The review of the book,
Approaching the Qurıan The
early revelations by Michael Sells
The first time I
criticized Michael Sells for writing such a book, trying to glorify Islam
and its prophet he wrote me an email telling me that I had not read his
book and did not know what he was talking about. He was quite correct
about his assertions at that time.
I recently took out
his book from our library branch through inter-branch library loan and
spent some time and read it and concluded that I did not need to read the
book after all.
He begins his book by
this "One afternoon in Cairo, I found myself in an unusual situation.
The streets of this noisy, bustling city were suddenly strangely quiet,
yet the cafes were crowded with people clustered around televisions.
What had drawn people from the streets into the cafes today was the
appearance of one of Egyptıs popular Ourıan reciter. When I returned to
my hotel, the lobby was filled with men, some of them Christians, watching
and listening to the televised recitation with intense interest."
He then continues
saying that the reason Qurıan is word of God and not of man is because no
one has been able to produce something similar in poetry, sound, and
spirit as in Qouıan. He explains some of the Suras and how recitation of
the book brings calm and peace to people hearing it even non-Arabs.
Regarding Mr. Sells
experience in Cairo, I had a similar experience in Tehran in 1992. When
one night returning home around 8: PM I found Tehran, the city of 14
million people strangely quiet. It seemed that everyone had gone home. The
shops were closing and people were in a rush to get to their houses. I
asked the Taxi driver what was it all about. He replied that that night at
9:PM the television would be showing another episode of a Japanese serial
called "ushin," or "Youshin," I cannot recall the
correct name. The story was about a strong Japanese woman and her
struggles for her familyıs happiness. The driver then told me that
everyone in Tehran runs home every week on the same day to watch the
program (in The Islamic Republic of Iran cafes are not allowed to have
televisions). He was also on his way home to watch and would not take
anymore passengers. He also told me that I was quite lucky since my
destination was in the same direction as his. Otherwise, I would have had
to wait for a taxi until the program was over. Should we then claim that
this captivating story that inspired millions of people in one city to
stop what they were doing and watch television is a revelation from a
higher being as was the case made by Mr. Sell about Qurıan? No. Of course
In addition, I can
tell that Mr. Sells has never heard Ferdowsi poems been recited? When my
father recited Ferdowsi, the entire neighborhood would crawl in our
hallway just to hear him. As a matter of fact Ferdowsiıs book of poetry
called "Shahnameh," the king of all books was so powerful that
centuries after the Arabs conquered Persia and forced people to speak
Arabic, this book alone was the instrument that brought back Persian
language to the Iranian people. Without
this book we, the Iranian people, would still be speaking Arabic.
I can say the same
about many other poets and their poetry in Iran. People like Khayam,
Hafiz, Sadi, Roomy, or more recent poets such as Parvin Etesami, Nader
Naderpour and hundred other poets.
The idea that Qurıan
is the word of God is as preposterous as if we would claim that the "Shahnameh,"
or the Robeyat Khayam, or the poetry of Nader Naderpour have been
revelations from a higher being. Persian and Arabic are poetic languages.
It is quite simple to write verses that rime with each other. There have
always been geniuses who left us remarkable works which will be cherished
for generations to come. Such geniuses as Shakespeare, Beethoven, Mozart,
and others. However, none of these people ever claimed to be a messenger
from a divine authority.
Mr. Sells also claims
that the reason Qurıan is the word of God is because no one has ever been
able to produce a book like it. I agree with him why should any one want
to produce a book so contradictory, full of errors and violence? Why
should anyone in the right mind want to tell a man to marry as many women
as he wants to? Or to give him a revelation to tell your wives if they donıt
quit complaining that I will tell you to divorce them all and marry more
beautiful, obedient and submissive women? Or if your wife is not obedient
go ahead and beat her? This book is a compilation of stories from Old
Testament, Bible, book of Zororatians and is full of errors.
Many writers have
produced magnificent books that captures every cell in human body and soul
when one begins reading them and none has ever claimed to be from a divine
source. Qurıan is a book of some poetry and some weird stuff and nothing
more. It is not a revelation from a divine being revealed to Muhammed as
Muslims claim. The first book was written some 25 to 60 years after
Muhammad died and was a compilation of what his two youngest wives Ayesha
and Hafzıa could recall. This book was burned and destroyed a century
later and the existing one was produced.
As they say,
"You cannot tell a book by its cover." The same is true for a
book that sounds good to the ear if you are not able to understand it. Or
that it rimes like poetry. It is the content that are important and
frankly the content of Qurıan is mostly rubbish.
email was sent to Prof. Sells on Dec 2, 2002
find in this link a comment on your book Approaching Quran: The Early
Revelation by Parvin Darabi.
eagerly await your response for publication in faithfreedom.org. So far
you have not acknowledged receiving our emails. Is it because you have
difficulty defending your views on the Quran?
Dec. 5, 2002
Michael Sells [email protected]
Thank you for sending me this strange piece by Parvin Darabi.
The writer first criticized my book without having read it.
The second review suggests it still has not been read.
For the record, I nowhere claim that the Qur'an is the word of God.
I explain why Muslims might find the claim meaningful. These
two things are not the same. I chose the wording of the book with
with care, particularly in regard to making it clear that I was not
making any claims on behalf of the authorship and truth of the book, and
that clarification is repeated throughout the introduction.
The writer attributes to me a claim I never made and then goes on to
argue against it and refute it. Nowhere does he quote me claiming that
the Qur'an is the word of God and for good reason, because it is not my
method or interest to make proclamations about the truth or falsehood of
It was an irresponsible approach to misrepresent a work and then refute
the misrepresentation. But I did find the discussion of Ferdowsi
interesting and worthwhile. Sometimes even when someone is making a
failed argument that person might be compelled to offer some useful
It really does not matter to me if Qur'an is the word of god or not.
I don't believe in God. It seems Dr. Sells believes in God. This is
irrelevant to me. I did read the book. The entire book. I did not find
anything interesting in it. A bunch of poetry from Arabian desert. And
unreasonable arguments about its beauty and glory. This book was only
written to confuse the young Western minds in their acceptance of this
savage religion and its treatment of women.
I am wondering why didn't Dr. Sells write about the suras regarding
women. The ones that Allah supposedly tells Muhammed to marry all the
women he wants or that to divorce all his wives and marry more
beautiful, obedient and submissive women? I suppose these are not such
By the way Dr. Sells since you are such a great professor of Islamic
studies will you Please answer this one question for me.
Muhammed became a prophet at age 40. His first wife, Khadijeh, the rich
business woman who was 16 years his senior died when Muhammed was around
53, 54. Why is is that Allah never told Muhammed to marry any other
woman during these 13, 14 years and became so generous to him once
Khadijeh died, even offering him a six year old child? What is wrong
with this Allah you try to show as being so gentle and so passionate? I
appreciate your answer.
By the way I am a she.