Beliefnet
Rod Dreher

Somebody’s asking for trouble:

This is a serious business. A team of researchers at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences is preparing to bring out the first installment of Corpus Coranicum – which purports to be nothing less than the first critically evaluated text of the Qur’an ever to be produced.
What this means is that the research team is in the process of analysing and transcribing some 12,000 slides of Qur’an mansucripts from the first six centuries of the text’s existence. Once that is complete, the way is open to producing a text that annotates and, presumably, provides some sort of exegesis on the differences found in the early manuscripts.
The impact of such a project can hardly be underestimated. As Lucas Wiegelmann writes in a long overview of the project in Die Welt:

Some say that the Qur’an is the word of God which Mohammed has passed on; whoever challenges that should be punished. Others say that Mohammed cribbed the text from Christian and Jewish texts and from that produced this confusing melee. A third opinion gives that Mohammed anyway had nothing to do with the Qur’an, and it was his successors in the community that pulled the text together and merely put the words in Mohammed’s mouth. A few even say that Mohammed never existed.

It’s revolting that the scholars working on this should have to live in fear of their lives, but that’s the world we’re in. A few years ago, I was at a seminar addressed by one of the world’s top non-Muslim scholars of Islamic history. He went off the record with journalists present to discuss a very minor event in the Prophet’s life, and then resumed his on-the-record remarks. One of us asked why on earth he’d spoken off the record about that trifling thing. He said because he could get killed, right there on his university campus in the West, for having uttered the anodyne opinion we’d heard. Unbelievable.

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