How to Read the Qur’an
[First Published in How to Read the Quran – Medium, 21.4.2017]
I will be writing and posting a series of blogs during Ramadan 2017 (AH 1438, expected date 26 May, in the evening) to encourage people to read it and, particularly, to help them not misread it. I will share my credentials briefly — I was Director of the Christian Muslim Forum for 9 years, before that I also spent 2 years on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Christian-Muslim Initiative. I have been treated as an ‘honorary Muslim’ for years and welcomed into all kinds of Muslim-only/majority spaces where I have sometimes been the only Christian present.
Yes, Muslims and Islam are extremely welcoming, something else for the reader to be aware of.
I have read the Qur’an many times since 2000, in a number of different translations. I have been a habitual reader of it, mostly reading it during Ramadan, like Muslims do. I know that I have read it more and am more familiar with it than a lot of Muslims, this is due to the emphasis on reading and reciting it in Arabic, amongst other phenomena. I have even had people attempting to ‘convert’ me when they have read less of the Qur’an in an accessible tongue than I have …
I don’t read Arabic however, though I can easily access friends and scholars who can help me with that and I hope to do so.
What really fires me up is Islamophobes and extremists who choose the most extreme, and wrong, readings of the Qur’an, when a proper reading of the Qur’an highlights that they are completely off the ‘straight path’ (see blog 1).
I do not seek permission for this series, we should never seek permission for engaging with Scripture.
I figure that if anyone is entitled to offer a positive take on the Qur’an then it is me (don’t expect a critique, that is not what I am seeking to do), even though I lack Arabic and ‘authority’. God does address this particular Book to all of us after all and says both gently and forcefully, ‘Read!’ (Surah 96 of the Qur’an) So, do read the blogs but also read the Book and follow things on Twitter using this hashtag
As with most of my inter faith initiatives this is a collaborative venture and I am happy to sit with anyone and read the Scripture between now and the end of Ramadan, especially those of you who know Arabic and are scholars of the text. Anyone is welcome, even haters of the Good Book, as this series is especially for you. You can get in touch with me via Twitter, see below.
I dedicate this series to these friends:
Fatimah Ashrif — open-hearted lover of God, fellow reader of diverse Scriptures.
Musharraf Hussain — imam, sharer in retreats and Qur’an translator (The Majestic Qur’an).
Ibrahim Mogra — who encouraged my heart towards peace, away from sectarianism and is a gentle and wise guide.
Ataullah Siddiqui — godfather of Muslim-Christian dialogue initiatives. Much loved and much missed, he died in November 2020. I don’t know if he ever saw any of How to Read the Qur’an but he was one of very few people who inspired me. ‘We belong to God and to God we shall return.’
Also check out this Quaker perspective Reading the Qur’an as a Quaker
Read the first Qur’an blog: Al-Fatiha, The Opening