By Basil Hijazi, New Age Islam
(Translated from Urdu by New Age Islam Edit Bureau)
22 February 2018
Ignoring the debate on whether the Quran is the word of God or of Muhammad (pbuh), there is no dispute on the fact that the Quran is not only the first and the most important document in the history of Arabs but also its importance as an important document in world history will remain intact for long years to come. Before the advent of this book, the Arabs had neither seen a book nor had they given so much importance to any book. The effect of this book on their life has been enormous from day one. In my view the Quran has been the most influential book in the history of man provided Michael Hart’s standards are kept in view.
With its advent, this book decisively changed the face of the world and caused revolutionary changes that could be felt at every level. On this front, even the Torah cannot be compared to the Quran although it is older than the Quran. (Here belittling the Torah is not the intent as it has its own impact and importance which is not the point of discussion here). Therefore, if this book (the Quran) is criticized or doubted, it should not be a matter of surprise, rather it is the proof of its popularity and Muslims should take every criticism and expression of doubt in their stride because now Quran has already assumed universal significance.
Going by its universality, it is necessary that people subscribing to every school of thought, even those who consider it a work of human mind should pay special attention to it. It is the responsibility of all the schools of thought that they should work without ideological and cultural preoccupations to know its truth and to reveal its truth to the world, not because this book belongs to the Muslims but because it has played a very important role in shaping the world.
There is a need of a total rethinking of the Quran’s views on war and peace without any prejudice because this issue is not only very important but also because a misconception has spread far and wide on this issue which has been causing Muslim as well as non-Muslim world huge damage.
There is no dearth of people among Muslims who give negative explanations of the Quranic verses on sensitive issues like rights, freedoms and war and peace. On the other hand, there are many non-Muslims also who consciously accept these negative explanations. We have observed that when a non-Muslim discusses his own sacred scripture, he treads with great caution, but when he discusses the Quran, his attitude is lackadaisical. If he does not resort to lies, it should be considered a favour from him.
One example of this lackadaisical attitude is that they take the stance that the Quran advocates the use of violence against its opponents and present such verses in support of their argument which are quoted out of context. For example, they quote the following verse:
“Fight those who do not believe in Allah or in the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful and who do not adopt the religion of truth from those who were given the Scripture - [fight] until they give the jiJyah willingly while they are humbled.” (Quran, Surah Taubah: 9: 29)
They argue that all the opponents who fulfil the conditions mentioned in the verse deserve being killed according to the Quran, no matter how much contemporary situation and the circumstances might have changed from the time Quran was revealed.
It is interesting to note that both the Muslim extremists and the opponents of the Quran agree on this point. Definitely this explanation is brutal to the extent of irrationality which, though may it suit ignoramuses, will not find favour with the rationalists and liberal minds because a rationalist person knows it well that any text cannot be understood after taking it out of its context even if it is a very simple and common book. The issue of the Quran is all the more different because it is perhaps the single sacred scripture which sets its own preconditions for reading it. So, if someone is not ready to fulfil those preconditions, then we will request him not to read it at all.
From the above quoted verse, it is evident that it is speaking of a particular historical situation relating to the People of the Book that are pitched against a new Islamic group and have waged a war against it. The exegetes should stop right there because there is no generalization in the verse. In other words, even if a group of people fulfil those conditions mentioned in the verse, it is out of the context of the verse. This point can further be explained in the light of other verses of the Quran where it enjoins on Muslims to establish such a good rapport with the People of the Book which may even culminate into marriage. Moreover, there are also verses that prevent men from religious persecution in any form. If Jizya were a tool to pressurize non-Muslims to convert to Islam, it would only be termed a kind of ‘Ikrah’ (persecution) which would be in confrontation with the verse “La Ikraha Fid Deen” (there is no compulsion in religion). Practically this is not possible. It is not understood why a section of people still insist that the verse in question encourages killing of opponents in every situation and circumstances.
The stance of Muslim extremists on this explanation is that the above-mentioned verse abrogates all the pervious verses encouraging brotherhood and harmony with opponents whereas the mis-interpreters of the Quran have taken the stand that it is an example of Muslim opportunism that when they were weak, they would speak of brotherhood and when they became strong they started terminating their treaties and killing and exiling their opponents. In short, the exegetes have opted for the explanations closer to their temperament and have set aside academic and investigative logic.
If these people would use logic, they would have realized the fallacy of the former argument. On what basis can one decide that this verse abrogates all the other verses? The issue of abrogation is not only based on Ijtihad (liberal thinking) and not on Khabar (tradition) nor is there any consensus on it. And if it is based on Khabar, what is the perpetual Khabar (tradition) which tells them that this verse was abrogated.
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