Koran vs Quran

In the early days of Islam, the word Koran hadn’t yet come to mean the book, and the Prophet’s followers were sometimes quoted as saying having received a Quran from the prophet, meaning one of his teachings.

How can one distinguish between what constitutes the Koran vs what constitutes a Hadith? If God speaks through one man, how can you separate the word of God from the word of Man? And who speaks and when?

Islam is a religion that has evolved through historical, religious and political compromise, and the scriptures worshipped today bear the marks of these often-violent struggles.

So much about Islam is a matter of interpretation. Verses that should be taken literally, opposed to verses that are figurative, metaphorical or straight parables for a higher meaning. I wonder how the word of God would ever be open to interpretation. It seems to me that it either wouldn’t be the word of God, or that He is much more flexible than He is made up to be. At any rate, interpretation removes you from the sacred to the philosophical, and if Islam is a philosophy open to interpretation then what is all the fuss about?

I am not an expert in the scriptures, neither on the huge volume of Islamic philosophy that has pondered these questions in more detail and with infinitely more sophistication than I propose today.

I had started reading the Quran a few weeks ago. I was appalled. It seemed like an 800 page excuse for mass murder and anti-Semitism, justified each time by carefully selected hadiths, that read like a playbook for violent Jihad. I highlighted some of the more contentious verses, and downloaded another version of the Holy Book, and then a third.

Below are verses selected and compared across three different editions of the Koran, a Saudi Arabian edition, a British edition, and a French edition. See for yourselves…

Title: Translation of the meanings of the Noble Quran in the English language.

Publisher: King Fahd Complex for the printing of the Holy Coran-Medina Saudi Arabia

Year Published: 2006/1427

SURA II Al Baqarah 96:

“And verily, you will find them (The Jews) the greediest of mankind for life and (even greedier) than those who ascribe partners to Allah (and do not believe in Resurrection-Majus (magians), pagans and idolaters). Every one of them wishes that he could be given a thousand years. But the grant of such life will not save him even a little from (due) punishment and Allah is All-Seer of what they do.”

SURA II Al Baqarah 142:

“The fools among the people (pagans, hypocrites and Jews) will say, “What has turned them (Muslims) from their Qiblah (prayer direction towards Jerusalem) which they used to face in prayer.” Say (O Muhamad) ‘To Allah belongs the east and the west. He guides whom he wills to a Straight Way.””

SURA II Al Baqarah 173:

“He has forbidden you only the Maitah (dead animals) and blood, and the flesh of swine, and that, which is slaughtered as a sacrifice for others than Allah (or has been slaughtered for idols, on which Allah’s Name has not been mentioned while slaughtering). But if one is forced by necessity without willful, disobedience nor transgressing due limits, then there is no sin on him. Truly, Allah is Oft Forgiving, Most Merciful.”

Sura II Al Baqarah 191:

“And kill them wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out. And Al-Fitnah is worse than killing. And fight not with them at Al Masjid-Al-Haram (The sanctuary at Makkah), unless they (first) fight you there. But if they attack you, then kill them. Such is the recompense of disbelievers.””

Here Al-Fitnah is defined as: Polytheism, to disbelieve after one has believed in Allah, or a trial or a calamity or an affliction.


Title: The Holy Quran-Arabic Text and English Translation

Publisher: Islam International Punlications Limited – Islamabad, Sheephatch Lane, Tilford UK

Year Published: 2004/1425

SURA II Al Baqarah 96:

“But never shall they wish for it, because of what their own hands have sent on before them and Allah knows the wrongdoers well.”

The corresponding Verse in the IIPL edition to Verse 96 in the King Fahd edition, is verse 97, and reads as follows:

“And thou shalt find them of all people, the most covetous of life, even more than those who set up equals with God. Every one of them wishes that they may be granted a life of a thousand years, but his being granted such life shall not keep him away from the punishment, and Allah sees all they do.”

This verse does not refer to Jews, magians, pagans or idolaters, but to wrongdoers in general.

SURA II Al Baqarah 142:

“Those are a people that have passed away; for them is what they earned, and for you shall be what you earn, and you shall not be questioned as to what they did.”

In the King Fahd edition, this is Verse 141. 142 as it appears in the King Fahd edition, is Verse 143 and reads as follows:

“The foolish among the people will say: “What has turned them away from their Qiblah which they followed? Say: To Allah belongs the East and the West. He guides whom He pleases to the right path.”

There are no references to pagans, Jews, hypocrites, or Jerusalem only to fools in general.

SURA II Al Baqarah 173:

“O ye who believe! Eat of the good things We have provided for you and render thanks to Allah if it is He Whom you worship.”

The Verse corresponding to 173 in the King Fahd edition is Verse 174 of the same Sura in the IIPL edition and reads as follows:

“He has made unlawful to you only that which dies of itself, and the blood and the flesh of swine, and that on which the name of any other than Allah has been invoked. But he who is driven by necessity, being neither disobedient nor exceeding the limit, it shall be no sin for him. Surely, Allah is most forgiving. Merciful.”

SURA II Al Baqarah 191:

“And fight in the cause of Allah against those who fight against you, but do not transgress. Surely Allah loves not the transgressors.”

The corresponding verse to 191 in King Fahd edition, in the IIPL edition is Verse 192, which reads as follows:

“And kill them wherever you meet them and drive them out from where they have driven you out; for persecution is worse than killing. And fight them not in, and near the Sacred Mosque until they fight you therein. But if they fight you, then fight them: such is the requital for the disbelievers.”

Here, as opposed to the King Fahd edition, there is no reference to Al-Fitnah as polytheists, or apostates, but to disbelievers in general.


Title: Le Coran-Nouvelle traduction de Malek Chebel

Publisher: Fayard France

Year Published: 2003/1424

SURA II Al Baqarah 96:

“Et tu ne trouveras aucun homme plus soucieux qu’eux de vouloir vivre. Mais a supposer que, parmi les idolâtres, il en soit un qui puisse vivre mille ans, cela ne le dédouanerait pas du châtiment qui l’attend, Dieu étant Celui qui voit ce qu’ils font.”

This verse translates very closely to Verse 97 of the IIPL edition (Verse 96 of the King Fahd edition) but makes no reference to pagans, wrongdoers, Jews, or magians, but mentions idolaters specifically.

SURA II Al Baqarah 142:

“Les plus insensés diront: Qui les a détournés de la qibla vers laquelle ils s’orientaient? Dis: A Allah appartiennent autant l’Orient que l’Occident. Il inspire qui il veut dans le droit chemin.”

This Verse translates very closely to Verse 143 in the IIPL edition (Verse 142 in the King Fahd edition), and just as the IIPL edition, refers only to fools, or mindless people (non-believers generally, or former believers)

SURA II Al Baqarah 173:

“Il vous a été interdit la bête morte, le sang, la viande de porc et tout ce qui a été immolé a un autre que Dieu. Cependant, il n’est fait aucun reproche a celui qui est contraint d’en consommer, en étant par ailleurs sincère, car Dieu est Celui qui pardonne et qui est miséricordieux.”

All three editions share the exact same text for this Verse.

SURA II Al Baqarah 191

“Tuez les partout ou vous les rencontrerez; chassez les des endroits d’ou ils vous ont chasses, car la subversion est plus grave que le meurtre. En revanche il ne faut pas les combattre au sein de la Mosquée sacrée jusqu’à ce qu’ils engagent les hostilités. Mais des lors qu’ils vous combattent, tuez les, car tel est le traitement des incroyants.”

This Verse translates very closely to Verse 192 of the IIPL edition and refers to nonbelievers.


The object of this article is not to point a finger at Saudi Arabia per se, but to suggest that while there are core texts, there are indeed interpretations, and depending on who reads the text, who teaches you, or indeed, which edition you purchase, you are not getting the same Islam.

This might sound obvious but slight variations in semantics, in references to selective hadiths, and an entire local culture has a radically, and often radical, reading of a book that is meant to be a universal, and indeed the only, last and final book of its kind.

Anyway, one thing is clear: Sorry guys, but pork is definitely off the menu for you. More for me.

About the Author
Mame Bougouma Diene is a civil servant on permanent vacation even when he works 70 hours a week, who also blogs for the Times of Israel in French. He's French-Senegalese American, loves Israel and the Middle East, would really like to see an end to this intractable mess in his lifetime.