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Representative-elect Keith Ellison, a Minnesota Democrat, requested the 18th century copy of the Koran for the unofficial part of his swearing in on Thursday, according to Mark Dimunation, chief of rare books and special collections at the Library of Congress in Washington.
Jefferson needed that copy of the Koran because he was desperate to learn something about Islam from that religion’s written de facto standard of all things Muslim. Why? Because the United States was going to war in the early 1800s against conservative, Wahhabi-type, radical Muslims.
Jefferson purchased George Sale’s well-known translation of the Quran, on Oct. 5, 1765. Then a 22-year-old law student in Wil-liamsburg, Jefferson saw the Quran cited in Samuel Pufendorf’s classic treatise "Of the Law of Nature and Nations" as precedent on a variety of civil and international legal issues.
Jefferson’s interest in the Islamic holy book led him to learning about Islam and a sustained study of the Quran’s written language, Arabic.
Jefferson famously wrote in 1782 that the "legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket, nor breaks my leg."
Jefferson’s Statute on Religious Freedom inspired the U.S. Constitution’s ban on religious tests for office and Bill of Rights protections of religious free exercise and against an establishment of religion.
In an 1821 letter to Georgia Rabbi Jacob de la Motta, Jefferson reflected that America was the "first to prove to the world … that religious freedom is the most effective anodyne against religious dissension." Finding strength in America’s diversity, Jefferson observed that in religion, the maxim is "divided we stand, united we fall."
Originally posted by ForceMaster
Ever wonder why Thomas Jefferson had a copy of the Koran?