Hans Zirker: Der Koran. Zugänge und Lesarten

Prof. Dr. Christine Schirrmacher

Hans Zirker. Der Koran. Zugänge und Lesarten. (Primus Verlag: Darmstadt, 1999, 230 pp., 19.90 €)

Hans Zirker is professor for Catholic Fundamental Theology at the University of Essen and has herewith published a further book on “Islam”. In five chapters, he proves his ability to give an introduction into basic facts about Qur’anic studies for nonexperts and to provide insiders with fascinating insights into and new perspectives of this theme.

It should be emphasized that Zirker quotes the Qur’an in many instances. At the same time, he contrasts Muslim orthodox positions with non-Muslim perspectives instead of immediately intermingling the description with his own evaluation. This makes the different perspective of Muslims and Christians in evaluating the Qur’an obvious: When Muslims evaluate Christian traditions, they are convinced that Islam is the only true revelation being proclaimed from Adam until eternity, and that the Qur’anic statements about Christianity must therefore be unquestionable true, whereas Christians can of course not agree to such a narrow, abbreviated descrip-tion of their faith.

Hans Zirker’s analysis comprises the Muslim – and in contrast to it – the Christian understanding of their book of revelation, its structure, and its contents. In this way, he provides basic guidelines for understanding the Qur’an, which are particularly useful for those who have tried to read the Qur’an from its beginning to its end without having detailed knowledge of Islam’s early history, its founders, or specific theological Qur’anic terminology. Several general statements give insight into Muslim theology as such:

“Most prayers of the Qur’an are prayers for forgiveness for one’s own faults” (86), “The Qur’an does not know the command to love one’s enemy like the Sermon on the Mount in the New Testament” (146) or, “For the Qur’an it is unthinkable that believers are complaining towards or even accusing God like the Bible tells us” (165).

And finally Zirker does not hesitate to admit that several questions about the Qur’an are remain open as far as he is concerned: Nowhere in the Qur’an can the Muslim theologian (not to speak of the ‘simple’ believer) get any clear indication which Qur’an verses are “abrogated”, i. e., no longer valid and which verses “abrogate” others (make other verses invalid). And there is also the fact that many Qur’anic commands can in no way be understood without a lot of background information: This also questions the Qur’anic claim to be the only true and historically comprehensive, universally applicable message of history.

Zirker’s study is an informative book about the Qur’an which en-ables the reader to find some structure in Qur’anic-Muslim theological thinking.