Review of the Koran

I read the Koran mainly for research for my novel but also because of my interest in spirituality. It seems kind of wrong to write a review of a holy book but I shall try to set down some thoughts.

I am really interested in spiritual writings. I think of myself as a faint hearted Christian crossed with a wannabe Buddhist. I am really bad at both of these paths but hey I am trying.

The Koran is considered by Muslims to be the word of God as told to Mohammed by the angel Gabriel in a cave in the seventh century. It is divided up into chapters or suras which vary in length. There is a lot of repetition so it sounds like it was originally an oral tradition. I am told that the writing is really beautiful in Arabic but I am afraid this did not come across at all in my English translation. It is a mixture of stories and exhortations on how to behave or live a good life. Many of the stories can be found in the Old Testament so there is a big cross over with Judaism and Christianity. There was a different feel to the Bible though. It felt much more rooted in Arab culture and tradition to me. It is repeated over and over that God is merciful and forgiving if you believe in Him. Unbelievers will be cast into hellfire. People who have led good lives will be rewarded with beautiful gardens with flowing streams, nectar to drink and beautiful maidens.

There is plenty of violence and warfare but no more than is found in the Bible. Some of the rules are different to Christianity, others very similar. Divorce seems much less of an issue in Islam and seems allowed as long as the women are provided for. The texts referring to women seem very rooted in the time and place in which the Koran was written so it was hard for me to relate it to the lives of modern women in Western society. There is discussion of being kind and forgiving to your wives but also rules on how you may beat them. There is an emphasis on daily prayer and recitation of the Koran and dietary rules.

Like all ancient texts the suras can be interpreted in a variety of ways. I saw little justification for the behaviour of extremist Muslim groups like ISIS. There are verses discussing Muslims living peacefully with other religions though also descriptions of wars with the pagans. Like many ancient texts the Koran can seem contradictory and confusing.

I finished with the impression that God is kind and merciful to those who believe in Him but cruel and vengeful towards those who don’t. There was plenty of information on how to live a good life which mostly concerned being honest and helping the poor. There was much spiritual wisdom here.

I didn’t feel moved or involved when I read the Koran in the way I sometimes do with parts of the Bible. It felt alien to me. I am aware this is to do with the cultural conditioning of the society in which I live. It was interesting to read but I don’t think it will make me convert to Islam. I shall continue to seek spiritually. I can see the appeal of the Koran to some and as a guide to life there is much good in it. I believe there are many ways to God and those who seek with honesty will find Him.