Adultery in Islam from two different angles: Traditional Islam vs Quranism – Part I


In this article (defining our terms), Traditional Islam is Sunnism and Quranism is the belief that the Quran is the supposed sole authority of sharia in Islam.

I have recently been investigating details on the adultery penalty in Traditional Islam compared to Quranist Islam. I would like to share them with you if you are interested in truth, because a part of truth is to hear your “opponent”, although I don’t want to be one.

The subject is adultery in the Quran and sunnah. Lately, I’ve had the chance to read a book on the interpretation of chapter 24 (Tafseer Surat An-Noor by M. A Al-Hasan and A. F Abu Albah – dated 1983. Old, I know), where the first part exclusively dealt with the penalties and regulations of adultery in “Islam”. I found them to be awfully bigot and contradicting. I still don’t understand why any Muslim woman ever got into an Islam-ruled marriage.

Moving on, this book preaches that chapter 24 is dealing with the social relationship between men and women, highlighting the act of fahisha. The writer/s insisted that adultery is, indeed, an act of fahisha – thus saying that 24:2 is an abrogation of 4:15-16.

I wish to discuss the penalty of adultery in traditional Islam with you bit by bit, simply because it is a must. The first detail includes abrogation in the Quran.

Although the Quran mentions that a verse (ayah, actually) could have been abrogated (and only ONCE, being 2:106), there’s a big chance “abrogation/naskh” in the Quran means something else. Well, whether it means abrogation or not, who said you can “cancel” one verse using another? What logic would allow this? All based on a possible contradiction you found? What about the many verses that state the Quran is clear, comprehensive, and of no fault (39:28, 41:3, 10:37, etc)? So in what name dare you annul or abolish a certain law made by the deity you acknowledge as GOD by another law made by Him when you have previously learned that no contradictions exist?

In fact, 39:28 mentions the Quran is free of awaj, literally meaning something free of crookedness. The Quran is thus straight-forward, and so, there is no chance of sudden “turn-backs”. And yet, some scholars of traditional Islam recognizes such turn-backs under the name of abrogation.

4:15, roughly speaking, states that if “women” among you commit a fahisha, and four witnesses gave testimony against them, they should be sentenced to house-arrest for life or until “God helps them find a way out”. Then 4:16 states that, if “two of you” commit it, then you should hurt them; that, if they repent, you can stop. Traditionally, 4:15 is an exclusive call against “obscene” women while 4:16 can be general (considering the grammar rules of Classical Arabic) and yet is not (to them). To them the verses say that (as the writer himself explained) if a woman commits such an obscenity, she would be locked up in her own house for life or until God offers her a way out, and if a man commits the same level of crime (the crime at level fahisha) would only be rebuked and admonished.

You think this is bigot? Wait ’till we discuss more of this. This, after all, if you are a traditional Muslim, the religion you settled for, and are thus obliged to study and know it.

Anyway, the entire point is that 4:15-16 were abrogated by 24:2. But let us, for a moment, imagine a world where no “contradiction” such as this was ever found (no, reader, it is not a contradiction, but a technicality). We have two options: ONE, we either say that a fahisha can be something horrible, but non-sexual, or that, TWO, “adultery” in the Quran could be something horrible, but non-sexual. Either ways, those two verses will have to work together, in harmony. Only one can be about adultery (if you think it’s about adultery anyway – I don’t), and only one can be about fahisha, and yes, either “adultery” or fahisha is sexual, but not both. Adultery can not be fahisha neither be a part of it, and vice versa.

Now, was it so hard to find a way to fit both statements of LAW in one book without having to abrogate either of the two?

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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.