Monday, October 26, 2009

Getting Abreast of Those 70 Or So Virgins

Found in this article:

...the pseudonymous Christoph Luxenberg’s The Syro-Aramaic Reading of the Koran, first published in 2000.

Luxenberg’s best-known argument involves the qur’anic term hur, which Islamic tradition understands as a reference to virgins awaiting the believers in the garden of paradise. By one account, Muhammad described the hur as fabulous women with faces shining with divine light, who have the name of God inscribed on one breast and the name of the believer for whom they are destined on the other. Luxenberg argues that the word hur, which literally means “white,” refers instead to crystal-clear grapes. It is, he concludes, a reflection of the Syriac-Christian tradition of heaven as a garden—and thus the heavenly reward of the believers is not sex but fruit.

Some scholars find Luxenberg’s work to be cavalier and wrongheaded. At a conference I recently attended in Berlin, one respected German professor stood up and lamented that some scholars today act as though the Qur’an was revealed in Antioch and Jerusalem, not Mecca and Medina. Others, however, claim that Luxenberg’s book is momentous...

And while we are dealing with sex and the Quran, how about this?

Muslims explain a celebrated passage on sexual relations in the Qur’an’s second chapter, which instructs (male) believers: “Your women are your field. Go into your field as you wish.” The agricultural metaphor is clear enough, but a historical context for this passage is provided by Islamic tradition. In the words of a modern Muslim interpreter: “When the Muslims migrated from Mecca the men found the women of Medina bashful and only willing to sleep with their husbands lying on their side. So the Muslim men asked the Prophet if there was anything wrong with such sexual positions.”

As it happens, the Qur’an has nothing to say about the bashfulness of women in Medina, the city to which Muhammad is said to have emigrated in the year 622.

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