July 23, 2011 6 Comments
Jinn has written an interesting article on apostateofhadith.blogspot in response to the article on quranists.net, The Deceptive ‘Just Muslim Label’ by quranists. In honour of the quranic way, I thought I might express a few of my thoughts on his views.
“To say that Sunnis are an accurate representation of orthodox or traditional Islam is, to put it bluntly, an uneducated statement. […] You claim not to represent orthodox Islam while others, such as myself, will astutely counter that you in fact do represent orthodox Islam the moment you put serious doubt in the hadith.”
“If you wish to converse with me,” said Voltaire, “define your terms.” How Jinn defines the term “orthodox/traditional Islam” is clearly different to how it is defined in the article he criticises, such that the two are talking past each other. Whether Jinn chooses to acknowledge it or not, the word “gay” is mostly used to refer to homosexuals and is no longer used to mean what it may have originally referred to: extreme happiness. He may insist and argue that the word “gay” should not be used to refer to homosexuals and may go on to write articles rebuking people who do. And he would have every right to do this. However, I believe he would be wasting much energy in fighting the natural evolution of language. Sunni islam is based on adherence of traditions and promotes both orthodoxy and orthopraxy. When people say “orthodox/traditional Islam” they are usually referring to the Sunni flavour. So when a quranist says, I do not represent orthodox Islam, he is dissociating himself from what people would normally understand as the Sunni/Shia Islam. And we are all bound by the framework of ideas and language we live in. People who are concerned with social change see the value of having a label which accurately conveys their stance, allowing them to get to work without expending energy clarifying what it is they represent.
“the Qur’an openly refutes the entire blasted thing:
Surely they who divided their religion into parts and became sects, you have no concern with them; their affair is only with Allah, then He will inform them of what they did. ~Qur’an 6:159”
It’s a shame Jinn didn’t provide his understanding of this verse, as it is one we’ve discussed on Quranology Discussions in the past. The verse doesn’t say sects come from labels, it says sects come from “farraqū dīn”. What is dīn? Does Jinn think the label “quranist” divides the dīn? From my understanding, “dīn” means that which is obligatory upon us as upright beings, thus dividing and dropping parts of this obligatory system leads to sectarianism. It’s not clear to me how this verse refutes having a new label.
“That, and apart from the fact that God Himself has decreed only ONE title for us”
The assumption is that “muslim” is a title. The prefix “mu” before a word denotes an agent/doer of the noun/verb that follows. There are many examples of this in the quran: the one that enacts īmān (belief) is a mu’min (believer), the one that enacts ḥasanan (good) is a muḥ’sinun (good-doer), the ones who aflaḥa (succeed) are called al-muf’liḥūna (the successful ones) etc. “Muslim” must refer to the one who enacts something, or is an agent of an act, and not merely a title one wears through affiliation. That something, whatever you may believe it to be, is defined throughout the quran. This is not to say the word muslim is not also a label, as it clearly does refer to one who follows the Islamic cultural civilisation, but I would argue that this is not the way the quran uses the word.
“To say that these “quranists” are being deceptive by not waving a proverbial sign in a newcomer’s face that reads “I HATE HADITH I AM NOT A REPRESENTATIVE OF ORTHODOX ISLAM” is giving the hadith more attention than it deserves.”
But it’s not just hadith though, is it? Quranists reject many things from Sunni’ism, in particular the authority of the scholars, the legitimacy of consensus and the right to derive divine rulings. Yes, hadith is central to Sunni’ism, and a major point of contention for quranists, but to disassociate yourself from Sunni Islam is far more than just rejecting hadith. The deceptive nature of using the “just Muslim” label is that you can not claim to have an objective definition of a muslim, so you end up hiding the relevant information necessary for your audience to determine where you stand.
Remember, the quran demands that you speak plainly:
4/9 […] So let them take as a shield Allah, and let them speak words appropriate.
“Sure, he can ask questions about it, but to make it a central point of discussion is akin to telling Protestant Christians that they should be discussing the Papacy.”
Did you spot it? Deliciously ironic! No one would ask Protestant Christians to discuss the Papacy because their audience will already know they reject it. They would know this because of the word “Protestant”. If Christians who reject the Papacy were to use the “just Christians” label, they may find themselves spending much time explaining why the Bibles they carry are missing several books and other things that they would rather not waste time talking about. Including the Papacy.
Furthermore, it is clear that the author does not know the correct definition of “orthodox” in light of the Qur’an. The Qur’an is the ONLY uncorrupted source of orthodox Islam on the planet. To assert that “mainstream” Islam is orthodox is to confirm that their teachings are genuine when in fact, true traditional Islam is nothing like Sunni or Shia practices.
I would argue that rather than being ignorant of the quran’s attitude to orthodoxy, the author of the article is submitting to the language of the day, and seeing no point in being stubborn with labels. Mainstream Islam, regardless of what you think of it, has become what is considered in the minds of people, orthodox. And it is these people who we are having to communicate with, who we are trying to convince, and who we hope will come on board. To be stubborn in our approach to words simply leads to confusion. If someone said the words “orthodox Islam” to me, I would immediately think they were speaking of Sunni Islam, even though I’m a quranist.
Although I do sympathise with quran students who wish to “reclaim” Islamic words, jealously trying to guard the word Muslim is a fruitless endeavour. No one owns this word, and no one can, with sure confidence, say that their beliefs and actions are a correct and accurate representation of the quranic definition of a muslim. We can only try our best and express our personal interpretation of what it means to be muslim. The quran most certainly promotes freedom of thought and pluralism, so labels become a necessity if we are to have a meaningful and beneficial exchange of ideas.
“Islam is not a hat one wears. It’s an element one affects by acting in a sound manner.” – Farouk A. Peru