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Refuting the gross distortion and misrepresentation of the Quran, the Prophet Muhammad and Islam, made by the critics of Islam

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August 17th, 2014

Opening Thought: Reason — A Requisite

Opening Thought: Reason – A Requisite[1]

“If the Religion taught in the book is a husk and a garb, if it is dogma and formulae, if it is sacrament and priest craft, a symbolism and rituals, and if it hinges upon the personality of its teacher and revolves on certain supposed events in his lifetime, it is not religion, but a superstition, and myth. It is transitory, a fog which cannot stand in the strong rays of the sun of rationality. But if a religion gives you certain broad principles of life to meet your physical, moral, and, spiritual needs, and makes utility to mankind the criteria of ethical virtues and leaves the rest to your judicial discretion and good common sense, while appealing always to your reason for the acceptance of its tenets, it hardly hampers your progress. It, on the other hand, helps your uplift. That such principles have been revealed to man from God, and have been codified, cannot impede our advancement. If axioms and postulates revealed to Euclid have only helped our activities in our mathematical researches, why a broad-basic principle-laying religion can[not] create a moral and ethical inertia. Has not science made progress with bounds and strides, and did it not take place only after we based our researches on certain basic principles? If so we find in every avenue of human activities, why not in the realm of religion?”[2]

A religion has to appeal to human reason. Qur’ân emphasizes it:

13:03. Verily, in all this there are messages indeed for people who think[3] [Emphasis added]

Like any book Qur’ân expects its readers to ponder and reflect on its message:

16:44. … We have revealed to you the Reminder that you may explain to mankind (the commandments) that have been sent down to them so that they may ponder and reflect (over it).[4] [you implies Muhammad, but is not limited to him alone]

A textbook identifies the appropriate age level for its readers. A course in school identifies its prerequisites. Similarly, the fundamental pre-requisite for Qur’ân is the intelligence and thinking power of its reader. The understanding of the Book is limited only by the analytical endeavor of its readers, their existing knowledge, their energy for discovery and curiosity. Qur’ân expresses its disdain for those who do not use their reason in life in general and in the study of Qur’ân in particular:

7:179: Our Law has committed to Hell numerous people, rural and urban; they are living the life of hell. They have hearts that they use not to understand. They have eyes with which they see not, and ears with which they hear not. They are like cattle. Nay, they are even worse. Such are the people who have chosen to live through life in total darkness of ignorance.[5]

8:22. Verily, the vilest of all creatures in the sight of God are those deaf, those dumb ones who do not use their reason.[6]

Inherent in “thinking” and “reasoning” is the use of logic, judgment and the right to differ, all of which nurtures intelligence and creativity creating a snowball effect. No one would disagree that the most refined faculty of humans is their intelligence and sense of reason, the bedrock of human progress of material and moral life and their natural amalgam. The reverse of the verse quoted above also implies that failure to use of reason can render one intellectually deaf and dumb, a morally despicable example of human degeneration.

Qur’ân further elaborates on such deafness and blindness:

22:46. Why do they not travel in the land so that they should have hearts that help them to understand and ears which can help them hear? As a matter of fact (when going astray) it is not the (physical) eyes that are blind but blind are the hearts which lie in the bosoms.[7]

Throughout Qur’ân the power of reasoning is considered a blessing and, therefore, it should not be an obstacle to understanding and following a religion. It is an obstacle to the followers of blind faith.

The Holy Book does not force its reader to accept anything at the expense of his rationality. Personal conviction is the spirit of the Qur’ân, and personal judgment encouraged.[8]

Qur’ân and Islam do not need the crutches of non-verifiable historical miracles or blind faith from their followers. If miracle is the sole standard for accepting a religion as true, then why don’t people looking for such miracles to authenticate a religion adopt other religions for their respective miracles, since traditionally all religions carry a library of their non-verifiable miracles? The real miracle of Qur’ân is the transformation that it brought about in its followers:

12:108. Say, `This is my path. I call to Allâh. I am on sure knowledge verifiable by reason and (so are) those who follow me. (I believe that) Holy is Allâh. I am not of the polytheists.'[9]

Qur’ân, thus, sets the standards for knowledge, verifiable by reason, which is commonly referred to as “science.”

Saint Augustine (A.D. 354-430) in his work The Literal Meaning of Genesis (De Genesi ad litteram libri duodecim) provided excellent advice for all Christians who are faced with the task of interpreting Scripture in the light of scientific knowledge. This translation is by J. H. Taylor in Ancient Christian Writers, Newman Press, 1982, volume 41. – Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion. [1 Timothy 1.7][10]

St. Augustine’s words may equally apply to Qur’ân and its interpretation, though with certain caveats. Scientific laws are a subset of His Laws. Discoveries in science are a personal human experience of His Laws. Hence if the human effort in interpreting a Scripture contravenes science, one has to reinterpret the narrow concreteness of the translation, since neither can we reject His Laws in Qur’ân nor of His science.

In the Arabic of Hedjaz in which Qur’ân is revealed, the “Qur’ânic words are too rich in their significations…we need not give them new meanings, nor reinterpret them to satisfy new demands of life. Their connotations are wide enough to denote every new concept…They may become amplified, but on the material already existing.”[11]

Qur’ân forewarns its readers, including Muslims, against misapplication of its principles by the use of unjustified logic and reasoning.

17:82. And We are gradually revealing of the Qur'ân (that teaching) which is (the cause of) healing and mercy for the believers. But this (revelation) only leads the unjust persons from loss to loss.[12]

It is to reverse this loss to loss from unjust reasoning that has pervaded the Muslim thought and sapped its human potential which compels this writer to undertake the current project to clarify the miracles, confute the myths, correct the mistakes, contend the matters and refute the manifest conjectures that over time have been attributed to Qur’ân and by proxy to Islam itself. All this can be achieved by simple and plain reading of the Qur’ân and with a focus on what Qur’ân tells its reader and not by reading one’s own presuppositions into Qur’ân.

[1] This chapter is requoted from “Consumer Guide to God – A Muslim Perspective” by M. Ikram Jahangiri, pub. 2012.
[2] Free Religious Movement, Islamic Review and Muslim India , Vol. IV, No. 12, December 1916, p. 561, The Woking Muslim Mission and Literary Trust, The Shah Jehan Mosque, Woking, England
[3] Ar-Rad – The Thunder: Muhammad Asad
[4] Al-Nahl – The Bee: Nooruddin
[5] Al-A’raaf – The Heights of Discernment: Shabbir Ahmed
[6] al-Anfal – The Spoils of War: Muhammad Asad
[7] Al-Hajj – The Pilgrimage: Nooruddin
[8] Islamic Review and Muslim India, Vol. II, No. I, p. 25, January 1914. The Woking Muslim Mission and Literary Trust, The Shah Jehan Mosque, Woking, England
[9] Yusuf – Joseph: Nooruddin
[10] “Saint Augustine on Science and Scripture” –
[11] Introduction to Study of The Holy Quran, by Khwaja Kamaluudin, pp. 20-21, Dar-ul-Ishahat-Kutub-Islamia, Fatamabi Court, 4th Floor, 17 M Azad Road, Jacob Circle, Bombay. 1939, 1950, 1991.
[12] Isra – The Night-Journey : Nooruddin

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