Few books have had a more profound impact on human history than the Qur'an. It shapes the beliefs, lives and behaviour of over 1.5 billion Muslims, who regard it as the Word of God, revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. Speaking directly to Muslims, it has been the basic source of law, morality and politics for over 1,400 years. Almost everything that happens in a Muslim society is a direct or indirect product of what the Qur'an says. But what does the Qur'an really say? How should it be read and interpreted? What is the significance of its teachings, if any, for the 21st century? In this enlightening and highly readable book, Ziauddin Sardar, one of the foremost Muslim intellectuals of our time, offers a refreshingly new interpretation of the Qur'an. Emphasising plurality and inclusiveness, Sardar demonstrates the importance of reading the verses of the Qur'an in the context in which they were revealed, and highlights the relevance of its teachings for today. Sardar reads the Qur'an from several perspectives. He begins with the traditional, verse-by-verse interpretations and subsequently shows how the multilayered verses and stories of the Sacred Text are open to a number of different and more enlightening interpretations. He also reads the Quran thematically, exploring its basic concepts and themes, painting a dynamic picture of the kind of society that the Qur'an aims to create. Also scrutinised is what the Qur'an says about such contemporary topics as power and politics, the rights of women, suicide, domestic violence, sex, homosexuality, the veil, freedom of expression and evolution. Throughout, Sardar uses several different methods, from traditional exegesis to hermeneutics, critical theory and cultural analysis to draw fresh and contemporary lessons from the Sacred Text. He shows what the Qur'an means to individuals like himself, why its interpretation has been so controversial throughout history, and how translations can be used to promote misunderstanding as well as enlightenment. Argumentative and lively, Reading the Qur'an is an insightful guide to understanding the Sacred Text of Muslims in these conflict-ridden and distressing times. Whatever one believes or does not believe, the central importance of the Qur'an in today's globalised world cannot be ignored.
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