The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The core of al-Islam

Razib Khan:

no, this isn’t a problem at all. the koran is not the center of islam. arguably for sunnis the sunnah/hadith are.* yeah, koran has symbolic value and people get angry about it, but it defines muslim life like the NT and hebrew bible define xtian and jewish life; not that much. additionally, it isn’t as if the koran has theology in a way that the 8th century theorists would recognize, even if philosophical theology is not very big in sunni islam thanks to the excesses of the mutazilites.

finally, the sunni-shia split which is essential to understanding a lot of islam today really makes no sense before the 9th century or so IMO. like the reformation it wasn’t understood under the early abbasids that shia-sunni divisions would remain eternal and sharp.

* the shia have a stronger clerical structure which can modify even more.

I owe this to Khan's reference here; pointing to an attempt to argue that the Qur'an is the heart of Islam. He didn't agree, or even appreciate the comment; but found it just interesting enough, as a summary for a point of view, that he left the comment up there.

Khan digressed from that interchange why he doesn't (usually) host such arguments in his comments. Ultimately Khan values his time. I don't value my time as much (clearly). So I can argue these points where Khan won't.

All that said - yeah, Khan is right.

For daily-life we kuffar will have to defer to Khan on that position, since he is from a Muslim tribe and we are not. I do observe that most of the Qur'an is inherently superfluous to life in any religion. Nobody cares about the exact wording of this or that hymn; one hymn looks like any other. Stories praising King Solomon contrast with stories attacking Pharaoh, so canceling one another. Laws accepting the judicious use of alcohol contradict laws banning it. Impassioned sermons like sura 39 come and go, perhaps with a subtext that was more than just "worship God alone"; but no-one remembers what they ever meant, so they rarely get cited. Within Islam sura 24 may as well be apocryphal for all its effect on adultery sunna. I could go on.

I can better speak to the Qur'an's role in history: after the Muslims finalised what was in the Qur'an and what wasn't (whenever that was), the book became a political MacGuffin. For instance when the 'Abbasids were disputing with the 'Alids, both sides claimed to be "calling to the Book of God and to His Prophet's Sunna"; and the subsequent "discussion" was carried out bi'l-Sayfi. This happened over and over again. If you think one side had the best interpretation and the other didn't, if you ever think that, then you have yourself become suckered into their propaganda. One'd think that people would at least read their Patricia Crone and Martin Hinds.

In the earlier era, at least up to the late 100s / 720s IMO, I do perceive fights in which two sets of Muslim held two different versions of the Book. They're easy enough to spot: history-texts almost always elide this with mentions of "the qurra'", rather than of the Qur'ans. (The one possible exception to this now-orthodox censorship is when they discuss the Haruriya - movements so utterly marginal that whatever they brought forth or excluded could not threaten that orthodoxy.) "The qurra'" tend to be most associated with the upheavals of the middle 30s / 650s; another outburst of "qurra'" activity occurred during the fitna of 'Abd al-Rahman circa 80 / 700. But in this case - if I'm right - the disputes came first, rendering the qur'ans-plural even more incidental. If I'm wrong then each section of qurra' simply joined whatever movement they liked best and tortured the interpretations to fit... so we're back to the prior paragraph.

The Qur'an may as well be a golden calf inscribed with a few mottos on its plinth. And that inscription wouldn't be much longer than "we fight, we fuck, we kill but at least we don't drink beer; yay God".


posted by Zimri on 12:33 | link | 0 comments

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