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“As the Koran promises, patience is rewarded, and there are many surprises -- a degree of environmental awareness for instance and of humans as mere stewards of God's creation, unmatched in the Bible. And where the Bible is addressed exclusively to men, using the second and third person masculine, the Koran includes women -- talking, for instance, of believing men and believing women -- honorable men and honorable women. Or take the infamous verse about killing the unbelievers. Yes, it does say that, but in a very specific context: the anticipated conquest of the sanctuary city of Mecca where fighting was usually forbidden. And the permission comes hedged about with qualifiers. Not, you must kill unbelievers in Mecca, but you can, you are allowed to, but only after a grace period is over and only if there's no other pact in place and only if they try to stop you getting to the Kaaba, and only if they attack you first. And even then -- God is merciful, forgiveness is supreme -- and so, essentially, better if you don't. (Laughter) This was perhaps the biggest surprise -- how flexible the Koran is, at least in minds that are not fundamentally inflexible.”—
Lesley Hazleton sat down one day to read the Koran. And what she found — as a non-Muslim, a self-identified “tourist” in the Islamic holy book — wasn’t what she expected. Listen to her luminous thoughts in her TED talk.
And on the horrible misunderstanding about the 72 virgins promised? Here’s the truth: “Because the Koran is quite clear when it says that you’ll be “a new creation in paradise” and that you will be “recreated in a form unknown to you,” which seems to me a far more appealing prospect than a virgin. (Laughter) And that number 72 never appears. There are no 72 virgins in the Koran. That idea only came into being 300 years later, and most Islamic scholars see it as the equivalent of people with wings sitting on clouds and strumming harps. Paradise is quite the opposite. It’s not virginity, it’s fecundity, it’s plenty, it’s gardens watered by running streams.”
Happy learning, people.