BLOGGING THE QUR’AN: “Aren’t these verses contradictory?”

Aren’t these verses contradictory?


Kashif Shahzada vs Madeleine Bunting

Excerpts from The Guardian Debate

Blogging The Qur’an

MADELEINE BUNTING:One of these verses could stand as a manifesto for contemporary religious tolerance; the next seems to be saying we should all become Muslim

I thought verse 148 was amazing. Perhaps one of the most remarkable I am likely to read in the Qur’an. The way I interpret it – and it is admirably clear, it seems to me – is that every community may have its own traditions and rituals, but focus on doing good and God will bring you together.

The emphasis is unequivocal and even the language drives it home – race to do good; ultimately we will find the unity across different religious belief. The problem is that no sooner had I read this verse which could stand as a manifesto for contemporary religious tolerance, than we plunged into the next verse which seemed a complete contradiction. Aren’t verses 149 and 150 saying that you should become Muslims – whatever religious faith you had before? _________________________________

KASHIF SHAHZADA: Ms Bunting wrote: “I thought verse 148 was amazing. Perhaps one of the most remarkable I am likely to read in the Qur’an. The way I interpret it – and it is admirably clear, it seems to me – is that every community may have its own traditions and rituals, but focus on doing good and God will bring you together.” No. There is no contradiction b/w 2:148 and later verses. 2:148 does not give divine endorsement to the traditions and rituals of *every* community. It merely states:

“And each one hath a goal toward which he turneth..” v 148 Pickthall

We all have a direction in life that we are moving towards. Our actions, whether good or bad are constantly being requited – whatever direction we choose in life, God will turn us to it, i.e. we will get the resultant of the action that we chose to do. If we choose to do good deeds in life, we get good reward, and if we do bad, we get “punishment” for our actions. It is not God who wronged us if we choose the later; it is we ourselves who are to blame, as we chose the path willingly. Numerous passages of the Qur’an state that this law of requital is in place in the physical sphere as well as moral sphere of our lives. E.g. if we do physical fitness work every morning and eat healthy diet (good) we get better health (positive result), while if we maintain an unhealthy lifestyle, and eat junk food, you’ll discover your health is failing (“punishment” because of your action). Similarly, if you choose to be greedy, oppressive and unjust in life, you will get the wage for being such a person, whilst if you practiced kindness, charity and righteousness, then you will get the reward and you will also be in the company of those who had similar traits. Hence, acc. to Qur’an (see 2:281, 3:25, 3:56-57 etc) every action that we do produces a result and is shaping our body and soul, and we will be getting the result of the goal to which turned in life. This is what is meant by “And each one hath a goal toward which he turneth..”. The Qur’an describes that various paths that people choose in life, and also gives the results of those paths – but it does not endorse all of them. Which path is acceptable to God in the Qur’an? This we can read about in other passages of the Book. As 2:148 does not give Qur’anic sanction to the beliefs and practices of *all* communities, it is wrong to conclude that it is contradicting other Qur’anic passages that give divine approval for one particular belief and action. _________________________


FATIMA MARTIN: I can’t remember whether Zia ever made it clear at the beginning of this whole project that the Qur’an was never meant to be the sole guidance for the believer. Allah states clearly that we have to read it and interpret it in conjunction with the example of the prophet’s life. This of course is not an easy task, only the seriously interested will take the time to read the prophet’s biographies and hadith collections. Even then, all his actions need to be understood taking into consideration the time and culture he lived in. For example people might interpret the fact that he allowed the killing of the men of the Jewish tribe of the Bani Qurayza in Medina as horrendous and barbarian. This was the third Jewish tribe in Medina that betrayed the prophet. All three tribes had sworn allegiance to the prophet and later betrayed him. Twice the prophet showed mercy and let the Jews leave Medina, only for them to make trouble for him from outside. The third time he asked the Muslim allies of the Jews to decide their fate, and their leader insisted on the just punishment. He would have nothing to do with mercy. The Jews knew that by betraying their allegiance they risked their lives. When their plot failed they were executed, as were all the men of other tribes at that time, no matter what religion, who committed treason. We now know that allowing this harsh punishment the prophet in fact avoided a much bigger bloodbath when he entered Mekka later on, and the Meccans surrendered without battle, finally accepting the strength of the prophet and his followers. If you come across what seem like contradictions in the Qur’an, see how the prophet dealt with them, but be sure that you know the spirit behind his actions and decisions. __________________________

KASHIF SHAHZADA: If the Qur’an is God’s word, and the traditions are the word of men containing various grades of authenticity, then it is logical that the former has superiority over the latter. To those who believe and accept the Qur’an as the perfect and complete Book, originating from Allah, any traditions / narrations, attributed to any pious person and originating from any source whether they are from the Judeo Christian Scriptures or from any other compilation e.g. ahadith need to be studied in the light of Qur’an, and not the other way around, because (a ) Qur’an does not say anywhere within its pages that it is in need of other books for its exegesis, and on the contrary states that: “Is it not sufficient for them that We have sent down to you The Book which is recited over them?…” [29:51] b) Scholars of ALL schools of thoughts themselves admit that traditions are human compilations and are not free from discrepancy and agree to them containing aspects of errancy, hence the variation in various versions and compilations, therefore what identifies itself to be perfect and free from errancy (the Qur’an) is not dependent on what shows itself to contain the weak and inauthentic (ahadith). Even the compilers of the said reports rejected thousands before sifting a few for their compilations. So by their own admission these books are not perfect, why then must we subject the perfect Qur’an to the imperfect? Should it not be the other way around, i.e. that the Qur’an comes first. We see what the Qur’an says about a subject and then in its light see other sources. (c) The Qur’an warns us against mixing truth with falsehood (2:46). In other words, truth should be kept pure and pristine and not intermingled with the slightest element of what is unauthentic. And it is God’s word that determines what is authentic from inauthentic, and is the “furqan (criterion to judge right from wrong) and not human words, because by default they (humans) are liable to err, while God isn’t. In view of this, the Qur’an, which claims to be free from error (4:82), calls itself a clear guide (43:2) and a distinct light and beacon that shows the truth (14:1) is not to be made subservient to human reports like suggested above. It should be the other way around i.e. it is those reports that are to be made subservient to the Qur’an, and it is the Qur’an that is to act as a judge on their authenticity. Not only is this approach illogical, it is blatantly against numerous Qur’anic directives on the subject. The story cited above is also not correct. It goes against the person and character of the Prophet as mentioned in numerous Qur’anic verses. The Prophet acted upon the Qur’an all his life, and it is Qur’anic directives that he implemented, and the Qur’an nowhere commands him to do what is suggested in the earlier comment. (More on fighting and war can be discussed when the subject comes under discussion later). In short, the best Prophetic biography is the Qur’an itself. The deed, action and personality of the Prophets as reported by the Qur’an is their actual and authentic biography, and acts as the criterion and judge on reports concerning them in other sources. That is why in Sura 13, those who have Qur’anic knowledge have been called as witnesses over the character of the Prophet:

“…Say: ‘ (as a witness over my messenger ship)…sufficient between me and you is God and whoever has KNOWLEDGE OF THE BOOK.” 13:43

In the above, knowledge of The Book – one Book is required in order to qualify to give shahada (testimony) to the Prophet. Why just *one Book* is mentioned, why not numerous others, as has been suggested earlier. The truth is that if one were to consider the Qur’an as immutable and perfect, then one should not blindly accept any and every religious tale attributed to Islam and its Prophet that is hurled towards us, but we need to check its authenticity in the Qur’an first – if it tallies with the Qur’an, then it can be considered, if not, then it can’t be accepted at the expense of the Qur’an. Accepting a tradition that is against the Qur’an means one rejects the Qur’an, and rejecting the Qur’an is KUFR, i.e. rejection of God and qualifies one for his displeasure.

“…if they were to come together to bring something similar to this Qur’an, they can not bring anything similar to it, even if they backed up each other with help and support!” (17:88)

In Islam, the ONLY BOOK that has absolute and final authority is the Qur’an – No other source, whether a human scholar or writing is co-equal to the Qur’an, all else is subservient to it. ______________________

“MISKATONICUNIVERSITY” Kashif, there are Muslims who refuse to recognise the authority of the hadiths or the biographies of Mohammed, but it leaves them in a bit of a bind. The Quran is not capable of explaining itself – it’s too contradictory. For instance, what would the Islamic position on alcohol be without an external timeline to give the verses some order? _______________________________

KASHIF SHAHZADA: MiskatonicUniversity asked: “The Quran is not capable of explaining itself – it’s too contradictory. For instance, what would the Islamic position on alcohol be without an external timeline to give the verses some order?” Your assertion that the Qur’an is contradictory requires specific proof and reference. Among the many unique attributes of the Book is that it is free from “ikhtilaaf” i.e. conflict. We read in Sura 4:

“Do they not do “Taddabur” (pondering, analysis, reflection) on the Qur’an? If it were from other than God, THEY WOULD HAVE FOUND THEREIN, MUCH CONTRADICTION!” [4:82]

The Book claims to be internally consistent, and invites critical analysis of its contents to verify this. If it were a shoddy job, such a claim dare not be made. However, we can se in 4:82 that internal consistency will be apparent when one engages in “Taddabur” of the Qur’an i.e. a deep study, reflection and analysis of the text, and not a hasty and superficial study. So this is what is internally within the Book, i.e. it is free from contradiction. But you just suggested otherwise, and also made a comment about it, without furnishing exact citations from the text. Therefore, I would request you to cite the specific passage references pertaining to alcohol that deem to be contradictory and the translation (s) which you referred to for their study, so we can analyse whether 4:82 is right, or whether you are right. ______________________________ “MISKATONICUNIVERSITY”:

These are two of the verses about intoxicating liquor produced from dates and grapes – which one is correct?

SHAKIR: They ask you about intoxicants and games of chance. Say: In both of them there is a great sin and means of profit for men, and their sin is greater than their profit. And they ask you as to what they should spend. Say: What you can spare. Thus does Allah make clear to you the communications, that you may ponder SHAKIR: And of the fruits of the palms and the grapes– you obtain from them intoxication and goodly provision; most surely there is a sign in this for a people who ponder.

There are others of course, for instance, how many days did it take Allah to create the world? Was it six (7:54, 10:3, 11:7, and 25:59) or eight (41:9-12)? Clue: neither, more like 4.5 billion years for the earth, and 14 billion years for the universe.


KASHIF SHAHZADA: 1) Intoxicants According to [2:219] intoxicants have both – a sinful as well as a profitable aspect. The Qur’an doesn’t prohibit consumption or use of intoxicants in total, what it bars is the ‘sin’ in them (see 7:33 about prohibition of ‘ithm i.e. sin’). It is undisputable that alcohol contributes to crimes and is a source of damage to society if used recreationally, and it is this aspect which is sinful. However there is also profit from it to society in its medicinal and industrial usage, and this is what is referred to in the verse statement ‘profit for mankind’. [16:67] on the other hand talks about ‘extracting intoxicants’, and not about consuming the sinful aspect. For believers, this extraction is for its utilitarian i.e. profitable use not for Sinful purpose You may perhaps be unaware that the word Alcohol itself is an Arabic word and Muslim chemists have done quite a lot of work on the subject in the past. As the Qur’an does not bar the use of intoxicants in totality, but bifurcates between its negative and postive aspects, in 2:219 hence it is not in conflict with 16:67 where extraction of intoxicants is mentioned which in the context of believers can very well be for profitable usage, and not sinful one. (2) Creation of heavens and earth In Arabic, the word “Yaum” is not used for a 24 hour day, but for a ‘period’ of time or eon. Hence the verses you reffered to do not talk about 24 hour days as calculated by human beings, but periods according to God’s own measure. As 7:54, 10:3, 11:7, and 25:59 talk about the creation of SAMAWAT WAL ARD i.e entire heavens and earth in six periods, while the subject matter of 41:9-12 is not the creation of ‘SAMAWAT WAL ARD’ but of other seperate events, therefore there is no contradiction between these verses. There would have been had [41:9-12] talked of the same event as the later set you quoted, but as these speak of seperate events and objects, hence there is no contradiction, and the claim of the Qur’an in being free from conflict remains valid.


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