On Reading the Koran – Lesley Hazelton

I’m currently (re)reading the Quran. Both reciting it in its original Arabic, and reading a full English translation (by Yusuf Ali).  As I outlined in my last post, I learnt how to recite the Quran from an early age, but, like many non-Arabic speaking Muslims, I’ve never read the full English translation for myself.

As Lesley Hazleton mentions in her talk below, the fact that so few people have read the entirety of the Quran in their own first language is one of the reasons why it’s so easy for fundamentalists and anti-Islamists alike, to quote—or misquote—the Quran, out of context.

This 10 minute TEDx presentation by Lesley Hazelton, “On Reading the Koran” (2010) is a beautiful talk about the subtlety she found in the passages, or ‘surah’ of the Quran.

Ms Hazelton, who refers to herself as a ‘tourist’ of the holy book  is hardly a novice when it comes to her knowledge of Islamic history. Indeed, it appears she is more well read than many self-identified Muslims:

A psychologist by training and Middle East reporter by experience, British-born Lesley Hazleton spent over ten years exploring the vast and often terrifying arena in which politics and religion, past and present, intersect. She’s written about the history of the Sunni/Shi’a split, as well as books on two of the Bible’s most compelling female figures: Mary and Jezebel.
Her latest book is The First Muslim, a new look at the life of Muhammad, the founder of Islam. In researching her book, she sat and read the full Koran again—exploring the beauty and subtlety in this often-misquoted holy book. As she says: “I’m always asking questions—not to find “answers,” but to see where the questions lead. Dead ends sometimes? That’s fine. New directions? Interesting. Great insights? Over-ambitious. A glimpse here and there? Perfect.”