IS THERE SPECIAL POWER in the Qur'an? Why are thousands of Muslims ready to commit suicidal, mass murder in the name of Allah?
I heard part of an explanation when I was in Iran, in 1999.
After my lecture at the University of Masshad, a female graduate student came close to me and quietly urged, "Dr. Yeagley, you must understand. The Qur'an is magic. It is completely magic."
What did she mean?
The Qur'an mentions enchantment many times. But passages like Sura 10:2 present sorcery as something unbelievers condemn believers for practicing.
The unbeliever won't acknowledge Divine miracles. He justifies his disbelief by accusing the believer of sorcery. Even if admitted into Heaven, says the Qur'an, the unbelievers would not believe. "They would only say we have been bewitched by sorcery." Sura 15:15. Sura 2:102 suggests magic is dangerous. The Shaitans (evil ones) taught magic to angels in Babylon, Harut and Marut, who were but novices. The angels then warned men about magic. They knew whoever "purchased" magic would have "no share in the happiness of the Hereafter."
But the role of magic itself is unclear in the Qur'an. As the young Masshadi woman said, "The Qur'an is magic." But if the unbeliever considers divine miracles only "magic," then what is the magic practiced by the unbeliever? Why isn't magic itself clearly identified? Is the Qur'an just a superior form of magic?
There may be a clue in the language of the Qur'an itself.
A. J. Arberry's introduction to his English translation of the Qur'an (The Koran Interpreted, 1955) says he attempts to preserve the "rhetorical and rhythmical patterns which are the glory and the sublimity of the Koran." These elements in the original Arabic are highly emotive and "move men to tears," at their very sound (p.21).
In fact, the Qur'an is written in the style of ancient Arabic soothsaying (sorcery), and represents, essentially, the mechanism of incantation. (Islam: Muhammad and His Religion, ed. Arthur Jeffery, 1958, p.47.)
This is the magic the young woman spoke of: conjuration. To conjure is to solicit a supernatural spirit through magic.
Yet, the Qur'an doesn't openly advocate the practice of magic. In fact, the Al-Kashaf (on Hoda CD) interprets Sura 30 "S¨¹rah Ar-R¨¹m" (The Romans) as Christianity's victory over the polytheism and magic of Iranian Magi (4, 6). This puts Christianity a step above paganism. However, the Qur'an states, whoever says God had a Son is a liar (10:68). So, the Muslim is considered a step above the Christian.
Yet, the magic of incantation, the vocal, musical conjuration of spirit(s), is the mechanism Qur'anic power.
It's like using some hot, heathen lust to push ideas across which themselves are considered holy. Is this possible?
No, says Samuele Bacchiocchi. Paganism trumps in a mix. We see this in our modern culture. In The Christian & Rock Music (2000), Bacchiocci's makes observations about American popular music, which provide an analogy that helps reveal effects of the Qur'an on its believers. Bacchiocchi disapproves of mixing rock music with Christian lyrics. He says rock music itself is antithetical to Christian behavioral values. The mix is deceptively pernicious. Bacchiocchi references numerous psychologists and historians like University of Chicago's Allan Bloom. Bloom says that rock music is "junk food for the soul." It gives vent to the "rawest passions" against which there is "no intellectual resistance." (The Closing of the American Mind (1987), p.73)
Perhaps Qur'anic incantation, like rock music, is inevitably accompanied by real power, and there's no rationale to resist the emotions it may conjure up.
So, maybe suicidal terrorists are under a horrifying spell¨Da deceptive, vicious trance they're unable to resist.
They're not just victims of abject socio-economic depression, aspiring to glory through martyrdom. No, they're slaves of magic.
Manochehr Dorraj, of Texas Christian University, nevertheless interprets terrorists by Western standards. He presented a paper at the Iranian Studies Conference (May, 2000) titled, "Iran's Religious Intellectuals and the Idea of Martyrdom in the 1960s."
Speaking to a Westernized audience, he called martyrdom "a romantic embrace of suicide and death." He disclosed other incentives for martyrdom, like the promise of food stamps and financial rewards to remaining family members. He said martyrdom is socially effective only among strongly bonded "tribal" communities.
But he never spoke of magic.
If the vice of magic is the real power of the Qur'an, then our terrorist enemies suffer from more than we know. Only profound addicts can grasp it. Yet, our western substance abusers seem content to destroy only themselves. They're a step above Muslim terrorists.