Category Archive 'Critical Scholarship'

15 Jan 2008

Indiana Jones Meets the Islamic Da Vinci Code

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The Islamic world never experienced either a Renaissance or an Enlightenment, but as this Wall Street Journal news story explains, a trove of manuscript photographs not previously known to have survived WWII is about to cause the Medieval Islamic world view to be confronted with the fruits of modern critical scholarship’s examination of its fundamental basis, the al-Koran (in PC-journalism-ese these days, the Quran), supposedly the directly-dictated word of God.

On the night of April 24, 1944, British air force bombers hammered a former Jesuit college here housing the Bavarian Academy of Science. The 16th-century building crumpled in the inferno. Among the treasures lost, later lamented Anton Spitaler, an Arabic scholar at the academy, was a unique photo archive of ancient manuscripts of the Quran.

The 450 rolls of film had been assembled before the war for a bold venture: a study of the evolution of the Quran, the text Muslims view as the verbatim transcript of God’s word. The wartime destruction made the project “outright impossible,” Mr. Spitaler wrote in the 1970s.

Mr. Spitaler was lying. The cache of photos survived, and he was sitting on it all along. The truth is only now dribbling out to scholars — and a Quran research project buried for more than 60 years has risen from the grave.

rhapsodies that the story has all the appeal of “Indiana Jones meets the Da Vinci Code,” including Nazis (“I hate those guys!”), and notes the possible ramifications.

What if scholars can prove beyond reasonable doubt that the Koran was not dictated by the Archangel Gabriel to the Prophet Mohammad during the 7th century, but rather was redacted by later writers drawing on a variety of extant Christian and Jewish sources? That would be the precise equivalent of proving that the Jesus Christ of the Gospels really was a composite of several individuals, some of whom lived a century or two apart.

There’ll be denial, indignation, demonstrating screaming Muslims, and more bombings and beheadings doubtless, but, indeed, what then for Islam?

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