One of the problems of Islam and ironically a key to its success is that its holy book, the Quran is a confusing and tedious book that most people don’t enjoy to read. Whether you agree with the content of the Bible or not, you can agree that it is a readable book. Its stories are engaging and its lessens and parables are thought provoking. It is written in clear language that anyone can understand. Some of the older translations have outdated language, but even then the book is fun to read.
The Quran is very different. The author of the Quran seems to be very confused, unable to communicate his thoughts coherently and often jumps from one subject to another in the same sentence. Some verses have to be read together to make sense and some have to be split in two or even three. The Quran rambles without making itself clear. The only clear subject in that book is violence. Every other thing is confusing and needs interpretation.
You don’t need a book of interpretation to make sense of the Bible. Despite claiming to be a clear book, easy to understand, clearly explained, and with no doubts in it, Muslims understood that without interpretation the Quran cannot be understood. Hence they wrote several voluminous books of interpretation, explaining it.
Despite claiming that his words are the words of God, Muhammad never paid much attention to collecting and preserving them. In fact after his death when a lot of Muslims were killed in wars Umar became concerned that the Quran which was memorized by these Muslims could be lost forever. He asked Abu Bakr to collect the scattered verses but Abu Bakr was hesitant and said how he could order something the prophet himself never ordered. Eventually he accepted and they called a youth by the name of Zayd ibn Thabit to collect the verses and compile them in a single volume. This young man had no education. He was chosen simply because he could read and write. But it is doubtful that he had ever read a book.
Not knowing how to edit a book chronologically or by subject, he simply collected the verses in suras often arbitrarily. These verses have no relations with each other. That is why they jump from one subject to another. This project lasted many years and finally was completed during the caliphate of Uthman who decided to compile the book based on the length of the suras.
So the Quran is a book dictated by an illiterate man with no understanding of grammar who is unable to communicate his thoughts coherently and orderly, it is then collected and edited by a youth with no formal education and finally it is compiled without regards to subjects or chronology. As the result the Quran is the most confusing and incoherent book ever written.
The irony is that this has worked to the advantage of Islam. Because it is confusing people assume that it contains hidden wisdom that they don’t understand.
To understand the Quran we need to know the Life of Muhammad. Only then we can know the occasions for which the verses were dictated. But this is simpler said than done, because the books of sira are no less confusing and boring than the Quran. But that is the subject for another article. So learning the biography of Muhammad is a sin qua non in understanding the Quran.
Another thing that partially helps is to recompile the Quran and at least read them chronologically. This does not solve the problem, but helps a lot. I am glad to announce that fortunately one friend has done just that. Now you can read the Quran in its chronological order and not only that, this friend has highlighted the main themes of the Quran. If you are curious to know what this book says and were put off by how it has been compiled, this site is for you. www.koran-at-a-glance.com
However, if you really want to master the Quran you have to read the sira and the best book is my book The Life of Muhammad. Although I write about his life, I mention the Quranic verses that he dictated in each situation.