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Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Warm Welcome - Discovering the Qu'ran

It looks like I will learn about Qu'ran much more than I expected. I have to thank Professor Devin Stewart from the Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies and Emory University for the wonderful 6-session series offered every week from September 8 (today) to October 13. Each week the class will meet for two hours to study "The Qu'ran and Cristian Texts". I know that Professor Stewart is a true expert on Middle Eastern texts, speaks Arabic fluently, and is a wonderful story-teller because I attended a book-study group on "A Thousand and One Nights" with him last Spring. Here is a link to his web-site, where you can find his Bio.
First I would like to start with a short introduction. I missed the first class today, because I was busy preparing for a meeting tomorrow. I was surprised to see that Professor Stewart has sent me an email at 10.00 pm after the class saying that they missed me at the lecture and providing a reminder for the next one. This was very unexpected. I asked for a syllabus, and was even more surprised to see a response offering a free copy of the Qu'ran. Then I understood that I WILL learn about the Qu'ran. There may be discrepancies between what we plan and what happens in reality, but not in this case. My firm resolution that I will attend every remaining class solidified even further after looking at the syllabus. It had 7 assignments!!! I love assignments where you have an opportunity to think about what you learn and express your thoughts on paper. I am happy!!! And I will have something to write about here. As I discover the sacred book of Islam through reading it, thinking about it, working on the assignments and listening to Professor Stewart, I will share my experiences with you.
To give a brief preview, the course is going to be based on the edition of the Qu'ran translated by Marmaduke William Pickthall, which is available at for only 7.95. Other texts will be provided too. From the syllabus, I learned that the Christian texts are going to be used "to throw light on particular aspects of the Qur'an". The following topics will be covered:
  • The Qur'anic theory of prophecy
  • The relationship of the Qur'an to Jewish and Christian scripture and religious tradition
  • The process of composition and transmission of the Qur'an
  • The Qur'anic portrayal of Jesus
The first class, which I missed today, was about the introduction of the Quran and the prophecy in Qu'ran. Then Surah 54 was discussed and questions in assignments 1 and 2 were answered based on the readings from the Qu'ran. I'm excited to start doing this assignments tomorrow after I get a copy of the Qu'ran.
For those who want to follow and do the same I will post the assignments and reading below.

Assignment #1: Read Surah 27, "The Ant." Then answer the following questions. In
general, for these short assignments, I will try to judge your work on effort, so do not hold
back or be afraid of guessing or making outlandish claims. **Do, however, support the
claims you make by giving SPECIFIC EXAMPLES from the text.** Write in formal style
and use correct grammar, punctuation, diction, and so on. Please type or write clearly, and
staple the pages together.
1. Why is the Surah called "The Ant"?
2. How does the Surah begin?
3. How does the Surah end?
4. Does the Surah proceed chronologically?
5. Do we know anything about the date when it was revealed?
6. Who is speaking?
7. What characters or figures does the Surah mention?
8. How does the language of the translation strike you?
9. What are the topics treated in the Surah?
10. Can you divide the Surah into sections by content or theme? Outline the Surah.
11. Does the Surah have a central theme?
12. From your reading of this Surah, identify five important questions for further
investigation in the course of reading the rest of the Qur'an.

Assignment #2: The Prophetic pattern.
Read Surahs 11, 29, 37, 54.
1. Make a detailed outline of Surah 54, giving specific verse numbers.
2. How did you determine when one section ended and another began? Give examples.
3. How are the middle sections in the outline related to each other? Explain in detail.
4. How is the introductory section related to the middle sections? Explain in detail.
5. How is the final section related to the middle sections?
       Let's work on them together!!!

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