Discussion about "My Ordeal with the Qur'an"
Reply #1740 - January 26, 2015, 01:59 PM
Re-drafted "Translators Note" - could you delete the old one DS and replace it with this. Cheers.
The Qur'an is a remarkable literary work that contains much wisdom and virtue. Muslims regard it as the inerrant and infallible word of God. The author of this book, Dr. Abbas Abul-Nour, challenges this view. He argues that the Qur'an, far from being inerrant or infallible, is very much a human work, subject to all the limitations and flaws that human works are subject to. In particular it is closely tied to it's context and environment. Dr. Abbas Abul-Nour considers the view that the Qur'an is infallible, to be one of the major factors holding us back in this day and age. Whereas the Qur'an was once revolutionary and dynamic and had a positive effect on the society at the time, it has today become reactionary, and regressive. It compels us to look back to the past instead of moving us forward as it once did. The belief that the Qur'an is infallible tips the balance of power in favour of a conservative and reactionary clergy who hold inflexible and literalist views. It allows them to dictate Islam to the majority and to bully us into silence. It plays into the hands of extremists who seek impose their harsh and brutal interpretation upon us. No matter how we try to tinker with the situation, we will never fundamentally change this balance of power until we challenge the belief that the Qur'an is infallible.
Until we do this we will continue to suffer the tragedy we see today in the Muslim world. Plagued by oppressive, despotic regimes, stagnating and stifling social structures, ignorant, closed and inward looking mentalities. We have become anaesthetised and comatose, mechanically performing rituals & imitating our forefathers in the hope of happiness in another life with no interest nor positive effect on the world around us. Obsessed with protecting & preserving our holy relic, our version of "the absolute truth!" We have no argument except the argument of blood, fear and suppression. We slaughter each other on a daily basis and bequeath our children ruins & despair.
I feel an extremely strong affinity to the author of this book. Like him I also have an Egyptian background. Like him I was a practicing Muslim for most of my life. Like him it was only later in life that I started having doubts and questions that led me to lose my faith entirely. My journey - like all our journeys - is ongoing, but I have regained my faith to a certain extent and feel comfortable identifying as a Muslim again. But like the author I do not believe the Qur'an is the infallible literal speech of God, but rather the fallible speech of a human being. While I am happy to draw from its wisdom I believe very strongly that we Muslims must wake-up and realise that there are no divine A to Z's on how to run our lives. While truth may not be relative, nevertheless, our understanding, appreciation and perception of truth certainly is relative. It is based upon our knowledge, context, environment, experience, intelligence and innumerable variables relating to individuals and the society we live in.
If we appreciate that our understanding of truth is flawed and relative, then it should lead us to realise that we can never be dogmatic when it comes to mysteries of God and al-Ghayb. We cannot insist our belief is right and must be imposed on others. The existence of God is a question that can never be proven nor disproven. It is a matter of faith alone.
I have no doubt Muhammad was inspired when he uttered the words of the Qur'an, but inspired in a very human sense of the word. In the way that orators, poets, writers, artists, and musicians have been inspired down the ages. This inspiration comes from the world around us, nature, social conditions, the urge to better the lot of our fellow man - and yes, maybe by God himself, but not in a literal and infallible sense. While Muslims can be justly proud of the Qur'an and it's achievements, we must now bring it back into the realm of human achievement where it belongs. Faith must be removed from the sphere of certainty and returned to the sphere of the uncertain mysteries of life. It is a personal matter and not a matter to be imposed, controlled or punished by governments or religious authorities.
We must realise that revelation came from the mind of man and not the mind of God and as a consequence revelation must be subject to human reason and not the other way around.
Achieving such a transformation in the way we Muslims perceive the Qur'an will be enormously difficult. But every journey begins with one step and the benefits are enormous. We will at last be able to reconcile the schisms that have torn us apart and reconcile the differences between us and our fellow man regardless of faith or the lack of it. We will be able to start building a new and better identity and society in our countries. One that will allow us to once again contribute positively to the course of human history.
I believe this book is an important contribution to this debate. There are very few books by Muslims that analyse the Qur'an in a truly critical way - and even fewer in Arabic by Arabs. This book is important because it breaks that ground and removes the barrier. I hope it will encourage others to embark on a new field of genuine textual criticism of the Qur'an by Muslims themselves rather than by non-Muslim Orientalists.
In the West, philosophers and thinkers such as Spinoza, Descartes and those that followed them have been able to place the Bible firmly within the realm of human achievement and so the Christian and Jewish worlds now have a strong history of textual criticism, freeing them from the chains of dogma. I hope this book will contribute to starting such a movement amongst Muslims.