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  #1  
Old Aug 20, '12, 10:03 am
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Default The Quran: based on Syriac Christian liturgy?

Islam claims Jesus was a Muslim. As such, the Quran makes claims about what Jesus said and did. However, we have to realize that Islam was born in an Arabia already awash in Syriac-speaking Christianity.

Regarding Christian practices as described in the Quran, there's a weird line of text in Sura 5 (the Feast) talking about what appears to be what Christians call the Last Supper.
Recall that the disciples said, "O Jesus, son of Mary, can your Lord send down to us a feast from the sky?" He said, "You should reverence God, if you are believers." They said, "we wish to eat from it, and to reassure our hearts, and to know for sure that you have told us the truth. We will serve as witnesses thereof." Said Jesus, the son of Mary, "Our god, our Lord, send down to us a feast from the sky. Let it bring plenty for each and every one of us, and a sign from You. Provide for us; You are the best Provider. God said, "I am sending it down. Anyone among you who disbelieves after this, I will punish him as I never punished anyone else."
(Sura 5/112-115)
This passage seems to be how the Quran explains the universal Christian practice of breaking bread in the Eucharist (attested by Pliny the Younger), reinterpreting it in a Muslim context that removed its importance in salvation. But that last line, the one I bolded, is extremely weird in the understanding of Muslims of the role of Jesus. It almost doesn't make sense. That after seeing the "feast from the sky" which the "Prophet Jesus" brought down to his followers, he warns them that anyone who disbelieves now faces punishment like never before? This is a very weird and theologically incongruous statement. It seems to reflect the centrality of the Eucharist in Christian practice, but makes no sense in the Muslim story of Salvation. Why would the Quran say that disbelief in Jesus would be so severely punished following his bringing a "feast from the sky?" A Muslim might just say that this was the greatest miracle that Jesus performed, but it doesn't make sense after all the healing they claim he did. Why would the "feast" be so central to the "prophet Jesus" message, and the Muslim eschatology in which he fits?

This has astonishing resonance with two Bible verses that are central to the Catholic understanding of the Eucharist: John 6 and 1 Corinthians 11.

John 6 is a story of Jesus over a two day period. It begins with Jesus feeding the 5000. In that story, Jesus asks the disciples where they can buy enough food to feed all the people. The disciples say that it would be futile to try to buy so much food, but Jesus persists, and Andrew tells him there is a boy with 5 barley loaves and some fish. Jesus divides the bread and there is enough for everyone to eat, plus enough left over to fill 12 wicker baskets. That evening, the Apostles cross the Sea of Galilee in a boat, and Jesus walks across to join them, meeting them walking on the water. The next day, the crowd Jesus had fed ("the 5000") see that Jesus is missing. They get in boats and cross the Sea of Galilee to find Jesus.

The other verse I want to contrast with Sura 5 is 1 Corinthians 11. In 11:28-30, Paul writes:
A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. 29For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30That is why many among you are ill and infirm, and a considerable number are dying.

With these two Bible verses in mind, I look at Sura 5 and I see almost direct parallel with John 6 and 1 Corinthians 11. To me, these are verses that are used in Eucharistic liturgy in Catholic services. The parallels between them are eerie and uncanny:

1. Sura 5:112-113 and John 6:30-32


Sura 5: 112-113
Recall that the disciples said, "O Jesus, son of Mary, can your Lord send down to us a feast from the sky?" He said, "You should reverence God, if you are believers." They said, "we wish to eat from it, and to reassure our hearts, and to know for sure that you have told us the truth. We will serve as witnesses thereof."

John 6: 30-32
So they said to him, “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do? 31 Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written:
'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

So Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

2. Sura 5: 114-115, John 6:49-53, 1 Corinthians 11:29-30


Sura 5: 114-115
Said Jesus, the son of Mary, "Our god, our Lord, send down to us a feast from the sky. Let it bring plenty for each and every one of us, and a sign from You. Provide for us; You are the best Provider. God said, "I am sending it down. Anyone among you who disbelieves after this, I will punish him as I never punished anyone else."

John 6: 49-53
49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; 50this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. 51I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

52The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?” 53Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.
1 Corinthians 11: 29-30
29For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30That is why many among you are ill and infirm, and a considerable number are dying.
For me, these verses strongly suggest that the Quran was based on an editing of Christian liturgical texts. The Biblical verses in John 6:53 and 1 Corinthians 11:29-30 put huge weight on the Eucharist. This is a common set of verses quoted in Catholic hymns we sing during the Eucharist, almost every week. Why would the Quran include a theological emphasis on belief in Jesus following the meal from heaven, with harsh punishment for disbelief, if the Eucharist itself plays no role in Islam other than the signifier of a miracle?

There is plenty of evidence that Christians were widespread in Arabia during Muhammad's time. They would have spoken Arabic, or a closely related language, Syriac. I've been to a Maronite Catholic Church that uses Syriac in the language of the Eucharistic liturgy... they claim it was the language spoken by Jesus (Syriac being a dialect of Aramaic). So to me, it's very likely that Christian liturgy in Syriac would have been performed in Arabia, and possibly even written copies of the liturgy.

In summary, based on my understanding of Christian history and Biblical exegesis, it seems very unlikely to me that the Quran's description of the life of Jesus and his role in Islamic eschatology is either factual or divinely-revealed. To accept the Quran and other Muslim accounts of Jesus being a Muslim, I would have to reject not just the Bible, but independent historical attestations, such as Pliny the Elder, plus much modern Biblical scholarship.

Most recently, I've heard of scholarship claiming that the Quran was based on a fusion of pre-Islamic Arabic and Syriac. The Syriac was present in In the most extreme rendition, Christoph Luxemberg's book, The Syro-Aramaic Reading of the Koran, claims that between Muhammad and "Uthman," one of the first to transcribe and redact the Quran there is a gap in understanding. Luxemberg appears to claim that the Quran was originally a mixture of Syriac and pre-Islamic Arabic, and that in writing the Quran in Arabic, a new version of Arabic writing was needed. Luxemberg seems to be saying that the whole of the Quran is based on Syriac Christian texts. In particular, he says that the word "Quran" is based on the Syriac word "qeryana", having the same core alphabet but different dots to distinguish among consonants and to denote vowels. In Syriac, "qeryana" means "lectionary," a book of worship used by Christians.

It seems that Luxemburg's book is viewed with controversy and skepticism, but it seems like scholars have taken his challenge pretty seriously. One review I found online summarized his work this way, which I think fairly takes his work as a challenge to be met:
This results in some astonishing readings, which appear plausible at times when elegant solutions are suggested for Qur’anic phrases that experts are unable to render with certitude, or startling at other times, for example when the heavenly virgins are banished from the Qur’an by the substitution of grapes as fruits of Paradise. Nevertheless, Luxenberg’s bewildering variety of minutely assembled text fragments as witnesses to an underlying decoded language of the Qur’anic text is a challenge for present-day scholarship to fathom the pre-Qur’anic roots from which Muhammad drew his inspiration before he began to proclaim the Qur’an at the age of forty.
Personally, I can't attest to the linguistic analysis made by scholars. However, my experience with the Syriac liturgy in a Maronite Church I visited gave me some sense that there might be truth in his story. As I described above, it seems to me like Sura 5: 112-115 is a modification of the liturgical Bible verses that Catholics use almost every Sunday.
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  #2  
Old Aug 20, '12, 10:22 am
Contarini Contarini is offline
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Default Re: The Quran: based on Syriac Christian liturgy?

It seems quite clear to me as well that the Qur'an's account of Jesus is based on Syriac Christian traditions and not on some independent, divinely revealed knowledge. I think one of the big issues in the future development of Islam is whether Muslims can make room for a more nuanced doctrine of divine inspiration that will make sense of the historical evidence pointing to the Qur'an as a seventh-century text with clear "human" elements.

A further, more radical claim, made by the pseudonymous author "Christoph von Luxemburg" (pseudonymous because of the personal danger incurred by those who engage in radical revisionist scholarship of the Qur'an), is that the Qur'an actually incorporates Syrian Christian material--that the original language for large sections of the Qur'an was Syriac and not classical Arabic. This claim is more dubious, but it needs to be openly debated, as radical claims about the Bible have been/are being.

Edwin
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Old Aug 20, '12, 10:41 am
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Default Re: The Quran: based on Syriac Christian liturgy?

http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=486859
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Old Aug 21, '12, 11:40 pm
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Default Re: The Quran: based on Syriac Christian liturgy?

Based on a Syriac Christian liturgy, no. Formed at least in part by the pre-existing Syriac culture and language, almost certainly yes. Long before Luxemburg, Arthur Jeffery traced many, many Syriac words in the text in his classic Foreign Vocabulary of the Qur'an (1938). Decades later, J. Spencer Trimingham published Christianity Among the Arabs in Pre-Islamic Times (1978), which, while not about the language of the Qur'an, did show that Christianity in Arabia depended heavily on the Syriac and Greek traditions surrounding them (including their languages; as I remember, Trimingham argues that part of the reason that Christianity did not penetrate into Arabia as completely as it did in the Fertile Crescent or Egypt is because a Christian literary tradition did not develop in Arabic until after the rise of Islam, unlike the case of the Syrians, Copts, etc).

You could say, however, that the Islamic liturgy was very directly shaped by the Syriac forms, as the Syriacs have their own maqamat (melodic modes) which correspond to the Arabian forms (as far as I can tell while not being a musicologist). You can hear them in this video. Their correspondence to the Arabic forms is discussed in the Wikipedia page on Syriac church music -- the Syriac names are given first, then corresponding Arabic name for the mode.

Just listening to the chant forms that developed in the two religions based around this common musical system, it's impossible not to hear the similarity (I'm not sure which modes these clips correspond to, though; I'm no musicologist):

A snippet of the Syriac Orthodox liturgy

Islamic chant
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Old Aug 29, '12, 4:27 pm
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Default Re: The Quran: based on Syriac Christian liturgy?

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Originally Posted by dzheremi View Post
Based on a Syriac Christian liturgy, no. Formed at least in part by the pre-existing Syriac culture and language, almost certainly yes. Long before Luxemburg, Arthur Jeffery traced many, many Syriac words in the text in his classic Foreign Vocabulary of the Qur'an (1938). Decades later, J. Spencer Trimingham published Christianity Among the Arabs in Pre-Islamic Times (1978), which, while not about the language of the Qur'an, did show that Christianity in Arabia depended heavily on the Syriac and Greek traditions surrounding them (including their languages; as I remember, Trimingham argues that part of the reason that Christianity did not penetrate into Arabia as completely as it did in the Fertile Crescent or Egypt is because a Christian literary tradition did not develop in Arabic until after the rise of Islam, unlike the case of the Syrians, Copts, etc).

You could say, however, that the Islamic liturgy was very directly shaped by the Syriac forms, as the Syriacs have their own maqamat (melodic modes) which correspond to the Arabian forms (as far as I can tell while not being a musicologist). You can hear them in this video. Their correspondence to the Arabic forms is discussed in the Wikipedia page on Syriac church music -- the Syriac names are given first, then corresponding Arabic name for the mode.

Just listening to the chant forms that developed in the two religions based around this common musical system, it's impossible not to hear the similarity (I'm not sure which modes these clips correspond to, though; I'm no musicologist):

A snippet of the Syriac Orthodox liturgy

Islamic chant
The YouTube link was awesome! Thank you so much!

In light of my earlier post, I recently found out about Garshuni, an early form of written Arabic employing the Syriac alphabet. If Garshuni was the original written form of Arabic, and there were written Christian liturgies in both Syriac and Garshuni, it would be very easy for mistranslated Syriac to form the basis of a theological system that got Christianity wrong!

On this same thrust, written Syriac has three forms, two of which feature as the names of groups of apostate followers of Christ in one of the Hadith considered valid by orthodox Sunni Muslims!
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Old Aug 29, '12, 5:30 pm
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Default Re: The Quran: based on Syriac Christian liturgy?

Asalaamu 'aleikum wa rahmatullah wa barukutah to everyone.

It must be understood that the Qur'an contains nothing which is an innovation or particularly new, but instead reiterates the truth of Allah whilst abolishing corrupt and man-made ideas about religion.

My personal opinion is that whilst elements of scriptural recitation probably did enter Islam from Syriac Christianity, the actual text is NOT based on anything other than revelation from God.

If you're going to make an argument for this, you'd need to account for the fact that Muhammad (saw) knew little of either Christian or Jewish theology. It would simply not be possible for the ummi (illiterate) Prophet (saw) to simply and magically come up with this amazingly complex text full of references to the Gospels and Torah and to complex elements of Jewish and Christian philosophy and theology.

And the Qur'an quite clearly states that it is a Qur'an in ARABIC and Arabic ONLY. There are some elements, such as the abbreviated letters, which remain unclear as to their meaning, but this is something which the believer is to accept without question, as ultimately our human understanding is limited and only He has true understanding.
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Old Aug 29, '12, 6:35 pm
dzheremi dzheremi is offline
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Default Re: The Quran: based on Syriac Christian liturgy?

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And the Qur'an quite clearly states that it is a Qur'an in ARABIC and Arabic ONLY.
The Qur'an may state many things, but this is factually incorrect. In reality, the Qur'an is full of non-Arabic words, dealing with both common and sacred topics. This has occasionally been admitted by even some of the early Arab-Muslim grammarians, interested as they were in the Arabic language and its development via the Qur'an. It is no longer popular within Islamic orthodoxy to admit such things, but reality remains as it is regardless. The Qur'an is by no means "pure" Arabic. The indices of Jeffery's 1938 classic "The Foreign Vocabulary of the Quran" run eleven pages, listing hundreds upon hundreds of words from Aramaic, Syriac, Ethiopic (Ge'ez), Greek, Pahlavi, South Arabian, Persian, etc.
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Old Aug 29, '12, 10:16 pm
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Default Re: The Quran: based on Syriac Christian liturgy?

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Originally Posted by Kouyate42 View Post
Asalaamu 'aleikum wa rahmatullah wa barukutah to everyone.
And peace be with you! Thank you for joining this thread!

Quote:
It must be understood that the Qur'an contains nothing which is an innovation or particularly new, but instead reiterates the truth of Allah whilst abolishing corrupt and man-made ideas about religion.
Rather than making assertions of faith, let's talk specifics of language.

Quote:
My personal opinion is that whilst elements of scriptural recitation probably did enter Islam from Syriac Christianity, the actual text is NOT based on anything other than revelation from God.
Did you look at my comparison from Sura 5? It seems very much to me that the incongruity of severe punishment being put upon any who didn't believe in Jesus after seeing his bringing a feast from the sky is best explained by the citation of the Eucharistic liturgy in a Christian church of the time. The Maronite Church is an example of a Christian church (in union with the Roman Catholic Church) making use of Syriac (in the consecration) and Arabic (in the rest of the Eucharistic liturgy). The Eucharistic liturgy in the Catholic Church uses Biblical verses that touch on just the same themes I discussed in my original post. It would seem very odd to me that the Quran would cite themes commonly found in Christian liturgy in its description of Jesus' actions on earth.

Quote:
If you're going to make an argument for this, you'd need to account for the fact that Muhammad (saw) knew little of either Christian or Jewish theology. It would simply not be possible for the ummi (illiterate) Prophet (saw) to simply and magically come up with this amazingly complex text full of references to the Gospels and Torah and to complex elements of Jewish and Christian philosophy and theology.
Yet, whether illiterate or not (a point of faith, as his life before the Quran seems shrouded in legend), Muhammad doubtless had interaction with many Christians and Jews as a merchant engaged in trade "between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea" (cited on Wikipedia). This was a location that sat between the "Eastern Roman" (Byzantine) Empire and the Sassanid Empire, traversed by Christians, Zoroastrians, Jews, and other ethnicities. A significant diaspora of Himyarite Christians had made its way throughout the Arabian peninsula following the disaster of the Marib Dam and the presence of the Church of the East to the north of Makkah and Arian Christians under the Ethiopian Negus to the south suggests that Christianity was well-suffused throughout Southwestern Asia.

Early Muslim historians like Tabari also recount the tale of Bahira, an Arian or Nestorian Christian monk who met Muhammad in his early life. A Church Father of the age, John of Damascus, speculated that Muhammad's preaching was based on such an encounter. While that story has been used probably more than is merited, its longevity suggests a feasibility to Muhammad's early exposure to Christianity.

Quote:
And the Qur'an quite clearly states that it is a Qur'an in ARABIC and Arabic ONLY. There are some elements, such as the abbreviated letters, which remain unclear as to their meaning, but this is something which the believer is to accept without question, as ultimately our human understanding is limited and only He has true understanding.
Yet this seems to be where Muslims paint themselves into a corner. There are numerous examples of words in the Quran that are hard to interpret if read as Arabic words, but if interpreted as Syriac words in context, make more sense. I take the following from this reference.

For example Sura 2/135 is here:

Read in Arabic, it says "Abraham the Ḥanif, and he was not one of the idolaters." This makes the same point twice in a row, because a Hanif is a purely-believing monotheist. But read in Syriac, it could read, "Abraham was a heathen but he was not one of the idolaters," which eliminates the redundancy in the sentence.

The name Jesus is closest in Hebrew to the Hebrew name Yeshua, Anglicized as Joshua, who led the Jewish people in the conquest of Canaan. Yet the Quran refers to Jesus as Isa, very close to Jesee, the father of King David. This can be explained by confusion in the reading of the Syriac name for Jesus, because of differences in pronunciation of the written language.

Sura 74/49-51 reads:




Reading verse 51 in the Arabic meaning:
Then what is [the matter] with them that they are, from the reminder, turning away
As if they were alarmed donkeys
Fleeing from a lion?

Reading verse 51 in the Syriac meaning:
Then what is [the matter] with them that they are, from the reminder, turning away
As if they were alarmed donkeys
Fleeing from a decrepit ***? (a, s, s -- the CAF robot censors the real word)

Of these two readings, the one with the Syriac interpretation makes more sense than the Arabic. An alarmed donkey should turn away from a lion (so there's nothing wrong with someone fleeting from danger). An alarmed donkey should not flee from a decrepit ***, which makes the verses makes sense.

These are some examples of what I've been reading. I can't claim to be a scholar of the Quran, but am someone who attended Maronite church services periodically for several years. That makes me curious about the scholarship here.

What really got me into this line of inquiry was a friend who asked me for a critical appraisal of Christianity and Islam as she was considering conversion to Islam.
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Old Aug 30, '12, 7:53 am
Contarini Contarini is offline
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Default Re: The Quran: based on Syriac Christian liturgy?

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Originally Posted by Kouyate42 View Post
Asalaamu 'aleikum wa rahmatullah wa barukutah to everyone.
The same to you!

Quote:

It must be understood that the Qur'an contains nothing which is an innovation or particularly new, but instead reiterates the truth of Allah whilst abolishing corrupt and man-made ideas about religion.

My personal opinion is that whilst elements of scriptural recitation probably did enter Islam from Syriac Christianity, the actual text is NOT based on anything other than revelation from God.
But this isn't really your "personal opinion"--at least not only that. It's a basic teaching of your faith, isn't it?

The problem, as I see it, is that there seems to be considerable evidence to the contrary. Christians do not have this problem to the same extent because most of us are quite willing to see the Bible as a divinely inspired text written by human beings and susceptible to the same kinds of historical analysis that one can apply to other texts.

Quote:
If you're going to make an argument for this, you'd need to account for the fact that Muhammad (saw) knew little of either Christian or Jewish theology.
But is that a fact? How can this be proven? How do we know, using normal historical methods, that this theme in Islamic tradition isn't simply a way of magnifying the divine character of Muhammad's message? It's not as if we have an account by a contemporary (hadith are not contemporary accounts but later collections of traditions that allegedly come down from Muhammad's time) bearing this out.

Quote:
It would simply not be possible for the ummi (illiterate) Prophet (saw) to simply and magically come up with this amazingly complex text full of references to the Gospels and Torah and to complex elements of Jewish and Christian philosophy and theology.
First of all, one can take in quite a lot through oral means, so if Muhammad were illiterate that doesn't prove your point. Secondly, I'm not convinced he was illiterate. Thirdly, to be frank the Qur'an's references to Christianity and the Bible often seem rather garbled and poorly informed. And finally, we don't actually know for sure that the Qur'an was written by/revealed to Muhammad in the form we have it. It could include older Syriac Christian materials as speculated by von Luxemburg. It could have been written in its final form considerably later, in Iraq, as speculated by other revisionist scholars.

These revisionist theories may turn out to be bunk. But at this point the conservatism of the Islamic world--and in particular the threat of violence that hangs over the heads of those who dare to publish such theories--makes an honest examination of such theories difficult.

Christianity has had to deal with this kind of challenging scholarship for a couple of centuries now. We often haven't dealt with it very well. Many Christians still prefer simply to dismiss anything that doesn't fit a pious framework--and in certain contexts that may even be appropriate. But if either Christians or Muslims want to present our respective religions as universally true, we have to be willing to "run the gauntlet" of rigorous scholarly analysis. Christianity has done this to a much greater extent than Islam, but Islam can't escape such analysis forever, given its global reach and its strong claims of authority.

Quote:
And the Qur'an quite clearly states that it is a Qur'an in ARABIC and Arabic ONLY. There are some elements, such as the abbreviated letters, which remain unclear as to their meaning, but this is something which the believer is to accept without question, as ultimately our human understanding is limited and only He has true understanding.
But again, if you expect people to accept Islam as true you need to deal with critical analysis and not simply appeal to faith, which obviously we non-Muslims do not already have (in Islam, that is) and are not going to embrace without good reasons.

Edwin
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Old Aug 30, '12, 2:29 pm
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Default Re: The Quran: based on Syriac Christian liturgy?

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Originally Posted by Contarini View Post
But this isn't really your "personal opinion"--at least not only that. It's a basic teaching of your faith, isn't it?
Problem with the issue of there being Syriac words in the Qur'an is pretty difficult but not totally impossible to discuss. It must be said that certainly for the likes of many authors, the contributions of Arabic-speaking scholars have been ignored in favour of a biased interpretation which relies heavily on Aramaic/Hebrew sources and NOT Arabic ones.

Secondly, Luxembourg in particular makes a critical error in his dissection of Arabic vowel points (the little dots above and below letters) and their comparison to the Syriac, which uses a similar system to denote not just different consonants, but also vowel values also.

Here's a good article on the matter: http://www.islamic-awareness.org/Qur...Mss/vowel.html

Quote:
But is that a fact? How can this be proven? How do we know, using normal historical methods, that this theme in Islamic tradition isn't simply a way of magnifying the divine character of Muhammad's message? It's not as if we have an account by a contemporary (hadith are not contemporary accounts but later collections of traditions that allegedly come down from Muhammad's time) bearing this out.
You have to understand the hadith collections we have today: the method by which they were collected, collated and critically examined was VERY strict. Bukhari, one hadith editor, took 100,000 hadith and threw out all but 3000.

The hadith rely on isnads (chains of transmission) and the science of hadith divides hadith into 4 categories:

Ṣaḥīḥ - transmitted through an unbroken chain of narrators all of whom are of sound character and memory. Such a hadith should not clash with a more reliable report and must not suffer from any other hidden defect.

Ḥasan - transmitted through an unbroken chain of narrators all of whom are of sound character but weak memory. This hadith should not clash with a more reliable report and must not suffer from any other hidden defect.

Ḍaʻīf - which cannot gain the status of hasan because it lacks one or more elements of a hasan hadith. (For example, if the narrator is not of sound memory and sound character, or if there is a hidden fault in the narrative or if the chain of narrators is broken).

Mawḍūʻ - fabricated and wrongly ascribed to Muhammad.

What Bukhari and others did was to study each person who had transmitted that hadith and the contents of the hadith, and even those hadiths which were flattering to Islam were thrown out if this chain suffered from any issues of reliability.

Quote:
First of all, one can take in quite a lot through oral means, so if Muhammad were illiterate that doesn't prove your point. Secondly, I'm not convinced he was illiterate. Thirdly, to be frank the Qur'an's references to Christianity and the Bible often seem rather garbled and poorly informed.
If Muhammad (saw) was truly literate, he made a good job of hiding it! Not to sound rude, but there is more than one hadith stating that Muhammad (saw), when he needed to write letters, would have a companion write it for him, and then have them read it back to him to ensure it was correctly written out.

There are also similar hadith where when reciting Qur'an verses, he would accidentally mess up the rhythm (tajwid) of the passage as he was unaware of poetic or literary structures.

It must also be said that if Muhammad (saw) HAD fabricated the Qur'an, he would have been struck dead by Allah Himself. The Qur'an makes frequent warnings to those who 'write the Book with their own hands and hold it to be the Word of Allah'. Why would Muhammad write something which had this sort of warning in it?

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But at this point the conservatism of the Islamic world--and in particular the threat of violence that hangs over the heads of those who dare to publish such theories--makes an honest examination of such theories difficult.
I would disagree. There is much open scholarly discussion of the Qur'an regarding matters such as this issue of Syriac loan words.

For me personally, the issue comes because the anti-Muslim groups among society try and push agendas in discussing things like this. More than often, their arguments are based on flawed logic. It's no different to Richard Dawkins' laughable understanding of Christian thinking.

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But again, if you expect people to accept Islam as true you need to deal with critical analysis and not simply appeal to faith, which obviously we non-Muslims do not already have (in Islam, that is) and are not going to embrace without good reasons.

Edwin
Islam doesn't want and doesn't NEED simple appeals to faith. In fact, reasoning and critical analysis are part of the Islamic faith and are praised in the Qur'an itself.
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  #11  
Old Aug 30, '12, 6:29 pm
dzheremi dzheremi is offline
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Default Re: The Quran: based on Syriac Christian liturgy?

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Originally Posted by Kouyate42 View Post
Problem with the issue of there being Syriac words in the Qur'an is pretty difficult but not totally impossible to discuss. It must be said that certainly for the likes of many authors, the contributions of Arabic-speaking scholars have been ignored in favour of a biased interpretation which relies heavily on Aramaic/Hebrew sources and NOT Arabic ones.
I have not read Luxembourg's book yet, but it should be said that Jeffery (who I have read, and referenced earlier) does not at all ignore the Arabic scholars. In fact, that is one of the main legs of his thesis, because it is by showing that earlier scholars (primarily Arab and Persian Muslims) did not shy away from recognizing foreign vocabulary in the Qur'an that he is able to contextualize his work within the wider history of scholarship on the Qur'an. So it's a little funny to see him listed in an article on those darned evil "orientalists" when he draws heavily on the earlier Arab grammarians. Were those grammarians also "orientalists" when recognizing the obvious foreign origin of some Qur'anic vocabulary, or is it that whoever comes up with a thesis that doesn't agree with modern Islamic orthodoxy is to be dismissed on that account, and calling them "orientalists" is a really easy way to do that?

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Secondly, Luxembourg in particular makes a critical error in his dissection of Arabic vowel points (the little dots above and below letters) and their comparison to the Syriac, which uses a similar system to denote not just different consonants, but also vowel values also.

Here's a good article on the matter: http://www.islamic-awareness.org/Qur...Mss/vowel.html
Luxembourg may or may not make some mistakes in his analysis (again, I have not read it), but, apart from that, the article you've linked is not very good. I don't even read Syriac and yet I know that there is a diacritic marking spirantization in Syriac (g > gh, t > th, etc.), so arguments like "there are only two letters in Syriac that even have dots, so Arabs couldn't have borrowed the 15 that they have from the Syrians" kind of don't work, as there are many more letters in Syriac that MAY have dots, depending (just like those in Arabic may vary, depending on the intended phonetic value of the letter-form). A minor point, perhaps, and I don't agree with the idea that the Arabs took their marks from the Syrians anyway, but missing something so basic makes me wonder if the authors even know the substance of what they're talking about.
  #12  
Old Aug 30, '12, 9:35 pm
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Default Re: The Quran: based on Syriac Christian liturgy?

Kouyate, can I ask why you need to refer to Hadiths? Since they came in the 8th and 9th century. Isn't this about the Quran? The Muslims belief that it IS the Word of God.

My request for you is to let the Quran be tested in and of itself.

You said this: Islam doesn't want and doesn't NEED simple appeals to faith. In fact, reasoning and critical analysis are part of the Islamic faith and are praised in the Qur'an itself.


Thus, the Quran should also be read and analyzed in the same way.

MJ
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  #13  
Old Aug 31, '12, 1:20 pm
lude0r lude0r is offline
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Default Re: The Quran: based on Syriac Christian liturgy?

Didn't arabic come from the previous languages..which I think were aramaic(syriac) and hebrew? And didn't the sorta beginings of arabic as we know it in the quran get formalized at the time of the quran's compilation? If so then its not all that impossible to see that the previous languages have crept into the quran in either positive or negative ways! So that the answer of whether the qurans' language structure is pure or not seems compelling to describe the quran as miraculous but indeed its not. As stated before there are some words etc that aren't even understandable in the quran and that shows in itself that it came from a source that is not arabic AKA another language. Case closed in my eyes. But the true question is where did it come from. But lets see one will say from god and one will say from man. As god demands that I use my reason..I choose to believe the quran came from man/men who had knowledge of thier surroundings and compiled the text per bump in the road.
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Old Aug 31, '12, 1:49 pm
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Default Re: The Quran: based on Syriac Christian liturgy?

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Originally Posted by lude0r View Post
Didn't arabic come from the previous languages..which I think were aramaic(syriac) and hebrew?
Not really. Or at least not any more than we can say that English came from Sanskrit just because Sanskrit is an older member of the same genetic family. Languages do have different relative time-depths (e.g., some languages are "younger" than others, and Arabic is younger than Aramaic and Hebrew), but that relates to their history in having split off from an assumed parent or proto-language at different points (via certain innovations away from the proto-form). This is why we can classify Arabic, Syriac, Hebrew (and many other languages like Phoenician, Gurage, Mehri, etc.) as belonging to the Semitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic family of languages (other, non-Semitic, members of this family include Coptic, Somali, Hausa, etc). But subsequent developments matter quite a lot. We don't generally say English came from Sanskrit because it has a radically different (though still ultimately genetically related, just at a deeper level/further in the past) immediate parent, i.e., proto-Germanic, being one development along the same line that also led to Modern German, the Scandinavian languages, Dutch, Freisch, etc.

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And didn't the sorta beginings of arabic as we know it in the quran get formalized at the time of the quran's compilation?
Well, what's "Arabic as we know it"? Modern Standard Arabic? Qur'anic Arabic? Pre-Classical/Old Arabic/"North Arabian"? Certainly Qur'anic Arabic is based upon the language of the Qur'an, and MSA is in some sense an update and simplification of that (cf. Modern Israeli Hebrew's relationship to Biblical Hebrew), but the other dialects...they have their own histories. Talk with a Qatari and then with a Beggara (Chadian) Arab and you'll quite literally hear what I mean. Arabic is in some ways comparable to "Chinese" in that it is treated as a macro-language on an official level because all varieties use the same script, but there is much debate as to whether or not it forms a cohesive unit beyond that, at the local level (e.g., while speakers of all dialects generally recognize other speakers as speaking "Arabic", it is not always intelligible from one place to another).
  #15  
Old Aug 31, '12, 2:41 pm
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Default Re: The Quran: based on Syriac Christian liturgy?

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Originally Posted by MartinJordan View Post
Kouyate, can I ask why you need to refer to Hadiths? Since they came in the 8th and 9th century. Isn't this about the Quran? The Muslims belief that it IS the Word of God.

My request for you is to let the Quran be tested in and of itself.

You said this: Islam doesn't want and doesn't NEED simple appeals to faith. In fact, reasoning and critical analysis are part of the Islamic faith and are praised in the Qur'an itself.


Thus, the Quran should also be read and analyzed in the same way.

MJ
That's kinda like asking a Catholic to discuss the Bible without talking of Holy Traditions and the teachings of the Magisterium. The Qur'an and the hadith go hand in hand, and whilst the science of hadith and the hadith collections we have today were collected and developed in the 9th century, the hadith themselves are from the time of the Prophet (saw), as evidenced by their chains of transmission and historical referencing. Any orthodox Muslim will refer to the hadith in their studies of Islam, and would likely argue (as I believe) that the Qur'an actually NEEDS the hadith, as there is much detail of basic Muslim beliefs and practices which is fully explained by hadith, but is only briefly and vaguely mentioned in the Qur'an itself. This includes many very important aspects of Muslim life, from how the salah should be prayed to explanations of Qur'anic verses the early Muslims found difficult and so asked the Holy Prophet (saw) to explain.
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