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Bizarre interpretations of Surat al-Baqara 178

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in response to reader comment: Attention Prashant: The genuis Abul Qasim!

Submitted by Prashant, Oct 1, 2018 at 21:43

Dear Dr Pipes, Your frequent reader DNM drew my attention to Surat al-Baqara 178. DNM correctly stated that this verse of Quran drew from the original 'an eye for an eye' dictum of fairness in justice. As I often do, I researched DNM's assertions and found that DNM was right. Quran indeed "expands" the 'eye for an eye' concept to include 'free for free' and 'male for male' and 'female for female'.

DNM found an interesting contradiction in the above statement and pointed out that if this rule is applied literally it will lead to some female being killed in retribution if a man kills a woman. Correct! The literal interpretation of this verse surely recommends the killing of a woman or free or slave if the victim is a woman or free or slave.

But I tend to believe that, as He has often done in Quran, here also, Allah spoke somewhat ambiguously. All He meant was that to be fair punishment should match the crime.

Even if we take the implied meaning of Surat al-Baqara 178 there is a lot to think about. Mahatma Gandhi famously put this verse into perspective. He said that the 'an eye for an eye' justice will leave two blind men. That should end the discussion on this topic! Mahatma Gandhi essentially clarified that violent retribution should not be imprudent. But there is more to it!

When I researched the above verse on the the Internet I discovered an even more disturbing thing. You see, the debate on various Islamic sites is not whether the original Jewish dictum or the Quranic version of it or Gandhi's modernistic version of it is more valid. The Islamic debate is more bizarre. Islamic debate tries to interpret 178 even more literally! The questions are raised whether it is this law applies to only believers or to all. Or whether 178 overrides another similar verse 5:45? Or are pre-islamic pagans responsible for the mention of slaves?

I found this debate bizarre because the real issue about 178 is not whether we kill a slave or a man or a woman. The real issue about 178 should be under what circumstances advice such as Gandhi's is more applicable than 178.

Unfortunately Islamic debates always slip into literal interpretation and trivialities. Islamic debaters do not try to understand the implied meaning. They just get lost in the literal interpretation. Islamic scholarship should pay attention to this.

Submitting....

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