The Unsinkable brian cork™

Brian Patrick Cork is living the Authentic Life

chaos abounds in Thomas Jefferson's library. and, the dewey decimal system be damned


I’ll admit we started this fight explorative effort with my earlier post: A Great Bargain.

On January 4, 2007, Keith Ellison became the first Muslim member of the U.S. Congress. After the official swearing-in ceremony, he took a ceremonial oath using a Qur’an owned by Thomas Jefferson, and acquired by the Library of Congress in 1815. My heart and hopes were warmed considerably with Ellison’t notions and maturity around tolerance.

Timely and relevant, said I. And, I retain that position, mind you.

Yet, out there, exist people with a separate view. How did that happen, you ask reader?

Consider:  How Thomas Jefferson Read the Qur’an by Kevin J. Hayes, (you’ll find it under Early American Literature), published in in 2004.

thomas JeffersonAnyway, read the whole thing.  Do it!  The article, I mean, but really, only if you’re certain you can appreciate it. But, also, ponder it’s ramifications.

Here’s why…

For many Muslims the election of Keith Ellison to the U.S. Congress was a great moment in U.S. history, and his use of the Jefferson Qur’an, an added bonus.

But should Muslims feel good about the fact that Jefferson owned a Qur’an?

I think so. Let’s be clear about that. I made my reasons clear in my aforementioned post.

However, after reading Kevin J. Hayes’ article, I can see why other people, and not just a few my need to stop, pause, and wonder. I’m not sure it’s accurate, so much as compelling.

So, let’s discuss and evaluate it with an open-mind here. Both Thomas Jefferson and Mr. Ellison would certainly approve.

I began reading Hayes’ article with great enthusiasm, interested to learn more about Jefferson’s connection with the Qur’an. My enthusiasm, however, steadily waned and by the end of the article, I was rather annoyed.

My enthusiasm diminished because, according to Hayes, Professor of English, University of Central Oklahoma, Jefferson was not a particularly big fan of Islam. In fact, Hayes concludes that Jefferson believed that Islam was:

“a halfway point between paganism and Christianity.”

I’m not sure that was fair or accurate. And, the irony here, of course, is that Islam teaches that it is the final revelation and, among other things, does away with pagan beliefs that had crept into previously established religions.

Hayes, in brief here, argues that Jefferson approached the Qur’an initially as a legal text and ultimately found fault with Islamic beliefs. I have to agree with that because it’s what Jefferson will add in his own memoirs. One piece of evidence Hayes uses to support his claim is the organizational scheme of Jefferson’s religious books. According to Hayes, Jefferson considered carefully where to physically place his books in relation to each other and was upset when the Library of Congress cataloged them in a different order, after he sold his personal library to the government. The Dewey Decimal System be damned!

Jefferson apparently placed the Qur’an between books on the religious beliefs of the ancient Greeks and Romans and the Old and New Testaments. Hayes states:

“The idea of progress underlies Jefferson’s organization of his religious books, and the list suggests a general progression from pagan to Christian…The library catalogue…suggests that Islam, as a monotheistic religion, represented an advance over the pantheism of ancient times. The organization of the library catalogue implies that the Islamic belief system was an improvement over the pagan religions yet fell short of the belief system Christianity represented.” (p. 254)

Although I’ll hold myself out as a Jeffersonian, and quite keen when it comes to historical research, I cannot judge whether Professor Hayes’ research is complete, his arguments sound, or his conclusions reasonable. So, perhaps, it is feasible that Jefferson did not understand the teachings of Islam (he did make the effort and had little outside influence to aid him) and found it to have pagan elements. Hence, the waning of enthusiasm and the ensuing disappointment as I read the article.

Why the annoyance?

The annoyance stems from the gratuitous jabs, on the part of Hayes, at Islam that interrupt what appears to be typical scholarly discourse.

For example, Hayes makes the following statements:

“Sanctioned by their government, the attacks of the Barbary pirates on American merchant vessels represent an early example of state-sponsored terrorism directed toward civilian American targets”. (p. 257)


“The ambassador explained that the conduct of the Barbary Coast pirates “was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged 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 Musselman who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise” (Papers 9:358). Even today, especially today, the ambassador’s words have a chilling effect.” (p. 257)

Add to these comments Hayes’ discussion (p. 251) on George Sale’s highly criticized translation of the Qur’an published in 1734.

To wit…

Hayes initially states, “Reading George Sale’s translation, he had the opportunity to receive a fair view of the religion.” Hayes also notes that this was the first English version translated directly from Arabic, a fact that appears to be disputed. He describes Sale’s translation as including “a thoroughly researched and well documented overview of Islam.”

Moreover, Hayes states:

“Publishing his edition of the Qur’an in a Protestant European nation during the eighteenth century, Sale, of course, could not present a fully objective view of Islam. Though he does refer to Muhammad as both an infidel and an impostor, his overall treatment of Islam is remarkably evenhanded.”

Admittedly, I have not read George Sale’s translation or his discussion on Islam, but I find it nearly impossible to believe that he could demean that community of belief  in this manner, and give a “remarkably evenhanded” account of Islam. Jefferson, himself would have expected fairness and accuracy.

In any event, Sale’s translation has received widespread criticism and no English-speaking Muslim would consider it a good translation to read. Yet Hayes seems, for the most part, to be satisfied with it.

Hayes concludes his article with the following statement:

“Reading the Qur’an as his formal legal training was coming to a close, Jefferson had already developed the critical ability to recognize it for what it was–and for what it was not. On his library shelves and in his mind it remained at a halfway point between paganism and Christianity.” (p. 259)

Early American Literature, the journal that published Professor Hayes’ article, is described as:

“The journal of the Modem Language Association’s American Literature Division 1, Early American Literature publishes the finest work of scholars examining American literature from its inception through the early national period, about 1830. Founded in 1965, EAL invites work treating Native American traditional expressions, colonial Ibero-American literature from North America, colonial American Francophone writings, Dutch colonial, and German American colonial literature as well as writings in English from British America and the US.”

With this stated purpose in mind, it seems completely out-of-place to weave into an academic historical account of literature, inflammatory and seemingly personal beliefs about a religion. Such statements make me question the scholarship of the entire article.

Peace be to my Brothers and Sisters.

Brian Patrick Cork

pearls of wisdom


I am one of those fellows that is willing to reference a alleged quote that may, or may not, be accurate. I do recognize, as flawed as I am, that this can make me appear wise and experienced, or simply ignorant.

A reasonable example of this is:

“In the Qur’an it is said that the promise is in the punishment, and or the punishment is in the promise.”

Well… Something to that effect. I, admittedly, have never verified the veracity of this quote. Probably won’t bother. But, if anyone that reads this Blog can verify it’s accuracy, one way or another, that might be terrific.

Now, and perhaps, finally say you, my point begins to take form.

I don’t really know much of anything about the Qur’an other than it puts Christians on edge, and Thomas Jefferson studied it in great detail, and ultimately arranged to have his favorite copy donated to the Library of Congress. It ended up being used to swear in then Democrat Representative-elect Keith Ellison (out of Minnesota, naturally) who, in a way, both made history (his and Jefferson’s), and a point. You can learn a bit more about that by reading a prior post of mine: A Great Bargain. Jefferson was concerned about the Muslims, so he worked hard to understand them. Ellison had become a Muslim, and apparently strives to keep minds open around tolerance.

Recently, I have been thinking along the lines that there is often an unexpected opportunity (not necessarily a “silver lining”); possibly a pearl, or “pearl of wisdom” to be had when we are faced with challenges and/ or adversity. However, under most circumstances, I believe the result is very often a gift.

“That which does not kill you, can make you stronger.”

…how trite, eh?

Maybe not.

wild-at-heart3Joanne and I have been at odds. The issue is potentially me not being sensitive to “rescuing the beauty”. It’s not quite that simple, but the concept, in this case, comes from Wild at Heart by John Eldredge. Men often seek validation in venues such as work, or in the conquest of women, Eldredge observes. He urges men to take time out and come to grips with the “secret longings” of their hearts. This might require, for example, that I evaluate what she needs and wants, and the best way for me to adjust and make her feel valued in a way that is meaningful specifically for her (not necessarily my way). That is an opportunity from an unexpected situation that I had clearly not planned for.

We (well, actually, Joanne) Home Schools Haley Anne. She has ben stubborn and resistant of late (that would be Haley Anne, not Joanne). Now we may need to adjust the curriculum. Suddenly an opportunity has arisen for me to help pick a course of study – for example, something with Thomas Jefferson,  or perhaps the geopolitical ramifications of Jewish people and the Holocaust specific to events in-and-amongst the 2nd World War. So, this is an opportunity to for Haley and I to connect over mutual interests.

To be more clear on a less personal level:

Pieces of sand find their way into live clams and are actually an irritant. Over time the sand is “worried” by the clam who builds the small piece of sand into a much larger and polished pearl, that might eventually become a wonderful gift.

Peace be to my Brothers and Sisters.

Brian Patrick Cork

Muslims and Creationism?


Did you know that evolution is incompatible with the Bible the Qur’an? That some Christians Muslims dare to support the religion of Darwinism?

Thank Allah for the Qur’an, whose light of reason blazes brightly against the infidels!

(Not sure where I got that.  But, yes, that’s sarcasm, just in case that wasn’t clear.)

However, just to balance matters out a bit, please consider my prior post: “A Great Bargain”.

Peace be to my Brothers and Sisters.

Brian Patrick Cork

In Jefferson's Shoes


So, on January 2, 2007 I posted A Great Bargain.  This was about then Representative-elect Keith Ellison, a Muslim, being sworn in on the Qur’an.

I really liked that piece, and I remain inspired.

Here is a bit more background that I have dug up as we continue to see the world today through the eyes of Thomas Jefferson…

Apparently Jefferson acquired his Qur’an not long after the injustice of the Stamp Act had forced him to seriously question the heritage of English constitutional law, and to seek ultimate answers in the ideas of natural law – and, natural rights.

Given the fact that he was devoting most of his time to the study of law, I suppose Jefferson could justify studying the Qur’an as well because it was/ is, essentially, a law book (or, book of laws).

Being, as Muslims believe, “the revealed word of God”, the Qur’an not only constitutes the sacred scripture of the Islamic faith, it also forms the supreme source of Islamic law. My take is that wanting to broaden his legal studies as much as possible, Jefferson found the Qur’an well worth his attention.

I am not trying to make a point here.  It’s simply that being Jefferson, the man was always looking for the alternative view.  This will, ultimately, be the foundation for my book: What would be Jefferson’s View?.

How would the world look from Jefferson’s view today?

This fascinates me. Truly this, say I.

Peace be to my Brothers and Sisters.

This weekend I have been listening to: Stronger by Kanye West, How Great Is Our God by Chris TomlinIs This Love by Bob Marley, Sorry by Buckcherry (However, I do prefer the acoustic version – you can get it on iTunes) and “Gunslinger” by Dan Fogerty (You can also find this on iTunes if you feel it’s important enough). I am, after all, both an enigma – and, a fellow with eclectic tastes.

And, I am a “Love Kat”.

Brian Patrick Cork


Consider:  How Thomas Jefferson Read the Qur’an by Kevin J. Hayes, Early American Literature.

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What’s All This About?

"What am I looking at?", you might wonder.

Lots of stuff.

Meanwhile, here, I discuss events, people and things in our world - and, my (hardly simplistic, albeit inarticulate) views around them.

You'll also learn things about, well, things, like people you need to know about, and information about companies you can't find anywhere else.

So, while I harangue the public in my not so gentle way, you will discover that I am fascinated by all things arcane, curious about those whom appear religious, love music, dabble in politics, loathe the media, value education, still think I am an athlete, and might offer a recipe.

All the while, striving mightily, and daily, to remain a prudent and optimistic gentleman - and, authentic.

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