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Christoph Luxenberg’s (a pseudonym) highly controversial book, now available
in English, has caused some to see in him an important ally in the war
against Osama bin Laden and others to shake his book off as “orientalism.”
There has been, in English at least, little substantive reporting on the actual
arguments advanced. I will try to present a critical review of the main contentions
and types of arguments Luxenberg offers in support.
This book has two theses: one brazen and sweeping, the other a collection
of specific arguments and analyses. The sweeping thesis is that the
Qur’an was originally a lectionary, a collection of texts fromthe Hebrew and
Christian Bibles to be read out loud (p. 104). It was set down in Karshuni, a
form of Syriac written inArabic characters; however, the Qur’an employed
an alphabet more primitive than the one now in use. In particular, diacritical
dots were lacking. Given this double bind, so to speak, its first students had
great difficulty understanding the text, particularly insofar as they mistakenly
took it to be written in Arabic. Hence the large amount of significant
misreadings, the individual reinterpretations of which collectively form
what I call the book’s second thesis.
This is clearly not a book that will convince the faithful. But even if one
sets aside one’s personal beliefs, some major problems emerge. For example,
who was responsible for establishing the Qur’anic text? A key role is ...