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Book Reviews

Mohammad A. Amir-Moezzi (edited by), Dizionario del Corano, [Dictionary of the Qur‘an]

Mohammad Ali Amir-Moezzi (edited by), Dizionario del Corano, [Dictionary of the Qur‘an] Mondadori, Milano 2007  

It is no mystery that the Qur’an is one of the sacred texts that Western readers have more difficulties hardest to tackle. Even though many of the events cited in Islam’s holy book exhibit more or less close parallels with the Bible, its discourse’s allusive approach, the apparently orderless succession of its various themes and its non temporal division (from the longest to the shortest sūrah or chapters) can be baffling. Muslims who wish to study the Qur‘anic text without the necessary philological training face other but no less compelling difficulties.

 

 

A handbook that helps readers figure out what is in the pages of the holy book is thus of great importance. The Dizionario del Corano (Dictionary of the Qur‘an) by Mondadori does exactly that. Released just a few months after the publication of the original French edition and put together by a group of Islamologists led by Mohammad Ali Amir-Moezzi, it fills a vacuum in Italian publishing.

 

 

Indeed this book is more like an encyclopaedia than a dictionary. Each entry is a sort of small essay illustrating a particular aspect of the Qur’anic text. To its scientific standard bears witness such sensitive entries like war and peace, tolerance and intolerance or Shari’a, in which both unwarranted apologetics and senseless criticisms are avoided. However, also more unusual matters deserve a closer look. There are in fact entries about bees and honey, psalmody, the seven readings, blood, calamus, barzakh, wine and drugs to mention just a few, all of which provides an interesting glimpse into the Qur’an itself and the various civilisations that from the Qu’ran drew their aliment.

 

 

The Dizionario also pays close attention to popular and mystical traditions, overshadowed nowadays by the rise of fundamentalism, but which remain, often just below the surface, very much alive among Muslim peoples.

 

Edited by Ida Zilio-Grandi, the Italian edition’s bibliography and chronology were adapted for the general public.

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