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The Essential Koran

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  309 ratings  ·  33 reviews
For too long the realities of Islam have been a mystery to the Christian West. In this introductory selection of Islamic readings, the essence of the Koran is presented and explained in an accessible and illuminating manner.
Hardcover, 203 pages
Published January 1st 1998 by Booksales (first published February 1993)
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Many years ago, this was the very first book that I read as an introduction to the Qur'an. In fact, it may have been responsible for leading me to study the Qur'an in much more detail in the following ten years, so in this sense it may have achieved its aim.

The style of language is indeed quite different from the various mainstream translations out there; the language is much more brief and terse. The style may well have been influenced by Cleary's deep interest in Taoist and Buddhist literature
May 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Who knew this is what the Koran is like? I'm sure that some of the more unpleasant and misinterpreted parts of it were excised to put this collection together, but it seems to be a very good intro to something I knew very little about.

I was particularly surprised that it says things like "there is to be no compulsion in religion," Jews and Christians can be good Muslims, too, and God is a non-physical, infinite being. It even says that much of its own text is intentionally metaphorical, and I l
Mar 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This book is holy scripture revered by Muslim people the world over for centuries, and it would be illogical not to give this book its five-star due. I have heard that the Koran loses some of its original verve when read in English translation, but I was nevertheless impressed with the beauty and eloquence of its translated prose. The Koran is neither long, cumbersome, nor difficult to read. I would compare it in length to the New Testament. I was surprised that so much of the Koran embraces th ...more
Mehmed Gokcel
Nov 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
4, not 5 stars because I thought it could have more notes on the historical context of the verses. However, it does what it says it will do by just brushing the surface of the Qu'ran with selected verses. I was particularly fond of the unusual format that was used to present the verses. They were broken up into clauses and written like a poem. When read out loud - as the translator suggests - the verses have a very powerful effect on the reader. Overall, I would recommend this version to beginne ...more
Lauren Monsey Nagel
It is very interesting to read so far and absolutely not in any way close to what I expected it to be.
Carlos Aguirre
Jun 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Esta selección de textos del Corán es una excelente introducción para todo aquel que quiera tener un primer contacto con el libro sagrado del Islam. La versión española es muy bonita y los textos seleccionados por Cleary son una maravilla. Las notas también me han gustado mucho. Maravillosa lectura.
Apr 23, 2016 rated it it was ok
Unscholarly, but gets a star for PR

Having read Cleary's translation of various Taoist works, this book doesn't totally surprise me, though it does somewhat surprise me that he's even more "in the tank" for Islam than for Taoism or Buddhism.

Essentially, this is a gloss on the Quran that tries to make it, and Islam, part of Huxley's "perennial philosophy." As such, yes, a Sufi, or a liberal non-Sufi Sunni, might indeed like it. (Funny that Shi'ites aren't even mentioned in the introduction.)

That s
Apr 21, 2010 added it
Recommends it for: everyone
This is an impossible book to rate as it is a translation of a religous book. The first was written to clarify the bible and this book was written to attempt to say in English what its object said in Arabic language.

Unable to read the underlying religious book, I can only assume that translation is accurate until being advised otherwise,

I did learn that this book came to be a clarification of the Bible, the Torah , the Gospels and previous religious writings.It is a result from the experience o
Aug 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion
A great introduction to the Q'ran. If you follow issues related to Islam in the media, you might expect this book to be full of violence, but on the contrary, this is a book about peace, tolerance, and goodwill. After reading the Faith Club, I knew I was going to see a lot of similar beliefs to Christianity and Judaism, but I was overwhelmed by the respect this book gives to all people of the Book (the Bible): "Indeed, be they Muslims, Jews, Sabians, or Christians, those who believe in God and t ...more
The Qur'an is the most readable of all the Books for the people. Completed every year during the holy month of Ramadan, and often memorized by the most well brought up muslims, the essentials of Islam are presented succinctly and clearly in Cleary's translation.

However, reading the Qur'an in English is a rather tedious business. The sound of classical Arabic does much more to soothe the soul and lift the spirit. The essentials are clear: no compulsion in religion, no God but God, do good, take
Tom Darrow
Jul 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
Before anyone gets too judgy about Islam, they should read this book. I don't expect anyone to read the whole Koran, but this book contains the major highlights and ideas. Bible-thumping Christians might find that they have a lot more similarities with Islam than they thought. ...more
I would not read this translation again, if only because he uses the word God rather than Allah, which I think is disrespectful.
J.K. George
Jun 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2006-books
My exposure to the Koran, and like (I suppose) all major collections of saying from prophets, full of wonderful truths and advice. Like the Bible, both New and Old Testaments, The Koran has plenty of drastic absolute statement, which had resulted schisms in Islam, and groups who want to kill anyone not suitable as a "believer."

After years of religion and exposure to these "great" works, I choose to consider all religion as interpretations of human beings, by human beings, of a wondrous mytholog
Joseph Thotianna
May 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is my favorite edition of the God saga. It expands on the theme of the original. Had some nice callbacks to the main characters(I.e Jesus). It also has nice new characters like Mohamid. It is essentially the perfect sequel. Unlike the book of Mormon. Though it has the same fanbase problem as the original. Trying to take over the world was kinda extreme. Hope the fandom gets better over time.
Aug 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written in the praise of One God.
Aug 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Read this years ago in a philosophy class. Interesting read and inspirational as well.
Jan 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you have travelled. -The Prophet Mohammed
Sep 21, 2011 rated it liked it
Some 160 pages of selections from the Quran in a peculiar translation (in The Cow 35 God tells Adam that if he comes near the tree, he and his wife would become "abusive tyrants"; most translations at make it "wrongdoers" or "transgressors") with a preface and endnotes. The preface says that "the dramatic shifts in person, mood, tense and mode" in the text "become exhilarating exercises in perspective and translation of consciousness into a new manner of perception." This may be so ...more
Dominic Carlone
Oct 31, 2012 rated it it was ok
Enjoyable as an introduction, though it's hard to comment on the choice of passages without knowing what was left out (not to say that's a flaw). Condescending tone in the introduction rubbed me the wrong way, as did the choice not to include numbers or symbols to indicate where/when end notes were applied. I've seen this practice before, so it's not a specific problem to this text, but given the suggestion in the intro that a Western reader likely can't grasp the layers of meaning without readi ...more
William West
This did a nice job of providing me, a complete novice, to some of the essential passages of the Qur'an. Cleary did a good job of providing historical and analytical context for the excerpts. I had the impression that his translations were very good as there was a real poetic energy to the passages that was probably hard to reproduce from such an old text written in a language so distinct from English. ...more
Jeanne McDonald
Apr 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
It's never easy to review a sacred text, even a translation of one. Overall, I found this translation to be simple to follow. While a translation will always struggle to transmit the power, meaning, and beauty behind the original text, however, I feel this one conveys the message of "one God" in a clear and concise manner. ...more
Megan Wight
I liked this book. I think though, it is important for readers to know that the Koran is meant more to be heard than simply read. The different sounds heard through the Arabic language have deeply passionate meanings which can't be expressed in text. ...more
Dan Robinson
Feb 13, 2008 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
This is a book that I pick up from time to time - always find something that I would do well to give more thought to.
Thomas Cleary is in league with Stephen Mitchell and others who have done such a service to all of us in bringing to a wider audience the essence of different traditions.
Oct 13, 2012 rated it liked it
Mar 04, 2016 rated it liked it
A good book for a basic introduction, but since it's a "best of" compilation there's a lot missing. It does make me want to read the full text, which is probably its purpose. ...more
Feb 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
A nice read. I feel like some of the original aspects of the quaran seems to be hidden in this translation but still great.
Jul 24, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: review

The Essential Koran
Cleary, Thomas
translation of the original text
Ken Lange
Aug 18, 2008 rated it liked it
Good introduction to the Koran.
Nov 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
to my perception, some nice and/or interesting things, some less so (guess as in perhaps a little mean or unreasonable)
Marc Manley
Jan 18, 2011 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: islam
A la Ebad's recommendation. ...more
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