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May 28th, 2010

Reinterpreting the Holy Quran

Submitted by Rashid Jahangiri.

Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad sahib under divine guidance reinterpreted Holy Quran i.e. death of Jesus. This encouraged his followers starting from Maulana Noor Ud Din to Maulana Muhammad Ali and others to continue the tradition to better understand Holy Quran. As a result today’s interpretation of Holy Quran published by those who accept HMGA as Mujaddid of 14th Islamic Century is very palatable than the previous interpretation.

The reinterpretation of Holy Quran is not limited to HMGA followers but has also influenced modern commentators of Holy Quran, including people like Marmaduke Pickthall, Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Muhammad Asad, Dr. Shabbir Ahmad. This idea of reinterpreting Holy Quran has started to permeate among Muslims as evidenced by article on Pak Tea House blog. Unfortunately, Muslims have started to give thought to reinterpret HQ under current domestic and global political situations. Had this thought given importance earlier, may be Pakistani Muslims could have avoided current fiasco in their country:

Rethinking Islam
By Ziauddin Sardar

“We have failed to respond to the summons to ijtihad for some very profound reasons. Prime amongst these is the fact that the context of our sacred texts the Quran and the examples of the Prophet Muhammad, our absolute frame of reference has been frozen in history. One can only have an interpretative relationship with a text even more so if the text is perceived to be eternal. But if the interpretative context of the text is never our context, not our own time, then its interpretation can hardly have any real meaning or significance for us as we are now. Historic interpretations constantly drag us back to history, to frozen and ossified context of long ago; worse, to perceived and romanticised contexts that have not even existed in history. This is why while Muslims have a strong emotional attachment to Islam, Islam per se, as a worldview and system of ethics, has little or no direct relevance to their daily lives apart from the obvious concerns of rituals and worship. Ijtihad and fresh thinking have not been possible because there is no context within which they can actually take place.”

“The freezing of interpretation, the closure of the gates of ijtihad, has had a devastating effect on Muslim thought and action. In particular, it has produced what I can only describe as three metaphysical catastrophes: the elevation of the Shariah to the level of the Divine, with the consequent removal of agency from the believers, and the equation of Islam with the State. Let me elaborate.”

“As such, the Shariah is a problem-solving methodology rather than law (1). It requires the believers to exert themselves and constantly reinterpret the Quran and look at the life of the Prophet Muhammad with ever changing fresh eyes. Indeed, the Quran has to be reinterpreted from epoch to epoch which means the Shariah, and by extension Islam itself, has to be reformulated with changing contexts (2). The only thing that remains constant in Islam is the text of the Quran itself its concepts providing the anchor for ever changing interpretations.”

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