Phi Beta Cons

Risky ‘Quarrying’ of a Quranic Archive

Believed for 50 years to have been destroyed, an extensive photo archive of ancient manuscripts of the Quran, assembled in Germany to study the evolution of the text, has in fact survived. But reviving this research is proving to be “sensitive”:

Academic quarrying of the Quran has produced bold theories, bitter feuds and even claims of an Islamic Reformation in the making. Applying Western critical methods to Islam’s holiest text is a sensitive test of the Muslim community’s readiness to both accommodate and absorb thinking outside its own traditions…

Experts nonetheless tend to tread warily, mindful of fury directed in recent years at people deemed to have blasphemed Islam’s founding document and the Prophet Muhammad.
A scholar in northern Germany writes under [a] pseudonym … because, he says, his controversial views on the Quran risk provoking Muslims. He claims that chunks of it were written not in Arabic but in another ancient language, Syriac. The “virgins” promised by the Quran to Islamic martyrs, he asserts, are in fact only “grapes.” (Andrew Higgins, “The Lost Archive,” The Wall Street Journal, January 12-13)

Candace de Russy is a nationally recognized expert on education and cultural issues.

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