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Hearing the Qu’ran Introduction to the Liberal Arts Fall 2007 Professor Schell.

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Presentation on theme: "Hearing the Qu’ran Introduction to the Liberal Arts Fall 2007 Professor Schell."— Presentation transcript:

1 Hearing the Qu’ran Introduction to the Liberal Arts Fall 2007 Professor Schell

2 The sacred text of Islam The Koran (or Qur’an) Organized into 114 chapters, called suras. Written in Arabic; recited in Arabic. Meccan suras and Medinan suras Text is understood as offering “guidance for the world” or “a clear sign for those who can understand.” Recitation, or revelation, of what God plans to reveal to humanity

3 Approaching the Qur’an Michael Sells, Approaching the Quran: The Early Revelations. Ashland, OR: White Cloud Press, Dr. Michael Sells, Professor of Islamic History and Literature at University of Chicago Divinity School

4 “The word qur’an means ‘recitation.’ It was not designed for private perusal, but like most scriptures, it was meant to be read aloud, and the sound was an essential part of the sense… The Qur’an was deliberatively repetitive; its ideas, images, and stories were bound together by these internal echoes [themes, words, phrases, and sound patterns], which reinforced its central teaching with instructive shifts of emphasis” (Armstrong, Muhammad, 58-59).

5 Sell’s approach The Qur’an is fundamentally aural – a text that is heard Focuses on the early Meccan chapters –More theological and existential than political; speak to every human being –First passages learned by Muslim children –“imprinted” in the minds and hearts of Muslims – most often learned, memorized and recited (3). –Set the tone for the rest of the Qur’an in terms of message but also in terms of rhythm and imagery Emphasizes the “sound vision” of the Qur’an

6 Themes in the early chapters of the Qur’an Generous Hero ( karim ) Day of Reckoning Remembrance

7 Generous Hero (karim) Key to pre-Islamic Arabian tribal values Emphasis in the Qur’an on the virtue of generosity Importance of charity: the “hyberbolic display of generosity was transformed into a socially mandated offering for those in society who are in need”: –The orphan –The widow –Those lacking strong kin connections –The traveller God as the epitome of the “generous hero” – human generosity is therefore the only proper response of human beings in sharing what has been given to them by Allah (36).

8 Day of Reckoning Reckoning: related to terms for borrowing and payment of a debt, as well as terms for religion and faith. Emphasizes the idea of a “moment of truth” Time of judgment

9 Remembrance (dhikr) Based on idea of remembering the beloved in classical Arabic odes The Qur’an itself is a reminder to humankind “According to the Qur’an the human being is not born sinful, but forgetful, caught up in cycles of acquisition and competition that obscure matters of ultimate concern, matters represented and condenses in an ultimate way in the day of reckoning or moment of truth” (Sells, 40).

10 The call to prayer Begins with “Allahu Akbar” (God is most great) Related to the shahadah (the testimony of faith) Last line is drawn out – captures a sadness regarding the separation of humans from their source; “reminder of the separation is also a call to turn back to home” (151).

11 The Call to Prayer (Sunni version) Allahu akbar God is most great [4 times] Ashhadu an la ilaha illa llah I testify that there is no god but God [2 times] Ashhadu anna muhammadan rasulu llah I testify that Muhammad is the messenger of God [2 times] Hayy ala s-sala Come (alive) to the prayer [2 times] Hayy ala l-falah Come (alive) to flourishing [2 times] Allahu akbar God is most great [2 times] La ilaha illa llah (there is) no god but God [once] Mustafa Ozcan Gunesdogdu – represents the Turkish tradition of Qur’an recitation; has received international recognition and prizes. (Sunni Adhan)

12 The Opening (Fatiha) “Islamic equivalent of the Lord’s Prayer in Christianity” (43) Most recited of all Qur’anic chapters in everyday life Describes God as “lord of the worlds” and as “master of the day of reckoning” (43). Response is to turn toward God in worship and for refuge Mentions the image of the “straight path”

13 The Opening In the name of God, the compassionate, the Caring Praise be to God lord sustainer of the worlds The Compassionate the Caring master of the day of reckoning To you we turn to worship And to you we turn in time of need Guide along the straight path The road of those to whom you are giving Not those with anger upon them Not those who have lost the way. Bis smi llahi r-rahmani r-rahim Al-hamdu li llahi rabbi l-alamin Ir-rahmani r-rahim Maliki yawmi d-din iyaka na’budu wa iyaka nasta ‘in ihdina s-sirata l-mustaqim Sirata l-ladhina an’amta ‘alayhim Ghayri l-maghdubi ‘alayhim Wa la d-dalin Imam Bilal Hyde – Muslim chaplain in the California State Prison system and Imam for several orders in San Francisco.

14 Surah 101 The Calamity Qari’a : the calamity, striking or smiting (the day of reckoning) “Evokes the scales of justice in which human deeds are weighed” (113). Includes the strange term of hawiya – can mean “abyss” or “woman bereft of her child” Meaning, and sound, are mysterious, sad.

15 The Calamity In the Name of God the Compassionate the Caring The qari’a What is the qari’a What can tell you of the qari’a A day humankind are like moths scattered And mountains are like fluffs of wool Whoever’s scales weigh heavy His is a life that is pleasing Whoever’s scales weigh light His mother is hawiya What can tell you what she is Raging fire Muhammad Khalil al-Husari – master of murattal style of recitation.

16 Discussion points What effect does the sound of the Qur’an recited have on you? What would life be like if you heard these Qur’anic passages regularly? How does a translator make a decision about how to translate a term like hawiya (which can mean both abyss and bereft woman)?


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