Thursday, September 13, 2012

Old and New Testaments, Muslim-style

Bill Warner's lectures on the Koran, the Sunna and the Hadith as texts for a 1400 year old expansionist political system led me to realize that Islam has its own Old Testament/New Testament structure.

I have always thought that Mohammed was smart to create a stand-alone scripture entirely of his own making because of the tensions and complexities Christianity faces with the Jewish Old Testament and the Christian New Testament bound together in one book, The Bible.

Reading the Koran is arduous (I did my first reading of it back in 1991, as a companion to Hourani's The History of the Arab Peoples.) It is not much larger than the New Testament, but its chapters are arranged by size: largest to smallest, excepting the first one. It appears chaotic, repetitious and very ill-tempered.

It is a basic of Islamic Koranic interpretation to divide the text (for study) into those parts revealed in Mecca, the 13 earlier years of Mohammed's career and those parts revealed in Medina, where he was the warlord. Broadly speaking, the non-violence in the Koran is from Mecca; the Medinan verses are martial. And the doctrine of abrogation holds that a later revelation is weightier than an earlier*.

There is thus a kind of internal Old/New Testament within Mohammed's book itself.

*Given Islam's extremely high doctrine of the Koran --that it is uncreated and eternal, about as literally the Word of God as the second person of the Trinity in Christianity-- it is very odd that parts of this Final Perfect Revelation are rendered moot by other parts of it. As if, from all eternity, Allah kept changing his mind. But then, Allah is Will, not Reason.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is like that. Another way I’ve thought of it is as changing covenants. In Christianity, God establishes one covenant with the Jews, and later swaps it with a new covenant with all of humanity. Islam presumes a third covenant in Mecca, which changes yet again and again, in small ways and large, by the time Mo is firmly established in Medina!

In counterpoint to the common charge that the Bible is just as violent as the Qur’an, I’ve thought it interesting to note how the bible progresses from the violent OT to the far less violent NT – while the Q-book makes its progression /in the opposite direction/.

I have never heard a good explanation for why in the jahanna the thing was finally set as longest book to shortest. What in the world could the use possibly be? I suspect that some copyists just decided to tackle their job that way, and it later got mistaken for some sort of wise or divine scheme.


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