Source: Huffington Post
By Omar Naseef, an American Muslim
The Qur’an – like all other texts – can only be properly understood by understanding the purpose of its author and the context the author gives to their words.
No matter what our opinion may be about the nature of the Qur’an, God explicitly defines God’s purpose for the revealing the Qur’an:
This divine writ – let there be no doubt about it – is [meant to be] guidance for all the God-conscious. (2:2).
We (God) bestowed upon you from on high this divine writ, for no other reason than, that you might make clear to them all [questions of faith] on which they hold divergent views, and as a guidance and mercy unto people who will believe. (16:64)
We (God) have bestowed from on high upon you this divine writ, to make everything clear, and to provide guidance and grace and glad tidings unto all who have surrendered themselves to God. (16:89)
We (God) have revealed unto you a life-giving message…and We have caused this message to be a light. (42:52)
These verses and many others like them affirmatively define God’s intentions for the message of the Qur’an. God’s stated intentions are critical to know because an author’s intentions necessarily constrains how we might reasonably interpret their words.
For example, let’s assume I find a vegan shopping list that contains “milk”. Milk usually means animal milk, however, because the context is vegan, that is no longer a reasonable interpretation. I may not know the exact type of milk the vegan shopper wants – almond, coconut or soy – however, I do know for sure the types of milk they wouldn’t want – cow, goat, sheep or any animal milk. On finding the list, I can accuse the vegan of being a liar or hypocrite because milk comes from animals or I can understand that milk in this context means the plant-based variety.
The same applies to the Qur’an.
The purposes God has for revealing the Qur’an are all positive: guidance, mercy, grace, glad tiding, giving life and light. Even in its most sobering moments, when the Qur’an warns those who are acting unjustly of an imminent punishment, the context is always one of hope. Those verses are a forewarning and God makes clear that punishment can be averted if those who act unjustly repent. No one’s fate is sealed while they seek forgiveness, no one is punished without first being given guidance and God constantly reminds us of divine grace, mercy and forgiveness.
The Qur’an has many verses that clarify what mercy and grace look like, both in how we treat one another and how God treats us:
[P]ay heed unto God and the Apostle, so that you might be graced with mercy. And vie with one another to attain to your Sustainer’s forgiveness and to a paradise as vast as the heavens and the earth, which has been readied for the God-conscious who spend [in God’s way] in time of plenty and in time of hardship, and hold in check their anger, and pardon their fellow-men because God loves the doers of good; (3:132-134)
[Those] who are patient in adversity out of a longing for their Sustainer’s countenance, and are constant in prayer, and spend on others, secretly and openly, out of what We (God) provide for them as sustenance, and [who] repel evil with good. (13:22)
O YOU who have attained to faith! Be ever steadfast in your devotion to God, bearing witness to the truth in all equity; and never let hatred of anyone lead you into the sin of deviating from justice. Be just: this is closest to being God-conscious. And remain conscious of God: verily, God is aware of all that you do. (5:8) SAY: “[Thus speaks God:] “O you servants of Mine who have transgressed against your own selves! Despair not of God’s mercy: behold, God forgives all sins – for, verily, [God] alone is much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace!’” (39:53)
Hence, ask your Sustainer to forgive you your sins, and then turn towards [God] in repentance – for, verily, my Sustainer is a dispenser of grace, a fount of love!” (11:90)
Likewise, the Qur’an has verses that discuss just punishment and just war, however it is objectively dishonest and deceptive to choose to interpret those verses out of context.
When God says that the Qur’an is meant as mercy, guidance and grace, than any interpretations of its verses that violate those principles are necessarily flawed. Rather than validating flawed interpretations that contradict the intentions of the author, we should categorically reject them. And rather than being defensive in the face of flawed interpretations, we should place the burden of proof on the interpreter.
— TheMuslimTimes (@TheMuslimTimes2) July 17, 2017
Any one of us who chooses to interpret a verse of the Qur’an in a way that is clearly lacking in mercy and grace must justify the reasonableness of our interpretation by demonstrating where mercy and grace fit in to our understanding. If we can find no mercy or grace in our interpretation, then our understanding is clearly wrong.
— The Muslim Times (@The_MuslimTimes) November 21, 2016