This debate should give us some basic insights about interpretation of the holy Quran, understanding of fundamental versus allegorical verses
Written and collected by by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
This is a 38 minute dialogue between Javed Ahmad Ghamidi, who needs no introduction to the Muslims from Pakistan background, and Murabi Ansar Raza from Canada, from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.
I have previously written an article about understanding and commentary of the Quran: After Monotheism, the Two Most Seminal Verses of the Quran. This article is further exposition of one of those verses about fundamental and allegorical, in light of this 38 minute Urdu debate or conversation:
Allah it is Who has sent down to you (Muhammad) the Book; in it there are verses that are fundamental or decisive in meaning — these are the corner stone of the Book — and there are others that are susceptible of different interpretations. But those in whose hearts is perversity pursue those that are susceptible of different interpretations, seeking discord and wrong interpretation of such ambiguous verses. And none knows their right interpretation except Allah and those who are firmly grounded in knowledge; they say, ‘We believe in it; the whole is from our Lord.’ — And none heed except those gifted with understanding. (3:7/8)
Here, I am not talking about the debate of continuation of prophethood or its termination, but, simply about understanding of the Quran.
Ghamidi seems to have complete control over this discussion that may be the reason why this video has been taken off from YouTube from Ahmadiyya sources. I am scoring this point merely to develop on Ghamidi’s understanding of the commentary of the Quran.
In this debate he has declared two positions.
Firstly, he says that if there is no ambiguity locally in the understanding of the Quran, he cites examples from Surah Ikhlas about
قُلْ هُوَ اللَّهُ أَحَدٌ — اللَّهُ الصَّمَدُ that the meaning of these verses is obvious and clear, so he does not have to go any where else in the Quran to understand these particular verses.
Secondly, when talking about the verse about seal of the prophets, from Surah Al Ahzab:
مَّا كَانَ مُحَمَّدٌ أَبَا أَحَدٍ مِّن رِّجَالِكُمْ وَلَٰكِن رَّسُولَ اللَّهِ وَخَاتَمَ النَّبِيِّينَ ۗ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمًا
He says that once you determine the understanding of this verse, he will explain others in light of this verse, as regards prophethood. Implication being that he is calling this particular verse fundamental on this subject and explaining every thing else in the Quran on the basis of this.
I choose to differ with Ghamidi’s first position and completely agree with his second position in principle and claim that the key to understanding the Quran is to find the most fundamental on a given subject and explaining everything in light of that. I am not endorsing all his opinions about prophethood, merely his suggestion to read the Quran in light of the fundamentals, which is also completely in keeping with the verse 3:7/8 quoted above.
If I apply this principle here, I will conclude from this verse about the seal of the prophets that the Quran is the final scripture of Allah, revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him. This is a very safe and reasonable conclusion to draw and is shared by all the Muslims of all sects in Islam. Incidentally, the Muslim Times has the mission to bring the different sects of Islam closer and in this regards we have a large collection for pluralism in Islam.
The differences in the understanding of different verses of the Quran, divide the Muslims. A better and fuller understanding of common grounds can certainly bring us together.
In a short article, I have tried to talk about Jihad, based on fundamental verses on the subject: Defensive War in the Holy Quran in 600 Words. Once we pick and choose the fundamental verse, it can easily explain away what the Quran has been criticized for often, for example, what has been labelled as sword verse: “Fight those from among the People of the Book who believe not in Allah, nor in the Last Day, nor hold as unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have declared to be unlawful, nor follow the true religion, until they pay the tax with their own hand and acknowledge their subjection.” (Al Quran 9:29)
Overtime, I will elaborate, with additional examples, how choosing the fundamental over the allegoric gives you a magical wand to understand the Quran.
Like, Ghamidi said that he is a student of the Quran, so am I. I want to learn and if I find something useful, I want to share, in the spirit of the well known Hadith: “The best among you are those who learn the Quran and teach it.”
One cannot intellectually lock anyone in a particular understanding of the Quran. As the Quran itself says:
“We send down the Quran as as healing and mercy for those who believe; as for those who disbelieve, it only increases their loss.” (Al Quran 17:82/83)
“Allah is not embarrassed to give an example of a mosquito or something smaller. The believers know this is the truth from their Lord, but the disbelievers say, ‘What does Allah mean by this example?’ He allows many to be misled by it and others to be guided: it’s the disobedient who are misguided by it.” (Al Quran 2:26/27)
Yes, the Quran itself warns that an incorrect reading of the Quran can misguide (2:26, 3:7, 17:41, 17:45-46, 17:82, 39:23, 56:79, 71:5-7).
The misguided take allegoric in the Quran or what is vague in logic as fundamental and are misled as a result. Every book and every writer should be read in light of what is fundamental perspective of the author, not any slip of the tongue or vague description.
A good commentator can only present his or her understanding based on what he or she takes to be fundamental and pray that it guides the readers.
Who is guided and who is misguided, cannot be determined by popularity contest or by sword. In the final analysis it will need to wait until the Day of Judgment.
On this planet we merely communicate. Yes, bilaterally: “There is no coercion in religion.” (Al Quran 2:256)
We also communicate politely, as Allah has said: “Allah likes not the uttering of impolite speech in public, except on the part of one who is being wronged. Indeed, Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.” (Al Quran 4:148)
The believers and the disbelievers pick up different fundamentals for themselves, in the Quran or the Bible, and reach different conclusions and ultimately different destinations.
Finally, I want to conclude with a thought from Rumi, which I previously developed into an article: Rumi: The Quran is Like a Shy Bride!
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