How to Interpret the Quran & Sunnah

Beliefs & Practices, Chapter 05, Islam & Modernism / Sunday, August 17th, 2008

There are some rules and regulations for research in every art and science. You cannot reach the correct conclusion unless you follow them. In the present jurisprudence also “Interpretation of statutes” is a compulsory subject. It has definite rules and regulations and unless they are given due consideration no interpretation by any legal expert can be acceptable.

In the same manner, rather more reasonable and well organized, are the detailed rules and regulations for “Interpretation of Qur’an and Sunnah and Islamic law” that have been compiled after thorough research, devoted attention and minute observations. Hundreds of books are available on the subject and each rule has been thoroughly screened. Unless the Qur’an and Hadith are interpreted within the framework of these rules and regulations no reasonable person can accept them, exactly as such explanations of present commentators cannot be accepted that do not conform to the principles of “Interpretation of statutes”.

But our modernists do not bind themselves to any such rules in their interpretations and commentaries due to their stamped way of thinking. Thus they frequently defy the established rules of interpretation of the Qur’an and Sunnah. For example, the established rule of Islamic Jurisprudence is that proverbial or allegoric meaning of any word or phrase of the Qur’an or Hadith would be adopted only when literal meaning is either impossible or have become obsolete in common use. This is perfectly a reasonable rule which can not be challenged through any intellectual argument, without it no definite conclusion can ever be derived from anything said by anybody. But this rule is profusely ignored by the modernists in their writings. Wherever they find a word in the Qur’an and Hadith, clashing with their concepts, they unhesitatingly give it an allegoric and sometimes purely imaginative interpretation. “Son” has been interpreted as “grandson”; staff turned into “argument”; death as a state of “coma or disgrace”, “Satan” as “fantasy or illusion “so much so that “Allah and Messenger” have been termed as “centre of the Ummah”. These are just a few examples. If these absurdities are all compiled together a voluminous book can be prepared.

It can be said by the modernists that they do not agree with the rules and regulations fixed by the Islamic jurists and that is why they do not follow them. In that case they should have pointed out those rules and given some alternate principles better than the rules of the jurists. Then they should have used their formulated rules in their writings.

But we find that their interpretations are not supported by any principle at all. At one occasion they break a rule and oppose it, but at another occasion they derive their argument for their new interpretation. They reject any tradition that appears to contradict their views, no matter how authentic a chain of reporters it has, but where a tradition appears to support their views, they ignore the clear verses of the Holy Qur’an on the basis of a tradition which is weak and without support of authentic narrators. A recent example is the statement of Dr. Fazlur Rehman in which he has said that the meat of an animal is lawful and permissible to eat even if it is slaughtered without the name of Allah pronounced on it, while the explicit injunction of Qur’an is this:

(And eat not that (flesh) over which Allah’s name has not been pronounced.)

But since this was against the views of Dr. Fazlur Rehman, he based his arguments on a narration of Hadhrat Aishah and on a saying of Imam Shafi which is perhaps the weakest argument of all his juristic inferences (as has been admitted by the scholars of Shafi school of thought), while his own view about the application of a tradition is as follows:

“If a tradition tells anything that is not in conformity with the apparent Qur’anic injunction I would attribute it to the specific historical era rather than to the Prophet himself”. (Monthly “Fikr-o-Nazar, p.5 15, vol.2)

Apart from the fact that his inference from Hadhrat Aishah’s narration is highly misleading, Dr. Fazlur Rehman should not seek argument from this according to his own principle cited above. On what ground has he attributed this tradition to the Holy Prophet (PBUH)?

A far as Imam Shafi is concerned, the Doctor has commented about him as under:

“The enlightened views and quick understanding of Imam Sh’afi did create a mechanic system which undoubtedly led to stabilization of social and religious structure of our mediaeval era, but due to it we have been deprived of modern thinking and creative intellect. (Monthly “Fikr-o-Nazar”, p.30, vol.1)

If Imam Sh’afi had committed such a fundamental error how can you quote him as authority on the validity of a religious precept? Does it not become apparent from the above examples that Dr. Fazlur Rehman and his coworkers have no set criterion for res’earch in their mind. Not only that they have not taken into consideration any of the established rules of Jurisprudence, they do not even follow the rules framed by themselves?

There can be no other reason for this betrayal of their own principles that first they form their own views and then seek arguments to support them. Obviously this method cannot go along with rules and regulations, because with every new idea they have to frame new regulations. If they are requested in the name of God to let alone the “knowledge: and research” and refrain from making the Quran and Sunnah a plaything as was done by the Jews and. Christians in case of Torah and Injil, such persons are instantly labeled as “Obscurantists’ and “Ignorant of the exigencies of time”. Their judgment about them is that they are blind, to the new environment and have no knowledge of the modern demands. ‘(Monthly “Fikr-o-’ Nazar”, p.731, vol.2)

We are conscious that in response to our sincere submissions, we shall also be rewarded with such titles but we are writing and will continue to write the truth hoping that there may be a heart in search of truth that may accept it. Maybe our suggestions can awaken a sleeping conscience.

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