I started blogging about the Qur’an last year, and I’m still reading it. I haven’t dedicated it much time, really, although I do intend to finish it one day. In fact, I’m almost there. At times I’ll read a sura on the toilet, other times over breakfast. The truth is that it’s pretty boring, the poetry is mediocre, the wisdom juvenile and the threatening tone cloying.
Take this example, from “Arrayed in Ranks”:
“Is this a better welcome or the tree of Zaqqum, which We set
as an ordeal for the wicked?
It is a tree which grows in the pit of hell, with fruit like heads of demons.
They shall eat from it and fill their bellies;
Then, in addition, they shall have a scalding drink,
Then will they be returned to hell.” (trans. T. Khalidi)
That’s really spooky, I suppose, if you’ve been raised to believe in an omnipotent being whose arch-enemy is the unbeliever. More than any other religious scripture that I’ve read, the Qur’an relishes in this kind of gratuitous punishment for – as they are quaintly called – “wrongdoers.” But the wrongdoers aren’t people who murder, enslave, mistreat others, lie and steal – as one may suppose – but rather they are those who simply don’t believe. “All they can expect is a single Scream, which shall sieze them while they dispute…” Ah, disputation, the enemy of God!
“You shall surely taste of the most painful torment,” it reminds us. That kids are taught to memorize this nonsense, often in place of actual education, is tragic.