By Iqbal Latif
Feb 9, 2016
Must read and listen to this Lesley Hazzleton myth-debunking talk on Koran.
1. The truth about the 72 virgins, Quran does not mention the number: (this closes Maulana Tariq Jamil's shop)
2. 'Qataal fee Sabeellalah' - the truth about killing of the unbelievers, it is not mentioned the way it is portrayed: (this closes JI Munnawar Hasans shop)
Lesley Hazleton was gearing up to begin writing a biography of Muhammad, she realised that she needed to read the Koran properly -- as properly as she could, so she took four well-known translations and decided to read them side-by-side, verse-by-verse along with a transliteration and the original seventh-century Arabic.
She 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.
Since her last book was about the story behind the Shi'a-Sunni split, and for that she had worked closely with the earliest Islamic histories, so she knew the events to which the Koran constantly refers, its frame of reference. She had set aside three weeks for this project, it turned out to be three months.
The truth about the 72 virgins:
She discovered that the number 72 never appears. There are no 72 virgins in the Koran neither are any references to swelling breast nor a high bosom in sight:
'The phrase "God is subtle" appears again and again, and indeed, the whole of the Koran is far more subtle than most of us have been led to believe. As in, for instance, that little matter of virgins and paradise. Old-fashioned Orientalism comes into play here. The word used four times is Houris, rendered as dark-eyed maidens with swelling breasts, or as fair, high-bosomed virgins. Yet all there is in the original Arabic is that one word: Houris. Not a swelling breast nor a high bosom in sight. Now this may be a way of saying "pure beings" -- like in angels -- or it may be like the Greek Kouros or Kóre, an eternal youth.
But the truth is nobody really knows, and that's the point. Because the Koran is quite clear when it says that you'll be"a new creation in paradise" and that you will be "recreated in a form unknown to you," which seems to me a far more appealing prospect than a virgin. And that number 72 never appears. There are no 72 virgins mentioned in the Koran. That idea only came into being 300 years later, and most Islamic scholars see it as the equivalent of people with wings sitting on clouds and strumming harps. Paradise is quite the opposite. It's not virginity; it's fecundity. It's plenty. It's gardens watered by running streams
'Qataal fee Sabeellalah' - the truth about killing of the unbelievers:
Or take the infamous verse about killing the unbelievers. Yes, it does say that, but in a very specific context: the anticipated conquest of the sanctuary city of Mecca where fighting was usually forbidden, and the permission comes hedged about with qualifiers. Not "You must kill unbelievers in Mecca," but you can, you are allowed to, but only after a grace period is over and only if there's no other pact in place and only if they try to stop you getting to the Kaaba, and only if they attack you first. And even then -- God is merciful; forgiveness is supreme -- and so, essentially, better if you don't. (Laughter) This was perhaps the biggest surprise --how flexible the Koran is, at least in minds that are notfundamentally inflexible.
Other matters: ( this closes a lot of nonsense uttered by self styled mullahs)
As the Koran promises, patience is rewarded, and there are many surprises -- a degree of environmental awareness, for instance, and of humans as mere stewards of God's creation, unmatched in the Bible. And where the Bible is addressed exclusively to men, using the second and third person masculine, the Koran includes women -- talking, for instance, of believing men and believing women, honourable men and honourable women.
If the 72 is not mentioned the number cannot be created - all this lustful references of houris after 300 years needs to be abrogated.
When the 'Prophet' completed his Final Sermon, near the summit of Arafat, the revelation came down:
"…This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My Grace upon you, and have chosen Islam for you as your religion…"
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