What the Quran Meant: And Why It Matters


As with many sacred books, the Qur’an has been subject to centuries of interpretations and assertions. To discover what it really says, the first step is to read the text carefully. Wills has done just that, and his meticulous analysis clears away the accumulated distortions that have led to misunderstandings on questions ranging from the Islamic stand on religious war to the requirements that women wear veils. By comparing the Qur’an to the Bible, Wills, who studied for the priesthood before becoming a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and writer on politics and religion, finds many parallels between the texts, including rich passages that offer multiple meanings. His scholarly, open-minded approach invites people of all faiths to engage with this rich and inspiring text.

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His book is available on Amazon, What the Qur'an Meant: And Why It Matters.

America’s leading religious scholar and public intellectual introduces lay readers to the Qur’an with a measured, powerful reading of the ancient text

Garry Wills has spent a lifetime thinking and writing about Christianity. In What the Qur’an Meant, Wills invites readers to join him as he embarks on a timely and necessary reconsideration of the Qur’an, leading us through perplexing passages with insight and erudition. What does the Qur’an actually say about veiling women? Does it justify religious war?

There was a time when ordinary Americans did not have to know much about Islam. That is no longer the case. We blundered into the longest war in our history without knowing basic facts about the Islamic civilization with which we were dealing. We are constantly fed false information about Islam—claims that it is essentially a religion of violence, that its sacred book is a handbook for terrorists. There is no way to assess these claims unless we have at least some knowledge of the Qur’an.

In this book Wills, as a non-Muslim with an open mind, reads the Qur’an with sympathy but with rigor, trying to discover why other non-Muslims—such as Pope Francis—find it an inspiring book, worthy to guide people down through the centuries. There are many traditions that add to and distort and blunt the actual words of the text. What Wills does resembles the work of art restorers who clean away accumulated layers of dust to find the original meaning. He compares the Qur’an with other sacred books, the Old Testament and the New Testament, to show many parallels between them. There are also parallel difficulties of interpretation, which call for patient exploration—and which offer some thrills of discovery. What the Qur’an Meant is the opening of a conversation on one of the world’s most practiced religions.


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