Sunday, January 5, 2014

Socrates, Muhammad And The Koran

I’ve been trying to read the Koran, without much success. That is to say, I can read it ok but it is not the sort of book that rewards close attention. It’s boringly repetitive, and has no logical or narrative structure—you can see why those who study it have to memorize it because only those who have the whole thing in their heads can find their way around in it—hence the power of the Mullahs. There is one message that comes through very clearly and very often: if one is not a believer, Satan will get you and you will roast in hell for ever. (But Allah is all wise and all merciful.)

So the Koran is a barbaric book—in the ancient Greek sense of that word—to those of us at least who don’t understand classical Arabic; for those who do, reading the Koran must be first of all an esthetic experience—Mohammed must have been a great poet, which means that the believers—at  least those who understand classical Arabic—are responding not so much to what he says but to the beauty of his language. . . . For them, Socrates’ deep and enduring question, “How should one live?” has been settled.  Muslims and ultra-orthodox Jews would seem to have a lot in common.