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The main thing I learned from reading the Qur’an is that I cannot really understand Islamic beliefs that way. I’ll have to find other sources on the extensive interpretive traditions. The quotes here represent only a few ideas that happened to catch my eye.

I regret to say that much of it seems to be highly repetitious rants to keep followers in line, larded with promises of Paradise for them and eternal torment for everyone else. Most of the illustrative stories are drawn from the Old Testament and from apocryphal Christian sources.

There are some good story elaborations. Among the best are those of Solomon and the Queen of Saba (27:16-44) and of Solomon’s death (34:12-14).

the Qur’an

attributed to the Prophet Mohammed
Translation: Tahrike Tarsile Qur’an, Inc., adapted from a translation by Abdullah Yusuf Ali


And they say; “None shall enter Paradise unless he be a Jew or a Christian.” Those are their (vain) desires. Say: “Produce your proof if you are truthful.”

Nay, – whoever submits his whole self to Allah and is a doer of good, – he will get his reward with his Lord; on such shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.


Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah does not love transgressors.

And slay them wherever you catch them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out; for tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter; but do not fight them at the Sacred Mosque, unless they (first) fight you there; but if they fight you, slay them. Such is the reward of those who suppress faith.

But if they cease, Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.

And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in Allah; but if they cease, let there be no hostility except to those who practice oppression.


Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects Evil and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And Allah hears and knows all things.


Among the People of the Book are some who, if entrusted with a hoard of gold, will (readily) pay it back; others, who, if entrusted with a single silver coin, will not repay it unless you constantly stood demanding, because, they say, “there is no call on us (to keep faith) with these ignorant (Pagans).” But they tell a lie against Allah, and (well) they know it.

Nay – Those that keep their plighted faith and act aright, – verily Allah loves those who act aright.


Soon shall We cast terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers, for that they joined companions with Allah, for which He had sent no authority: their abode will be the Fire: and evil is the home of the wrong-doers!


Fight those who do not believe in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the Religion of Truth, (except if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with a willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.

The Jews call ’Uzair a son of Allah, and the Christians call Christ the Son of Allah. That is a saying from their mouth; (in this) they but imitate what the Unbelievers of old used to say. Allah’s curse be on them: how they are deluded away from the Truth!


If We give man a taste of Mercy from Ourselves, and then withdraw it from him, behold! he is in despair and (falls into) blasphemy.

But if We give him a taste of (Our) favors after adversity has touched him, he is sure to say, “All evil has departed from me:” behold! he falls into exultation and pride.




And to Allah leads straight the Way, but there are ways that turn aside: if Allah had willed, He could have guided all of you.


Free will


He said, “Nay, your Lord is the Lord of the heavens and the earth, He Who created them (from nothing): and I am a witness to this (truth).”


The Believers must (eventually) win through, –

Those who humble themselves in their prayers;

Who avoid vain talk;

Who are active in deeds of charity;

Who abstain from sex,

Except with those joined to them in the marriage bond, or (the captives) whom their right hands possess, – for (in their case) they are free from blame,

But those whose desires exceed those limits are transgressors; –

Those who faithfully observe their trusts and their covenants;

And who (strictly) guard their prayers; –

These will be the heirs,

Who will inherit Paradise: they will dwell therein (for ever).


And you do not dispute with the People of the Book, except with means better (than mere disputation), unless it be with those of them who inflict wrong (and injury): but say, “We believe in the Revelation which has come down to us and in that which came down to you; our God (Allah) and your God (Allah) is One; and it is to Him We bow (in Islam).”


To Allah belong all things in heaven and earth; verily Allah is He (that is) free of all wants, worthy of all praise.

And if all the trees on earth were pens and the ocean (were ink), with seven oceans behind it to add to its (supply), yet the Words of Allah would not be exhausted (in the writing): for Allah is Exalted in power, full of Wisdom.


The recompense for an injury is an injury equal thereto (in degree): but if a person forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is due from Allah: for (Allah) does not love those who do wrong.

But indeed if any do help and defend themselves after a wrong (done) to them, against such there is no cause of blame.

The blame is only against those who oppress men with wrongdoing and insolently transgress beyond bounds through the land, defying right and justice: for such there will be a penalty grievous.

But indeed if any show patience and forgive, that would truly be an exercise of courageous will and resolution in the conduct of affairs.


And what will explain to you the path that is steep? –

(It is:) freeing the bondman;

Or the giving of food in a day of privation

To the orphan with claims of relationship,

Or to the indigent (down) in the dust.

Then he will be of those who believe, and enjoin patience, (constancy, and self-restraint), and enjoin deeds of kindness and compassion.


And they have been commanded no more than this: to worship Allah, offering Him sincere devotion, being True (in faith); to establish regular Prayer; and to practise regular Charity; and that is the Religion Right and Straight.



text checked (see note) Dec 2009

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