by Imran H. Khan

Before I try to approach the Quran from a rational perspective, it is worthwhile considering if God in the Quran wanted us to approach it this way. Religions in general are a belief systems in which metaphysical and other worldly issues are expounded upon.  Or is it that God wanted it us to take a dogmatic approach in which reason has little to no play. I could not have found a greater emphasis on understanding than the strong words of the following suras.

“Indeed, the worst of living creatures in the sight of Allah are the deaf and dumb who do not use reason..” [8:22]

“We have made it a Quran in Arabic, that ye may be able to understand (and learn wisdom)” [43:3]

“Verily, in the creation of the heavens and of the earth, and the succession of night and day: and in the ships that speed through the sea with what is useful to man: and in the waters which God sends down from the sky, giving life thereby to the earth after it had been lifeless, and causing all manner of living creatures to multiply thereon: and in the change of the winds, and the clouds that run their appointed courses between sky and earth: [in all this] there are messages/signs indeed for people who use their reason.” [2:164]

These are just some out of many suras that emphasis the path of reasoning towards better understanding of His glory.

Generally it is believed by many Muslims that there is one authentic interpretation of the Quran. It is far from true. Even the closest companions of the Prophet differed from each other in understanding various verses. Also, in Islam, since there is no concept of official church, no one interpretation can command following of a majority of Muslims, let alone all Muslims. There is hardly any major issue on which Muslim ‘ulama (scholars) do not differ. These differences, more often than not, are due to different interpretations of the Quranic text.
It is because of this that every sect or school of thought has its own orthodox and liberal followers. There is Shi’ah orthodoxy or Sunni orthodoxy, Isma’ili orthodoxy or Bohra orthodoxy, Hanafi orthodoxy or Shafi’i orthodoxy and so on. But that’s not all, there are scholars with modern and liberal thinking that are looking at the Quranic text from modern and liberal perspectives. And some feminists or those working for empowerment of women read the Quran from feminist points of view.

Clearly reason and knowledge is based on things that can be seen and experienced.  Our technology has allowed us to see nearly the limits of our universe and left us in awe in its grandeur. Viewing Hubble’s photos put the Earth in a whole new perspective. We are far from being at the center of the universe. As we explore and find answers, many of these discoveries call to question our previous understandings.  And so I will try to approach God’s words in Quran from this humbled frame of mind.

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One Response to “Ramadan: Day 2, Reasoning”

  1. Fatima Khan on August 12th, 2010 3:41 pm

    Dear Brother in Islam as well as otherwise,

    You have taken a very necessary and exciting journey. Quran at the very onset humbles us by the very first three letters of the second chapter, when we cannot fathom them that imply that there are limits to what we know and like the Hubble perspective we need to find new vantage points and greater depths of understanding.

    The second verse confounds us even further with the open challenge it presents saying that there is nothing NOTHING that is doubtful in this book. This book is for those who take up this challenge and engage their intellect to put this claim to the test.

    You are on a path to immense spiritual growth and learning which leads one to know about the signs of the universe and the signs in The Book and that the more one learns the more the openings of vantage points and horizons there are. Simply awesome.

    Bon Voyage! and Love