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February 8th, 2015

What is a reasonable basis of interpreting the Quran?

Submitted by Yahya.

I thank Zahid Aziz for reminding us of the Quranic verses which are critical of people requiring explicit and unconditional proofs or verses. I am reminded of an alim arguing that if Christ had died the Quran should have mentioned it explicitly and provided details of his grave.

The heart of the question is what is a reasonable basis of interpreting the Quran? I do hope and trust that Zahid Aziz will expand on this topic for the benefit of all of us.

4 Responses to “What is a reasonable basis of interpreting the Quran?”

  1. Yahya has brought a pertinent point to fore – The heart of the question is what is a reasonable basis of interpreting the Quran?

    Quran brings out the latent human nature which might otherwise remain buried under polytheism or is polluted by polytheistic tendencies. Once Quran unburies that human nature, it then brings it to full bloom as well that we see in transformation that it wrought in the Companions of the Prophet. Not only was the Prophet a mercy for mankind that he remains till today by his Sunnah, similar manifestation we see in those who succeeded him, primarily because of correct interpretation of Quran. All this can happen only when Quran is interpreted for what it stands for. Khwaja Kamaluddin points out such basis for Quran, the source of religion, when he explains the verse 30:30.

    30:30.So pay your whole-hearted attention to (the cause of) faith as one devoted (to pure faith), turning away from all that is false. (And follow) the Faith of Allâh (-Islam) to suit the requirements of which He has made the nature of mankind. There can be no change in the nature (of creation) which Allâh has made. That is the right and most perfect Faith, yet most people do not know (it). Then set your face upright for religion in the right state the nature made by Allah in which He has made men; there is no altering of Allah’s creation: that is the right religion, but most people do not know (it). [Nooruddin]

    These sacred words sum up the religion of man. They give quite a new conception of it. They neither speak of prayers nor of offerings nor of sacrifice. To please God or appease an angered Deity, or to create reconciliation between the Creator and the created are not the objectives of religion as set forth in the above quotation. It speaks of something quite different. It refers to our own nature and its various latent constituents. To work them out is our objective, and the way to work them out is the religion revealed to man from the Most High. [Ref: Explanation of verse 30:30 by Khwaja Kamal ud Din – Message of Islam, Appendix: Religion of Nature – The Woking Muslim Mission and Literary Trust, The Shah Jehan Mosque, Woking, England]

    As a case in point, cutting off hands for theft is not in the nature of man. Hence such an interpretation must not be found in Quran, because ‘hands’ is plural which stands as a metaphor for ‘means’ to theft. Elsewhere in Quran, there is reference to ‘hands’ of Allah that are not fettered, which again are a metaphor for means and power.

    In light of verse 30:30, my understanding is quite simple. If a particular scenario is not in nature of mankind, it will neither be found in Quran nor in its correct interpretation. To this view of mine, a friend in a discussion countered as an example that anger was in his nature, thus implying that it must be okay for him to express it. My answer was that when he is on the receiving end of someone else’s anger he will not like it, which only proves that anger is not a natural state of mind, hence its validation will never be found in Quran. Similarly, a Mullah might beat his wife and attribute it Quran, but when his own daughter gets beaten he must be cursing her husband, which only proves again from a human experience that there is no wife beating in correct interpretation of Quran. Whereas, expressing “Assalam-au-Alaikum” is natural because its response received “Wa-alaikum-Assalam” is equally pleasant and acceptable.

  2. Yahya, perhaps this writing by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad may interest you in reply to your question:

    Seven criteria for the right interpretation of the Holy Quran 

  3. Ikram,

    Thank you for your insight and the reference to Khwaja Kamaludin's writing.

    Zahid Aziz,

    Thank you for directing to Hazrat Mirza Sahib's writings on this topic.


    The male thief, and the female thief, you shall cut their (three or more) hands as a remedy for their crime, and to serve as a deterrent from Allah (Not God). Allah ( Not God) is Almighty, Wise. (5:38)

    [5:39]   If one repents after committing this tort, and reforms, Allah redeems him. Allah is Forgiver, Most Merciful.

    To steal something deprives an individual and possibly his family of the use of the object stolen, be it food or possessions, to steal from the community at large, deprives everyone who used the object of its use. In some cases this may further cost lives, depending upon what was stolen, but on the other hand it may only cost the loss of the object. (If a theft cost a life through their actions of larceny, they would be a murderer, and this would be the crime they would answer for.)

    Under the prevailing doctrine of Christianised Hadithian Muslims, they interpret the Qur‘an to direct them to amputate hands.

    The concept of punishment

    What would be the purpose in amputating a living souls hand, it would serve as a warning, and so deterrent, being severe retribution for petty crimes, it would make it harder for a petty criminal to steal using his hands, it would make all aware that a thief was before them, from the physical evidence of a missing hand.

    But it would also make it impossible for them to earn a living, it would create an enormous burden upon the community, having to support these disabled individuals their remaining lifetime, it would do absolutely nothing to help the victim/s of the crime, as the object would still be gone, it would do nothing to help the thief, making them wear the scar of their action no matter how Allah had transformed them within as they matured in the future, it would do nothing to make the community a fertile place for the natural development of every individual.

    The truth of the Qur’an does not create such a detrimental directive, this concept of burden heaped upon the thief, and then invoking a lifetimes worth of burden upon the community, is not Qur’anic, simply a manmade interpretation, based upon revenge and hate.

    To view a human being as so worthless in comparison to any inanimate object, would be the view of a sovereign, a dictator of injustice, an individual that holds physical wealth above human suffering. If you encounter an individual who promotes, and encourages the concept of the severing of hands; as a Muslim you must condemn, and if possible strip them of all and any authority, they hold no empathy or concern to the suffering of their fellow man, and so visibly demonstrate they are not Muslim.

    The true Concept of Relief

    The first thing to note is the three or more hands cut from the thief.

    The first hand is any position of community responsibility, a position of service where the honesty of an individual would be a prerequisite.

    The second hand is standing as a witness; they could not be trusted as an honest witness within the community.

    The third hand is physical labour.

    We generate wealth, as directed within the Qur’an, through our physical labours; this means we generate wealth through the utilisation of our hands.

    To cut or confiscate our hands, means the fruits of the labours of the thieves hands must be cut, or more aptly confiscated to make reparations to the victims of the theft, the cost to the victim, or victims, this must be repaid, they must be duly compensated.

    The labours of the thief must provide relief in full to their victim/s, this removes resentment, vengeance, hatred and resolves all dispute.

    If the thief used violence against his victim, or victims, the same must be heaped upon them, and after this they must labour to recompense their victim, or victims, every action invokes a response, dependent upon the social system in operation. The tortious system is substantive; it functions without fictions of authority, but on torts and relief, arbitrated in equitable proofs.

    The relief of the tort (wrongful act) of theft must be for the betterment of the thief, as well as to serve in dissipating all negative emotions on all sides.

    The shame the thief carries, will imbed deeply within their mind, but the benefits they work at for the betterment of all will lighten their burden by this labour, the wealth generated from these efforts repays the loses to the victims, the community is satisfied equity is in balance, the thief has grown from the rewards of redeeming themselves in the eyes of their fellow man, so the burden in this system, is squarely upon the thief.

    The conscious mind is the real gauge of equity; a tort is a wrongful act that causes mental distress or discomfort, or tortious injury, against another through a proven intentional action. No fiction of any sort, such as corporation, State, or government can therefore suffer a tort, as they have no mind to either suffer or inflict distress, only living souls are able to inflict and suffer torts.

    To give relief to the mind of the thief, their friends and family must systematically confront the thief throughout a day, with every good thing they have ever done, relating how proud they have been of them in their good actions within the community, however small that maybe, and demonstrate to the thief how valued and essentially good they truly are, so shaming them through the positive not the negative, showing them how they have let themselves down, this final method of reform can be applied to any wrong that would have reasonable benefits.

    If after the debt of the thief has been repaid, the thief repents their ways and establishes themselves within the community as a good and honest person, both Allah and the community at large may forgive and forget the actions of the past, this means they are redeemed within the minds of the people, if their conduct demonstrates transformation.

    However it would always bar them from the holding of community responsibilities, or bearing witness, until the community at large was fully satisfied they had truly transformed themselves, in to a true and honest soul.

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