Who would have ever thought that folks who claim to follow the Qur’an as their sole religious authority would quickly spiral into the ferocious man-eating frenzy that frequently takes place in Qur’an alone circles, or dare I say jungles. I mean, it’s like a jungle some times, it makes me wonder how I keep from going under. Well, to be honest I feel that I have already gone under. While trying to stave off the attacks of the amazons (I mean feminist Quranists, i.e. female chauvinist Quranists) and their male warrior support, both of whom do their best to stay blind to the clear patriarchy (and I don’t mean male chauvinism) in the Qur’an, and who especially raise their war shrill when confronted with the Qur’an’s permission for a husband to hit his rebellious and most likely belligerent wife, even if only once and in a way that doesn’t intend to physically harm her after admonishing (yes, admonishing) her about her destructive behavior, one must also confront the almost hippy like free-spirits for whom all things in the Qur’an are metaphors for our (as they would have it) non-ritualistic, ever-transcendental, purely mundane, humanist and spiritual duties. As spiritualistic, naturalistic, transcendentally peaceful and universalist as that may sound, upon mentioning that understanding Salaat or Hajj as physical rituals has much more of a linguistic foundation than not, one is automatically vilified and cast as a traditionalist and orthodox demon-hound who has only used the name of Islam as a tool for human domination and covert satanic or idol worship. I mean, can a God-seeking, prostrating regular and aspiring pilgrim to the Abrahamic temple in Mecca get a break? Am I really an idol worshiper for obeying my book and praying to God alone in a way that is clearly prescribed in the Qur’an and the language it chose to communicate through?
As I give a great deal of respect to the traditional linguistics of the Classical Arabic language, I am automatically treated as an orthodox agent and those traditional linguistic works are seen as the twin demon of the corpus of hadeeth that sadly pass for gospel truth among the majority of Sunnis, Sufi and even many Shia Muslims. But maybe that’s the difference, I see those Muslims as misinformed and misguided and perhaps fearful of really studying the hadeeth and learning what they are and are not. But they are still Muslims to me. I also accept the the validity of Classical traditional linguistics both when they confirm my ideas or when they clearly repudiate them. I have been harshly rejected by some more traditional Muslims, as can be expected, for being a Quranist, but I have also seen the fear of loss of confidence that suddenly distrusting in most of our (or in some cases specifically their) Islamic forebears would cause them. Are they right for being cowardly and sometimes even arrogant and bellicose in their cowardice? No. But I remember how it felt to become severely disconnected from most of my Muslim brothers and sisters upon accepting a Quranist position to Islam. And can I expect all of them to understand such a radically different paradigm and how it is more correct? That would not be fair either.
What I did think was fair to expect was a unification of the ranks among Quranists, but what has occurred is the exact opposite: verbal war and chaos. I can clearly see how coming to the “truth” of following the Qur’an alone did not necessarily bring either great illumination or peace and unity to those who also found this “truth.” I put truth in parentheses for a few reasons. The first is that I still recognize the fact that I could be wrong, even if, at this point, I think it is quite unlikely. Secondly, I used the parentheses because following the Qur’an alone doesn’t seem to disengage us from other ideological commitments that may even contradict what is actually in the Qur’an and its call to use more consistent and objective logic. Lastly, we all have to admit that since we have come to the “truth” of only following the Qur’an it has not guided us to find real solutions for us to come together and form an ideal community or organization. We have, in fact ,descended into chaos. We are picking battle positions about whether we should label ourselves and the titles we think are Quranically sanctioned or not and much, much more. Sometimes, I think we have been and continue to be intentionally sabotaged. I cannot prove that, and given my observation of human nature (especially with online interactions) I don’t have to believe that our deterioration is due to sabotage. Nonetheless, the level of chaos being endured, given where and how this movement started seems to suggest to me that intentional sabotage may have occurred and continue to occur. But as I said, I can’t prove that.
Additionally, when it comes to the issues of names and titles no consideration is given to what these titles actually mean. Take the “only Muslim, everything else is sectarian” crowd. How can you say ‘Quranist’ or ‘Quran-alone’ or the like are not sanctioned by the Quran, when all Quran only followers clearly admit that the Quran promotes only following the Quran as our religious authority and the centerpiece of our religion. And why has this crowd, who adamantly and vocally reject the authority of traditional religious interpretations, still fervently and desperately held onto the traditional definitions of words like Muslim, Islam and Zakaat that are proven fabrications of the Islamic intelligentsia? The proof of which can be found in Classical Arabic works of said intelligentsia. Why do they still hold onto ideas like yawmul-jumu’ah as Friday, which is also a proven fabrication. Yet they continue to read these meanings into the Qur’an. It would seem as if traditionalist ideas and traditional linguistic sources are only the devil when Quranist Muslims (in general) don’t want to adhere to them and their implications. As long as they pass this test of desirability or convenience then they can be considered authentic. Why cherry-pick with certain things and throw out the baby with the bathwater with others? Forgive me for the rhetorical questions.
When it comes to the authority and authenticity of the Qur’an and hadeeth, most of us who follow the Qur’an alone as our religious authority have really bitten off more than we can chew. So quite naturally some people just start spitting out emotional and somewhat baseless arguments. And it sounds a lot like plain old choking to me. I really hate to see this among Quranists but it has become a fact of life. Most of us just cannot deal with the fact of 10 mutawaatir and 4 mash-hur and sahih readings of the Quran. Muta….what? Mash….potatoes? While we all know (and in some cases sincerely dislike) the term Sahih, those terms, among many other terms for the details of hadeeth classification sound like Greek to us. Most of us will just brush them off as hadeethic, and therefore diabolic human and jinn inspired, fanciful terms. But that would really be intolerance and evasion on our part. I would have thought that these are traits only specific to Sunnis and other traditionalists, not us. Right? Wrong. The fact is that as it turns out we really haven’t studied the (non-Quranic) Hadeeth enough to start calling them names the way we do, even IF we have studied the Qur’an enough to know not to take them as a religious authority. This becomes painstakingly apparent when we take into account something that Sunnis often remind us of. That is that the fact is, the Qur’an itself is also a hadeeth…Please don’t kill me now!
Take a breath if you need to and then let’s continue. Some of us have come up with amazingly complicated mathematical numerologies and other theories for how only the Warsh or the Hafs readings are the true readings. Despite the actual logical failings of such claims those who adopt them start falling into the belief that the Qur’an really HAS been corrupted and that they have discovered the true, uncorrupted Qur’an aside from the readings that the masses have been duped into believing were the Qur’an. The whole incorruptibility of the Qur’an is the holy grail of ALL Muslims, and is supported in the Qur’an as well. Yet here we find ourselves going from, ‘the Qur’an has and always will be preserved’ to ‘it was corrupted but we have found a way to decipher the true reading.’ Aren’t some of us really toeing the line with this one, or have they fallen off the edge completely? This is not unlike the redacted verses supported by the late Rashad Khalifa. I don’t mean to disrespect or dismiss the Submitters…but we’ve got to keep it real.
Sure, we’ve got differences and we will always have them. But I think we need to realize some things. The first thing is that we are all still Quranist Muslims, even those who disagree with the term. We need to get out of that ‘You can’t box me’ mentality of the modern free-spirited type. Despite our disagreements, evenwith the name, do you follow the Quran alone as the centerpiece of your religion or way of life? If you answer yes to that, you are a Quranist. You are also a Quran-aloner, a Qur’an-only Muslim, and of course you are also still a Muslim. And by Muslim/Islam I mean your allegiance to the Muhammad (saas) and the Qur’an as God’s messenger and God’s message. Why do I say this? Because Islam is NOT used as a title in the Qur’an by logic of it not being a title in Pre-Islamic Arabic despite what you have always believed and desire to continue to believe. So every translation that transliterated ‘Islam’ instead of translating it as ‘submission, being safe, being saved, saving or granting safety and/or integrity’ was duping you into believing that the Qur’an wants you to take on a title for the religion that originated as a nickname for those who came to follow the Qu’ran, with the original intent most likely being either ‘salvation’ through accepting Muhammad (saas) and his message or as a shortening of Al-Islamu lillahi i.e. ‘submission to God’ through accepting Muhammad (saas) and his message to Al-Islam.
Considering the aversion of some to the term Quranist, Qur’an alone or any term other than Muslim, I don’t see anyone up in arms about calling themselves Monotheists, and NO WHERE in the Qur’an does it say that we are to call ourselves Monotheists. But the concept IS supported in the Qur’an, and is paramount in our belief system. And that is the point. So please get over the ‘WE CANNOT START A SECT’ talk and just understand that if it walks like a duck and talks like duck…it’s a duck! Additionally, most of us when we claim to be Monotheists actually mean to say Unitarian. I encourage the readers to learn the difference, because even Trinitarians are technically Monotheists.
Now, I would like to also drop a little secret. The Qur’an was not really originally called the ‘Qur’an’ either. The Qur’an is also another nickname inspired by the fact that it is called ‘a reading’ or ‘this/the reading’ within the pages of the book. Arabic has since dropped any practical meanings for the word Qur’an and only uses it to refer to…well…the Qur’an. Some Quranists actually seem to get that, but then loose it altogether when they start trying to call the Qur’an ‘the Reading’ in a language (like English) where the word ‘reading’ is still in current use and can refer to any reading. We need to get some deeper understanding about what the terms Islam, Muslim and even the Qur’an REALLY mean (and in what context) and how they are not used as titles in the Qur’an. We should stop sticking to these traditionalist fantasies about the meanings of these words that can be proven to be just that…fantasies. When you take Islam, Muslim and Qur’an, and put them into the context of titles you are also taking them out of the context of how the Qur’an uses these words, DESPITE what your translation(s) may say. In short, we need to understand that there is a Quranic/Pre-Quranic Classical meaning for these words and a post-Quranic mundane Arabic and international meaning for these words. The quicker we learn this, the faster we will lose our confusion.
Since we are on translations, we also need to realize that despite what Rashad Khalifa and the Submitters (who are also Quranists) have said in their noble efforts to bring people to the Qur’an alone your translation technically is NOT a carbon copy, or a loyal representation of the Qur’an. If you don’t have a mastery of Classical Arabic and access to Classical Arabic sources you ARE at a true loss when it comes to verifying interpretations and truly interacting with the Qur’an. In my advocacy for traditional Classical Arabic linguistic sources and grammar I have often been attacked with the question of why have traditional Islamic scholars who have access to these sources not come to the Qur’an alone or have not seen the Qur’an in the various ways that it can be seen when we study Classical Arabic sources. My answer has staunchly been because they have not wanted to. How many Christian clergy and Bible translators still believe in the trinity or that Jesus (saas) is God even though it isn’t actually in the Bible? Case closed.
Now, as it concerns Classical Arabic sources, as great an effort as the Quran root project has been and as much work has gone into it, I was reluctant to participate in its formation for the reasons that I see manifesting now. That is, a lot of very eager, amateur and inexperienced students of Classical Arabic are now combing through this work with the goal of making completely misinformed conclusions on the Qur’an based on a lot of incomplete definitions of Classical Arabic words and almost no concept of Classical Arabic grammar. To my admitted Quranist brothers and my Quranist brothers in denial, this is not okay and is a boon to no one.
In conclusion, I may be accused of having dined on some brotherly roast in this article just as I have accused most Quranists in Quranist circles of verbally eating one other alive. I apologize if it came off this way but my aim is to expose and expound, not expose and destroy. I would also like to add that if your aim is to follow the Qur’an as your sole religious authority, you are a Quranist brother of mine and I support you in your efforts to follow the Qur’an in this manner as best as you can. I know some of you continue to think that even the name Quranist is sectarian but I urge you to extensively review the Classical Arabic word for ‘sect’, which is ‘shi3ah’, both in Classical Arabic and the Qur’an. There are some other words that can be taken as ‘sect’ as well such as ‘hizb, ‘fi’ah’ and even ‘waleejah.’ I encourage you to research these words as well.
If we ever engage with each other in the future I hope we can do so in the most precise, friendly and informed way possible. But please have some respect for your fellow Quranists and for the logic and consistency of their conclusions whenever they seem logical and consistent. And please give them the benefit of the doubt and respectfully consider their arguments even if you tend to disagree with them or even be outraged by them. If you disagree, ask careful and considerate questions, instead of trying to pounce whenever you see an opening to pounce. The objective should be to confirm, dissect and discard arguments as necessary and enlighten both yourself and the person you are engaging. Do not quarrel because of the sensitivity of a topic or because you have been offended. And do not seek to offend or bait others into petty arguments. I see this happening excessively. Do not pretend to know what you do not know and please check your emotions at the door as best as you can. Most of all, don’t engage with other Quranists for the sole purpose of sharpening the utensils that are your debating skills so that you can dine on other Quranists as you see fit. I know I have a lot to work on myself but in truth, I want nothing but the best for all of us and I hope that you can help me just as I would like to help you. Nonetheless, I have had enough of the cannibalism and I am praying that other Quranists will start seriously restricting their diets to halal foods only. I hope you enjoyed this article and I want to reiterate that my intention was not to offend.