Textual Humanities – Visualising Data – The Quran
The Quran is the central religious text of Islam and it is widely regarded as the finest piece of literature in the Arabic language (Wikipedia, 2016). With this in mind and due to the bad press this piece of text has been getting lately, I chose to analyse it using the online visualisation tool, Voyant, as I felt it would be interesting to understand what is said in the text a little bit more.
Voyant is a web-based environment that allows users to read and analyse digital texts (Voyant, 2016). I chose this tool as it is simple to use and I believe it offers the most functionality out of a lot of the data visualisation tools that can be found online and that us as a class group have been shown in lectures.
I acquired a text file of the Quran from the website Tanzil.net, which had an English translation of the book (Khan, 2016), copied the text straight from this file into the appropriate box in Voyant’s homepage and clicked the reveal button so that text could be broken down and be made easier to analyse. As the text came straight from a text file no cleaning of the piece was necessary. The main things I was looking to find out were what were the main words said throughout the text and if there was any reoccurring words of a particular nature such as peace or violence as many people have been debating this lately.
I chose this text as there are a lot of questions that can be answered through analysing it in this way especially because it is such a large text that would take a long time to go through and get information from it without a tool such as Voyant.
After inputting the text into the tool, the main words said throughout the text were split into a word cloud with a list of these most common words underneath. There was also an option to pick a certain word and see the frequency at which the words come up in the text. These options within the tool proved very useful as they break the text down and allow the user to easily navigate through and search and chose words which they would like to know more about within the text such as how many times they occurred and where in the text they occurred.
From looking at the word cloud, it is obvious to see the most common words in the text with words such as Allah, Lord, and people protruding through the mass of other words in the cloud. This gives the user a brief outline of the most common words in the text making it easier for them to analyse it. This is convenient as the reader would not get this kind of useful information if he/she were to read the text in a conventional manner.
As well as the word cloud, the ability to see the frequency of the most common words in the text in a list manner allows users to quickly see the exact frequency at which a word is used in the text. I used this to analyse the most common words used throughout the Quran and quickly assessed whether the words used were ones of positivity and peace or that of anger and violence. From my assessment, I found that the words used seemed to mostly positive ones that seemed to breed no hatred of others and spread the message of peace and love. This was evident through the words peace being seen 403 times in the text and Allah being seen 2665 times showing the book speaks of the love the people from this faith have for their god and the message of peace they are trying to spread. While words such as punishment and hell can also be seen in this list, I feel they do not take away from the overall message of peace that this book preaches.
The use of graphs in this tool to represent a chosen words frequency was useful as it highlighted at what points of the text the words were most common giving the user a general idea where a particular ideology is in place. I chose the words Allah and peace to analyse on a graph and I found that the word Allah is seen more at the start of the text and starts to decrease as it progresses while the word peace can be seen as having two high points throughout the text, near the start and then again at the end. While this feature didn’t add much to my knowledge of the text, I found it interesting to see where certain words showed up in the text and I believe that this feature would have a practical use in a different situation.
I also scanned through the text using the tool’s ability to search words and also by reading passages. While reading these I didn’t find any source of hatred towards other faiths except obvious statements of total love for Allah and while reference to Allah’s punishment is made this is not justification enough to say that this text preaches words of violence. However, I feel that the words of Allah’s punishment on non-believers could be in fact misinterpreted by on-lookers and this is why they may have certain thoughts about the Quran and what it says.
It is clear from a search of the word Christians that there is no hatred towards this group within this text and while the people of this faith do not agree with their choice of faith they have no anger or rage towards them.
Overall, through my examining of the text using the Voyant text analyser, I discovered that the Quran was a fascinating piece of literature and learned a lot of new information that I did not know before. Through using the tool, I was able to gain a deeper understanding of the text as I could analyse the frequency of certain words and display them in a visual format that is much easier to grasp than that of a simple text format. From my analysing of the text, I found that the Quran was predominately a piece of literature that spread peace and highlighted a love for the Islamic faith.
- Khan, A, R. (2016). Quran Translations. Available at: http://tanzil.net/trans/ [Accessed 7 April 2016].
- Rockwell, G. (2016). voyant.png. [image] Available at: http://geoffreyrockwell.com/images/voyant.png [Accessed 7 April 2016].
- Voyant (2016). Voyant. Available at: http://voyant-tools.org/ [Accessed 7 April 2016].
- Wikipedia (2016). Quran. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quran [Accessed 7 April 2016].