A cautionary note when reading and interpreting religious texts, S N Smith
Perhaps keeping in mind the following Quranic verse helps when thinking about the people who preceded us: “That is a community that has passed away. Theirs is what they earned and yours is what you earned. You will not be questioned about what they used to do.(Q 2:134)
And when we understand that point, we can better understand our own position and critically engage with what is presented before us without being hesitant to do so. If people in the past did it, then so can we. And we should.
This is not to say that religious texts lack sacred and eternal aspects, as that would reduce religion, including Islam, to a mere human construct with no divine source. I only wish to highlight that there are both intrinsic and contingent aspects in religious teachings, and we need to distinguish between the two. And this is not always an easy task because when one gets immersed in something it is hard to disentangle from it.
But yet again, another word of caution has to be inserted here. I sent the above to a learned friend and I want to quote at length part of what he said, as I feel he makes a very valid point:
The only word caution you might like to consider before wrapping up this piece is the misinterpretation and misuse of the idea you are sharing here. If the intention is good, it helps. However, thinking of the Muslims in the Muslim majority countries, where there are so many influences; so much financial, cultural, social and other pressures; so much illiteracy and ignorance, this concept has already led to so many problems.It’s a catch 22. People like you and me would agree to this idea with all Nobel intentions. Many scholars agree with us as well. However, the problem is that in many Muslim countries, one tribe is pitted against another; one group at war with another, declaring one another Kafir and getting out on “Jihadi” missions to kill each other only because they have equipped themselves with their interpretations of the Quran. For peace and avoiding human rights abuse, the orthodox, classical interpretations of the four Imams becomes a blessing because at least they don’t suggest to call each other Kafir, to kill all those who don’t agree with you, and so on so forth.Bottom line: I am more than 100% in agreement with you. However, you may like to qualify the piece with reference to the Hadiths: but you need to qualify your article with a suggestion/idea for dealing with the ignorant among us using the same Quran for harmful purposes – like the ones shouting Allahu Akbar (God’s glorious name) and committing the worst crime against God.
Ultimately, no matter how pure our intentions, and no matter how careful we are to cross all of the t’s and dot all of the i’s so that our words and ideas remain above reproach, we cannot solve the problem of evil resident within the hearts of those who wish to inflict harm.
This is something we will have to live with and strive against.