The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Communities of Interpretation

Last March the Boniuk Institute, unfortunately still around, organised a talk on the "Communities of the Qur'an". Since I don't live in Houston anymore I missed it. Now Emran El-Badawy has a recap at the American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences 33.4, 145-53. Today he posted it at Academia.edu for the rest of us.

"Communities"' subtext was that the death-of-the-author rule applies to the Qur'an too. Its text is not the sole property of Sunni Muslims, nor even of Muslims as such anymore - the Baha'iya, for a start, accept this text. Its roster of participants reads like a dress-rehearsal for the panel which IQSA 2016 would try, and fail, to run on Qur'anic "violence".

Mattson, Rizvi, and McCloud - none of them Arabs - appear to have delivered sober analyses of how their communities approach the Arab Scripture. Unfortunately others seem more defensive. Based on their abstracts, anyway.

Ali Asani is an Aga Khan Ismaili and holds that Imam as the Ismaili Imam. But other Ismailis exist - like the erstwhile Shiapundit, Poonawala. Such Ismailis might respect the Aga Khan as a teacher, which I think most do, but they can never accept him as Imam. This much may have been in Asani's talk proper though.

Ahmed Mansour represents the Qur'an-only sect, claiming that Q. 43:43 istamsik bi-'lladhî ûhiya is an order to the Prophet Mohamed (sic) to uphold the holy Qur'an alone. Now, I do agree that sura 43 intended alladhî ûhiya as the Book of God; earlier v. 21 had forced that meaning, and the (many) suras which sura 43 cites for authority will definitely count. What I'm missing from this sura, or from any other, is where istamsik demands EXCLUSIVITY. I'm also missing where the sura intends Mohamed as all suras' vessel, even pseudepigraphically.

Next we got a couple of speakers whom no-one need take seriously. First there's Amina Wudud femsplaining at us about examples of Qur'anic privilege to men and the male gaze, and also counterexamples I guess, but you lose me when you start spouting jargon. And yes, when you say "gender" when you are not doing linguistics, that also counts as jargon. Next Majeeb Ur Rahman speaks for the Ahmadis: the Qur'an teaches freedom of conscience and rejects all forms of compulsion. For that I'll just link what the Jihadwatchers keep repeating whenever an Ahmadi pipes up with pro-Islam apologetic.

Todd Lawson does better as he explains the Baha'i relation to the Qur'an: Baha'is confess the Qur'an as an authentic Divine revelation to Muhummad. That is, they confess this in public. As ever, I don't know to what extent Lawson developed this summary in his talk. But in private many Baha'is will treat the Qur'an like a modern Jew treats the Book of Isaiah: the oracles are all still there, in the canon, but since then sages have emerged whose opinions are worth more attention. And I'll again repeat my invitation to Baha'is to quit insisting on the canonical Qur'an. You're not going to Hajj, and you're never going to please the 'ulama. There's no point to it anymore. Leave the self-delusion to the Ahmadiya.

I don't even know what purpose these get-togethers serve. Where speakers give a straight answer, they show how incompatible their beliefs are with the other speakers'; where they don't, they're not worth our time. So I cannot share Dr Badawi's hope that co-existence be possible, at least not on the terms of the Qur'an. The Qur'an simply won't let us.


posted by Zimri on 16:58 | link | 0 comments

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