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The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Koran [Paperback]

Muhammad Shaykh Sarwar , Brandon Toropov
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 7 2003 The Complete Idiot's Guide
Taking the same approach as the bestselling The Complete Idiot's Guide™ to the Bible, this book presents a balanced overview of the Koran, explaining not only the "flow" of the Koran, but also what it has to say about Allah and humanity, virtue, justice, life on earth, the afterlife, women, love, unbelievers, faith, and tradition.

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About the Author

Sheikh Muhammad Sarwar published The Holy Qur’an: The Arabic Text and English Translation in 1981. He is affiliated with the Islamic Institute of New York, where he teaches and is a specialist in Islamic theology and philosophy.

Brandon Toropov is a Boston-based writer who has written a variety of non-fiction titles including The I Ching for Beginners and The Art and Skill of Dealing with People. He has appeared on more than 100 local and national broadcast programs. He is the author of several Complete Idiot’s Guides on religious topics.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
These words are a transliteration of the Arabic phrase that opens the first chapter, or Sura, of the Koran-and all but one of the remaining 113 Suras as well. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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5.0 out of 5 stars Easy to Read March 23 2004
By A Customer
It is much as Moses taking the name of God in vain by the very act of writing 'His' ten commandments. Another discourse on how to do what it is impossible for a human being not to do ("the will of God"). The Koran seems (I have not read the Koran, but only the first nine and a half chapters of this book for idiots-I'm still reading) poetic. It seems at once to have better and worse expressions of God than does the Bible (to be totally inclusive and totally exclusive, both at the same time; a man's desire).
The Iliad is the best paradigm concerning God that has ever been written, and then even in Odysseus it seems that we find the creeping in of such phrases as "whether it be the will of God, or some man's will...."
Old Testament-The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.
New Testament-Do not take for doctrine the commandments of men.
God cannot be objectified. Allahu Akbar. Assalamu Alaikum.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent! I learned a lot--and I'm a Muslim. Dec 19 2003
I had previously been impressed by Yahiya Emerick's "Complete Idiot's Guide (CIG) to Understanding Islam," so when I saw the CIG for the Qur'an, I had to pick it up. Like all CIGs, it's an easy read. You'll find yourself browsing through the book many times--seeing what catches your eye, as well as reading it all the way through. I'd recommend this book for all--both Muslims and non-Muslims alike. I think pretty much anybody will learn something from going through it. It would also be a great dawa tool, along with the CIG to Understanding Islam.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 2.8 out of 5 stars  16 reviews
56 of 78 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A True Believer's Guide to the Koran Aug. 18 2006
By F. Rosenzweig Lives - Published on
After 9/11, many Americans became interested in Islam. Thinking that the "Islamic Bible" -- the Koran -- is a work of religious and spiritual enlightenment cognate to the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, many are curious about exactly what it says. Unfortunately, there are significant hurdles for Westerners who attempt to tackle the Koran itself. Reading the Koran cold is like walking in on two strangers in the middle of a conversation about a subject you know next to nothing about. The Koran is considered dense, recondite, confusing, boring and downright weird by most non-Muslim readers delving into it without a great deal of background information and context.

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Koran is not about the Koran per se; it is about Islam. It is impossible to fairly summarize or explain the Koran as a freestanding work to a Western reader without referencing two other sacred texts of Islam: the Hadiths ("Haditha" is Arabic), which are canonical compendiums of the traditions and sayings of Mohammed, and the Sira, which are "official" biographies of Mohammed. That is why most of this CIG book is actually not about the Koran per se, but about the Hadith and Sira. That is problem number one.

Problem number two is that this CIG book is basically written as a lowbrow polemic positing the superiority of Islam over the other Abrahamic (and world) religions. Most Moslems believe that the Koran is a copy of Allah's exact words transmitted to Mohammed via the Angel Gabriel. Unlike mainstream Christians, who believe that the Holy Bible is the inspired word of God, most Muslims believe that the Koran is a verbatim copy of "heavenly tablets" (a la the Ten Commandments) directly written by Allah himself and dictated to Mohammed -- hence "koran" means "recitation" in Arabic.

All of the foregoing is presented as self-evident Truth by the authors, who even go into a disputational textual analysis of the New Testament to prove that it is a "corrupted" text (a Koranic precept). The co-author, Brandon Toropov, a recent Muslim convert from Christianity, has a website that makes the same attacks on the New Testament. Don't get me wrong, I have no problem deconstructing the sacred texts of any religion. In fact, I'm all for it. My beef here is that the authors use the linguistic, historical and other scholarly tools of biblical higher criticism against the New Testament, but when it comes to the Koran, all such inquiry is strictly verboten and beyond the pale. This is the same inverted Islamic logic that allows the leaders and clerics of Saudi Arabia, for example, to defend their "right" to ban all infidel religions and influences, houses of worship, Bibles, crosses, etc., from Arabian territory, while demanding Americans and Europeans (also known as "Crusaders") never question any religious dogma re the Koran or Mohammed.

Scholars of the Koran who attempt to objectively analyze the Koran as literature routinely face death fatwas (death warrants from religious authorities). That is why the few non-Islamic scholars in the field have to use pseudonyms. The authors of this CIG volume do not provide the lay reader one iota of academic non-religious perspective in their summary of the Islamic holy book. Hence, this book really is pure da'wa, a tool of non-violent proselitization (there are two ways to spread Islam, one is Jihad, via warfare, the other is by word-of-mouth persuasion, da'wa). Thus, in the final analysis, I would probably recommend -- with a few notable reservations -- this work as a textbook for junior high-level pupils at English-speaking Sunni-Islamic religious schools.

This book does not deal at all with many all-important issues, such as the 1400-year-old Sunni-Shi'a sectarian divide. This CIG book was written by two normative-Islamic Sunnis, from a purely Sunni perspective. Would it be fair to non-Christian readers to have a CIG introductory book on the Old Testament written by two Catholic clerics with an analysis lifted whole from their catechism? That, in effect, is what the authors have done here.

When the authors deal with hot-button issues, such as women's rights (basically -- by contemporary Western standards -- females are second-class subjects by divine fiat) or the rights of apostates (none whatsoever), the authors' points and arguments devolve into pure twaddle. For example, under normative Shari'a (Islamic law, based on the Koran and Hadiths) penal law, an apostate must be put to death. Thus, it is perfectly okay to convert to Islam, but one leaves Islam on pain of death, as was recently illustrated in Afganistan. How do the authors justify this? They have the chutzpah to compare apostasy from Islam to being a traitor to one's country, a crime worthy of capital punishment even in the U.S.! In other words, even the authors admit in so many words that they do not consider Islam a religion of personal conscience, as almost all non-Muslims -- whether Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, animists, pagans, polytheists, atheists, panthiests, or agnosic (in other words, everyone but Muslims) -- nowadays beleive.

As to women's rights, the Wikipedia entry under "Stoning" notes that the criminal law statutes of Iran, which are in turn totally based on the Shari'a, prescribe the exact size of stones to be thrown at adultresses during lapidation (death by stoning) -- they can't be too big, because the condemned sex-criminal will die too quickly, and they can't be too small, because death may take too long.

Yup, the devil is in the details of Koranic-Shari'a law, details completely airbrushed out from the Complete Idiot's Guide to the Koran.

************* N O T E **************
If you want more than pabalum, more than sugar-coated Islamic propaganda, order A Simple Koran: Readable and Understandable, recently published by the Center for the Study of Islam (CSPI), WHICH CONTAINS EVERY WORD OF THE KORAN, translated into modern, middlebrow/"newspaper" English, along with a reader-friendly chronological ordering of the chapters, context provided by commentary, and references to the Hadiths and Sira to give meaning and perspective to the Koranic text. Alternatively, An Abridged Koran: Readable and Understandable, by CSPI, is likewise available from
37 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent! I learned a lot--and I'm a Muslim. Dec 19 2003
By Mayflower Girl - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I had previously been impressed by Yahiya Emerick's "Complete Idiot's Guide (CIG) to Understanding Islam," so when I saw the CIG for the Qur'an, I had to pick it up. Like all CIGs, it's an easy read. You'll find yourself browsing through the book many times--seeing what catches your eye, as well as reading it all the way through. I'd recommend this book for all--both Muslims and non-Muslims alike. I think pretty much anybody will learn something from going through it. It would also be a great dawa tool, along with the CIG to Understanding Islam.
12 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Informative, but slanted Dec 11 2006
By Allen Vander Meulen - Published on
The back cover claims "this book presents a balanced overview of the Koran". So, I purchased "The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Koran " expecting to get a reasonably clear and balanced discussion of the basic beliefs and tenets of Islam, and thereby a better knowledge of the differences between Islam and the other great monotheistic relgions and their sacred texts.

What I found is that much of the book is evangelistic propoganda. While it seems to do a good job of describing the basic beliefs of Islam, its comparisons to Christianity and Judaism misinterpreted or misrepresented basic Christian and Jewish beliefs, and took statements from their respective sacred books out of context.

I felt that this book tended to shy-away from seriously discussing some of the more controversial aspects of the faith, other than blanket dismissals of claims by many non-muslims on issues such as promotion of violence, for instance. However, I would need to research additional sources for more information on the Koran and Islam (and the history of Islam) to verify this is really the case.

While I have serious reservations about the presentation of the material, especially its one-sided nature, the book did help me better understand the Koran, its unique qualities, and its importance to Islam. Therefore, I would recommend it as a basic introduction to the Koran, but the prospective reader needs to be aware that it does a very poor job of comparing and contrasting Islam and the Koran with other faiths and their sacred texts.
21 of 30 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Just the basics Jan. 16 2006
By David MacDougall - Published on
I recommend you skip this book altogether unless you know virtually nothing about Islam and the Koran. I bought the book because I plan to launch into a reading of the Koran and was hoping to find a detailed guide.

The authors' love of Islam and the Koran pervade the book and it is the most endearing part. Unfortunately they deal too much in generalities. And they don't provide some basics. For example the Koran's suras (chapters) are printed in order by descending length. The authors didn't think to provide a more useful order to read the Koran. This is something routinely provided for people studying the Bible.

As others have mentioned, the book spends too much time defending Islam. The authors lapse into lengthy defenses of the Koran's sections that permit wife-beating and amputating the hands of thieves.
10 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Qur'an Da'wah Sept. 17 2005
By Joshua Nas - Published on
Whenever it comes to learning about the Qur'an, or learning about Islam, I always reccomend having a companion with you or at least a book that helps you to understand it. It is not that the book is hard to understand, however it is unlike any other book you have ever read and you may have questions or need guidance in it's reading. This book is a laymens look at the text and makes various concepts digestable, as well as sweeps away various misconceptions. This is not meant to be a scholarly book, but for those new to the religion, or at least curious. If you want to learn more i reccomend with this the "Complete Idiots Guide to Islam".
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