Opening the Qur'an can be a bewildering experience to non-Muslim, English-speaking readers. Those who expect historical narratives, stories, or essays on morals are perplexed once they pass the beautiful first Surah, often shocked and then bogged down by Surah 2, and even offended by Surah 3's strictures against nonbelievers. Walter H. Wagner opens the Qur'an by offering a comprehensive and extraordinarily readable, step-by-step introduction to the text, making it accessible to students, teachers, clergy, and general readers interested in Islam and Islam's holy Book. Wagner first places the prophet Muhammad, the Qur'an, and the early Muslim community in their historical, geographical, and theological contexts. This background is a basis for interpreting the Qur'an and understanding its role in later Muslim developments as well as for relationships between Muslims, Jews, and Christians. He then looks in detail at specific passages, moving from cherished devotional texts to increasingly difficult and provocative subjects. The selected bibliography serves as a resource for further reading and study. Woven into the discussion are references to Islamic beliefs and practices. Wagner shows great sensitivity toward the risks and opportunities for non-Muslims who attempt to interpret the Qur'an, and sympathy in the long struggle to build bridges of mutual trust and honest appreciation between Muslims and non-Muslims.
A number of observers, like Mahmood Mamdani, have pointed out that contemporary events have led to an expansion in the market for translations of the Qur'an. This book will assist and guide readers of these Qur'an translations in the English language. This book could be used in introductory courses on Islam or advanced courses focusing exclusively on Islam's holy Book, the Qur'an . . . general readers outside the academy may also find it useful in helping them understand how to use and make sense of the Qur'an. --A. Rashied Omar, The Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame
The Qur'an can be terra incognita for the non-Muslim reader. Walter Wagner's learned book brings us to terra firma. With clear, empathetic, religiously sensitive yet historical-critical commentary, Opening the Qur'anmakes sense of Islam's holy book. Wagner is a rare guide: a committed Christian who has listened carefully and sympathetically to Muslims, who understand the Quran as God's word. Wagner conveys their faith without compromising his own. This is more than a work of scholarship and pedagogy; it is an act of respect from one great tradition to another. --Alan Mittleman, The Jewish Theological Seminary