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Is the holy Quran just a holy idol?

Reader comment on item: Advice to Non-Muslim Women against Marrying Muslim Men
in response to reader comment: Is the Qur'an a Kitab Mubeen? Is al-Tabari Allah's Editor-in Chief? And the Muslim Bobeds of early Islam. Slight correction

Submitted by Prashant (United States), Nov 14, 2021 at 19:12

Dear Dr Pipes, My long term goal is to investigate how Islam and Muslims can become part of the solutions and not part of the problems. So I want to investigate everything that --when critiqued-- makes Muslims angry. And, Quran is one such thing.

On DNM's insistence I heard two YouTube videos of Prof Shady Nasser. I have also been following the ensuing discussion on your site about historicity and linguistic background of Quran. All investigations into historic validity of the Quran and its linguistic aspects vis-à-vis the linguistic properties of Arabic as a language are admirable intellectual inquiries and should be pursued. This effort is in the same vein as an effort to evaluate ancient bodies of Sanskrit, Greek, or Latin literatures in the context of the cultural and linguistic histories of these languages.

However, both the Nasser videos and discussion between DNM and other readers of this forum indicate that Quran is not an easy text to understand and it gets even more difficult to understand because it cannot be freely modified, edited, interpreted, or translated, and, while the Quranic text itself does not change, the language around it certainly changes.

I admire the effort of Islamic scholarship to preserve the Quran in its most authentic form and not change it. To be honest, it will make me very uncomfortable if a modern poet attempts to recompose the Bhagavata Gita in some sort of a modern Sanskrit. I can say the same thing about other scriptures that may or may not be sacred to me.

I have found Quran's English translations very difficult to understand. They are ambiguous and indirect. They are, often, difficult to understand even when the subject matter they are trying to describe is simple. I cannot understand how the Quran can be a day-to-day guidance book for a believer if it is so difficult to understand. This is especially so because most Muslims are not native Arabic speakers and some of them may not even be literate in any language whichsoever. Barely any Muslim believer is also an expert in linguistics. If Quran, as is, is not useful as a guidebook, then does not it become just like a holy idol that we must revere but by which we cannot be provably helped? In general, can a piece of literature that is somewhat ambiguous but cannot be changed or interpreted, act as a guidance manual?

That leads me to another question. Muslims already do not much use Quran as a guidance manual. We already know that for guidance toward day-to-day behavior, Muslims rely heavily on the Hadiths and the Sharia. Did Quran's inherent ambiguity make the hadiths necessary? Are the hadiths a parallel scripture? I contend that Muslims already use Quran more as a religious icon that must be revered but that, by itself, does not directly help us. Can a devout Persian Muslim, for example, use the original Arabic Quran for any useful spiritual purpose any more than, say, I can use a Ganesha (Ganesha is the elephant headed Hindu God) statue for my useful spiritual purposes? Is Quran for all intent and purposes like an idol or icon?

Finally, last two things about this message. First, somehow everything about Islam becomes stubborn and inflexible. Very few Hindus understand Sanskrit perfectly. But we take a pragmatic step. We do not want to change the Gita but we welcome as many translations and interpretations of it as possible. We know that a wrong translation of a scripture will more invalidate itself than the scripture. So the Bhagavat Gita (and, probably, the Bible and Torah and all Buddhist scriptures) is a living and breathing guidebook and is not straitjacketed text like Quran. Second, as I said in the very beginning, I want to investigate how Muslims can become part of the solution and not part of the problem. I think Muslims should become less stubborn about the Quran. Let it be freely interpreted. Let some of its verses be questioned, contextualized, abrogated and reinterpreted. Let it be a living and breathing text and, then, if 600 years from now, some prophet claims that the Quran is a corrupted word of God, who cares? If it is a good book, most of it will still be valid in the 28th century.

Submitting....

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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