The Pasila district studios of the Finnish Broadcasting Company Yle have completed an ambitious and one-of-a-kind radio project. It is a radio series in which the holy book of Islam, the Koran, will be read cover-to-cover in 60 half-hour-long instalments.
Each instalment will begin with a discussion between Imam Anas Hajjar, a leader of the Finnish Muslim community, and the translator of the text into Finnish, Professor Jaakko Hämeen-Anttila. In these introductory discussions, the two men will explore the religious and historical context of the text to be read.
“It’s nice to hear my translation be read aloud. It is important that the Koran is read in its entirety, and not just select items that show that Islam is bad and violent or good and beautiful. All of the text material is served up for the listener to assess,” says Hämeen-Anttila.
The Koran needs an interpreter
The Koran is 1,400 years old, and for this reason, Hämeen-Anttila says it doesn’t open up to modern listeners just like that. Interpretation is necessary, but this means stepping on shaky ground.
“We haven’t been at loggerheads, but Imam Anas Hajjar and I have often read the same passage and approached it from a very different point of view. Imam Hajjar reads practical, contemporary meanings into the text and I see it as an historic work that is tied to the time in which it was created,” he says.
According to Hämeen-Anttila, the two men’s discussed “everything between heaven and earth” during the radio series. Among other things, they consider the role of Satan, men’s behaviour instructions when in the company of women and the Ayat an-Nur, or ‘Verse of Light’, the Arabic text found on the wall of many Muslims’ homes.
Hämeen-Anttila says he doesn’t believe it is necessary to be careful with one’s words when discussing the Koran, even if it is a holy book. Yet he admits he is aware that the ancient text still functions as a daily guide to over a billion people.
Muslim community active in development of the project
Yle called on the most authoritative representatives of Islam in Finland to make the programme and the resulting series has their approval. Offhand, Imam Anas Hajjar can’t think of a reason why anyone would be offended.
“The programme is an important step in understanding one another. It is an attempt to tell the story of The Koran and what it contains,” he says.