A very peculiar story from Syria: the Assad regime has produced a new – revised – version of the Qur'an designed to prevent "misleading" interpretations.
It's peculiar because messing about with the text of the holy book would, in the eyes of any normal believer, amount to sacrilege. The Qur'an is considered to be the exact words of God, as revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.
When I first heard the story I thought it must be disinformation circulated by Assad's religious foes – but apparently not. It's there in black and white on the website of SANA, the regime's official news agency. There are even photos of Assad inspecting the revised Qur'an.
According to SANA, this "new standard version" will be adopted by the Syrian ministry of religious endowments in all its future projects and will become "the reference for all printed copies of the Holy Qur'an" in Syria (or rather, those parts still under the regime's control). Copies will also be sent to al-Azhar in Egypt and "and Arab and Muslim countries", SANA adds.
The new Qur'an "is the fruit of more than five years of hard work and was revised more than 27 times to ensure its accuracy", SANA says. However, the report is unclear about what changes have been made and how they are supposed to prevent "misinterpretation". It merely says:
"In the new version, Quranic letters are simplified and sketched with dexterity according to a set of accredited standards that scholars of Quranic science use."
If anyone can cast further light on this I would be interested to hear from them.
Although the Assad regime is often described as secular (and it does have secular leanings), it has also developed and promoted a quirky version of Islam that suits its political needs. Essentially, it's a monolithic kind of Islam which denies the existence of sectarian differences – thus disguising the fact that members of the minority Alawite sect hold dominant positions within the regime (in a country with a large Sunni majority). I described this in detail in a previous blog post.
Posted by Brian Whitaker
Thursday, 16 July 2015