Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Quran - a Book about Humans

Question: The blasphemy problem concerning religious text that was brought up by B in this thread, is present in Christianity/bible. What I have difficulty understanding is how people who know that their God has irreducible attributes that we cannot begin to comprehend, stick so close to a text, that "uses God's name in vain" by telling us how to comprehend the world, the role of humans, and God. A text about God itself violates the greatness of its own god (if god were something we can comprehend, we can write about god... if not, why not remain silent and do the work?).
The only theologians that I respect therefore, are the ones that tend to be not overly literal: they read other books, the books of the "competition", even listen to the devil if that principle presents itself... if only to keep the pledge that one does not perceive any book or voice to be the "book of answers", and in so doing blaspheme one's god in personal vanity, advertising them in vulgar fashion everywhere, and therefore pretend to know what we cannot. 
I can therefore relate to preference therefore of old mystics, shamans, negative theologies like Neo-Platonists, Buddhists etc, because they have this safety switch, that prevents using some interpretation of God, as weapon against others and to cause pain in "good clothing". 
My question to you Samiya: How does Quran meet this problem? Does it meet the problem of overly literal interpretation, and all the pain that can cause? PGC

Answer: The answer to your first assumption is that the Quran is not a book about God. It is a book about humans and has been revealed through divine decree for human guidance (6:91). There are a number of reasons why I believe it to be so: 
1) It clearly tells us that God is above all comprehension, yet is acquainted with all things (6:103) 
2) It states that it is no less than a message for all (6:90) 
3) When it claims that it has been revealed for guidance, (2:2)
3.1) it also says that the message has been explained in various verses (contains many signs) so that it is clear that this has been taught by someone (6:105) 
3.2) it also claims that had it been from other that God, we would have found in it much discrepancy (4:82)
3.3) it repeatedly exhorts to study and reflect upon the verses (47:24 and other verses, which is why I insist that we evaluate it for factual accuracy) 
3.4) it claims that it is protected from changes (15:9) 
4) it claims that the primal origin of the Heavens and Earth is due to God, and therefore, since everything has been created by God, nothing else is God, and therefore nothing else can be worshiped or considered a partner or held equal to God (6:101,102) 
4.1) it informs us that all else that humans worship is misguidance (6:56, 6:81, 6:100) and grave sin (4:116)  
4.2) it informs us that it is wicked to lie against God or claim inspiration if it has not been sent (6:21) 
4.3) it informs us that Book, Authority and Prophets were indeed sent to people earlier, and this Quran been revealed through Muhammad, and relates many examples (6:83-90, 16:36), because God cares for all and knows all (3:72,73)    
5) it informs us that God is continuously, magnificently busy with creating, sustaining and governing the entire creation (55:29) 
6) it informs us that just like God has given us intelligence (16:78), reasoning, the power of speech(55:2) and ability to read and write (96:4,5), similarly God has provided us with guidance in forms we can take guidance from (the self-reproaching conscience (75:2), scripture (55:4, 68:1), human messengers (12:109) who practiced what they preached and demonstrated that it is humanly possible to follow divine guidance   
7) it tells us that humans have been given but very little knowledge (17:85), and there is much that we do not or cannot know 
8) it gives us some key information about our present and future 
9) it informs us that this life is transient, but not without purpose, and that we are all in pledge for our deeds
10) it informs us of our appointment with God, the Day of Reckoning / Justice of Mankind, and that the appointment with God is a sure thing and must be kept 
11) it informs us that we have a very long life after that appointment, and where we get to spend it depends on what we do in this life  
12) it informs us that God has inscribed upon Himself mercy, so that if anyone sins/does evil in ignorance, and thereafter repents and amends, then God is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful (6:54)
13) Forgiveness is therefore only withheld from those who repeatedly and obstinately transgress (6:55), and refuse guidance and die disbelieving (4:18)  
14) it warns us there is good and evil (12:53) within us, and to not to follow our desires, as they will lead us astray (38:26); furthermore it also warns us of the existence of devils (30:60) and that all they can do is suggest evil thoughts (14:22), and that it is our free will to choose whether to take guidance from God or from the devils (2:268, 3:175) or from our desires  
15) it informs us that it is of no use to God to punish humans (4:147), but Justice must be established on the Day of Reckoning, those who believe and do good must be rewarded, and as a consequence sinners must be punished 
16) it also informs us that we must be judged (15:85) due to a prior event: the Trust was offered to other creation (The Heavens, The Earth, The Mountain, but they declined; The Human undertook it and proved itself unjust and ignorant; hence God will punish the Hypocrites and the Polytheists, and God will forgive the Believers (33:72,73) 

Regarding blasphemy, I think you're not asking about Blasphemy as in speaking derogatory remarks about God, but rather you are asking about the observance of restrictions and implementation of law instructed in the scripture. You see, Islam is about submission to divine guidance. When one is convinced about the Quran being God's guidance, then the believers have no choice in matters decreed by God. I know that much evil is done in the name of God, and gross injustice is done in its interpretation, implementation and execution, but you see humans have been doing this with religion and law all throughout history. Furthermore, remember that we are all being tested and all will be judged, so those who choose to do evil in the name of God will face the consequences of their actions, based upon their intentions, and the suffering of the innocent will not be in vain. We also believe that all matters are pre-ordained (57:22,23) However, this does not absolve us of our individual and collective responsibilities as we are also told that we humans are responsible for the Earth, and therefore for implementing, doing, advising the right/good (depending on our position in society/sphere of authority), and from stopping/banning, rejecting and forbidding/advising against the wrong/evil (again depending on our position in society/sphere of authority). 

Therefore, in spite of what who is doing in the name of Islam or any other religion, we continue to believe in God and take guidance from the Quran as we are convinced about its authenticity. Yes, speaking for myself, there are verses which I understand, and there are verses which I need to study, sometimes I compare various translations, sometimes I check the meanings of the Arabic word in the dictionary, and where it speaks of physical phenomenon, I check up what scientific research has discovered... you may also wish to check out my list of the principles of Quranic study in my blog: http://islam-qna.blogspot.com/2011/01/principles-of-quranic-study.html 

There are many verses that can be quoted as references to the points listed above.I have mentioned only a few in parentheses. To check them out, please enter the reference numbers on this site: http://corpus.quran.com/translation.jsp It provides seven English translations for comparison.

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