May 15, 2011 4 Comments
“Quran Alone-ism” and Quranism
I saw the cumbersome term “Quran-Alone-ism” used the other day, followed by “(for lack of a better term)”.
When I need to used the term “Quran Alone-ism” or “Quran Alone-ness”, I just use the term Quranism. It is essentially the same thing.
Quranism is the belief that the Quran is the sole source of Divine Guidance. Quranists are muslims who follow Quranism.
I pondered though, due to my over-active, over-analytical mind-set, whether there is a difference between being a Quran Alone muslim and a Quranist muslim.
The term “Quran Alone” can be taken to varying degrees of pedantry.
Red Carpet example
If you take it to mean purely Quran Alone then what you will have is a belief system where ALL outside sources of information are rejected and taken to be untrue. For example if I tell you my carpet is red but you do not find it stated specifically in the Quran, then this could be rejected as untrue according to the belief that the only true information comes directly from the Quran.
Now of course this is a ridiculous example of taking the meaning of words to their extreme and absolute limit.
The following are some of the different types of Quran Alone-ness (Quranism)
A. Some who claim to follow the Quran Alone for their belief system tend to follow what is in fact “Translations of the Quran Alone”
This could be one particular translation by a preferred translator or a more un-biased approach where several Quran translations are compared side by side.
B. Some who claim to follow the Quran alone don’t “label” themselves as “Quran Alone muslims” or “Quranist muslims”, preferring to state that they are simply muslims. This may be either due to fears that giving a descriptive term to their belief that the Quran has the sole authority might imply they had become part of a sect OR due to present day Sunni Islam (usually referred to by those Muslims as “Mainstream” Islam*) disapproving of the Quranist view, leading usually to excommunication of those who go from the Mainstream view to the Quranist view. Some of these Quran Alone muslims do not claim to reject all Hadiths, only the ones that contradict the Quran. This can enable more integration into the “cultural” side of Islam, where some translations of Quranic verses can be used to justify some of the cultural or traditional interpretations of Islam. For a convert to Islam who does not have any experience of the cultural/traditional associations of Islam it can be a daunting task to try to make these associations using the Quran alone.
* Quranists refer to Mainstream muslims as “Traditionalists” due to “Mainstream” being defined as such only due to majority numbers. If Quranism (the belief that the Quran is the sole source of islam) became the belief held by the majority of Muslims then the term “Mainstream” would become ambiguous.
C. Some Quran Alone muslims – typically self proclaimed Quranists, (the ones who do embrace the use of the term as a practical aid to communication) tend to focus on trying to unearth the true meanings of the original Arabic with a view to understanding the Quran as a whole by not taking verses out of context. Some use a methodology of studying the Quran in depth, investigating the words used with the belief that the Quran explains the Quran. Their belief is that every single word in the original Arabic Quran is there to teach lessons, give examples and parables and make the Quran clear; THE Divine Guidance. Usually for this type of approach, a very open mind free of all previous pre-conceptions or projections from the Traditionalist view is required. Context, Arabic vocabulary and grammar all play a huge part in undertaking this kind of study which inevitably results in “evolving beliefs” as the student undertakes his personal journey of enlightenment with a deeply personal engagement with the text. This kind of study is undertaken by some Quranists using literally the Quran alone or with the assistance of study tools such as Classical Arabic dictionaries, Quran Concordances and online Quran databases. It is debateable whether these so-called tools are classed as Non-Quranic Sources (NQS) or simply tools or study aids.
Usually, all “Quran Aloners”, “Quran Alone muslims”, “Quranic muslims” and “Quranists” are labelled indiscriminately as “Hadith Rejectors” (see Quranist’s response to this term) by those who disagree with the premise that the Quran can be understood without the acceptance of the Sahih Hadith collections. Rejection of Hadith can mean rejecting the Authority of the Hadith or the Authenticity of it. In Quranist terms, to reject the Authority of a hadith means to acknowledge that the Quran has not mentioned this piece of information. To reject the Authenticity of it means a belief that the information is simply not true.
This can lead to a mix-match situation:
Hadiths (or any other NQS including translations) can be believed to be: either
Ex.1 Authentic AND Authorised,
Ex.2 Authentic BUT NOT Authorised,
Ex.3 NOT Authentic BUT Authorised
Ex.4 NOT Authentic AND NOT Authorised
Ex.1.Authentic and Authorised (because it fully agrees with Quran)
If a Hadith is in full agreement with what the Quran teaches, then some Quran Alone muslims may say that this makes the Hadith authentic and authorised. There is however a difference between “Full Agreement with what the Quran says” and “Non-contradiction” If the Hadith has its basis in the Qur’an with a seemingly reasonable explanation then it may still be considered Divine Guidance by some Quran Alone muslims, and therefore some Quran Alone muslims will consider the Hadith authentic and authorised, even though the interpretation of the hadith and Quran may be from an NQS.
Ex.2.Authentic but Not Authorised (verifiable truth, not from Quran)
Rejecting the Authority (simply acknowledging that the information does not have its basis in the Quran) but where the truth can be verified (authenticity) [as in the Red Carpet example from above] is a belief that although the Hadith or NQS is not mentioned in the Qur’an, if it does not contradict the Quran, it may still be wisdom or practical, reasonable, and sensible good advice, however is not considered Divine Guidance.
This type of Quran-Alone-ness (Quranism) primarily means that the “Sahih Hadiths” are not automatically believed to be Authentic and Authorised on the say-so of scholars and imams, rather they have to be re-investigated critically to establish their authenticity. It also means that from a non-absolutist point of view most things are open to consideration with the Quran having the ultimate say on what is Divine Guidance with the freedom to use logic, reason and common sense, pondering and reflection.
Ex.3.Not Authentic but Authorised (does not exist)
Ex.4.Not Authentic Not Authorised (not verifiable, not from Quran)
Some Quran Alone muslims reject the authenticity and authority of all Hadiths if the words from the English translations of the Hadiths do not correspond to the English translations of the Quran. (Ex.4) and is more in line with the Red Carpet example which can lead to an extreme or fundamentalist absolutist view. This even goes as far as to say that because the term Quranism is not a word in the Quran, then there is no Authority to use the term. (This same logic is not usually applied to the use of a translation; neither the word “translation” nor the instruction to use one can be found in any Quranic verse.) Often verses from the Quran will be used to justify this approach such as Quran Chapter 5 verse 44 (see also Quranic Fundamentalism) There are some Quran Alone muslims who profess to rejecting all Hadiths and NQS which came AFTER the Quran and consider them unauthorised, however, they do not reject the authority and authenticity of previous Scriptures such as the Bible and Jewish texts which they use to aid interpretation of the Quran and/or to justify classical interpretations, which have their origins in Hadiths that did come after the Quran.
Mention should probably be made that sometimes it is not easy to establish a belief of whether an NQS is authentic or not without the proof. This makes it very difficult to 100% accept each NQS as true and authentic or 100% reject it as false / not authentic. Each piece of information in each situation would have to be judged accordingly without making sweeping judgements. Not everything is black and white not to mention that sometimes there may be truth within falsehood, and one would expect the Quranist muslim to investigate and seek the Truth, using the Quran as the deciding factor.
Quranism essentially comprises of all these different types of claims to “Quran Alone-ness” or “Quran Alone-ism.”
Quranism is an umbrella term that includes all approaches to islam from varying understandings, beliefs and interpretations where the Quran is believed to be the sole authority. Quranism is quite the opposite of a sect due to its inclusivity of all approaches to quranic islam and has no set commands of belief or requirements, no leader or authority-head and does not excommunicate anyone who disagrees or has a difference of opinion. Quranism does not profess to be the only way to salvation. Quranism, by its nature of this universal inclusivity does include by definition, in principle, even those who demonstrate sectarian attitudes with claims that their view is the only true belief, even though most Quranists do not endorse such views and even though the ones demonstrating the sectarian attitude do not generally accept the terms Quranist or Quranism. For more information about Quranists, please visit Quranists.net
This article contains a non-exhaustive list of some of the observed kinds of Quran Alone/Quranist/quranist muslims there are. Maybe you are a quranist muslim and have not been described here. If so we would love to hear your point of view on this blog. Please do leave a comment or visit the quranists.net forum.