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Refuting demonisation of Quranic verses

8th Jun 2018
Refuting demonisation of Quranic verses

Exploring the Qur’an: Context and impact. By Muhammad Abdel Haleem. 2017. Pp352. I B Tauris. HB. £29.99

The book under review tries to challenge the image of the Qur’an put forward by many Western and Muslim authors and extremists.

The author argues that the image they produce ‘is highly selective, hastily produced and actually ignores important parts of the Arabic text of the Qur’an. At times they ignore the context, style and rhetorical aspects of the Qur’an that are essential for determining the correct meaning.’ (p1)

The author selects a few controversial issues in the media, some politicians and extremists misrepresenting Qur’anic verses and terminologies. So he discusses the so-called ‘Sword Verse’ widely used to suggest Islam promotes violence against polytheists (mushrikin) [Surah Al-Tawbah 9, Verse 5]. The word ‘sword’ (sayf) used by these groups does not occur in any part of the Qur’an.

Abdel Haleem refutes the claims that the verse is a basis for an injunction to kill all polytheists, including Christians, Jews and disbelievers. Another argument put forward is that this verse abrogated another verse of the Qur’an which says ‘there is no compulsion in religion [Al Baqarah 2, Verse 256] to show that Islam is an intolerant religion towards other beliefs. Pope Benedict XVI used this argument in his Regensburg lecture in September 2006.

The author also refutes many other myths to demonise Islam misusing the Qur’anic verses. Other topics he discusses is on jizya [tax paid by the Christians and the Jews] which is wrongly claimed it had to be paid to allow them to keep their faith. Muslims have to pay zakah which the People of the Book do not.

The other subjects he deals with is jihad, Paradise, Shari’a, sexual etiquette, Qur’anic style, stories, impact the Qur’an has had on the languages, textual challenges, literature and cultures of the Muslim world and challenges of translations of the Qur’an.

Abdel  Haleem, professor of Islamic Studies at SOAS University of London, who is an authority on Qur’anic studies, has produced a much-needed book which discusses contemporary issues which are used to demonise not only the religion of Islam but Muslims too. A very useful and important book.

Ahmed J Versi

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