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August 24, 2011

Without making too much of it, nor indeed too little, this diagram represents a respectful and graphic understanding of the Quran at the present stage of interfaith investigation, illustrating the principle that clusters of material in the Quran can be identified as relating to God’s previous revelations to Zoroaster, shown in white. Those white portions, previously revealed to Zoroaster and recorded in the Avesta, were not “copied” into the Quran, any more than were the Hebrew Torah or Christian Gospel portions, identified in the diagram as striped and gray respectively. Such material was revealed afresh to Muhammad, though just as some verses of Hebrew and Christian Scriptures appear almost verbatim from the Bible record, the opening and closing of the Quran, Chapter 1 and Chapters 113 and 114, may have an almost literal affinity with the Avesta – a matter for Muslim scholars to adjudicate. In a more general sense, anything in the Quran that is related to Judgment Day, for example, should be correlated to earlier Zoroastrian revelations, just as references to the law given to Moses are correlated to the Hebrew revelations and allusions to Jesus as the messiah are correlated to the Christian connection. Confirmations of Hanif monotheistic oral traditions, and condemnations of Arabian idolatry, superstition and pagan practices are as obvious as the revelations rejecting Babylonian polytheism.

In this diagram the sections of the Quran corresponding to previous revelations, confirmed or corrected, and false religions, condemned and rejected, are given names for purposes of classroom or book club discussion. Limited to black, white and gray colors in this printed text, passages related to the Zoroastrian Avesta are shown in white, or “sunshine.” Those echoing the Hebrew Torah are shown in a striped design we call “prayershawl,” and those corresponding to Christian Gospel material are shown in the gray “cloud-of-presence,” recalling Jesus’ baptism, transfiguration and ascension, as well as the pillar of cloud in the desert. Babylonian polytheism is shown here in slanting stripes we call “pathways astray,” while the monotheism of the desert Hanifs is pictured as “arabesque tapestry.” Arabian idolatry, paganism and superstitions are shown in a design we call “sandstorm,” and the asides unique to the Quran, parenthetical explanations, and applications of the eternal words of God to the particular situation of Arabia in the time of Muhammad are shown here in the black of “Night Journey.”

In diagrammatic scale, chapters of less than 100 verses are shown in units or bars 4 millimeters deep (like Chapter I). Those between 100 and 200 verses occupy bars 8 millimeters deep (Chapter 6), and those up to 300 verses are shown in bars of 12 millimeters in depth (Chapter7). The size of the colored blocks are equal to the proportion of that chapter that confirms or critiques specific previous revelations. For example, the box showing Chapter Six illustrates that about 48% of its contents may reflect the previous Avesta revelation in two white blocks, some 40% appears to be related to previous Hanif oral traditions of revelation as shown in “tapestry,” 10% of this chapter reflects revelations given previously to Jews and 2% is unique to the Quran.

Theological chapters revealed in Mecca represent approximately two thirds of the Quran, while the application of God’s instruction in Medina is represented in the remaining third. Shown in white, the most obvious feature of the diagram is the preponderance of material reflecting what was revealed in the Avesta Scriptures of Zoroastrianism, far surpassing even the Jewish and especially the Christian Scriptural echoes. This should not be a surprise, given the predominance of Zoroastrian influence of Arabia’s largest, nearest and most significant neighbors, traditionally identified by the name of its closest exemplar, the Sabaean religion. The title, The Diagram of Previous Revelations from God Confirmed in the Quran makes a point that Muslims already understand, but that Jews and Christians need to appreciate, namely, that confirmation of previous revelations is by far the dominant motif of the Quran, though critique, putative correction, and even condemnation are all important elements.

Posted by: Brian Arthur Brown