Monday, August 22, 2011

Comparative Interpratations and Blind Applications

Start of preamble:

We've always tried to acknowledge that within islam there are different opinions and schools of thought. Even with the interpretation of the Quran. I remember the incident when Ali (r.a. k.A.w) sent Ibn Abbas (r.a.) to negotiate with the khawarij he was reported to have instructed

" لا تحاججهم بالقرآن وحده فإنّ القرآن حمّال أوجه ، حاججهم بالسنّة"

Roughly meaning "Do not debate them using the quran for it can be interpreted in different ways, rather use the sunnah"

Also worthy of note is Imam Shafi3i changing many of his verdicts when he travelled from Baghdad to Cairo, because of the differences between the two places in terms of people, geography, politics etc.... This was acceptable and afforded by the complexity of the Quran. As the hadith says that every hundred years there will come reformers of the religion who work within the confines of the Quran and sunnah for the benefit of the Muslims.

Now that I'm done with my preamble, I will tell my story:

I recently received an email from a salafi website. in regards to interpreting the following verse:

لاَّ خَيْرَ فِي كَثِيرٍ مِّن نَّجْوَاهُمْ إِلاَّ مَنْ أَمَرَ بِصَدَقَةٍ أَوْ مَعْرُوفٍ أَوْ إِصْلاَحٍ بَيْنَ النَّاسِ وَمَن يَفْعَلْ ذَلِكَ ابْتَغَاء مَرْضَاتِ اللّهِ فَسَوْفَ نُؤْتِيهِ أَجْراً عَظِيماً (114)

Rough translation: "There is no good in most of their secret counsel except (in he) who enjoins charity of goodness or reconciliation between people, and however does this seeking Allah's pleasure, we will give him a mighty reward"

SO: The commentary of this verse according first to the salafi site

This verse shows that there is no goodness in the majority of talk among people. This is either because it is an idle talk, or because it causes evil and harm, such as gossip, backbiting and all sorts of
prohibited talks.

It then follows with the exceptions, such as gathering to speak about charity or about reconciliation....

That didn't make a lot of sense to me. This was basically saying that if you wanna hang out with your friends, you're only really recommended to speak about these two topics ? and if you don't, then you're counted amongst those who are no good ? I hang with friends all the time ! Muslims, and non muslims. And we talk about a range of things, from history to politics to refugees to TV shows to whatever else. It just didn't sound like such a carpet statement would come from the Quran, Allahu A3lam.

And who are "They?"

Well fortunately I can speak arabic and have access to the commentary of Sayyid Qutb and I looked up HIS commentary for the same verse. It was incredible how different his take on this verse was, how in depth and within context it was. It made sense !

I'm not going to translate the whole thing, just the important bits.

First Sayyid Qutb refers to the previous verse.

وَلَوْلاَ فَضْلُ اللّهِ عَلَيْكَ وَرَحْمَتُهُ لَهَمَّت طَّآئِفَةٌ مُّنْهُمْ أَن يُضِلُّوكَ وَمَا يُضِلُّونَ إِلاُّ أَنفُسَهُمْ وَمَا يَضُرُّونَكَ مِن شَيْءٍ وَأَنزَلَ اللّهُ عَلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ وَالْحِكْمَةَ وَعَلَّمَكَ مَا لَمْ تَكُنْ تَعْلَمُ وَكَانَ فَضْلُ اللّهِ عَلَيْكَ عَظِيماً (113)

Rough translation " And were it not for Allah's grace upon you and His mercy a party of them had certainly design to bring you to perdition and they do not bring (aught) to perdition but their own souls. and they shall not harm you in any way, and Allah has revealed to you the Book and the wisdom, and He has taught you what you did not know, and Allah's grace on you is very great"

From the commentary " Allah cites His favor to the prophet pbuh in regards to protecting the prophet from those who sought to conspire against him. Because they may hide their secrets from people but not from Allah. 
Allah then cites His favor on the prophet pbuh in sending him the Book (Quran) and the wisdom, having taught him what he did not previously know. Ending with the words "Allah's grace on you is very great"
Sayyid then continues that this was one effort of many, by the enemies of Islam then to conspire against the prophet. Every time Allah swt would foil these plans and conspiracies. 

THEN we return to the verse in question.

لقد تكرر في القرآن النهي عن النجوى ; وهي أن تجتمع طائفة بعيدا عن الجماعة المسلمة وعن القيادة المسلمة , لتبيت أمرا

Translation: The Quran has repeatedly forbid people from Najwa. Which in this context means for a group of people to gather away from the jama'a and the Islamic leadership, to conspire, or to nurse a grievance.

The idea here is that if there is any issue or grievance a person has, he has to bring it to the prophet. If it is a personal matter then it would be done with private with the prophet, otherwise it would be in public. The idea from this was to avoid the allowance of small pockets amongst the recently established Muslim community. So that if there is an issue, it would not be addressed in isolation and separation from the main group. Which could plant seeds of dissent and fracture
وهذا الموضع أحد المواضع التي ورد فيها هذا النهي عن التناجي والتبييت بمعزل عن الجماعة المسلمة وقيادتها
This was one of the issues in which a ban was placed on conspiring or conferring in small groups away from the main group. 
Since the only way to ensure this doesn't happen is to ensure safety when airing grievances. This means what ?
freedom of speech ! yay !

This I thought was a brilliant way of taking theses verses in their proper context to explain them properly. While the first commentary seemed to have been made by a person who did not speak Arabic, did not know much about the seerah, and did not bother to read the verses before and after this verse.

Allahu A3lam, I'm sure their hearts are in the right place. It is dangerous I think to misinterpret or misunderstand verses of the Quran in this way and broadcast it out to people. A ban on just any group of people chilling out, or deeming them to be no good, is dangerous. It means whenever people hang out, they feel guilty because they think they're doing something wrong. It places pressure on human nature.

This becomes more of a problem when you have isolated areas like New Zealand where Islamic theology is limited and online scholarship is the best available source. So then any practicing muslim seeking to be a better person would avoid any type of hang out just because they're not about charity or reconciliation. That person would grow up mu3aqqad, and his kids will become mu3aqqadeen as well.

This is what I think, please let me know what you think.

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