Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Unity of the Qur'an

We always hear that tawhid, or unity, is important in Islam. Yet we rarely see this applied to the Qur'an. Very few Muslims think of the Qur'an as a whole, rather than a compilation of verses that can be taken separately and out of context. But is this how we should look at it?

Fazlur Rahman suggests that we need to see the Qur'an as a whole to find out what God wants from us. Quoting a single verse as proof of something is not good enough. What is more important is the main message of the Qur'an - socio-economic justice - and the values the Qur'an mentions over and over again - peace, justice, kindness, compassion, sincerity, respect, and so on.

Rahman argues that we need to think beyond a single verse when we consider Islamic issues. The message of the Qur'an is a unity, not a block comprised of singular verses. We need to look at the values that underpin the Qur'an - what principles is God asking us to follow? We need to look for the VALUE behind the verse.

An example: the verse saying that women should inherit half of what men inherit. Then, it was seen as just. Today, it is not, because why should a woman only get half of what a man does? So when looked at by itself, it makes the Qur'an seem gender-biased. However, if we look at the value and message BEHIND the verse, we see a different picture: we see that God was giving women SOMETHING, at a time when she got NOTHING. God was saying a woman does have value, and does deserve an inheritance. That is the value and principle behind the verse, and according to Rahman, that is what we should be applying to our lives, not looking at that verse specifically and applying it literally.

Of course I'm sure most Muslims would disagree with him, as he is definitely a modernist and a reformist, but I think his view is very refreshing. It is an interesting question: why do we not apply tawhid to the Qur'an, when it is obviously the most important principle to God. Why do we not look at the SPIRIT of the Qur'an instead of focusing on specific verses?

Khaled abou el-Fadl once said that if we look at individual verses about women in the Qur'an, then it does seem like Islam treats women as less than men. But if we look at them together and see them as part of the Qur'an, we see that God does see them as equal and does want justice for them - because the Qur'an is about justice.

And it's so refreshing to have someone remind us of that.

14 comments:

Jaz said...

I really agree with him. Everytime I see a new post on this blog I know its going to be a rewarding read - I'm really interested in hearing about Islamic reformist movements.

LK said...

I agree totally with him. You need to look at the whole picture. Just looking a a part will not give you the whole story.

Anonymous said...

The reason behind the difference of inheritance between males and females is that in Islam males have the duty to support their female relatives.
It's the husband duty to provide for his wife,if she chooses to work, the money she earns is hers alone,.She can choose to share but it's not expected.

If she is not married her care falls on her father then her brothers.

Sara

Sarah Elizabeth said...

Muslim + Feminist - Hadith + following message of the Quran as a whole

= equality and justice for all.

Where are all my male Muslim feminists??! Women, those are the guys you should be marrying... Just a bit of advice.... Nothing is sexier than a macho male feminist..

=)~

Aynur said...

I really have to read some of his books! I agree with Mr. Rahman. I also don't believe that different verses cancel each other out, but that we're supposed to look at all of the verses on a topic to get the idea - i.e. the ones regarding alcohol.

What's even worse is when certain verses are picked apart, and only half of a verse is quoted, out of context.

Jasmine said...

Why don't we listen to the overall message and take the bits and bobs?

Because its God talking. And if God asks you for a pencil, you go and get him a pencil. And if God says "dont put sugar in my tea" you don't put sugar in his tea.

And so if God says: "give women half of what you give a man" then thats what you do.

I mean - it is clearly and expressiy stated in a "perfect book"

God puts women in second place - half the inheritance of man, half the value in testimony and beats for disobedience. You can try and make it better as much as you like Cairo, but thats what it says I'm afraid, and to see it another way you need three hundred more books, two thousand debates, 30 campaigns and a miracle if you expect people to not obey "the perfect word of God"

You gotta get real Cairo. It's like saying "eat pig" or something like that...you cant.

If its expressly stated in the Quran then thats the way it is.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Jaz - thank you :) I'll def try posting more about reform movements...they are so interesting!

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

LK - Amen to that :)

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Sara - yes I know but many modern situations reflect different circumstances, eg many women in Egypt work 2/3 jobs while their husbands sit around doing nothing - so I wonder then how to deal with the inheritance issue.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Sarah Eluzabeth - lol yeah where are they? All 5 of them :p

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Aynur - I know!! Half the verse is sometimes quoted, totally ignoring the second half :S

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Jasmine - Rahman isn't saying that these things are not in the Qur'an or that we should ignore them...he's saying we should look at the value or principle behind them, like the example I mentioned.

About me getting real...I don't know why it's so weird for me to think the Qur'an empowers women. If we only look at traditional interpretations then yes, there would be a problem. But there are so many other interpretations that give me hope. So while I have those I'll wait with the whole getting real thing :)

Sarah Elizabeth said...

Hahaha, all 3... lol

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