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The Quran => Q&As with Joseph Islam - Information Only => : Reader Questions July 28, 2013, 03:57:46 PM

: Is there room for oral traditions / explanations?
: Reader Questions July 28, 2013, 03:57:46 PM
By: Mubashir Inayat

Peace Dear Brother
In 5:32 we read:

[Asad] Because of this did We ordain unto the children of Israel that if anyone slays a human being-unless it be [in punishment] for murder or for spreading corruption on earth-it shall be as though he had slain all mankind; whereas, if anyone saves a life, it shall be as though he had saved the lives of all mankind. And, indeed, there came unto them Our apostles with all evidence of the truth: yet, behold, notwithstanding all this, many of them go on committing all manner of excesses on earth.
I recently learnt that there is no verse in the Bible that says something similar to the above. However, such verses can be found in the Talmud.
If true, then is there not room in religion for oral traditions/explanations?
How would, you interpret/explain 5:32?
Please and thanks.
: Re: Is there room for oral traditions / explanations?
: Joseph Islam July 28, 2013, 04:01:53 PM
Wa alaikum assalam
Yes, there are even more grounds than your inference to assert that Biblical ‘traditions’ are dealt with by the Quran. There are also ‘non’ Hebrew scriptural references such as ‘stories’ from Aad and Thamud et al, that the Quran expects people to recall from popular memory.
However, what the Quran is not doing is 'sanctioning' the need for secondary sources as ‘religious guidance’ per se. Rather, what it is doing is acting as the 'furqan' and 'dealing' with information (no matter whatever the source) that was known to the Prophetic contemporaries and acting as a filter, criterion over it to provide them with discernment of what is true and extracting underlying wisdom and guidance. It was also sharing information which may not have been known to anyone.
It also corrected certain information and presented them in another light. Please see how the Quran deals with the notion of God being part of three (extra Biblical doctrine) or monasticism (another extra Biblical practice).
Please also see how the Quran presents ‘Biblical’ narratives in a different light.
Now as the Quran was the final criterion, we have no way to verify any reports or practices  after it as we potentially could do before it. Yes, we can always say ‘allegedly’ and extract any apparent wisdom from extraneous sources, but they are not to be used as ‘religious sources’. The Quran closes that door firmly by claiming that it is the final religious source from which believers are to seek guidance. No more conduits to other sources for religious guidance.
No doubt, if there was another revelation such as the Quran, then one would expect the scripture to talk about what happened after the Quran’s revelations. (i.e. you did this and you did that after the Prophet’s demise). However, there will not be another revelation of the sort.
I hope this helps, God willing.
: Re: Is there room for oral traditions / explanations?
: Reader Questions July 28, 2013, 04:03:23 PM
By: Mubashir Inayat

Thanks for the prompt reply Brother. Two points:

1. The Quran used an oral tradition (well known to the Jews of that time) to make a point using the words"We ordain/We decreed"
2. Since no such decree can be found in the Bible, critics can say:
a. Muhammad (as they claim Quran is not divinely inspired book) got things mixed up here between the Bible and Talmud
b. Hadith supporters can use this to prove that oral traditions have a place in Islam (through the filter of the Quran).
That was what I was trying to understand.
I could not fail to notice that some translators have used the words "We ordain/decree" (present tense) and some used "We ordained/decreed".  Wonder if that would have any impact on the verse 5:32?
Thanks again!

PS: Just finished reading you article about the Exodus.  Makes much sense to me and highlights the importance of Quran as the Criterion.  Thanks for sharing. JZAK
: Re: Is there room for oral traditions / explanations?
: Joseph Islam July 28, 2013, 04:09:57 PM
Dear brother,

I think the main question to ask is what was the basis of that understanding of the Jews at the time of the Prophet?
An invented tradition, an interpretation based on scripture itself, or guidance provided by subsequent prophets and / or inspired messengers?
Something being 'kataba' (prescribed, decree, ordained) doesn't mean it has to be written down in a Book or Law. When this is the case, the Quran makes this clear. Please see verse 5:45 "therein We prescribed for them: A life for a life, the eye for an eye..."
It is worthy to note that the continuation of inspired words through appointed agents of God is clearly confirmed in the same verse (5:32) that deals with the ordainment you mention "…and surely Our messengers came to them with clear signs"
From my humble perspective, It is also useful to remember that the Torah was not the only revelation given to the Children of Israel, but many other prophets and messengers came with inspired words and shared musings which became part and parcel of the holistic understanding of the religious communities of yore. The Quran even mentions some of these writings such as the 'Zabur' (Psalms)
Verse 5:32 does not say that such an understanding was prescribed in a particular 'book'. It speaks of a Divine prescription that was generally understood by the Children of Israel (irrespective of what particular source) as ‘religious’, hence the term ‘kataba’.
This is also corroborated by the The Mishna, Sanhedrin 4:5 which does not 'invent' this prescription. It seems to clearly understand it as being derived from scripture itself.
"Therefore, humans were created singly, to teach you that whoever destroys a single soul [of Israel], Scripture accounts it as if he had destroyed a full world; and whoever saves one soul of Israel, Scripture accounts it as if she had saved a full world." [1]
This scriptural interpretation may have been derived from Genesis 4:10 as noted by commentaries such as below:
"It doesn’t say, “The blood of your brother”, but rather “The bloods of your brother”—meaning his blood and the blood of his descendants."
This was the understanding of some of those from the Children of Israel contemporaneous to the Prophet. All the Quran did was to confirm this understanding and ratify it (as true). The Quran even confirms aspects of the Apocryphal Christian texts (clay birds etc).
As I mentioned in the post below, with some critics an inconsistent approach seems fair play.
With regards (b) i.e. those that use this as an argument to authenticate the 'Sunnah', there are three key differences why this comparison is untenable.

Therefore, any such comparison is only superficial and without any religious warrant.
I hope this addresses the matter, God willing.

Peace and regards,

[1] [online] http://www.on1foot.org/text/mishna-sanhedrin-45 [accessed] 27th July 2013
: Re: Is there room for oral traditions / explanations?
: Reader Questions July 28, 2013, 04:11:12 PM
By: Mubashir Inayat

Great response Brother. Thanks.

Perhaps you may wish to include it on the Quransmessage forum under "Questions and Answers" for others to benefit.

All the best!