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Publisher's Summary

The Koran has constituted a remarkably resilient core of identity and continuity for a religious tradition that is now in its 15th century. In this Very Short Introduction, Michael Cook provides a lucid and direct account of the significance of the Koran, both in the modern world and in that of traditional Islam.

He gives vivid accounts of its role in Muslim civilization, illustrates the diversity of interpretations championed by traditional and modern commentators, discusses the processes by which the book took shape, and compares it to other scriptures and classics of the historic cultures of Eurasia.

In a hurry? Listen to more Very Short Introductions.
©2000 Oxford University Press (P)2009 Audible, Inc.

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  • Darwin8u
  • Mesa, AZ, United States
  • 10-24-16

Surely a noble Koran in a hidden Book

"It is surely a noble Koran in a hidden Book - none but the purified touch it - a sending down from the Lord of all Being."
- Q56:77-80

I've been thinking of reading/listening to the Koran for a couple years now. I've read various Sura before, and have a fair working knowledge of the book, but have never approached it from beginning to end. Recently, with the publication of The Study Quran: A New Translation and Commentary, I'm close to taking the plunge. Because of the strong oral tradition of the Koran, however, I also wanted to listen to it. Listening to it in Arabic presents the obvious issue: I don't understand Arabic, so I found a good Modern English reading based on interpretations of the meaning by Dr Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din al-Hilali and Dr Muhammad Muhsin Khan. I've also got a version the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia sent me (I actually have an English AND Turkish translation) once when I wrote requesting it. This translation is fairly dominant in English and from what I've read has a fairly conservative, dare I say fundamentalist, bent to it. Again, I don't read Arabic so when I eventually approach the book I will ALWAYS be dependent on others for their scholarship, interpretation, and thus biases.

That is part of the reasons I wanted to read Cook's VSI to the Koran before I started reading the Koran itself. In broad strokes, I knew much of what he spoke about before, but his details were interesting. I was hoping for more of an overview of the text itself, but Cook's introduction mainly sets the table for reading the text by explaining (going backwards in time): The Koran in the Modern world, the Koran in the traditional Muslim world, and the formation of the Koran. The most interesting part to me was the middle section, which delved into the Koran in the tradition Muslim world. In this section he explored the Koran as codex, text, worship, truth, and object of dogma. That said, I also liked the first section's exploration of the idea of scripture (which extends, obviously beyond the Koran) and the dissemination, translation, and interpretation of the Koran.

So, in many ways this book didn't give me all of what I wanted, but it did give me much that I think I will need to read and better understand the Koran.

14 of 18 people found this review helpful

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Academic linguists might find something of value…

By now I have read quite a few non-fiction books about all kinds of different topics. Some authors (e.g., Sam Kean) write in an engaging style that captures the reader and takes them on a journey in which they are entertained and enlightened simultaneously. Other authors are not so good at the capturing part but still manages to provide enough insights to make the book worth your while. However, in some cases, the author offers neither – writing a tedious book that offers little insight, so that even if you do manage to stay awake and pay attention, the reward is small.

This book, unfortunately, belongs to this latter category. Since it is "A very short introduction" I was thinking that the book would describe what the Koran is about and perhaps also go into some of the controversies surrounding the text. Instead, the book almost exclusively discussed linguistics. Time and time again the author will, at length, consider how the meaning of a single word can get lost in translation from say Arabic to Egyptian and English, etc. Sure, this is probably fascinating if you are a linguist, but not if you are someone who wants to know more about the Koran. When reading this book, I did often drift away in my thoughts – which usually only happens when books are boring (yes, I blame the author). So, there is a possibility that somewhere in the book one might also find non-linguistic discussions.

If I could rename this book, I would call it “A short in-depth analysis of different possible meanings of words in the Koran”. This would have the double advantage of being a more accurate title and scaring potential reader away from reading it. If linguistics is your passion in life, then, by all means, read the book. If you want to learn about the Koran, find a different book!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Very helpful

This is, as promised, only a short introduction. Even so, it covers the major areas of the historic transmission of the Koranic texts which was what I was looking for.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Vidar
  • Sykkylven, Norway
  • 08-11-17

Too many details for a very short introduction

Too many technicalities and details. Tiresome book to listen too. Probably not suitable as a audio book, as much of the text is obviously illustrated in the written version.

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Unbiased introduction to Koran and a bit of Islam

Very practical and scholarly look at the Koran without bias. Helpful comparisons to other religious texts put it well into perspective historically and contextually. Very well written/read.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 01-21-18

A little beyond an introduction

Coming to this already having a good overview of Islamic theology and history I found this a helpful and interesting closer look at the Koran itself. It was beyond me in parts and quite technical and without having an existing overview would have found it hard to follow. His dry sarcastic humour was quite likeable although some m ay find it inappropriate. He seems to have a warmer attitude to Islam than to Christianity to which he from time to time draws comparisons and to which he seems quite happy to quote without nuance and takes certain theories of higher criticism as absolute facts. Beyond his introduction itself he gives plenty of quotation of sources with which someone could study further. Overall I would recommend this for people with at least some existing knowledge of the Koran

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Polina
  • 10-05-16

good book but the performance is lacking

through the whole book I felt like I was listening to an automated message. I really struggled to look past it