ACT Mission Viejo
HOW TO READ THE QUR’AN
  A. E. Rowley, (updated 2010)

We urge everyone to read the Qur’an.  Read the actual passages for yourself and you will discover the source of the aggression, intolerance, repression, cruelty, violence,  hatred of Jews and Christians and the roots of the suicide bombing and acts of terrorism being demonstrated daily by those we often hear described as “Islamists”, “fundamentalists”, “radicals” or “those who have hijacked Islam”.   Actually, these Muslims may correctly be regarded as simply being true and obedient Muslims.  “Moderate” Muslims are generally those who aren’t directly involved in the militant activities, but they often may be engaged in financial support of the fundamentalists and  other non-militant forms of “stealth jihad”.  Thus even these moderates can be a threat.  There are undoubtedly also secular Muslims who may be regarded as “non-practicing Muslims.”   These may not be a threat, but generally they dare not speak out against the radicals, for to do so would brand them as “apostates” or “blasphemers”, both sins punishable by death.    

Unlike the Bible, the words of the Qur’an are regarded as direct utterances by Allah, recited to Muhammad who then recited them to his followers.  Faithful Muslims regard them as being as binding today as when first uttered in the 7th century, and unchangeable and immutable.

Muslims will often argue that you cannot possibly understand the Qur’an unless you read it in the original Arabic because of its poetic beauty in Arabic.  Nonsense!   Between 75% and 80% of the Muslims in the world neither read nor speak Arabic, and translations are available in many languages.   A poem by Robert Service or Rudyard Kipling may lose some of its poetic richness when translated into Chinese, but its message can still be quite understandable to a Chinese reader. At the web site of USC,  developed by and for its Muslim Student Association, are three different English translations of the Qur’an and English translations of  the five major collections of the hadith,  the sayings and deeds of Muhammad.  Obviously these are provided and considered acceptable because Arabic is not understood by many Muslims.   These can be accessed at http://www.usc.edu/schools/college/crcc/engagement/resources/texts.

There are a number of internet sites where you can obtain a free Qur’an in English.  Simply Google “free Qur’an”.  Look for a source which includes free shipping. We have obtained several in this manner and had no subsequent spamming or solicitation problems. The “free” Qur’an you receive will likely be Jusuf Ali’s translation, one which has been edited and somewhat sanitized  to modify the most egregious language.  For example:  it is the only English translation we have seen which states that wives should be beaten ‘lightly’”.  No others seem to include the adverb “lightly”.  This is obviously a translation which Muslims would prefer that you read.

Another group, the Al-Furqaan Foundation, is now distributing a “free” translation titled “English Translation of the Meaning of the Qur’an” by Professor, Dr. Syed Vicar Ahamed.  As of December of 2009 they claim to have distributed 200,000 door-to-door and placed them in 34 hotels   This translation may well be a translation designed specifically to disarm the uninformed. We have not yet reviewed it.  

When you read the Qur’an, and we hope you will, don’t start reading it from front to back like a novel.  You will find it to be hopelessly disjointed, boring, and confusing.  It is not arranged in chronological order like the Bible.  Rather, it has generally been arranged from the longest sura (revelation) to the shortest.  There is no universally accepted chronological sequence.  A number of scholars have attempted to develop such, but none seem to totally agree.  We have researched and compared 5 or 6 different sequences and find that most substantially agree.  The chronological listing contained herein can be considered quite reliable.

There are a total of 114 suras (chapters), all delivered between 610 and 632 A.D. You will note that most of the earliest are actually found near the back of the Qur’an.  However, their chronological sequence is very important, as the doctrine of naskh, or abrogation (see below), establishes the principle that later suras abrogate (supersede) any earlier suras which they happen to contradict.

The first 86 suras recited by Muhammad are reported to have come forth in the first thirteen years of his ministry while he still lived in Mecca.  During this Meccan period, Muhammad was trying to attract followers without making enemies, a tricky task as the powerful Quraysh tribe which virtually controlled  Mecca derived substantial profit from the pilgrimages of polytheists and pagans to the Kabbah.

There were 360 different idols located in and around the Kabbah, the holy shrine at Mecca; and passing caravans, travelers, and pilgrims were invited to stop over, leave sacrifices or offerings to their idols or gods, refresh themselves and their beasts, and spend money.   Muhammad’s “revelations” that there was but one god, Allah, were not warmly received.  In fact, he incurred considerable rejection and persecution during this Meccan period.  The suras produced during the Meccan period are generally quite benign and replete with teachings and stories found in the Old and New Testaments encouraging charity, tolerance, patience,  obedience,  prayerfulness, peace, compassion, forgiveness, etc.  During his entire 13 year ministry in Mecca, he managed to convert only a hundred or so followers to his new religion, mostly members of his own family and household, or from the disenfranchised of Meccan society, attracted possibly by exhortations to care for the poor. 

Chronological List of Suras of the “Meccan” Period:  (610 – 622 A.D.)

Revelation order)   Sura number – (as listed in the Qur'an)

1)    96
2)    68
3)    73
4)    74
5)     1
6)  111
7)    81
8)    87
9)    92
10)  89
11)  93
12)  94
13) 103
14) 100
15) 108
16) 102
17) 107
18) 109
19) 105
20) 113
21) 114
22) 112
23)   53
24)   80
25)   97
26)   91
27)   85
28)   95
29) 106
30) 101
31)   75
32) 104
33)   77
34)   50
35)   90
36)   86
37)   54
38)   38
39)    7
40)  72
41)  36
42)  25
43)  35
44)  19
45)  20
46)  56
47)  26
48)  27 – Tells story of how Solomon dealt with pagans.
49)  28
50)  17
51)  10
52)  11
53)  12
54)  15
55)    6
56)  37
57)  31
58)  34
59)  39
60)  40
61)  41
62)  42
63)  43
64)  44
65)  45
66)  46
67)  51
68)  88
69)  18
70)  16
71)  71
72)  14
73)  21 – Tells story of how Abraham dealt with pagans.
74)  23
75)  32
76)  52
77)  67
78)  69
79)  70
80)  78
81)  79
82)  82
83)  84
84)  30
85)  29  States,
"our Allah and your Allah is one" (Qur'an 29:46
86)  83

Chronological List of Suras of the “Medina” Period (622-632 A.D.)

The final 28 suras were ‘”revealed” after Muhammad was forced to flee Mecca out of fear for his life.  He relocated with about 75  followers about 200 miles North to Yathrib, known  today as Medina, in 622 A.D. Here he resided during the final ten years of his life.  It was here that he acquired and maintained almost absolute and tyrannical control.  Now, away from the persecution he had faced in Mecca, the tone of his “revelations” changed drammatically. 

It was in Medina that he began proclaiming revelations authorizing banditry, violence, cruelty, hatred, intolerance, looting, pillaging, slave-taking, kidnapping, rape, forced conversions,  treaty-breaking, conquest, etc.   It is from Medina that his followers sallied forth to pillage. It was in Medina where Muhammad himself ordered and participated in battles, murder, rape, and many other barbarous acts. Here, within eight years, he was able to form an army of ten thousand and march upon and conquer Mecca itself.  His forces consisted of followers attracted by promises of loot, captives, ransoms, sex-slaves, and immediate entry into a paradise filled with sensual delights for all who killed or who were killed in jihad.  If Muhammad’s “revelations” were peaceful and Christ-like in Mecca, they changed drastically during his Medina period.   Here is a chronological list of suras: delivered in Medina:

87)      2 – v. 256 No coercion in religion (abrogated).   V.216 encourages violence..
88)      8 –  v. 39 Fight non-Muslims until they submit or convert.  see the whole sura
89)      3 – v.28 do not take non-Muslims as friends or allies.   V.169 encourages violence.
90)    33 – Encourages violence, e.g., see 33:22 etc.
91)    60 – Encourages violence, e.g., see 60:1
92)     4 – v.56 Those who reject our signs we shall roast.   v. 89 those who reject the faith we
shall slay.,
93)    99
94)    57 – Encourages violence, e.g., see 57:10
95)    47 – v.4  Smite at the necks of unbelievers,  thoroughly subdue them and bond them.
96)    13
97)    55
98)    76
99)    65
100)  98
101)  59 – Encourages violence, e.g., see 59:2 etc.
102)  24 – Encourages violence, e.g., see 24:53
103)  22 – Muslims commanded to wage war against unbelievers. See .22:39.
104)  63 – Encourages violence, e.g., 63:8
105)  58 – Encourages violence, e.g., see 58:21
106)  49 – Encourages violence, e.g., 49:15
107)  66 – Encourages violence, e.g., 66:9
108)  64
109)  61 – Encourages violence, e.g., 61:9
110)  62
111)  48 – Encourages violence, e.g., 48:29 etc.
112)   5 – Encourages violence, e.g., 5:25,38 etc.
113)   9 – Encourages violence, read the whole sura, especial v. 9 and 25.   V.
5, known as ayat  

              as-sayf or the sword verse, has abrogated some 124 of the more peaceful Meccan

              verses, including every other verse in the Qur'an, which commands or implies

              anything less than a total offensive against the nonbelievers

114) 110 – Encourages violence, read the whole sura

Contradictory Passages and the Principle of Abrogation:

One who explores the Qur'an will note that there are many contradictory passages. Some passages exhort forgiveness, peace, tolerance, justice and even kindness towards all people. This is particularly true of the suras recited by Muhammad while he was still in Mecca, attempting to attract followers and being careful not to anger powerful members of the community.  

Later, after Muhammad was driven from Mecca and relocated in Medina, the suras he delivered became much more harsh, intolerant, warlike, and replete with cruelty and violence.

Muslims and their apologists will sometimes quote Allah’s words from Sura 2:106:   "None of Our revelations do We abrogate or cause to be forgotten...”, but they will often omit the words which immediately follow in the same verse:   "…but We substitute something better or similar: knowest thou not that Allah hath power over all things?"   Clearly, in this verse Allah first claims, “We do not abrogate”, then, in the very same sentence, Allah admits he does substitute and replace earlier statements.  This is the same thing as abrogation.

In Sura 16:101 Allah states: "When We substitute one revelation for another, — and Allah knows best what He reveals (in stages)….."  This verse also admits that early verses in the Qur'an were abrogated or superseded by later ones. There are 124 verses calling for tolerance and patience which have been abrogated by verse 5 in Sura 9, one of the verses which are often referred to as "the sword verses".  Sura 9 is regarded by most all authorities as the last or next-to-the-last sura delivered by Muhammad before his death in 632 A.D.  Thus we can clearly see that abrogation, whatever form it may take, is indeed a Qur'anic principle.  Muslims will often cite early verses to prove that Islam is a peaceful benevolent religion, but will ignore or even deny that these verses have been abrogated.  This is an example of “taqiyyah”, an Islamic tactic of deliberately misrepresenting or deceiving in order to mislead, confuse, trick, or befuddle non-Moslems, a tactic widely used today.

As you read the Qur’an, you will see that Muhammad was very familiar with stories of both the Old and New Testaments. There are historical accounts which claim that his first wife, the wealthy widow,  Khadija, came from a Christian background, and that a favorite cousin, Warraqa bin Naufal, who has been identified as a Christian monk, scholar, and even as  the Ebionite Christian Bishop of Mecca who officiated at her marriage to Muhammad.   This is very plausible.  In 600 A.D. there were numerous Jewish tribes and Christian communities throughout Arabia at the time Muhammad started reciting his “revelations”, purportedly received from Allah through the angel Gabriel.  You will find the name of Jesus (“Isa”, “Eesa”, “Esa”, “Joshua”) mentioned several dozen  times, but He is portrayed merely as one of many earlier prophets, a mortal,  the son of Mary, (but never the Son of God)  while in the Qur’an Allah proclaims that Muhammad is greatest and final prophet.

We suggest you keep this reference handy to your Qur'an.  When you read it, read the suras in the order they appear in this listing.  Don’t be dismayed by the fact that some verses don’t seem to make sense.  Even Qur’anic scholars admit that as much as 20% of the Qur’an simply cannot be understood.

Suggestion:  Take index cards and label one each for “Intolerance”, “Cruelty”, “Repression of Women”, “Criminal Behavior”, “Contradicts Bible”, “Aggression/Conquest”, “Hatred”.   As you read and discover a passage which fits one of the titles, note the sura number and verse on the appropriate card.  You will have a useful reference when you have finished, and it will make your read far more interesting.