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.

Articles


Here are some articles from the  mypercept site, from one of our anonymous / uncredited contributors.

1st published online in 1997, revised in 2002.
Does God Exist?
http://mypercept.co.uk/articles/Does_God_Exist_home.htm
(Originally written when I was 16, hence later revised. Still a very unique article.)

About 1999.
Is The Bible God’s Unadulterated Word?
http://mypercept.co.uk/articles/errors_mistakes_bible.htm

About 2000.
The Intelligent Approach to Islam
http://mypercept.co.uk/articles/Intelligent_Approach_to_Islam.htm
(Centres around some simple observations.)

About 2000.
The Quran: clear, complete, detailed and explained?
http://mypercept.co.uk/articles/Quran_clear_complete_detailed_explained.htm

About 2000.
The Word Hadith in The Quran
http://mypercept.co.uk/articles/Hadith_in_Quran.htm

About 2002.
A summary of the book “Rethinking Tradition in Modern Islamic Thought” by Daniel Brown.
http://mypercept.co.uk/articles/Rethinking_Tradition_Modern_Islamic_Thought.htm
(Briefly reviews the history of hadith/sunnah within Islam. Good introduction to the topic.)

About 2004.
An understanding of salat from Al Quran
http://mypercept.co.uk/articles/slw.htm
(Very simple article about a very simple idea.)

May 2005.
Disproved once and for all: salat = prayer
http://mypercept.co.uk/articles/disproved_traditional_salat.htm

How can we practise the Quran if we spend our lives trying to understand it?


Quranists, more than any other Muslim group in my opinion, have no ending in sight when it comes to constantly studying and revising their views on Quranic interpretation. It’s not that anything is wrong with us. It’s just that other Muslims don’t really think there’s anything more to the Quran than the interpretations which already exist. This is not to insult them but it’s not in their sphere of concerns. Try going into a Sunni or Shia bookshop and ask for a book which analyses the rendition of the story of Musa from chapter to chapter. You will draw a blank because the subject simply isn’t important enough.

But that leaves us with the question of the title:  How can we practise the Quran if we spend our lives trying to understand it?

To me, it works like this: We can practise the Quran immediately by simply reading some short chapters like al-fatiha, al-asr and al-ikhlas. Basically it tells us to believe in God, be good and what life is basically about. Practice according to your knowledge.

However, as you go on through life, you will experience more signs of God. The Quran is the clarification of these signs. We read the Quran, read our lives, then read the Quran, then practise and on and on.

The Quran’s depth in unfathomable. There are an unlimited number of angles which we can explore in the course of lives. Living must of course continue but the Quran acts as like God’s council to us. It keeps us on the straight path.

This is a very organic process and very individual. No two people read the same way so it’s good to share notes. The Quran is the perfect map for the travel of life.

On Asnam


Traditionally, Muslims have always been told to believe that Al-Asnam are pagan gods almost always built or carved from stone, wood or sometimes even date fruit that can be consumed as edible food later on.

Muslims have also been told that people would set these statues up and worship them daily in rituals. I have a mind to believe otherwise since “to worship” is “to serve”, in my opinion. I do not see how you can serve a piece of stone unless, of course, you also image it giving orders or having expectations and desires.

There are only five occurrences of the word As-nam in the Quran, those being in 6:74, 7:138, 14:35, 21:57 and 26:71.

Chapter 26 is a long way off, and it’s essential to understand it’s “air” before diving into the meaning of Asnam. Yet, it’s interesting to point out that 26:77 lists Allah as one of those “asnam” worshiped by the people of Ibrahim.

26:75 – He said, “Then do you see what you have been worshipping,

26:76 – You and your ancient forefathers?

26:77 – Indeed, they are enemies to me, except the Lord of the worlds,

In fact, chapter 26 contains a detailed comparison between God and (I won’t say pagan) useless spiritual approaches.

Verse 26:71 also mentions an interesting word: ‘akafa, meaning that these people’s method of serving (because worshiping is to admire, and chanting for God won’t exactly save the world) these asnam is al-‘tikaf. Another interesting word used in the same verse is “nathalla”, and if I recall correctly, “thill (or dhill)” means “shade”.

The only connection that can be found between shade and “remaining” (with the help of Lane’s Lexicon) is protection: you shade something to protect it from sunlight or exposure, or becoming “clear”. This thing that is being sheltered from sunlight is obviously intolerant to heat or becoming clear, justified or valid. It’s to plainly say that these asnam they serve all day have no proof of existence, thus would melt when exposed to the sun: when we shine light on them, their faults, flaws and contradictions will be manifest to the eye.

(To be continued.)

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.

The Concept of God in the Quran (intro)


People have endlessly questioned this. I do not mean atheists, historians, writers or philosophers, but people I knew. Friends, “family”, random debaters… and so on.

One of the most interesting beliefs I shared with few of them was that atheists (or those who deny the existence of a higher source or its need for our worship, in some way or the other) were more believers than religious or even spiritual individuals.

As they had no god or gods to follow, no laws to rule by (laws that do not always meet with logic), and no rituals beside personal ones, some of them decided to adopt a moral code. They spread less “mischief” than believers, and they commit less “sin” than any religious person. Why?

Well, religious individuals forbid all sorts of things – especially every-day requirements. There is no way to follow all these laws without a major heartbreaking sacrifice: the sacrifice of oneself. Everything becomes a sin. Small issues become major sins. The wars, the slavery, the patriarchy system. All these are things that can easily be justified in the name of God. People’s love for Allah can be used. It’s what my Mushu calls “Emotional Blackmail”.

True it is, love and devotion are powerful tools, especially if a person decides to make that sacrifice after all. Any religious leader can blackmail the human conscience and insist upon some malady or the other in service to the Heavens.

Most atheists I met or spoke to were ethical. They were clean, and I mean morally clean. They hold no grudge for what religious people may irrationally hate, such as homosexuality. They are willing to debate at any time. They are willing to make records and discoveries. I am quite certain a great number of them would still be “religious” if the world’s religions made sense and did not impose harsh expectations for each “religious” individual.

Even among fellow Quranists, I find quite a few biased rules. Perhaps they are biased in my point of view only, for they are godly ideas to others.

“Religio-logically” speaking, religion “is equal to” morals. Quite a dangerous formula! Many religious people would assume that once someone becomes godless, he loses all morals; the “who is godless is evil”. It’s difficult to observe this on real ground! All those godless people (for any person may be an atheist according to some religion or the other) live in development, although the believe in evolution, and live in happiness, although they may favour Jesus, Achamán, Shiva or nothing. It’s a fact that those who lived most happily or “moved on” where people least concerned about religion, but more concerned about practical life.

 This is why I am eager to write on the subject. I want to discover how my Maker describes Himself, and how He orders us to behold Him using the Quran. I wish to know if “dhikr” is to pay God lip-service, or whether it is to bring Him out into life (which would depend on the definition of god according to my view point of the Quran). In other words, it’s time to put Quran in the light of nourishing life instead of a theory residing in books. It’s important for me to know if my image of God will judge all people by how they believed, or who they believed in instead, or even when and where this judgment will take place.

I want to say “peace” instead of “goodbye” and actually mean it!

Why I over-analyse everything


I remember going to a Qur’an study circle (within a few days of reverting/converting) where there was no Qur’an present because (I was told) “it is too holy and we mere mortals cannot attempt to try to understand it” So that is why we have the Ahadith, so I was told. So the Scripture that had initially brought me to Islam (The Sublime Qur’an) was something I shouldn’t have been reading in the first place?! Something didn’t add up. And then my investigation started!

I think that the ahadith have a purpose, (which I will not go into here), and certainly for people who don’t know which hadiths are from the Qur’an and which ones are not, it must be terribly confusing. I heard a lot of weak/false/fabricated ahadith when I was first converted, and some of the more knowledgeable sisters at University were keen to point out that Ahadith could be either weak, strong, authentic etc, so I guess I learned early on to check what is in the Qur’an and what isn’t. I have heard some woppers of hadiths in my time, honestly, some of the most strange and most bizarre superstitions that people actively make place for in our beautiful deen, and (in my own opinion carelessly / heedlessly / disrespectfully) abrogating God’s final message to mankind. Alhamdulillah, having not been born into the religion with no dogma/pre-conceptions/falsehood already ingrained, it was fairly simple to “sort the wheat from the chaff” to use a very English expression, if I may!

So I guess I got into the habit (early on) of cross referencing or checking against the Master. So much so, that I found many many interesting topics. I remember reading about Hypocrites and Shirk and then suddenly I was seeing a lot of questionable practises everywhere, at university in the prayer rooms, and in islamic lectures; especially what I perceived to be “Shirk” – ascribing partners to God or outright worship of the Prophet, or discussing scholars as if the scholars were their “gods”. I carried on reading the Qur’an and the more I read, the more I believed that I was being warned. Not just about evil and the Shaytan, but also the ones who went astray when they didn’t obey the Message they were sent and corrupted it by adding / concealing /abrogating /twisting / disregarding / disobeying. It particularly struck me as odd when a lot of the lectures aimed at showing Christians that the Bible’s own words were telling people that Jesus never claimed to be God, but then when it comes to the Qur’an and what the Qur’an’s own words say, people are happy to do what they claim the Christians did and follow the hearsay / tradition / superstition and disregard the Scripture.

Nearly all the Muslims I’ve met in real life say the Sunnah+Ahadith is the 2nd divine source of guidance, the 1st being the Qur’an. But the Qur’an never mentions a second divine source.  “Sunnah”  is mentioned in the Qur’an (Sunnat’Allah). Ahadith are mentioned in the Qur’an. (The links show the verses that those words appear in). The Ahadith collection of Bukhari is not mentioned at all. It became apparent to me that God has given us instructions about the BEST hadith (see 39:23) to follow, which is the Qur’an, and asks us “which hadith other than THIS will you follow?” I fear the Day when I will be asked about all my actions and why I did them (or did not). From what I have learned, it is not going to look good if I say “because Scholar A said this and Sheikh B said that” in case it is seen that I am taking OTHER than God as my Lord. The Qur’an warns us not to take religious scholars/sheikhs/imams/priests/rabbis as our Lords. The Qur’an says Obey God and Obey the Messenger. The Messenger’s sole duty is to clearly deliver the message. So by obeying the Qur’an, I am obeying the Messenger, insha’Allah.

I fear God and I do my best to avoid the unforgiveable sin of commiting Shirk, insha’Allah.  I just want to worship Allah alone as instructed in the Qur’an (and previous Scripture) and obey the instructions. (Here is a good article on Reading and interpretation).

I have found there is a misperception that if you do not “accept” Bukhari’s Ahadith collection, then this is rejecting the Prophet/Messenger so it means we are not obeying the Messenger so we are not obeying God.

I am not “unwilling to accept” ahadith which correspond exactly with the Qur’an. Nor do I have a problem with “good advice” in general. I do however have a problem with ahadith / hearsay / gossip that are falsely attributed to the Messenger and labelled as divine guidance, as this does not respect him as the Servant, Messenger and Prophet like he ought to be respected, in my opinion. And I will not knowingly attribute anything falsely to God or lie about God, insha’Allah.  I like to think that, by not deviating from the Message the Prophet brought, that God protected/guarded, this is the best way to support and obey him, which is to obey God. The Qur’an tells us what to ignore, and also tells us to verify before we accept. The Qur’an is a book in which there is NO doubt, unlike the ahadith which are claimed to be weak, strong, authentic, fabricated, baseless etc which makes it surplus to requirements. Even the “strong” and “authentic” ones are questionable when you look into the “Science of Hadith” (see Wikipedia’s article on Criticism of Hadith) and what criteria/conjecture are used for determining/speculating about the authenticity. Even if the authenticity was not highly questionable, it still remains that there is no authority given in the Qur’an for judging by anything other than the Qur’an itself and the Qur’an warns us about fabricated/baseless ahadith and conjecture.

It is my belief that there are many ways in which we are tested. I am trying to pass the Test, insha’Allah. We know from what the Qur’an says about the Shaytan, who will come and try to make people stray from the right path, making their doings seem goodly to them. I guess this is why I tend to (over)analyse everything to make sure it is “bona-fide” and not Shaytan’s trickery. Insha’Allah.

If the Qur’an (the divine guidance) was from any other than God then it would be full of contradiction. And there is NO contradiction in the Qur’an. It is only in the “reported” sayings and actions of Rasulallah that there are contradictions, so therefore how can this be divine guidance from God? (don’t forget the reports are just that, and look at the newsreaders today and what they report – is it always accurate? no of course not – often propaganda, conjecture and bias with a socio-political agenda) I am not saying I believe ALL ahadith are conjecture / misreports. But I am saying that I believe that if they are NOT conjecture then they WILL be found in the Qur’an, and the Qur’an clarifies. So that’s what I try to establish, insha’Allah. The “sects” or schools of thought in Islam have one thing in common: the Sublime Guarded Qur’an. So how better to make sure I am NOT in a sect than by following the one common denominator? And of course because God commanded us to and to NOT follow conjecture.

see also
Why Quranism is not a sect – Justifying the Quranist / Quranism labels

Quranists and the term ‘Quranists’

Quranic Fundamentalism

Prophetic “Sunnah” in the Quran