The Central Message of the Koran: 16 September

Is burning paper a violent act which justifies people responding with murderous violence? Only, apparently, when the paper has the Koran printed on it, and the speaker is a weasally UN official keen to justify those who murdered his colleagues. We should be saying more clearly ‘Killing people because someone has burned paper with words that are important to you is criminal over-reaction.’

Not that burning the Koran is a good thing. I would not want anyone publicly to burn the Bible, so I will not publicly burn any other holy book. It is not good to aggravate even the nastiest criminals. Burning the Koran is too much like retaliation for Moslem extremists burning the Stars and Stripes. Even this non-violent retaliation is against the teaching of Jesus.

John Simpson, whose books I am reading, describes in detail the burning of the Stars and Stripes in Peshawar shortly after 9/11 when theUSwas planning revenge on and inAfghanistan,  at which he was present. These pictures were shown repeatedly as evidence that ‘Moslems’ were ‘against Americans’ and other Westerners. Simpson is clear that extremist religious leaders orchestrated and fuelled the burning, with the crowd going along but not sharing the hatred. This was not a spontaneous crowd but the congregation from one mosque which had been whipped up into fervour. There was no hostility at all to the Western news crews. It was a piece of theatre which should not have been taken so seriously.

Rather than burn the Koran we should publicise it.

Surah 1 is a short prayer of praise and request for guidance, contrasting those who worship Allah and those who ‘go astray’ and earn Allah’s anger.

Surahs 2 and 3 are the longest in the Koran. The order was copied from the Old Testament where the longest book of a prophet, Isaiah, comes first, the second longest, Jeremiah, next, and so on. Both 2 and 3 were written inMedina, later than those written inMecca, and therefore more authoritative. My official Moslem introduction says that Surah 2 ‘might be described as the Koran in little. It contains mention of all the essential points of the Revelation, which are elaborated elsewhere.’

The overall message of Surah 2, and so of the whole Koran, echoed also in Surah 3, is simple: Believe in Allah or go to Hell!

‘As for the disbelievers, whether thou warn them or thou warn them not, it all one for them; they believe not.

Allah hath sealed their hearing and their hearts, and on their eyes there is a covering. Theirs will be an awful doom.’  (2:6.7)

… The curse of Allah is on disbelievers.

… They have incurred anger upon anger. For disbelievers is a shameful doom.  (2:89,90)

‘Lo! Those who disbelieve, and die the while they are disbelievers, on them is the curse of Allah and of angles and men combined.

They ever dwell therein. The doom will not be lightened for them, neither will they be reprieved.’  (2:161,162)

… Lo! those who disbelieve the revelations of Allah, their will be a heavy doom…  (3:4)

(On that day) neither the riches nor the progeny of those who disbelieve will aught avail them with Allah. They will be fuel for Fire.  (3:10)

 Lo! The riches and the progeny of those who disbelieve will not avail them augfht against Allah and such are the rightful owners of the fire. They will abide therein. (3:116) 

Let not the vicissitude (of the success) of those who disbelieve, in the land, deceive thee (O Mohammed)

It is but a brief comfort. And afterward their habitation will be Hell, an ill abode.  (3:196,197)

“Muhammad had nothing to say to the world other than, ‘If you don’t believe in God you will burn for ever.’ ” So wrote Sebastian Faulks. “With the Koran there are no stories. And it has no ethical dimension like the New Testament, no new plan for life. It says ‘the Jews and the Christians were along the right tracks, but actually, they were wrong and I’m right, and if you don’t believe me, tough — you’ll burn for ever.’ That’s basically the message of the book.”

More detail on Surahs 2 and 3 to follow.

Roger Harper


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