Thomas Jefferson and Rashida Tlaib

Rashida Tlaib was sworn in to Congress on Thomas Jefferson’s Quran

With so much discussion of the new congresswoman’s fashion choice there seems to have been little about her choice to be sworn in on Thomas Jefferson’s Quran. Here are some things to ponder.

There’s an irony about the choice of Jefferson’s Quran†. The President was fighting a war against the Muslim Barbary pirates of North Africa and the book was research on how to defeat them.

There doesn’t seem to any written evidence of Jefferson’s attitude to Islam as a religion and/or system of government. There’s a meme going round “Religion is the most perverted system ever shone on man” but although he did say something like that he was referring to Catholicism.

On what bible did the third president of the United States make his oath of office?

It couldn’t have been the famous Jefferson Bible, The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, because it was completed in 1820. It was constructed by cutting with a razor and pasting with glue many sections from the New Testament, as extractions of the doctrine of Jesus.

Jefferson’s condensed composition is especially notable for its exclusion of all miracles by Jesus and most mentions of the supernatural, excluding sections of the four gospels that contain the Resurrection and most other miracles, and passages that portray Jesus as divine.

If he thought that about the Christian holy book that he was brought up on, how inflammatory must his unexpressed opinion of the Muslim holy book have been?

During his presidency American ships were plagued with piracy from North Africa. America paid tribute i.e protection money but that wasn’t enough. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson reported to Secretary of State John Jay, and to the Congress after meeting Tripoli’s envoy to London, Ambassador Sidi Haji Abdrahaman:

The ambassador. answered us that [sic the right of Muslim pirates to take American slaves and extort money] was founded on the Laws of the Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have answered their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as prisoners, and that every Mussulman who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.

Does that sound familiar?

Translations are only human

The second irony is that Jefferson’s Quran was a translation by George Sale. According to modern Islamic theology, the Quran is a revelation very specifically in Arabic. Translations into other languages are necessarily the work of humans and so, according to Muslims, no longer have the uniquely sacred character of the Arabic original.

In other words swearing on a translated Quran has no value in Islamic Law.

So was Tlaib simply ignorant of this or knowingly playing fast and loose with the declaration? Her Islam seems fairly non observant but who knows what will happen when the Bill of Rights is challenged by Sharia?

I, AB, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

The forgotten Palestinian?

With such a big deal being made about Tlaib, Justin A. Amash, the first Palestinian‑American seems to have been swept under the rug. He was the first and beat her into Congress by eight years. Perhaps being both Republican and Christian doesn’t count?


Quran or Koran? The form Alcoran (and its variants) was usual before the 19th century when it became obsolete. The form Koran was most predominant from the second half of the 18th century till the 1980s, when it has been superseded by either Qur’an or Quran. Other transliterations include al-CoranCoranKuran and al-Qur’an.

About David Guy

B.A./B.C.A. (Communication and Media Arts) University of Wollongong, AUSTRALIA M.A. in Government (Diplomacy and Conflict Studies) Inter Disciplinary Center, Herzliya, ISRAEL Twitter @5MFI
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