Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Origin of Islam

Aramaic was once the lingua franca of a vast area of the ancient Middle East, similar to what English is today or Latin was in Europe in centuries ago. It has now given way to Arabic, but according to some researchers, Syriac or Syro-Aramaic was also the root of the Koran. When the Koran was composed, Arabic did not exist as a written language. Aramaic, however, was still widely used between the 4th and 7th centuries in Western Asia. Ibn Warraq estimates that up to 20% of the Koran is incomprehensible even to educated Arabs because parts of it was, in fact, originally written in another, though related, language before Muhammad was born.

The author of the most important book on the subject – a German professor of ancient Semitic and Arabic languages – prefers to write under the pseudonym Christoph Luxenberg. Not because of lawsuits of “racism,” but out of plain fear for Muslim violence. According to Luxenberg, the chapters or suras of the Koran usually ascribed to the Mecca period, which are also the most tolerant and non-violent ones as opposed to the much harsher and more violent chapters from Medina, are not “Islamic” at all, but Christian:

“In its origin, the Koran is a Syro-Aramaic liturgical book, with hymns and extracts from Scriptures which might have been used in sacred Christian services. […] Its socio-political sections, which are not especially related to the original Koran, were added later in Medina. At its beginning, the Koran was not conceived as the foundation of a new religion. It presupposes belief in the Scriptures, and thus functioned merely as an inroad into Arabic society.”

An interview with Luxenberg is here. A Jew, wondering what the problem was from the Moslem faith, converted for 3 years. He says the problem is not the Koran but a commentary, perhaps alluded to in the interview with Luxenberg. Recently half of the Christians in Iraq have left. They are Aramaic speakers. It would be of interest to have Iraqi refugees teach us Aramaic. I had originally brought brought this discusssion up in an earlier post which I had shifted to 'Draft' but am reposting.

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