A very interesting article in Asia Times about 60-year-old documents, hidden away for all that time, that could shake Islam to its core. If it can be proved that the Koran’s origins are not what is claimed, it would be monumental. First, some background on why it would be so.

No one is going to produce proof that Jesus Christ did not rise from the grave three days after the Crucifixion, of course. Humankind will choose to believe or not that God revealed Himself in this fashion. But Islam stands at risk of a Da Vinci Code effect, for in Islam, God’s self-revelation took the form not of the Exodus, nor the revelation at Mount Sinai, nor the Resurrection, but rather a book, namely the Koran. The Encyclopaedia of Islam (1982) observes, “The closest analogue in Christian belief to the role of the Koran in Muslim belief is not the Bible, but Christ.” The Koran alone is the revelatory event in Islam.

The Koran is Islam. The question then is…

What if scholars can prove beyond reasonable doubt that the Koran was not dictated by the Archangel Gabriel to the Prophet Mohammad during the 7th century, but rather was redacted by later writers drawing on a variety of extant Christian and Jewish sources? That would be the precise equivalent of proving that the Jesus Christ of the Gospels really was a composite of several individuals, some of whom lived a century or two apart.

The documents in question, hidden by the Nazis, and who’s photographs are now in a Berlin vault, do exist. That’s apparently not in question.

It has long been known that variant copies of the Koran exist, including some found in 1972 in a paper grave at Sa’na in Yemen, the subject of a cover story in the January 1999 Atlantic Monthly. Before the Yemeni authorities shut the door to Western scholars, two German academics, Gerhard R Puin and H C Graf von Bothmer, made 35,000 microfilm copies, which remain at the University of the Saarland. Many scholars believe that the German archive, which includes photocopies of manuscripts as old as 700 AD, will provide more evidence of variation in the Koran.

The question is, do they damage the Koran’s authenticity or claim of origin? That’s a question that may not be answered soon, as access to the photographs is being heavily restricted. And then there’s always the reluctance on the part of Muslims.

Apart from the little group at the University of the Saarland and a handful of others, though, the Western Academy is loathe to go near the issue. In the United States, where Arab and Islamic Studies rely on funding from the Gulf States, an interest in Koranic criticism is a failsafe way to commit career suicide.

And perhaps, not just their career, either.

[tags]Islam,Koran,DaVinci Code,Mohammad,Berlin,Yemen,Gerhard Puin,H C Graf von Bothmer,University of the Saarland[/tags]

Filed under: DougIslamReligion

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