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Changing interpretations of the Koran

Reader comment on item: The Rushdie Rules, 25 Years Later

Submitted by JAMES MATKIN QC (Canada), Nov 11, 2014 at 17:53

Yes Daniel Pipes is right that the interpretations of the Koran like other so called holey scriptures have changed over time. Will they become more moderate like Mormon scriptures, for example, rejecting the historical practice of Polygamy or will they follow the current trend to more violence like ISIS? Also because there are many contradictions among the verses in the Koran so the Muslim rules are easily changed on this basis. There is a unique principle of "abrogation" in Islam holding that later verses of the Koran abrogate earlier ones of the same subject, although the chronology is an issue. Of particular note are contradictions about compulsion to convert and not leave the faith. For example there is an earlier verse that, "There is no compulsion in religion." (sura 2:256), but a number of later verses abrogate such as, "make war on the unbeliever in Allah, until they pay tribute," (sura 9:29) and "fight and slay the pagan (idolators) wherever you find them" (sura 9:5).

See article by David Bukay, Peace or Jihad? Abrogation in Islam in Middle East Quarterly, Fall 2007, pp. 3-11.


"How does the theological debate over abrogation impact contemporary policy formulation? While not all terrorism is rooted in Islam, the religion is an enabler for many. It is wrong to assume that more extreme interpretations of religion are illegitimate. Statements that there is no compulsion in religion and that jihad is primarily about internal struggle and not about holy war may receive applause in university lecture halls and diplomatic board rooms, but they misunderstand the importance of abrogation in Islamic theology. It is important to acknowledge that what university scholars believe, and what most Muslims—or more extreme Muslims—believe are two different things. For many Islamists and radical Muslims, abrogation is real and what the West calls terror is, indeed, just."

Sadly mixed into this issue of changing interpretations is the 1400 year schism between Sunni and Shia being played out with the war against the ISIS.


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