Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Quran Project - Introduction

The last few months away from my blog have been a busy time of learning. One of the things I've learned about is the concept of taking on "small projects" - transforming little enjoyable activities into ventures that you can consciously benefit from. Another thing I learned about is the benefit of sharing your doubts, questions and ideas with others - no matter how you think they might be perceived. As long as you address things respectfully, you can discuss any topic and get a lot from that discussion.

One thing that I've long avoided blogging about directly is Islam. I'm no scholar on the subject, so I was afraid that I would say things that I would later regret. Or that I would tread on peoples' toes. But I realized that things like that shouldn't be an issue as long as respect and a true intention to learn form the foundation of my writing. Which, hopefully, they are.

So with that in mind, I thought it would be appropriate to take on an Islam-related project during these three weeks of vacation that I have before my last semester of college. I've been wanting to read Fazlur Rahman's Major Themes of the Qur'an for a few months now, and my plan was to read it during this break. But instead of keeping this a solitary activity, I thought I could share it with all of you guys.

Enter The Quran Project. I figured that by turning my reading into a project, several things could happen at once: I can reinforce what I've read by summarizing it; anyone interested in knowing more about the Quran can hopefully get an interesting fact or two from what’ll be posted here; and most importantly, we can all gain from the different ideas that we share in any conversations that come out of this.

But why do I want to read Fazlur Rahman’s Major Themes of the Qur'an? Because of Rahman's unique approach to Islam's foundational text. Instead of trying to analyze the Quran on a verse-by-verse basis (as most traditional Muslim scholars have done) or focusing on the historical factors that may have influenced the Quran (as most modern Western scholars have done), Rahman tries to approach the Quran's actual text with a holistic view. This, he believes, is the best way to understand the message of the Quran. He offers a study of the Quran based on its major themes, and presents each theme by bringing together the different verses relating to it and discussing them in one chapter.

What I hope to do here is summarize the major points of each chapter into a single post. For the sake of time and efficiency, I'll try to stick to no more than three points per chapter. (Of course, if there's a fourth point I just have to talk about, I won't be shy and will indulge.) I'll also include some of my thoughts on the points; ideas I'd like to get other peoples' opinions on instead of have them floating around aimlessly in my head.

Then it's your turn. If you guys have any questions or ideas of your own that you'd like to share, please leave comments. Don't be shy. Whether you’re Muslim or not, whether I know you or not, whether you know a lot about the Quran or haven't ever touched it before, please feel free to join in. And invite your friends too! This is an open forum for discussion. All I ask is that we be respectful. Freedom of speech implies power, and as Spiderman’s (wonderfully quotable) uncle said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” If you do want to join any discussions that come out of this, please keep those words in mind.

So here's the list of Quranic themes I'll be going through over the next three weeks, divided by chapter:

  1. God
  2. Man as Individual
  3. Man in Society
  4. Nature
  5. Prophethood and Revelation
  6. Eschatology (Concerning Death/Final Judgement.)
  7. Satan and Evil
  8. Emergence of the Muslim Community
  9. The Religious Situation of the Muslim Community in Mecca (Appendix I)
  10. The People of the Book and Diversity of Religions (Appendix II)

I'll be posting up a chapter summary every few days, inshallah. I'm not too sure whether or not I'll have time for the appendices, but I'll try to get them in as well.

I look forward to getting started and seeing what comes out of this. Hope you guys enjoy it as much as I will.

Till the next post!