguistics people even read Beowulf, or Aristotle, or even Shakespeare's Hamlet? Beowulf is written (ostensibly) in English, Aristotle in Greek and Hamlet in English but as anyone who reads Beowulf could attest, English then certainly do not read like nor even sound like the modern "standard grammatical english" we are using in this forum right now.

Languages change, the Greek of the New Testament is not the same Greek spoken in Athens today. I know this, and I am not a linguist. Religion can certainly cloud minds.

Dr. Luxenberg's thesis is based on his assertion that during the time of Mohammed (PBUH) it is the language Syriac that is in wide use and that therefore whatever is written or spoken or recorded during that time must be heavily influenced by Syriac if not actually written in Syriac itself.

Thus, Dr. Luxenberg's thesis stands and falls on this assertion alone. Is Syriac really the lingua franca in that part of the Middle East during that time? Luxenberg says Yes. Is the arabic being spoken and written in the Middle East today the same "arabic" during Mohammed's time? Luxenberg says no.

If anyone wishes to attempt to dispute Luxenberg then that person must proceed by first disproving Luxenbergs two major assertions above. Nothing else will do. Ad hominem attacks and circular reasoning only serves to highlight the ignorance and religious intolerance of the attacker.

Charles Martel said at August 30, 2007 12:33 PM:

"It contradicts the statement in the Quran that it is in Arabic (12:2, 13:37 16:103, 20:113, 26:195, 39:28, 41:3, 42:7, 43:3, 46:12)", wrote Hamid S. Aziz.


It can't be false because it says it isn't false!

Wow, muslims have been brainwashed for over a thousand years. To think that someone in the 21st century can write a statement like that is mind-blowing. Muslims really have not come too far from the seventh century, have they?

Eyore said at January 16, 2008 9:55 AM:

I am not very educated or informed in matters of religion. When I try to give advice or teach my child of a noteworthy point, I use very simple language with examples and sometimes I draw a picture to communicate my thoughts. I am surpirsed the almighty did not forsee these issues of miss-comunication , language barier etc. and did not devise a better system of delivering his message. I realize a video is farfetched and the almighty may have not had the production ablity, but A few pictures or a translation into another popular language would have helped. Maybe I am too navie but the masses need simple instructions.

shehla said at May 2, 2008 1:58 PM:

so people can you come up with some new modified version of the book send me some verses modified in it at sikander.shehla[at]yahoo[dot]com

Gareth Bennett said at September 29, 2008 7:58 AM:

This whole debate is indicative of what is wrong with establishing a set of beliefs based on the written word. All religious texts are open to misinterprestation, mistranslation, mis-dictation - all languages change and evolve and language, itself, is open to the interpretation of the listener. You could say exactly the same thing to 10 different people and they will interprest that according to their own intelligence, bias, prejudices,knowledge, etc.
To claim that the Bible or the Koran or any religious text is the stated and undiluted word of God is, for me, absolute nonsense. How can anyone prove that the 'voices' that they hear are from God? (President George W. Bush claimed this once!!). One person's prophet is another's deluded madman. I do not know enough about the Koran to make any valued judgements, but I cannot believe that a person as highly evolved as the Prophet Muhammed wanted open warfare between religions, and advocated killing and mutilating people based on their spiritual opinions.
It seems incredible to me that so many supposedly intelligent people believe that the afterlife is going to be more or less the same as life here on earth. The argument as to whether "white raisins" of "virgins' breasts" will be on offer in paradise is ludicrous. Your soul exists as a different vibrational energy that the physical body, therefore the afterlife will not have the same physical form or density as this life. Surely, the soul has no need of physical sustenance or pleasures of the flesh - these are for the physical body. Also, I fail to understand why people are so hung up about paradise. Even if you do mangae to get there, what are you supposed to do for the rest of forever? All existence needs a purpose and I see none in sitting around listening to celestial choirs for all eternity.
With human nature being what it is, we separate into our 'tribes' and take on the defensive, group mentality that eradicates objectivity and good sense; thus Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists etc. are reduced to a football hooligan-style conflict where their side/team is 'right' and the other is 'wrong'. Even within their own religions, we practice tribal warfare, e.g. Catholic/Protestant, Sunni/Shi'ite, Lesser Vehicle/Greater Vehicle.
I am a Buddhist, but I'm not arrogant/stupid enough to say that my religion is the only "true faith", that one can only find salvation in 'my' religion. There are many ways to God/Enlightenment - the most important one simply being to treat others as you wish to be treated yourself, or in other words, the great Buddhist maxim of the Law of Cause and Effect. Just as in the physical world, where every action has an equal and opposite reaction, this law applies to the metaphysical world. Obviously, the huge difference is the belief in reincarnation; but,
It seems to me that we incarnate into a physical body to experience, learn and gain wisdom. This wisdom then gets incorporated back into the great 'human soul'. Our purpose is to evolve individually and, in doing so, benefit the group as a whole, irrespective of our different religions. If there is only one God, then surely He/She loves us all equally, regardless of our interpretation of His/Her laws and teachings. The problem now is that there seems to be several 'Gods' operating, one for the Christians, one for the Muslims, etc., each God taking the side of the faithful/supporters, just as in the Greek legends.
I fear for this world - the polarisation that is happening between people of different religious faiths and sects is creating a climate of hatred and conflict that just might explode into a global conflagration. Perhaps all the prognostications about the Apocalypse are true - is God sitting up there thinking: "Oh dear, they're at it again. Time for a change."
And, even if we do avoid wiping each other out, there's the little matter of destroying the very planet that we need for our continuing existence....

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