Meaning vs Metaphor


As Quranists, many of us were often accused of taking the Quran to an excessive, over-metaphorical level. You would think this accusation came from anti-Quranic (and NOT Sunni, Shitte of other) parties, yet instead it came from fellow Quranists who first refused the name at the time Farouk was launching the website and forum (www.quranists.net)!

I can hardly say I’m religious in the terms of organized religion. My belief in God is still natural rather than based on a sacred text, which is safe for now. I figured that before reading the Quran again, I had to establish a mechanism, a way, a more appropriate language than the currently dealt-with Arabic, and a new (yes! brand new) mentality… and probably more age since I doubt my brain is developed enough for all this.

Many things in organized religion never appealed to me. The constant call for rituals that I did not understand (although I don’t deny the beauty of rituals), the unnecessary-seeming Quranic details (for example, why it was so important to say that Abraham offered his Angelic guests roasted beef, or why Moses was traveling with a Whale, he lost for some reason etc), and the constant call for fundamentalism – all these seemed of no value whatsoever.

So, many Quranists began to question these details. They were NOT questioning Allah SWT, and NOT questioning the validity of the Quran, but they were questioning the Quranist-Traditional (which Farouk might like to call QFists) understanding of Quranic verse.

Based on many Quranists challenging the current “silly” (oh, yes it is silly!) understanding of many well-known Quranic verses, other fellow Quranists accused them of exaggerating in extracting a metaphorical, symbolic, “wider” meaning, and by that “drifting away” from God, trying to “make our life easier by eliminating rituals”.

What is worse that all this is that these Quranists deny the title and study approach “Quranist”, prefer to be called on Muslims AND call any those who have tried to think harder, dig deeper and find another way “Quranists”, and by that refusing us, dividing the ummah on a mini-scale on the internet. I have absolutely no issue with people calling themselves “Muslims”. That is simply beautiful and up to them, but to entirely separate themselves from those who seek a wider Quranic meaning (which doesn’t include all Quranists) in the name of God? Why, any 17-year-old can spot the intolerance there!

In response, many Quranists stood up to say, “Yes, we do take the Quran metaphorically and we believe many verses were meant to be understood metaphorically!”

Here is where I highly disagree. There is no “metaphorical” meaning, but the words are deeper and have more angles than we assume. We’re not trying to find a metaphorical meaning in the Quran, but we’re trying to find the actual meaning!

Once you reach the point of realizing Salaat cannot be a ritual, you start wondering what ablution is for. Then you follow a trace, and you discover that “ablution” has much greater angles. Later on, you discover that the “whale/hoot” means something “unstable” and that this instability would visit The People of the Sabbath on the Day of “Sabbath” – the Day of “Rest” when they are under-equipped and unprepared for trouble.

I doubt the Quran is a life schedule, but it’s a grand philosophy by which Allah teaches those who seek guidance the means to patience, balance, “prayer” and life.

Traditional Islam created a whole new language called “al-mustalahat ash-sharia”, where (ironically) every Arabic word connected or found in the Quran has a “sharia” meaning and an “actual” meaning. For example, “safira” is a word Islamists use to describe an “exposed” hijabless woman, but they don’t tell you how it’s from the same root as the word “safar” which is found in the Quran,  roughly translated as “traveling”. Now, everything has a twisted sharia meaning to fit into a religion that aims to drown you in sunnah details of eating with your right hand and entering the bathroom with your left foot.

I highly disrespect those who say Quranists joggle with root words (as if it’s a sin to brush up on our Arabic!). They would tell me the Quran is easy to understand which to them means that words have a limited range of meanings as long as the majority of translators agree to deliver to us, (good enough for any mediocre thinking style), EVEN if these words were based on hadith, historical sources and other things they themselves consider to be “dogmas”. Due to this faulty understanding of the Quran, they themselves end up relying on outside sources to complete their religion, such as using a calendar to know when Ramadaan is, although we made that calendar with our own hands.

God’s word is clear. Sure, but do your eyes know clarity? Are you not looking through the eyes of traditional, intolerant, “ban-thinking” people?
– Take the word “nisa'” for example, which, root-wise, has nothing to do with women! Can you find anyone who ever translated “nisa'” as anything beside “women”?

– Take the word “rajeem” (a word used in the Quran to describe the Devil) that everyone flipped from “the oft-banishing” to “the banished one”.

– Take how “fatayat” and “banat” are both translated as “daughters”, or how both “zawj” and “imra’a” are both translated as “wife”.

– Take how Satan is The Devil although the two concepts are different and featured separately in the story of Adam.

– Take how “jald” could mean many other things beside flogging and whipping.

– Take how Sujjud (prostrating) does not fit as “physical prostration” in many verses and means “submission” at the same time. Do you see how many people are afraid to give up the meaning stuck in their head (that sujjud is about kneeling and lowering your forehead to the ground) although it doesn’t always fit?

Understanding God’s word cannot and will not happen overnight. It’s a life-long journey of giving and taking.

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Pyrrhic victory


I know it always seems to be a victory when we can prove a point or make someone realise that what the Quran teaches is not what (all) the Hadiths teach. I think it is really important to bear in mind that the intention is to invite to the truth and expose falsehood, but never to make anyone feel embarrassed or for them to lose their dignity in front of other people. We are instructed to debate/dispute/argue/discuss  in the best manner (16:125) and (29:46).

I’ll be honest – I am not really sure what the best manner is! Maybe I spend too much time wondering about the safest way to ensure the other party does not get humiliated? Is the only real way to do that for the debate to be done in private? Should debates be private or public? A public debate can be very revealing and educational, and obviously can benefit more people than the alternative of private conversations with each individual. After all, we are all in the same boat, looking for the truth, so no-one has anything to hide do they? Or do they? The problem is that it is natural to want to “save face” and I think we should always be aware of our own ego and pride and try to remain humble and never arrogant. By focussing on the issues and the evidence and never letting the debate turn into a personal attack about intelligence, I think the debates can be productive and to the point.

I think one way to “debate in the best manner” would probably be by presenting evidence, highlighting the illogic of the opposing argument and remaining calm and polite and respectful. I wondered whether sarcasm is included in “debating in the best manner”

Wikipedia says:

“Understanding the subtlety of this usage (of sarcasm) requires second-order interpretation of the speaker’s intentions. This sophisticated understanding can be lacking in some people with certain forms of brain damage, dementia and autism,[11] and this perception has been located by MRI in the right parahippocampal gyrus.[12][13]

Cultural perspectives on sarcasm vary widely with more than a few cultures and linguistic groups finding it offensive to varying degrees. Thomas Carlyle despised it: “Sarcasm I now see to be, in general, the language of the devil; for which reason I have long since as good as renounced it”.[14] Fyodor Dostoyevsky, on the other hand, recognized in it a cry of pain: Sarcasm, he said, was “usually the last refuge of modest and chaste-souled people when the privacy of their soul is coarsely and intrusively invaded.”[15] RFC 1855, a collection of guidelines for Internet communications, even includes a warning to be especially careful with it as it “may not travel well”.”

However, it is interesting to note some examples from the Quran about how Ibrahim dealt with the one who tried to argue with him in 2:258. It seems to me Ibrahim used irony to prove a point and I imagine it was said with a smile 🙂  In 21:63 too, again a point is proven by Ibrahim. This shows that sometimes we have to highlight the illogic in a profound way to prove the point, without beating around the bush! After all Ibrahim is a good example (60:4)

Who is the audience? Sarcasm, irony, rhetoric, hyperbole and understatement are misunderstood communication devices, too often unnecessarily considered rude when in fact there is no malice intent. I think if it was available in a tube the instructions would be “Apply sparingly” and “Use with caution” ! 🙂

I don’t have the opportunity very often to debate in real life face to face, so I am thinking about online debates mainly. Maybe I am over-sensitive though? Maybe I need to toughen up! 🙂 I don’t really like conflict so I guess I sit on the fence a lot. Or maybe I think it is sitting on the fence by refusing to take sides when people have heated discussions, once I have shown my evidence (verse from the Quran) – I guess I have this automatic instinct to stick up for the underdog, and I don’t really believe in “kicking a guy when he’s down”. Even though that would probably not be reciprocated! Maybe that is a weakness on my part. But still the truth must prevail over falsehood. I need to remember 2:42

I suppose for those who choose to engage in public debates know what they are getting into and do so at their own risk, but I think the good that can come from effective debates must outweigh the possible negative side effects.  I sometimes find myself being drawn in to online debates and then it is difficult to end things without being accused of “running away” which is not the case – it’s just I don’t see the point in repeating my evidence. There has to be a line drawn somewhere when the debate is no longer productive. After all, time is a precious and limited commodity! Some people think that having the last word means you have won the debate! I don’t agree with this simplistic and superficial view. Agreeing to disagree is a good one! (28:55)

The last point I wanted to make was that although quranists do get attacked constantly,  it seems a little extreme to tar all the attackers with the same brush with the concept that if they do not follow quranism (islam based on no other source than the Quran) then they are “polytheists” by default. I will admit; I am naive and I give the benefit of the doubt all too often. But I don’t like to brandish anyone, call names or mock – 49:11 comes to mind and I feel it is important to remember quranic etiquette and manners at all times, especially in debates. I think it is REALLY important for the quranist “movement” to lead by example and prove that the Quran really does have everything we need. A recent attack on Quranism was that if we did not have the hadiths then we would not have good manners, which I certainly do not agree with. Here are some links about Attitudes and Etiquette from the Quran.
More verses about truth and falsehood :

Chapter 2 – 2:42;
Chapter 3 – 3:71;
Chapter 8 – 8:8;
Chapter 13 – 13:17;
Chapter 17 – 17:81;
Chapter 18 – 18:56;
Chapter 21 – 21:18;
Chapter 22 – 22:62;
Chapter 31 – 31:30;
Chapter 34 – 34:49;
Chapter 40 – 40:540:78;
Chapter 42 – 42:24;
Chapter 47 – 47:3;

Happy debating! Remember to smile – it’s from the Quran! 27:19 ! 🙂

Lonely Quranists….


Great quote today: When you practice your Deen and as a result feel lonely as there aren’t many like you, remember one thing: Originals are always rare; copies are everywhere!”

This is definitely good practice because we should be less reliant on others to validate our views. Our views should be validated from our own beings…

Never give up!


Above – Video from Youtube is Paul Potts singing the italian version of Everybody hurts – “Ognuno Soffre”

REM – Everybody hurts  (taken from Lyrics007)

(Berry/Buck/Mills/Stipe)

When the day is long and the night, the night is yours alone,
When you’re sure you’ve had enough of this life, well hang on
Don’t let yourself go, ’cause everybody cries and everybody hurts sometimes

Sometimes everything is wrong. Now it’s time to sing along
When your day is night alone, (hold on, hold on)
If you feel like letting go, (hold on)
When you think you’ve had too much of this life, well hang on

‘Cause everybody hurts. Take comfort in your friends
Everybody hurts. Don’t throw your hand. Oh, no. Don’t throw your hand
If you feel like you’re alone, no, no, no, you are not alone

If you’re on your own in this life, the days and nights are long,
When you think you’ve had too much of this life to hang on

Well, everybody hurts sometimes,
Everybody cries. And everybody hurts sometimes
And everybody hurts sometimes. So, hold on, hold on
Hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on
Everybody hurts. You are not alone

taken from QuranAddict :

Noble Quran:

76:22 “This is the reward for you, and your struggle (saʿyukum) is appreciated.”88:8 Faces on that day are joyful.
88:9 For their pursuit (lisaʿyihā )they are content.92:4 Your works (saʿyakum ) are various.
92:5 As for he who gives and is righteous.
92:6 Trusts in goodness.
92:7 We will make the easy path for him.53:38 None can carry the burdens of another.
53:39 The human being will have what he sought (saʿā).
53:40 His works (saʿyahu) will be shown.
53:41 Then he will be paid fully for such works.

21:94 So whosoever does good work (l-ṣāliḥāti) and he is an acknowledger, then his efforts (lisaʿyihi) will not be rejected and We will record it for him.

17:19 Whoever seeks the Hereafter and strives for it as it deserves (wasaʿā laha saʿyahā), and is an acknowledging person, then their effort is appreciated.

12:110 Then, when the messengers gave up (is’tayasa), and they thought that they have been denied, Our victory came to them. We then save whom We wish, and Our punishment cannot be swayed from the wicked people.

12:87 “My sons, go and inquire about Joseph and his brother, and do not give up (tāy’asū) from God’s Spirit. The only people who would give up from God’s Spirit are the ingrates of acknowledgment.”17

29:23 Those who rejected God’s signs and in meeting Him, they have forsaken (ya-isū) My mercy, and they will have a painful retribution.
29:24 But the only response from his people was their saying: “Kill him, or burn him.” But God saved him from the fire. In this are signs for a people who acknowledge.

And this always helps put things into perspective for me:
I like what it says at the top too: “Let us not be stopped by that which divides us but look for that which unites us” http://users.gazinter.net/melan/Warn/Warnenu.htm

This is a really inspiring article too: http://www.quranists.net/2011/04/29/prophetic-examples-from-the-quran/

You might also like: The Difference between Ritual and Routine

The difference between Ritual and Routine


It seems to me, rituals can be time consuming and dogmatic. There is pressure to conform. Guilt and depression can follow, if not maintained. Due to the strict requirements of the rituals, they are not sustainable for a lengthened period of time. The mind plays tricks with excuses to justify why the ritual could not be fulfilled. The extremes of “all of nothing” show when you make a new attempt to start the rituals after having abandoned them and then give up when 1 ritual is missed. Like starting a low fat diet and doing really well for 2 weeks until someone brings cakes into work and then the whole regime is destroyed, and you end up pigging out on everything you missed for the last 2 weeks. This is Crash and Burn. This is Perfectionism at its most dangerous. Perfectionism is a killer, it is soul-destroying and can strike anywhere. Perfectionism is for example when you want to keep your house not just tidy and clean but “perfect”. I’m talking about every last crumb and every last splash of juice, every last sticky finger mark on the walls (if you have kids you will know!). Trying to achieve the impossible is usually a waste of time; it’s demoralising and makes us beat ourselves up for being failures when things do not end up “perfect”. It is like some kind of psychological illness in my own honest opinion. The problem with Perfectionism is that sometimes the task seems so big, you do not know where to start so you never get started for fear of the failure of not being able to do it “perfectly” or not having the time to do it “properly” – (properly according to whom, we have to ask?).   Rituals, like Perfectionism inhibit productivity, require concentration and are stressful. While-ever the ritual is being maintained, there is a danger of arrogance too – the ones who don’t do it the same as you may be considered lazy or not devoted enough. This leads to “poor me” syndrome – the feeling that you are doing all the work and no-one else is. This leads to tension and does not create a good atmosphere. The “One Size fits All” principle from the “ritual” point of view does not really seem to be the case.

Routines on the other hand are flexible. They come from habits established into daily life. They are adaptable. New habits replace old habits or attach onto good habits already established. Habits can become automatic too. It is said that to learn a new habit takes somewhere between 21-30 days. Routines aid organisation and productivity. By setting goals and establishing routines designed to work towards these goals, one has direction and purpose. Routines are not perfect, but they are positive. Routines consist of “Baby Steps” which are continuous, evolving, progressing and are maintainable and sustainable, logical and reasonable. It is probably fair to say that productive people contribute considerably to their families, communities and society at large, by having adaptable routines, schedules, goals and aspirations and a positive attitude.

Without routines, one upside is that we can be spontaneous, and variety is the proverbial spice of life!  However without routines for a long period of time, there will inevitably be randomness, and this can lead to chaos. General disorganisation; the mind is less clear, thoughts are scattered. Productivity comes in peaks and troughs, fits and starts. This also leads to “Crash and Burn” seeing as it is another form of the extremes – “All or Nothing” , or having the passion and drive to start projects but not getting them finished due to lack of focus or discipline or indeed motivation.

Conclusion :

Having routines is a middle path between the 2 extremes of Ritual and Random Chaos

I see a sliding scale between the 2 extremes and routines can even be towards the Ritualistic side of the scale or towards the Random Chaos side. Different routines throughout the day may require different levels of Routine Intensity. For example, my Morning Routine works best if it is performed more towards the ritual end of the scale, seeing as I have a list of tasks that really need to be done in order for the day to run smoothly. Other routines I have are less stringent as tasks can be shuffled and adapted to suit requirements (and the weather)  🙂

Ironic Attitudes


After reading this post on Prophetic Examples in the Quran yesterday, which I found incredibly moving,  I reflected on some of the attitudes that I have come across on the discussion threads on Facebook (FB) in various FB groups.

Some of the statements I have seen have contained sarcastic sneers, rudeness, attacks on others, general negativity and disrespect, arrogance and arguing for the sake of arguing. It would probably be dishonest of me to say that I have never contributed to this myself in some way.

Compare that to how the prophets are portrayed in the Quran, their actions, and what they said, summarised in the post I mentioned above which has a non-exhaustive list of realistic, noble and achievable qualities and traits of humans which can be found in the Quran, with references.
In 9:114 Ibrahim is described as la-awwāhun ḥalīmun

وما كان استغفار ابرهيم لابيه الا عن موعدة وعدها اياه فلما تبين له انه عدو لله تبرا منه ان ابرهيم لاوه حليم

In 64:14 The ones who āmanū are told that if they taʿfū, wataṣfaḥū and wataghfirū even with the ones who oppose them, then Allah will be ghafūrun, raḥīmun,

يايها الذين ءامنوا ان من ازوجكم واولدكم عدوا لكم فاحذروهم وان تعفوا وتصفحوا وتغفروا فان الله غفور رحيم

Less desirable behaviour can be seen in 23:46, where behaviour such as fa-is’takbarū is ascribed to Firawn’s chiefs, and they are described as a qawman ʿālīna

الى فرعون وملايه فاستكبروا وكانوا قوما عالين

I  believe it is our duty to invite to God, and God’s Words, stand up for the truth and try to eliminate falsehood. Among the FB groups who are already firm in their belief that the Qur’an is the only source of Divine Guidance, I really see potential for our attitudes to improve.  Let’s think about what chances are going to waste here in this short life. Don’t we have a great facility for uniting and working together as a team with a common goal? A wonderful chance to strive in the way of God to practise islam as prescribed by the Qur’an? A fantastic opportunity to lead by example to show the world a more inspiring picture of islam in action?

“Preaching to the choir” is an interesting expression. It refers to the pointlessness of a preacher attempting to convert those who, by their presence in church, have already demonstrated their faith. This seems to be the case sometimes in the groups. Often, too, there is infighting and bickering about the personal beliefs of people who have already come to accept God and His Words.

Of course, no two people are going to think and believe the exact same things or interpret the Qur’an in Arabic or a different language in the exact same way. It seems to me that to find common ground we can agree on is emphasised in 29:46,  wa-ilāhunā  wa-ilāhukum wāḥidun

ولا تجدلوا اهل الكتب الا بالتى هى احسن الا الذين ظلموا منهم وقولوا ءامنا بالذى انزل الينا وانزل اليكم والهنا والهكم وحد ونحن له مسلمون

As people, humans, with feelings and emotions, if we are attacked enough, it is inevitable that we become defensive and lash out ourselves. 16:125-126 is similar to 29:46 with a reminder that if we are ṣabartum then it is better.

ادع الى سبيل ربك بالحكمة والموعظة الحسنة وجدلهم بالتى هى احسن ان ربك هو اعلم بمن ضل عن سبيله وهو اعلم بالمهتدين

وان عاقبتم فعاقبوا بمثل ما عوقبتم به ولىن صبرتم لهو خير للصبرين

14:24-27 gives us an example of good words and bad words. It seems to me the good words always lead to something more productive than the negativity and destruction of the bad words. Surely it goes without saying, a comfortable atmosphere, one filled with energy, passion and positivity is more inviting than a dark room of pettiness, retorts, sneers and snide comments. Which room would you rather be in?

الم تر كيف ضرب الله مثلا كلمة طيبة كشجرة طيبة اصلها ثابت وفرعها فى السماء

توتى اكلها كل حين باذن ربها ويضرب الله الامثال للناس لعلهم يتذكرون

ومثل كلمة خبيثة كشجرة خبيثة اجتثت من فوق الارض ما لها من قرار

يثبت الله الذين ءامنوا بالقول الثابت فى الحيوة الدنيا وفى الءاخرة ويضل الله الظلمين ويفعل الله ما يشاء

I used to be in some Traditional Islam FB groups for new converts (being a convert myself) – and the general attitude of the discussions there was remarkably humble, where the atmosphere would be spoilt on occasion only by someone’s good intention of “forbidding evil” that made a claim about something being “Haraam”, due to it being mentioned as prohibited in the Ahadith collections, and not from the Quran. Credit where it is due, after any heated discussions, I often saw a lot of sincerity, apologies and retractions and reconciliation.

It can be very difficult to remain calm, when your point of view is not appreciated by the other, in a debate or a discussion. No-one is perfect, and we all have our own limitations. I think it is difficult for strangers to be on the same wavelength. It’s easy to get off to a bad start if the first time you meet there is a clash or a conflict. Do you ever find that if you put things into perspective, it turns out that you have more in common with the person you are debating with than you might have at first recognised? Imagine you had met this person in real life; say they are a neighbour on your street, or in your apartment building, someone with a family and kids, someone with a mum and dad and grandparents and they shop at the same supermarket as you. You’d help them with their shopping if they were struggling. You’d push their car if it broke down.  You’d hold the door open for them. You’d chat with them while waiting in line at the Post Office, about things you had in common. You’d lend them some garden tools. You’d send a card or fruit basket if they got sick. Wouldn’t you?

We are an online community. We might never physically meet each other in real life. But I’d like to think together we could be spiritually very close.  Wouldn’t it be amazing if we really could let our own egos let go of their pride. We don’t have to be right all of the time; even being right is subject to interpretation. Can’t we just have pleasant civilised discussions, backed up by our proof, then end it by agreeing to disagree, so that we can then focus on the bigger picture, and look after each other and hold firmly to the Rope of God ?

3:103 – 3:104

واعتصموا بحبل الله جميعا ولا تفرقوا واذكروا نعمت الله عليكم اذ كنتم اعداء فالف بين قلوبكم فاصبحتم بنعمته اخونا وكنتم على شفا حفرة من النار فانقذكم منها كذلك يبين الله لكم ءايته لعلكم تهتدون

ولتكن منكم امة يدعون الى الخير ويامرون بالمعروف وينهون عن المنكر واولئك هم المفلحون