Thursday, January 04, 2007

Jefferson's Koran

Boker Tov, Boulder points to a news story from yesterday that Keith Ellison will swear on a Koran that belonged to Thomas Jefferson. Anne points out that in all probability, Jefferson read the Koran to learn how to combat the Barbary Pirates, who he had been informed followed the Koran.

This may or may not be true - Jefferson was a very well-read man and he owned a large number of books about religion. But what we do know is that he owned the Koran translated by George Sale around 1741. An 1881 edition is available on Google Books and it is fairly interesting.

Sale wrote essentially an entire book as an introduction to the Koran's translation, and while he is sympathetic with Islam he by no means subscribed to it: his commentary was written as a believing Christian.

So for example we can see this passage, where Sale looks upon Islam's being spread by the sword as proof that it is not a divine religion: (p. 35)

So while it may be a very smart move politically for Ellison to swear on Jefferson's historic Koran, one wonders if he knows what is actually in the text that he will be placing his hand on.