BOOK REVIEW – THE KORAN (THE HOLY QUR’AN) 632-650 – 1934 edition translated by Abdullah Yusuf Ali. Wordsworth Classics.


                                    A GENERAL HISTORY OF THE KORAN


The Koran (The Recitation) was written over a period of 23 years as it was recited  by the Islamic prophet Mohommed to supporters who wrote what he dictated on any parchment, tree bark, leaves and from memory – the first compilation of the various sutras did not appear in one volume until 650 Common Era, when a standardized edition was preserved from which all subsequent editions are derived.


For Muslims, this makes the Koran a fresh scripture, uncorrupted in the way that the Bible has suffered by the loss of the earliest editions and having been sieved through countless revisions and mistranslations.


Mohommed is said to have received his revelations directly from the Archangel Gabriel, during fits now considered to have been bouts of epilepsy. The claim that Mohommed was illiterate and could not have pre-prepared or written any of the Koran chapters is largely discredited by many scholars.


It seems likely however that even in its early history, The Koran received considerable editorial control, with CHAPTERS (Suras) being revised, edited, omitted and possibly lost. The most controversial passages to recieve such treatment were the so-called Satanic Verses. In these, Mohommed is believed to have been told of the existence of three pagan goddesses, but chose to excise the references to maintain a monotheistic belief system  in defiance of the Angel Gabriel who revealed the existence of the goddesses to him. Claims were made that this was not Gabriel but Satan disguised as the archangel.


The story became the basis for Salman Rushdie’s fictional novel, The Satanic Verses, which became a best seller despite, and largely due to the publicity relating to the Fatwa – (death sentence) imposed on the author by Muslim fanatics – many of who never even read the book - and tragically carried out on many book-sellers who promoted the book.


Translating the Koran from the Arabic to any other language is regarded as unforgivable to many Muslims, but copies exist in most languages now, and the Yusuf Ali is regarded as one of the finest English editions, though he controversially used the name God instead of Allah, which many editions, including the Wordsworth issue I have read, change back again.


                                                THE SURAS


The Koran is not an easy book to read as literature. It is not set out in a linear or chronological order, but in a series of 114 Suras, with the longest first, and the shortening chapters later. so the text gets lighter to read, though more repetitive as a read progresses.


With modern concerns about Islamic Fundamentalism, the rise of suicide bombers, and concerns about Moslem attitudes to women, as well as concerns about Western bigotry, and Islamophobia, it seems important  that everyone should read the Koran.


My atheism is well documented throughout my website. I read with little concern as to being converted to Islam.


The text acknowledges some indebtedness to Judao / Christianity, with Moses and Jesus seen as proto-Islamic prophets, and not, in Jesus’s case as an incarnation of God. Much of  the Koran is very hostile to any and all not believing in the final revealation of Allah.


                                    INTRODUCING THE TEXT


All but one Sura begin with “In the name of Allah, most gracious most merciful.”  This is misleading given how aggressive Allah is to all who dare to defy him or who seem likely to fail to live up to his extremely exacting standards. Allah is an aggressive, uncompromising God. There is nothing meek or mild about him in the way that Christians regard Jesus as meek, mild and loving. Islam is defined throughout the Koran as a warrior creed.


The book is very conversational, being written to be read and recited out loud. It is written in the first person as the word of Gabriel, though he refers collectively to the ‘We’, as a spokesman for all the Heavenly angels, Allah himself and all faithful Muslims too.


The main note is that the various covenants and contracts made with Judao-Christians have failed, and that despite sending countless signs and miracles and prophets to lead us out of sin, we have consistently failed to do what Allah wanted – the Koran is a revelation that Allah will soon lose patience with us over this. Much of the work reads like a threat from an Old Testament wrathful God. 



                        THE MAIN THEMES OF THE KORAN


                                    BELIEVERS AND UNBELIEVERS


Atheists, Christians, Jews, Muslims who pay lip service to the teachings but don’t have suffiecent faith, will go to Hell, where they will burn, have their skin replaced, and burn again. Forever.


Believers will go to Heaven with flowing wines, food in abundance pure water and a supply of virgins. They will see and hear the dammed pleading for a share, but they will offer none.




The Koran offers men the right to a polygamous harem of four wives,  though this is largely ignored due to State laws.


Women must believe in Allah. Mixed faith marriage is forbidden.


Women must be offered a dowry and be obedient to their husbands. Adultery must be identified by four witnesses.


Men must distance themselves from wives experiencing their periods which are viewed with some revulsion.


Adultery and fornication is punishable with one hundred lashes to be administered in public and a known adulterer can then only marry someone who has also been found guilty of the same offence in order for their crime not to contaminate other blood-lines and families.


False allegations made with or without four witnesses will result in similar punishments. A husband who suspects a wife of adultery but who cannot find four witnesses, may give witness himself four times. His wife may swear an oath of her innocence an equal number of times with her hand on a copy of the Koran. Both paryties will then be asked to give oath a fifth time, and whichever lies will be condemmed to Hell. The courts will however favour the stance taken by the husband.


Men & women are segregated in prayer in the mosques.


The importance of a woman covering her beauty from all but her husband and her closest family is referred to, but not examined in any great detail.


Men may marry their most virginal and virtuous slave girls.




Totally taboo, and anyone can be identified as gay through the testimony of two witnesses.


                                                CRIME AND PUNISHMENT


Thieves will have their hands cut off, a practice maintained in present day Saudi Arabia.


Alcohol and gambling are strictly prohibited.




Jesus was a man, and not an incarnation of God. Jesus was a prophet, and not a part of any kind of holy trinity. Allah, to Muslims would never reduce himself to a vulnerable human form. Jesus was saved from the cross (though he was crucified) before his death, being rescued by Allah, and did not therefore return from death in any kind of Ressurection. Referring to the trinity of Allah, (God), Jesus & the Holy Ghost is considered a blasphemy in Islam.


                                                OTHER PROPHETS


Adam, Jonah, Moses, etc, were prophets for Allah, and not for the children of Isreal. There are various allusions and references to their Biblical stories, but none are covered in detail, and many of them are seen to have converted to Islam, - something not revealed until the Koran’s publication. Much of the Koran calls on the believers of the other two major Western religions to convert to Islam accordingly. .




An annual period of intense fasting during daylight hours, though Muslims taking long journeys, recovering from sickness,  or working on projects in which they need nutrition are allowed to make up for lost time in fasting later when they have more freedom. Sex with wives after dark is seen as a reward for a good day of fasting.





The Koran doesn’t make much use of parables, though one stands out as exceptional. Moses is described ass travelling with his own spiritual master. After they travel by boat, the master scuttles and sinks it. They then meet a young man who the master brutally murders. They then come to a crumbling wall, which the master repairs. Moses, on asking about the purpose of such incidents is told to have faith in Allah, and patience. Eventually, the master tells him that the boat would have been used by an invading army had it not been destroyed; the young murder victim was the son of good Allah fearing people, but his own godless life-style would have brought them great suffering in later life’ there was a great treasure under the wall, so investigating the inexplicable repairs would lead to discovery of the wealth for the right people.


The parable shows Allah working in mysterious ways, but of course many warships do get to sail – no God killed Hitler before he could commit evil, and much lost treasure falls into the wrong hands.




The Koran refers frequently to the destruction of the civilisation and country of A’ad  in a Sodom & Gommorah  act of divine retribution by Allah. The cibilisation had certainly existed as it is referred to by the Greek historians too. The Koran warns that peoples who ignore the prophets and signs sent by Allah will share the fate of A’ad.


                                                IBLIS – THE FALLEN ANGEL


The Koran has the traditional story of Satan, and adds the tale of another fallen angel, Iblis. When Allah creates Adam & Eve, the angels are asked to bow before the new species to show respect and willingness to protect humanity. All angels do this except Iblis who regards himself as vastly superior to the new entities. For his refusal, Allah exiles him. Iblis is cut off from men and fellow angels alike – a total outcast.


                                                WAR AND PEACE


War in defence of Islam is totally validated, and Muslims can legitimately use attack as a defence inititive, but there is absolutely nothing to say that hey have the right or option to serve as suicide bombers or attack civilian populations.


The Koran is far from easy reading, and at times it can be uncomfortable study, but its power and impact are inescapable. Islam moves with a sense of religious urgency. Allah is not going to offer any more prophets or chances so those who are not converted by the day of judgement, which  they see is imminant, are simply doomed.

By Islamic thinking, that undoubtedly includes me.


                                                LINKS  - history of The Koran  Satanic Verses in The Koran.


© Copyright. Arthur Chappell