Sample Questions

1. How far can a knowledge of the historical context in which Islam began assist an understanding of the Koran?

The issues in question here are the obscurity of early Islam, the opaqueness of the Muslim sources, and the dearth of other reliable historical information. Pre-Islamic Arabia and the early Islamic State were a-literate, and there is no appropriate contemporary and contopological setting against which to read the Koran. A comparison with Christianity is beneficial here: for early Islam, there is no Josephus to provide a contemporary political context, no apocrypha for a spiritual context, and no Scrolls to illuminate a sectarian milieu. Stress the problems with using the Islamic sources, which have been contaminated by later political and religious controversy. Secondly, approach the main thrust of the question. What are the main messages of the Koran, and why did they have such an impressive impact on their audience? How much is there that is novel within the Koran, and how much of what is distinctively Islamic was already present in Western Arabia? What is the audience of Muhammad's revelations and how would they have interpreted the revelations? Was it the potency of the Koran's religious message that was so irresistible or was it the novelty of its social and political legislation?

2. "Discuss the theological themes of the Koran, and whether theology is its main focus"

Discuss the theological themes outlined above: the Koran's attitude towards God, the universe, mankind, sin and righteousness, heaven and hell. Here, reference to the Fatiha could perhaps be used as an introduction. The Fatiha is the opening sura, in which almost all the fundamental theological principles of Islam are outlined within a very few words: the verse speaks of one single God and two kinds of people, the Blessed, towards whom God is "merciful and compassionate" and those with whom God is angry, having strayed from the "straight path". Next, describe the socio-economic and socio-political doctrine contained within the Koran. On which does the main focus lie? How interrelated are the two i.e. is the social legislation simply the practical application of the Koran's spiritual doctrines, or is it something more?

  By PanEris using Melati.

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