I have become aware since releasing previous e-book editions of this work that my presentation fell at a common fence in that it assumed much of the unproven though dominant Judaeo-Christo-Zionist narrative (hereafter: the Egypt-Palestine thesis) and even some parts of that highly suspect narrative advanced by Traditionalist Islam.
I had been cognisant, naturally, of tensions between the Qur’anic narrative and the Egypt-Palestine thesis – a fact that an assiduous reader of the footnotes from the previous edition will know. I was, at the time of writing that edition, aware of arguments advanced by such people as Kamal Salibi, but I did not place any emphasis on such assertions – or confront those of the Egypt-Palestine thesis – since I wanted to remain within the boundaries of what I could reasonably prove. It is only recently that I have come to recognise that I cannot reasonably prove the Egypt-Palestine thesis – its popularity, ubiquity and enforcement constituting neither proof nor good reason to assume its conclusions. As a result, in this edition I treat the Egypt-Palestine thesis as one among competing theses.
I was – and remain – convinced of the rightness of the Petra thesis as advanced by Dan Gibson in his book Qur’ānic Geography in the sense that I am fully convinced of the rightness of his identification of Petra as the place of the Arab pilgrimage (i.e. al masjid al ḥarām) referred to in the present work as the Petra pilgrimage thesis. I was – and remain – neutral on many of his other claims. This is not because I think he is wrong, but because I do not know that he is right; at least, I do not know it to the extent that I can demonstrate on the basis of Qur’anic and other data that he is right on the single point just mentioned.
I did, however, previously rather allow – by association – that Gibson’s further assertions regarding the location of ʿĀd, Thamūd, and so on, as geographically local to al masjid al ḥarām, were correct. And they may be. But I want here to make a distinction between my support for the Petra pilgrimage thesis (i.e. that Petra was the location for al masjid al ḥarām) and any other theses Dan Gibson presents which I allow may also be true, such as the locations of ʿĀd, Thamūd, and so on.
Independently of my assessment of Gibson’s excellent book, I have come to question the assumption that the location of al masjid al ḥarām and the city of Muḥammad’s origin and initial locus of action are necessarily one and the same. I do not refute the claim; I have simply chosen to allow that it may not be so. And if that point is granted, it is not necessarily the case that al masjid al ḥarām was local to the historical peoples just mentioned; and that being the case, it would be fairer for me to present those parts of Gibson’s work which treat of the location of previous peoples in the same light as I present comparable points from those other theses which have much to recommend them but which require (as I’m sure Gibson himself would both accept and welcome as concerns his own thesis) further extensive and diligent work on the ground.
Of course, for most, the Egypt-Palestine thesis (augmented for the Traditionalist Muslim by Traditionalist Islam’s addenda) is the answer and we should stop there. I would be prepared to acquiesce if I genuinely thought it was correct, but I do not; at least, conclusive evidence is yet to be produced.
My opinion is that politically motivated narratives – ones heavily invested in predetermined outcomes – have taken the field, and for reasons based in something other than the preponderance of evidence.
Despite all the money and political will behind the Egypt-Palestine thesis, there remains no prima facie evidence that the children of Israel were ever captives in the land today called Egypt or that they were resident in Palestine prior to the end of their captivity in Babylon. Importantly, the Qur’an does not overtly support current historical orthodoxy on either point, and appears to fit awkwardly with many of its requirements.
In this work, as regards external theories, I assume an assertive posture only for the Petra pilgrimage thesis (i.e. the location of al masjid al ḥarām at Petra) since the data is extant which supports it. It is neither my intention nor within my competence to wage war for or against any of the remaining theses. I wish, rather, to present the Qur’anic text fairly and consistently. And to that end I provide information in the footnotes to indicate where certain Qur’anic statements appear to have a bearing on particular theses (and vice versa), and leave the reader to draw his own conclusions.
I make no apology for my primary role which is that of theological revolutionary. In this capacity, what is of central importance to me is that – according to both my reading of 9:28 and the factual evidence on the ground – al masjid al ḥarām is now closed; and that the function of the histories of the prophets in the Qur’an from Nūḥ to Muḥammad is to impel the believer to follow the prophetic template: to warn the dominant evil society and to call it to turn to God alone to the end that those who will might repent and the judgments of God become binding upon the rest. Such a call has nothing whatever to do with promoting or enforcing a religion – and certainly not that religion which is today called Islam. Despite the seemingly insurmountable branding problem the Qur’an has by longstanding association with the Traditionalist’s obdurate commitment to an unrelated cult, such remains the Qur’anic model for overthrowing tyranny. We are under tyranny and I see no means of defeating the hell planned by the current ‘elite’ but by following the Qur’an’s instruction. The precise location of the bondage of the children of Israel under Firʿawn or of the people of ʿĀd is immaterial to this broader strategic objective. Given that the geological and excavatory work required to achieve objective data on these subjects will likely never be done, I must proceed without waiting for a final and perfect estimate of the facts on such questions.
The Qur’an claims to be a true narrative. I do not believe I can best serve the interests of allowing it a voice if I impose upon it unproven assumptions taken from elsewhere. For this reason, I have elected in this edition of The Qur’an: A Complete Revelation to render the names of persons and places in accordance with the norms of Arabic transliteration. Hence mūsā is Mūsā rather than Moses, etc. I have no doubt that the person called mūsā in Arabic is materially the same as that called Moses in English – and my instinct is to render in English to an English reader rather than to ‘Arabicize’ the text, a policy which feeds into the cult of the Arab – something widely practiced by the Traditionalist Muslim, and a thing for which I have neither time nor patience. However, I have no way of knowing how far such proper-noun correspondences hold true – and it is not my place to be the arbiter of such correspondences. Since I wish to avoid the trap into which previous translators have fallen (of shoehorning the reader into a priori acceptance of both the Egypt-Palestine thesis and post-Babylonian and Masoretic interpretations and redactions of the scriptures), the fairest and least problematical solution is to render all names of key historical figures in transliterated Arabic, to point out cases where the Qur’anic text supports or militates against notable theses, and leave the motivated student to investigate further.
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The Qur’an: A Complete Revelation by Sam Gerrans demonstrates that the Qur’an – contrary to what Traditionalist Islam claims – may be comprehensively understood and robustly defended without recourse to later hearsay (i.e. the hadīth literature).
The reference edition of this work totals over 536,000 words. It comprises the entire Arabic text, a full parallel translation into English, 9,000 footnotes, and accompanying articles.
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• Edition: 5.0 (notes)
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• Release date: 29, December 2016
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NOTE: The author’s understanding – and thus his translation – of the Qur’an is based upon that system of Qur’anic hermeneutics which is summarised and meticulously demonstrated in The Qur’an: A Complete Revelation (Reference Edition).
That system of hermeneutics includes:
• preference for definitions found within the Qur’an over those found elsewhere
• the application of detailed (fully referenced) pan-textual analysis
• the consistent enforcement of proven values across the text
• the rejection of pre-existing allegiance to claims originating in texts other than the Qur’an
The author considers engaging only those objections levelled at either his translation of particular terms or attendant exegesis which are comparably evidence-based; that is, they both demonstrate proper understanding of the system of hermeneutics employed in The Qur’an: A Complete Revelation (Reference Edition) and provide evidence superior to that which it provides – being based upon either the same system of hermeneutics, or upon one which demonstrates superior results when applied to the text as a whole.