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Response to Reuben Horne

Reader comment on item: Christianity Dying in Its Birthplace
in response to reader comment: Sufi Islam is not real islam, Response to Shazia

Submitted by Shazia Khanum (Canada), Sep 23, 2005 at 08:50

Reuben stated: "I would like to think that when Shazia repeatedly makes the argument that actions in the Quran are to be read "in context" that he means the historical context."

Response:

Context could mean historical as well as textual.

In terms of interpreting the Qur`an, the historical context would help one to understand the human situation a specific passage addressed to the original listeners of the Qur`an. From this, one could derive its applicability, if any, on a specific situation of the day.

Even when one does not know the historical context, if the Qur`an is treated as an integral whole, recognizing its style -- that it is not divided into chapters where each chapter deals with an issue in its entirety; rather, it is a sermon in which many aspects of life are addressed throughout it, for guidance -- and verses are interpreted in light of other verses elsewhere within it, thereby forming a complete picture, one can easily understand the context without knowing the historical background.

An example of textual context is given in another post of mine in which Nazir quoted a partial verse (2:193 ) from the Qur`an like this:

"And fight them until religion is for Allah."

to perpetuate an erroneous myth that if you are a Muslim, it is mandatory for you to fight until Islam becomes the dominating religion on earth, a charge often repeated by anti-Islamics. Some Muslims who have succumbed to their inner evil temptations may also use this partial verse to make their evil acts seem noble to them.

I pointed out that the complete verse is as follows:

"Fight them until there is no more persecution, and [your] worship is devoted to God. If they cease hostilities, there can be no [further] hostility, except towards aggressors."

Which gives us a clear clue without knowing its historical background that it deals with a community of believers who are being persecuted to give them permission to fight back in self-defense and provide a boundary (ceasing of hostilities by the aggressor).

Moreover, the "worship is devoted to God" is addressed to the community of believers, which is clear from the original Arabic text, but if omitted, can lead to an erroneous interpretation.

Abdel Haleem has written a book on the themes in the Qur`an, which is a good starting point for one to understand the Qur`anic style.
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