• What the Qur'an Meant

  • And Why It Matters
  • By: Garry Wills
  • Narrated by: Robertson Dean
  • Length: 6 hrs and 11 mins
  • 4.3 out of 5 stars (71 ratings)

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What the Qur'an Meant

By: Garry Wills
Narrated by: Robertson Dean
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Publisher's Summary

America's leading religious scholar and public intellectual introduces lay listeners to the Qur'an with a measured, powerful reading of the ancient text

Garry Wills has spent a lifetime thinking and writing about Christianity. In What the Qur'an Meant, Wills invites listeners to join him as he embarks on a timely and necessary reconsideration of the Qur'an, leading us through perplexing passages with insight and erudition. What does the Qur'an actually say about veiling women? Does it justify religious war?

There was a time when ordinary Americans did not have to know much about Islam. That is no longer the case. We blundered into the longest war in our history without knowing basic facts about the Islamic civilization with which we were dealing. We are constantly fed false information about Islam - claims that it is essentially a religion of violence, that its sacred book is a handbook for terrorists. There is no way to assess these claims unless we have at least some knowledge of the Qur'an.

In this book Wills, as a non-Muslim with an open mind, reads the Qur'an with sympathy but with rigor, trying to discover why other non-Muslims - such as Pope Francis - find it an inspiring book, worthy to guide people down through the centuries. There are many traditions that add to and distort and blunt the actual words of the text. What Wills does resembles the work of art restorers who clean away accumulated layers of dust to find the original meaning. He compares the Qur'an with other sacred books, the Old Testament and the New Testament, to show many parallels between them. There are also parallel difficulties of interpretation, which call for patient exploration - and which offer some thrills of discovery. What the Qur'an Meant is the opening of a conversation on one of the world's most practiced religions.

©2017 Garry Wills (P)2017 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"Wills has written perhaps the best introduction to the Quran that I know of: elegant, insightful, even at times joyful...his encounter with it is a pleasure to read for anyone as open to discovery as he is." (The New York Times)

“A useful and worthy interpretation that non-Muslims will find illuminating...Best-selling Wills’ stature will draw many readers.” (Booklist)

“A work of intimate and charitable interreligious dialogue.” (Publishers Weekly)   

What listeners say about What the Qur'an Meant

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Encouraging Each Other

"We recognize ourselves in the true image of other believers, in the Qur'an or Torah. We believers encourage each other over the barriers raised by people who do not wish any of us well."
- Garry Wills, What the Qur'an Meant

Garry Wills' What the Qur'an Meant: And Why It Matters follows his format used previously in:
1. What the Gospels Meant
2. What Paul Meant
3. What Jesus Meant

It is one of the first books (I've read) that uses heavily The Study Quran: A New Translation and Commentary. As other have noted, the title is a bit misleading. Part I of the book actually looks at Why It Matters; Part II looks at What the Qur'an means.

This is not a complete exegesis of the Qur'an and isn't meant to be. It is a look at a book that is viewed as scipture by about 1/4 of the world, by a believer from another faith tradition (Catholic). Wills is trying to be fair and generous. He looks at the Qur'an using the same skills he uses with the Bible. He looks at what others have written, academic resources, and the text. He tries to distill the text from both how the faith is practiced in History and how it is practiced by extremists now and puts into context some of the most tortured verses, showing parallels from the Torah and the New Testament.

I liked his approach, his tone, and his agenda. While I'm skeptical of most faiths (often even of my own) I am drawn often to writers who can talk about religion without condesencion or without being too hot (zealous, biased) or cold (abstract, clinical). Faith and belief are powerful aspects of our humanity. We need to view others (both belivers and nonbelivers) with respect. Often, we need to use care to insure that we aren't spreading rumors and false narratives about other traditions or people. We need to follow the Golden Rule in how we define others. Define them with the same charity we would like to be defined by. I don't want my faith tradition defined by polygamists who marry underage children, and I'm certain 95 percent of Muslims would prefer to no have their traditions defined by their most extreme elements. I'm certain many Christians would prefer that their faith wasn't defined by the Duggers or Westboro baptists either.

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Great insight.

We have so much more in common with these people than we think. We need to take a look in the mirror before passing judgement the way we sometimes do.

4 people found this helpful

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Important book glad I read it

Liked intro and how made topic so relevant. Liked comparing and contrasting to Torah and gospel. Helped my understanding. Good reader very professorial sounding

3 people found this helpful

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Great book for non Muslims

Great book for non Muslims to get educated about Muslims. It will help eliminate " judgments based on ignorance"

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Wonderful Guide

Excellent. Should be required reading for all Americans, especially those on the political right wing.

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Required reading for the open mind

Ignorance is not bliss. As Richard Powers wrote in The Overstory, “the greatest flaw of the human species is its overwhelming tendency to mistake agreement for truth.” Today There is a lot of agreement about the dangers of Islam but not too much truth in that perspective. Read this book and enjoy some of the sensible thoughtful aspects of the practice. The mosaic religions share a rich history and each built something unique on that foundation. Too bad we cannot celebrate these creative practices.
Thank you Garry Wills.

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Terrible

This book was supposed to talk about the Quran; however, was completely political. Little discussion of the book or its meaning. Completely misrepresented.

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Amazing book

I can’t stop listening is so interesting. Highly recommended answer so many question and doubts I had . Thank you!

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Open minded author

Have good understanding of what is going on
Fair in delivery
Honest opinion
Open minded author
I loved the book, the author, and the narrator

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  • duncan
  • 06-06-18

Doesn't come close

Doesn't come close to doing what it proports on the cover. The author spends a lot of time ranting about politics and even when he gets to the subject mater, just cherry picks. End result is a unhelpful bias apologia. I would recommend reading the Quran is self rather than this rubbish.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Dalia
  • 03-12-21

big introduction to know more about Quran

Quran is the message of Allah " God" as muslim reviewer I will recommend this book it actually mentiond many of the controversial ideas about Quran and islam, what I really like about it, that it separated Quran from what really islamic countries are applying in their legeslation systems and their life, Quran is the source of truth

1 person found this helpful

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  • Captain nemo
  • 08-11-18

no words to describe my happiness

stilness and silence are expressions of my feelings. no words are needed to express my abundance that i feel when i listen this beautifull audio book. that is why i have no questions about this audio book. thank you for all your good work.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Mr. N. Iqbal
  • 06-07-22

Wonderfully insightful and thought correcting.

Being a Muslim I have a vested interest, but I truly did enjoy the depth of knowledge, understanding and point of view from the author.

He truly applies a wealth of information and experience to this topic and world affairs. It's easy to judge from the outside when you lack true knowledge it's when look from the inside out and begin to understand the view of the other, this is when we can build bridges.

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  • rowshon uddin
  • 11-11-21

Excellent

I’m Muslim. Learnt so much about my own faith. Eloquent, detailed, thorough, accurate, answers all the questions you might have about the Quran and addresses all the bad things you might have heard about Islam.

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  • Mr. Mns Ackbarally
  • 05-26-20

A useful, unbiased, inoffensive (mostly) analysis

This book was an interesting analysis of several verses in the Qur'an which have been misinterpreted by those who claim to be Muslims and those who oppose Islam (because they've witnessed the severely misguided and ignorant actions of those who claim to be Muslims!). Wills makes it clear that Muslims who try to follow the guidance in our Book have suffered persecution at the hands of those who have misinterpreted what they've heard about what is said in the Qur'an. As with any book like this, and with anything in life, if you approach it with preconceived ideas or a closed mind it will be difficult to learn anything from it. With an open mind, however, we can begin to understand a little more about the religion - Muslims too.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-14-20

Very Perceptive

Loved the book. it fairly addresses some of the major misconceptions about Muslims and Islam from the primary source of the belivers' faith (the word of Allah). I really liked the structure of the text, and he certainly saves the best for last. I particularly liked the submissions in chapters 8 and 52.