Desperately Seeking: Divine Guidance

I remember a long time ago (before my conversion to Islam) I wanted to lose weight and my belief was that I could only really effectively achieve that goal by 1. Reducing my fat and sugar intake and 2 increasing my physical activity. Essentially that’s all I had to do.

Anyone who has ever tried to do this will know that sticking at something that you know is good for you is sometimes not that easy. Sometimes we are tired or lazy. We are only human after all. What I personally found to be of benefit was reading magazine articles about nutrition, getting readers’ tips on what kinds of low-fat food items are out there on the supermarket shelves,  people’s opinions on what is tried and tested as tasty AND low calorie, suggestions to spice up the exercise routine. I read lots of magazines from different publishers, each with reader contributions – unbiased, genuine personal experiences and sharing what they found worked for them. I read personal testimonials, and saw before and after photos. I even got a training buddy so that when we made an appointment to go running together or to the gym, we actually stuck at it. Sometimes there were adverts at the back of the magazine for magic pills claiming they were THE only way to lose weight. Or special machines that were THE only way to get the perfect flat stomach. The magazine articles and reader’s contributions never claimed to be THE only way; the information was there to muse upon, be encouraged by, be tried out, tested for yourself, or rejected. The goal (lose weight) was always the number one focus.

I recently invited someone to join the Quranists Network forum and the invitation was politely declined with “Thanks for your invitation but I don’t think I can guide myself. I’ll trust God and let him be my guide.”

It was a statement that made me go into analysis mode. The reply seemed to suggest that being in a forum and trusting God were mutually exclusive. I am in online forums, but I let God guide me don’t I? I trust God don’t I? I analysed my suggestion and the reply I received. It seemed to me that my suggestion to join a forum was understood to mean an invitation to “seek Divine Guidance” from other than the Quran. Of course that was not what my invitation was. What was my invitation? To join a forum. For what purpose? I had to then analyse my own reasons for using online forums.

I suppose that if I knew people in my own community I would be talking to them, socialising with them, talking passionately about the Quran with them, studying Quran together, instead of doing all this online. Does joining an online forum automatically mean you are “seeking Divine Guidance” from other than God? I have thought about this and I really think there is a difference between “seeking Divine Guidance” and having a network of friends who share a common goal, who encourage, support and urge one another to keep up the striving for the goal.

See Chapter 90:17 and Chapter 103:3 noticing in particular the word “watawāṣaw

I think it is important to try to understand the differences between “seeking help” and “seeking refuge” in the Divine sense and the different words for supporting / exhorting / enjoining / encouraging / urging each other ; other believers.

InshaaAllah, it is my intention to seek Divine Guidance from God: His Words in the Quran. It appears to me that this is the common goal of the forum users / other believers. Not to project or persuade others of their own understanding, but to share experiences and Quran study conclusions / reasoning. No one is saying a contributor’s interpretation is the only way. No one is saying that if you do not agree, then you can’t participate in the forum. It’s sharing, it’s discussing, it’s having a common goal and being passionate and enthusiastic about it, then going away and reading for yourself, reflecting, pondering, investigating, studying…and sharing again. I’d like to think that by participating in the discussions I am fulfilling “watawāṣaw bil-ḥaqi” from 103:3, inshaaAllah.

Does the Quran forbid people studying together in groups? Does the Quran forbid believers from getting together to find ways of applying the instructions and teachings? Does the Quran forbid discussion or reasoning in groups whether online or in person?   My understanding is that it does not forbid any of these. And Allah knows best.

In the Quranists Network forum we are sharing study tips and advice on how to access Quran information, study tools and databases online, investigating ways to study Quran, seeing how Quranic Arabic grammar works. Anyone can start a thread. Maybe you could find a study / reading partner and resolve to read a chapter (surah) per week and discuss it, taking notes of the new Arabic words / themes  you have come across, and share on the forum? I see it as a place to question our own beliefs and analyse why we believe what we believe, based on Quranic evidence, which helps to keep an open mind and try to see things from different points of view.  We can try to verify information together, use collective resources, share experiences, and share verses we find particularly inspiring.

Is that so bad?

2:146 الذين ءاتينهم الكتب يعرفونه كما يعرفون ابناءهم وان فريقا منهم ليكتمون الحق وهم يعلمون

6:20 الذين ءاتينهم الكتب يعرفونه كما يعرفون ابناءهم الذين خسروا انفسهم فهم لا يومنون

Quranists Network projects include setting up an online live Quran Study Circle, organising real life meetups, publishing a magazine and organising an International Conference inshaaAllah. To keep informed of updates to these projects, please subscribe (free) via the Quranists Network newletter page.

Stepping Stones

I believe that each person has their own spiritual journey. Not all of us were born into “Islam”. I didn’t even know what the Quran was until 2006. Still I believe my personal journey guided by Allah led me to circumstances which led me to finding out about the Quran. Then people tried to obscure my understanding of the Quran by telling me about the Hadith collections and making things complicated, and diverting me from the Quran. Then part of my personal journey led me to finding out that the Quran explains the Quran, not Hadith explains the Quran. This idea was suggested to me by a website. It gave me the Quran references so I knew where to look, then I checked the Quran references and found it out to be true. At this point… Was I using the Quran by itself or Quran plus website or Quran plus translation? I think I was using Quran plus website plus translation.

Suppose I said, as a new convert: “Even though I have no idea how to read, speak or understand a word of Arabic, I am only going to look at the original Arabic Quran and keep staring at the words until they make sense to me”. Allah is able to do anything. I do believe in miracles. When I was a new convert, I didn’t try to read the Quran in Arabic though. Maybe upon reflection my own faith was flawed from the outset by not doing so?  The natural thing to do for me was reach for an English translation of course. I do believe that God did give us stepping stones on our journey of spiritual enlightenment. Tools to facilitate. All good is from God. His blessings are too numerous to count. He does not wish hardship for us. I could be sick and wait for a miracle recovery, refusing all medical treatment, when the blessing is right there:  a hospital with trained, qualified doctors that can give you the medicine you need. It is not the doctor you worship, or the medicine. It is God for providing the blessing.

Stepping along in my journey, I soon found out that not all translations are the same. I started comparing translations and getting into using word-by-word Quran, slowly increasing my understanding of which Arabic words were commonly translated as either this, that or the other. I started to notice discrepancies. Why had one translator used this word, and two others had used another, and then comparing some of the verses (which were at larger variance with each other) in up to 19 online translations – Praise God for modern technology – this would have taken a lifetime without the internet.  I noticed the same translator used a different word for the exact same word he’d translated differently previously in the text. The consistency seemed off. That’s why I am trying to see the inconsistencies as I go along, comparing the words, doing individual word studies. So that’s just the words! As time has gone by, some of the words I have come to know from standard Arabic Quran glossaries just don’t seem to have much backing from the Quran. More on Primary Usage of Words in the Quran

Where will I find the next stepping stone on my journey of spiritual enlightenment? Only God truly knows.

People still dont get it!

Marisa posted something about setting up a Quranist conference and true to form, some person started frantically yelling that we are all part of the ummah and we should be only using the term Muslim. Here’s my response to him:

Lets say Marisa advertised ‘The Muslim Conference’ (not even American because that must be haram as well, yeah?).  Just simply the Muslim conference. There would be 2 kinds of respondents:

1. People who say ‘wait a second, look at the programme, its all quranic stuff. These people are anti-hadith. Quranists! and they wanted to CON us into joining!’

2. People who dont actually read the programme and go. Then when they see actual Quranists debating the number of salat, they go beserk and ruin it for everyone.

This is why we have the name Quranists. Love it or hate it, you will at least KNOW it. People who oppose this term must look at the 1.2 BILLION Muslims of the world and ask themselves ‘does the world acknowledge the existence of these people?’.

Primary Usage of Words in Quran

The following is something I wrote in response to a claim that we must accept the literal meanings of words first, even though it can have other meanings:

I would like to also comment on the statement regarding looking for inner meanings and extensions to the understanding of words in the Quran, while ignoring the literal meanings. The statement is fine as long as we don’t make false assumptions in terms of which understanding commands the primary usage within the Quranic text and which understanding constitutes an extension of such primary usage. Let’s demonstrate this with an example.

It is commonly thought that the primary understanding of SJD and its derivatives in the Quran is physical prostration and that the understanding of acceptance of whatever is in context is an extension of that meaning.

Let’s examine the occurrences and see whether or not this is true. The following is a listing of SJD and its derivatives from Quran. They are divided into four categories.

1. Occurrences where prostration cannot be understood in the context:

2:34, 7:11, 15:30, 17:61, 18:50, 20:116, 38:73, 7:12, 13:15, 15:33, 16:49, 17:61, 22:18, 38:75, 41:37, 55:6, 2:34, 7:11, 17:61, 18:50, 20:116, 41:37, 2:58, 4:154, 7:11, 7:161, 12:4, 15:29, 15:31, 15:32, 16:48, 38:72.

2. Occurrences where prostration is a weak inference in the context:

3:43, 68:42, 68:43, 7:120, 12:100, 20:70, 26:46

3. Occurrences where prostration is a possible understanding in the context:

4:102, 3:113, 7:206, 25:60, 27:24, 27:25, 84:21, 22:77, 25:60, 53:62, 76:26, 96:19, 48:29, 50:40, 2:125, 9:112, 15:98, 17:107, 19:58, 22:26, 25:64, 26:219, 32:15, 39:9, 48:29

4. Occurrences of the root as masjid:

2:114, 2:144, 2:149, 2:150, 2:187, 2:191, 2:196, 2:217, 5:2, 7:29, 7:31, 8:34, 9:7, 9:17, 9:18, 9:19, 9:28, 9:107, 9:108, 17:1, 17:1, 17:7, 18:21, 22:25, 22:40, 48:25, 48:27, 72:18

The analysis was conservative on the side of the “physical prostration” understanding and many of the occurrences that appear in the third group are debatable as to which of the two understandings to take.

There are 64 occurrences of the root excluding its use as masjid, which is excluded because whatever one takes the root to mean, in the case of masjid, it will be the place, time or state of the performance of the root verb. The 28 occurrences of masjid can therefore be seen in both contexts.

Half of the remaining occurrences (32/64) are clearly not referring to a physical prostration.

When one considers the occurrences where it is unlikely that it refers to a physical prostration, we find that a further 7 occurrences (39/64) will not support physical prostration.

25 occurrences can have a possibility of meaning prostration.

It must also be noted that when one reverses the analysis, understanding SJD and its derivatives as an acceptance of whatever appears in the various contexts; such an understanding fits all occurrences.

Since both meanings finds credence in the lexicons, we must consider both. However, in such a situation, considering the physical prostration as the primary meaning does not hold water as it is clear that within the Quranic context, the understanding of acceptance fits everywhere, whereas the understanding of physical prostration is limited to half the occurrences at best. Therefore the assumption that the primary meaning of SJD in the Quran is physical prostration is fallacious.

So like I stated in the beginning, there is no problem as long as our initial assumption of what constitutes primary usage in Quran is accurate.

It would be great to get some input on what you all think of this.


Today I got to notice that ARD (earth) is very close in meaning to RDY (be pleased):

ARD = Alif-Ra-Dad = To rotate, bring forth herbs abundantly. Land abundant, fruitful, productive, luxuriant with herbage. Place for alighting or abiding. To tarry, await, expect, be patient. “Earth, as opposed to heaven: and the ground, as meaning the surface of the earth, on which we tread, and sit, and lie”. Good land. Remain, fixed, tarry in expectation [on the ground]. Heavy, slow, sluggish, inclining, or propending to the ground. Submissive. A carpet, anything that is spread. A tremor, vertigo arising from a relaxed state. Wood-fretter, termite.

RDY= Ra-Dal-Ya = to perish, fall down, he tumbled down into a deep hollow or cavity or pit, break, knock, exceed a thing, to beat in order to break, blandish, destroy, he went away. arda (vb. 4) – to bring to destruction/ruin. tradda – to fall. mutarddiyatun – that which falls, which is slain by a fall.

Now I have a problem with fitting God into the concept of RDY, where it is to be humble. However, I seem to be able to relate God being “pleased” much more with ARD.

Sahih International: 9:100 – And the first forerunners [in the faith] among the Muhajireen and the Ansar and those who followed them with good conduct – Allah is pleased with them and they are pleased with Him, and He has prepared for them gardens beneath which rivers flow, wherein they will abide forever. That is the great attainment.

Could it be possible that Allah turned “fruitful” and “productive” to them as they turned to Him? Because I can’t imagine Allah “humbling”. The ‘anhum’ also scares me a little bit.

Discussion with Quranic Fundamentalist pt 2

Another glimpse of the on-going debate:

Allah [swt] did Not told us to follow YOUR gurus translation either, But the Arabic is understandable by human it is NOT a Alien languages from different planet. So when you/your gurus create a concocted translation it should also be unders…tood by normal people on this planet, it should not create any contradiction either?

My answer: I think the Arabic is clear. I have studied the Arabic and I can say for sure that ‘popular translators’ came up with is very unsupported by the language itself. They created an ‘Islamic Arabic’ which has no Quranic backing at all. A good introduction to this problem can be found in Toshihiko Izutsu’s ‘God and Man in the Quran’ where he documents changes in the language after the institution of Sunnism.

What did I mean by the above? Well it’s like this, before the emergence of Sunnism, Arabic did not have a ‘religious overtone’. Take the word ‘taqwa’. In both the Quran and in pre-Quranic Arabic, taqwa is sense of impending danger which if you have, you will be able to take guard against it. It is not a religious term in that it functions in the world. However, in the religiously constructed Arabic, taqwa is about the guarding of one’s religious rituals in order to avoid punishment after death.

My debate opponent has unquestioningly inherited the assumptions of his popular translators.