Sometimes people -- inevitably non-Muslims -- e-mail me snippets of the Qur'an to make what often turns out to be an anti-Islam point.
I am hesitant, however, to suggest that they might want to read the whole of the Qur'an because if they do that on their own they would be as lost and maybe misguided as a non-Christian or non-Jew would be reading the Christian or Jewish Bible.
Explanation and interpretation is vital. And that means offering context -- historical, linguistic and otherwise -- to make sense of what one is reading.
People spend whole careers trying to understand the Bible in this thorough way, and even then many of them disagree with one another.
So when I read that a radio network in Finland planned to read the whole of the Qur'an on the air, I was concerned that it would be done with no context.
But it looks as if the Finnish public broadcasting network called Radio 1 is not going to make that mistake.
Rather, as this story points out, each half-hour broadcast (60 in all) will begin with two qualified Muslims -- one an imam, one a professor -- discussing the meaning of what is about to be read. And it's reassuring to know that they have different perspectives on the passages.
Any sacred writ comes out of a time and context different from our own and uses language that may not translate well into English or that may seem to be saying one thing while really suggesting something else.
No matter what the sacred writing is, you need help in understanding it. And, yes, some people will tell you it means one thing, some another thing. But at least you know there are differences of opinion and that, in the end, you must decide which interpretation you think makes the most sense. It's not an exact science.
So although I encourage you to read scripture from traditions not your own, do so only with competent help. And then ask tons of questions.
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TURNING AGAINST ISIS
So how are people caught living in the alleged "Islamic state" reacting to the brutality of ISIS? There may be good news about that. This Religion News Service piece describes how one young man, originally an ISIS supporter, turned sour on the terrorist group and escaped. Let's hope this is evidence that, as many of us suspect, ISIS contains the seeds of its own destruction.
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P.S.: The deeply disturbing death by apparent suicide of Missouri state auditor and GOP gubernatorial hopeful Tom Schweich deserves a thorough investigation, especially in light of Schweich's contention that state GOP chairman John Hancock was making antisemitic remarks about Schweich, an Episcopalian who had a Jewish grandfather. It may never be possible to unravel a motive behind any suicide, but there's no doubt that racism and antisemitism continue to stain Missouri's landscape, and there's every reason to find out if our political leaders are engaging in it or subtly encouraging it. It's difficult for Hancock to defend himself from charges made by a man who now is dead. But every effort should be made by authorities and journalists to find the truth in this sad, sad story. Schweich was a top-cabin public servant who might have made a good governor had he lived and won.