Thursday, September 19, 2013

10 Strange Facts About The Quran

Though it proved very controversial in the Islamic world, Saddam Hussein commissioned a copy of the Quran written in his own blood. But there are plenty more fascinating (if less creepy) pieces of knowledge centering around this book. Muslims make up over 1.5 billion of the planet’s population, so it stands to reason that there’s a lot of Quran-based knowledge out there.

10 The World’s Biggest Quran

In 2008, Sayeed Najmul Hasan Chishti from India took the world record for creating the largest handwritten Quran.  Then in 2009, the record was being eyed by a teenager writing for 12 hours a day to produce a Quran 3,000 meters (about 1,000 ft) long. If she finished, no one noticed because the world record was taken in 2011 by a Quran in Russia. Weighing 1,763 pounds, this massive book was encrusted in gold and silver and a smattering of precious stones.

After all that effort, it probably hurt when the new world’s largest Qur'an was unveiled in Afghanistan a couple of months later. Clearly, the quest to have the world’s largest is hard-fought, and a lot of people are putting a lot of effort into claiming it (someone should probably tell them about the 18-meter (60 ft) Qur'an that is part of a building in South Sumatra). There are a lot of large Qur'ans, is what we’re saying.

9 Misprinted Qurans Caused A Political Crisis

The Quran is believed to be the exact word of Allah, so leaving a paragraph out when copying it is quite frowned upon. It’s also typically best not to alter words here and there. An even bigger no-no is printing 120,000 copies of your bad copy-paste job and distributing them internationally, as happened with state-issued copies of the holy book in Kuwait in 1999.

The minister for justice and Islamic affairs was the unfortunate person in the firing line when this came to light. He was accused of “trying to disfigure the faith of Muslims” and the result was that the entire Kuwaiti parliament was dissolved. Members of the government’s opposition claimed the misprints were created intentionally to provide an excuse for parliament to be broken up and a new election called.

8 Quran Memorization

Seventeen million people around the world watched the Dubai National Quran Awards this year, a contest in which children recite the book from memory in pursuit of 250,000 UAE dollars ($70,000). As well as the top prize, there’s also an award for most beautiful voice. Like many competitions between children, there’s a hint that this is about the parents: This year’s beautiful voice said, “My father who has worked hard in training me is really happy and I’m proud that I didn’t let him down.”

Putting pushy parenting aside, memorizing the scripture is a big thing. The term “hafiz” is used to describe those that have learned the Quran in full, and the hafiz are well regarded among their fellow Muslims.

7 Banning The Quran

Banning books has enjoyed a long and successful history of being a very bad idea. All holy books, the Quran included, were banned in Soviet Russia from 1926 to 1957. In recent years, the infamous Dutch politician Geert Wilders led an attempt to have the Quran banned in the Netherlands. The motion didn’t come close to passing. Imran Firasat, a former Muslim, lodged a petition in Spain for the Quran to be banned but was met with similar success.

One of the most popular English interpretations of the Quran is “The Meaning of the Holy Quran.” Shortly after 9/11, the Council on American-Islamic relations began donating copies of this version of the book to schools. References in the book to Jews as apes and pigs led the LA school district to ban that edition of the book for a time in 2002.

Ultimately, the banning of books, any books, is an extremist position not many people are likely to take. Atheists are as likely as anyone to encourage the reading of holy books: The faithful and faithless are generally united in each thinking that actually reading sacred scriptures will lead people to agree with their position.

6 Miracle Baby

In 2009, Muslims in the Russian Republic of Dagestan flocked to see a nine-month-old boy. Reports claimed that verses on the Quran were appearing spontaneously on the skin of young Ali Yakubov. Thousands visited his home to witness the miracle. Skeptics were keen to point out the fact this may actually be child abuse but with wider implications.

Ali’s father is a policeman in a region heavily impacted by Islamist extremism. The police and security services are a popular target for terrorist groups in the region, and the local mayor was quick to suggest that the writing was a sign from Allah that religion shouldn’t be taken too far. As his mother put it, “Allah is great and he sent me my miracle child to keep our people safe.” Unfortunately, four years on, the Islamist insurgency in Dagestan continues.

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