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Offline Joseph Islam

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The traditionalist argument has become increasingly sophisticated as wider discourses with Quran-centric Muslims have become more prevalent through 1-1 engagement and the Internet. This is an expected development and can only serve to refine the arguments from both sides.  For the traditionalist, the key is to establish the need for the 'Sunna' (and all that it entails) as an authoritative part of religion.

Here are some techniques that are usually deployed by the traditionalist with some accompanying thoughts:


1. TECHNIQUE: Moving the discussion away from providing evidence that the Quran 'authorises' the secondary sources (as they have reached us today) as divinely ordained and hence, a compulsory part of religion.

COMMENTS: Firstly, establish the axioms for the debate firmly. What are the agreed sources? If the only agreeable source for admission between the parties is the Quran, the ‘criterion between right and wrong’ (which it should be), then remain resolute. Do not let the argument diverge from this source. Respectfully, yet firmly demand unequivocal proof that the Quran authorises the secondary sources as a necessary part of 'religion’. Do not allow the discussion to divert until a satisfactory answer is provided.


2. TECHNIQUE: Without using traditions, demanding to know how one can conclude the Quran is from the Prophet and therefore God.

COMMENTS: This is an irrelevant question with its roots in blind following. One does not submit to the Quran because traditions provide alleged evidence of its transmission to an Arabian Prophet. That is simply a claim. Even if the traditions were indisputably reliable in their transmission, it would only prove that an Arabian man uttered the words in antiquity. What provides evidence that the Arabian man was a Prophet and his utterances were indeed inspired by God are the 'arguments' the Quran presents. If the arguments of the Quran were found to be wanting / weak, then all it would prove was that an Arabian man was a false prophet and deluded. A serious analysis / enquiry of the Quran clearly indicates that this is not the case.

What must be posited as a question is how else could some non-Muslims or even atheists ever find the Quran to be credible? It is arguably not due to the claimed authenticity of transmission or because secondary sources claim that the Quran came from a Prophet that convinces them. These are wholly irrelevant claims for such non-believing enquirers. Undoubtedly, it is ultimately the arguments that the Quran presents which convinces them of its veracity, its prophetic provenance and its divine origins.

There is a reason why the Quran's lecture is considered so powerful that if it were possible, it would be able to cause the mountains to move, the earth to be torn asunder and the dead to speak (13:31). The power is in the narratives, not in its claimed preservation. Preservation only leads back to a human source. It does not make it of divine origin.


3. TECHNIQUE: Attempting to smuggle the need for secondary sources as a necessary part of religion through out of context verses and inferences to the prophet requiring him to explain the Quran to his people.

COMMENTS: Deliberate intensely on each inference and verse cited by scrutinising context and surrounding verses. Established themes will be found consistently throughout the Quran. For example, a commonly cited verse for support of the authority of the secondary sources is verse 59:7 which when cited, often completely dismisses the context which is a reference to war booty. Surrounding verses must be examined. Once again, do not admit attack on why you accept the Quran as the final authority. This should have already been established at the start of the discussion (The axioms and the sources admitted for the debate (i.e. the Quran)).

Please also see technique Number 3 and 4 below where it is alleged that 'wisdom' or the 'prophetic explanations' necessitate the authority of the secondary sources.


4. TECHNIQUE: Asking the question: What was the ‘wisdom’ that the prophet imparted?

COMMENTS: All prophets were granted ‘hikmah’ (wisdom). This question completely dismisses any acknowledgement that the Arabian prophet was part of a time slice of history, a product of his community, his environment and his circumstances. It is to be recognised that Quranic instructions can be applied in different ways if the circumstances change. The Quranic edict remains timeless, but the circumstances do not. Therefore, much of the Sunna that may have resulted from his wisdom would have been a combination of both the divinely inspired guidance and the context driven situations the prophet and his community were part of and had to deal with. To apply ancient context specific solutions to a different culture, period and circumstances could potentially result in catastrophic outcomes. To recognise this point is absolutely crucial to understand the true nature of the 'Sunna' and how it is to be understood in light of the Quran and its time specific circumstances. Furthermore, be acutely aware of the attempt to ‘conflate’ prophetic wisdom with the Hadith corpus that has been collected by fallible men allegedly centuries after the death of the Prophet. The two are not the same and must be kept separate.


5. TECHNIQUE: Asking the question: What was the ‘explanation’ that the prophet imparted?

COMMENTS: Notwithstanding that the Quran claims to be the 'best tafsir' (25:33) and further, claims to be an explanation of all that is necessary for timeless guidance (tibiana lekulli shayin - 16:89), this question also does not appear to appreciate that the Prophet had many roles, not only as a Spiritual guide. In these roles, explanations / Quranic application would become necessary.

The prophet was not only a spiritual guide, but also made judgements on specific situations by making use of the Quran's guidance (24:48). The prophet was an arbitrator and settled disputes (24:51; 8:46). He was a counsellor / consultant (58:12); He was a military leader and made use of the Quran's guidance to conduct his affairs during war (8:1; 8:7).He was a community leader (60:12) and consulted with his contemporaries to make best decisions for the community (3:159). He was the state leader of a chain of commands (4:59). He was the community's treasurer (8:41). He was a spiritual guide in his personal sphere (e.g. with his wives 33:33).

All these required the Quran's guidance and the specific circumstances that the Prophet encountered. It is arguable that if the prophet was to apply the same Quranic principles to a different community of a different time period, the explanation and guidance proffered would also be different.


6. TECHNIQUE: Attack independent use of logic or intellectual reasoning (aql) to the Quran to form a conclusion.

COMMENTS: This is a self-defeating argument not only because the Quran provides ample evidence to the contrary, but also as the hypocrisy of this question is evident in the traditionalist approach when the Quran is provided to non-Muslims for them to use their 'aql' in order to leave their established faith and convert based simply on a copy of the Quran. Logic or intellectual reasoning by definition should have strict principles of validity and it is how humans accept better arguments and achieve an enlightened conscience. To dismiss this is wholly unwarranted.


7. TECHNIQUE: Creating 'Straw Man' arguments and diversions. How do you pray? How do you bathe?

COMMENTS: This approach is designed to elicit finer details which are not mentioned in the Quran. This is once again a deliberate ploy to establish the need for secondary sources as a compulsory part of religion.

This question must be summarily dismissed as any religious action must provide some basis of proof from the Quran, not the other way around. It is for the traditionalist to provide evidence from the Quran why they adhere to a particular ritual no matter how detailed, not the other way around.

There is also a dangerous inference in the question that the Quran is not complete for necessary guidance. This is easily dismissed by the Quran’s own admission that it is ‘detailed’ (fussilat - 41:3; 11:1), a clear explanation of everything necessary for religion (tibiana lekulli shayin - 16:89), the criterion between right and wrong (furqan - 25:1; 2:53) and the perfect balance (mizaan - 42:17). It is also evidence absolutely clear (bayyina - 20:133; 6:157).

Be careful not to be drawn into attacking the ‘Hadith’ corpus. (e.g. Not one Hadith can be found to teach one how to pray either; the Hadith corpus cannot provide ‘chains of narrators’ for all the verses of the Quran etc). This will only serve to move you into the quagmire of the secondary sources and will often lead to circular arguments. The focus is the Quran as the agreed source.
 
[Side note: The Quran only instructs one to 'establish prayer'. Certain expectations of what forms the prayer are provided in different verses (bowing, standing, ablution, direction etc.). If those actions are completed by a congregation, then the prayer is arguably complete. Does the current prayer method that has reached us through en masse practice satisfy the Quran's requirements? Many Quran-centric folk would agree that it does and hence would be happy to assimilate.]


8. TECHNIQUE: Asking the question: How can you even understand the Arabic language of the Quran and what it says as you need the secondary sources to interpret it?

COMMENTS: This is the Achilles heel of some of the ‘Quranist’ claims that professes to dismiss all secondary sources in toto. The traditionalist inference is correct. The Quran is not a dictionary and cannot be interpreted without an independent source of language interpretation which by definition would be a secondary source. There are also words in the Quran that have only been used once in the entire Scripture (hapax legomenon) and thus, would necessitate the use of another source of interpretation.

However, the Quran-centric approach accepts engagement with sources to interpret the language of the Quran. The protection of the 'dhikr' (reminder) is assured by the Quran (15:9). This implies both the 'words' (kalimaat) of the Quran and an appropriate ability to discern its 'meanings'. Otherwise, the 'dhikr' would be meaningless.
 
Therefore any source, including classical lexicons, works of grammarians, dictionaries or indeed, any Islamic secondary source which is used to understand the classical Arabic language is implicitly ratified by the Quran (15:9). The Prophet was tasked with a responsibility to convey the message of the Quran in Arabic to his people. His people had a responsibility en masse to pass the message to mankind (22:78) both in Arabic and to convey its meaning to those who did not understand the language.

However, the maxim still stands. No secondary source is divinely ratified and therefore, the linguistic instruments used to extract best meanings can still be debated. This is also the expectation of the Quran (i.e. to extract best meaning - 39:18). 


Finally, beware of Ad Hominem. Attacks against you, your reasoning and your beliefs are not dealing with the argument. Do not engage in it and do not accept it in any form from another.
'During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act' 
George Orwell

Offline Joseph Islam

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What the Quran-centric approach is and what it is not for me.

http://quransmessage.com/forum/index.php?topic=2622
'During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act' 
George Orwell

Offline Ahmad

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Dear brother Joseph,

Thank you for your post. You have shared a very valuable summary. May God reward you for your efforts.

Offline Hamzeh

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Re: Techniques Deployed Against the Quran-Centric Position by the Tradionalist
« Reply #3 on: November 09, 2018, 08:29:24 AM »
Asalamu 3alykum

Thank you very much brother Joseph, Masha'Allah this is very valuable information you have provided. Jazak Allah Kahir Insha'Allah.

I hope you don’t mind me adding my thoughts to this post.

A lot of times what I notice ends up happening in debates between traditionalists and those who only uphold the Quran is that the debate never grows academically because the first step you mentioned is never affirmed and established at the start.

Both sides have to firmly make an agreement or come to common terms that the Quran will be the only source to prove or disprove that any secondary sources are warranted as religious authoritative guidance.

If this is not established the debate or discussion would be fruitless to continue and would be best to leave it as that and one can therefor conclude that both parties do not share the same platform to which they make up their religion.


If however that agreement is established, a Quran centric position must have the ability to provide evidence from the Quran that other sources are cautioned and prohibited as religious authority [1]. This must be known and understood with confidence. There is explicit verses whether read in context or out of context that provide this evidence.

Expect that the traditionalist is going to share verses from the Quran to prove that secondary sources are authorized.

Once provided three things need to happen at this stage:


1. Caution that if the verses shared by the traditionalist are to be understood in the manner that “secondary sources are justified by the Quran”, that we are admitting that contradictions in the Quran are present because opposing verses which clearly prohibit the use of any other sources used for religious authority are also in the Quran.  Share those verses if they have not been shared yet[1].


2. Demand an explanation as to why the Quran contradicts itself by stating on one hand that secondary sources are authorized and on the other hand the Quran prohibits secondary sources. How can one logically and academically bridge the two concepts together. This cannot be dismissed. True enquiries will need to find answers and are responsible for searching. A true believer of the Quran needs to find a solution to this and not dismiss this topic. Because if a book claimed to be from the Lord is weak in its manifestation, clarity, and consistency it would be deemed not credible.

That must at this point be establish as well, that the Quran being from the Lord cannot have such contradictions.

3. A Quran centric position must also have the ability to defend and explain many of the verses of the Quran that are being misinterpreted by the traditionalist correctly (Insha’Allah I will post another thread explaining the verses that are taken out of context and mis-translated). If this cannot be done the discussion will also not go far as this might seem to be an equal stance to some, and an outside enquirer might also find the Quran not so creditable due to apparently conflicting messages.

I find no matter how hard the traditionalist tries, he/she is unable to bridge the verses together to make a logical explanation and leaves their position very weak.

At this point the argument is clearly on the side of the Quran centric position.

If the argument progresses, expect now to be asked about why the Quran lacks details of certain commands.

What needs to be made clear from this point is that, the Quran does not lack any details at all. It only lacks details from the relative point of whats been added or invented in the name of religion over the past 1400+ years or in others words from the lenses of a present day Islam which one needs to admit that over the span of time could of intentionally or unintentionally obscured its message with false prohibitions and legislations if not resorting to reassessing the source.

So again if anyone was to ask a question about why the Quran lacks details in certain commands or asks to point out in the Quran where it explains “how we should pray”, respond by saying that question is akin to asking the Quran to accept our ways instead of the other way around.

These questions are based on the assumption that humans are prohibited from using wisdom and intellect to perform certain duties and commands.

A believer should accept the Quran’s details as being enough to devise a plan to establish whatever is commanded.

If the prophet and the first believers were expected to put commands into practice and if for some reason or another they have been obscured or lost in time, then the following believers or new seekers would also be expected to do the same as the first especially with a protected Scripture from the Lord.

The prophet and the first believers had simple commands and they were expected to put them into practice. We would not doubt that they were mindful and took wisdom from the story in Surah Bakarah and would not of repeated the actions of the people of Moses when they were asked about performing a simple command. [2]


So if one inherits a concept/method/process/form of a command that does NOT befit the Quran’s teachings then one is advised to produce one. As it must of been accidentally or purposely lost in time which is not uncommon (19:59).


If an inherited concept/method/process/form is found satisfactory by the Quran I suggest to follow as there is no need to keep re-inventing a practice that is acceptable by the Quran especially when it is on-going, spread and performed by the masses which after all could possibly be faithfully and with good intent passed down by generation to generation leading to the first believing recipients or the prophet (pbut) which were the first to be instructed to establish the principles of the Quran. Secondly also because the Quran does advocate ties between believers(21:92) and also generally tells to congregate/gather together and consult between each other (94:102), (2:43), (42:38) . See related article below[3]


I would also make a note that instead of asking such questions and implicitly suggesting the Quran is lacking details despite its proclamation that its “explained in detail and a clear explanation of all things”, one should seek why the Quran left such aspects silent and might find that there maybe be signs in the Qurans intentional and deliberate succinct details.

[1] GOD HAS WARNED BELIEVERS TO ONLY FOLLOW THE QURAN
http://quransmessage.com/articles/god%20has%20warned%20believers%20to%20only%20follow%20the%20quran%20FM3.htm

THE QURAN STANDS ALONE AS SOLE RELIGIOUS GUIDANCE
http://quransmessage.com/articles/quran%20sole%20guidance%20FM3.htm


[2] A Simple Instruction Confounds Many - 'Establish Salaat'
https://www.facebook.com/joseph.a.islam/posts/487157614754704

[3]IS THE QURAN SIMPLY A REVELATION TO BE UNDERSTOOD AND APPLIED ON A PERSONAL LEVEL?
https://www.facebook.com/joseph.a.islam/posts/538289746308157

Offline Joseph Islam

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Re: Techniques Deployed Against the Quran-Centric Position by the Tradionalist
« Reply #4 on: November 11, 2018, 04:52:48 PM »
Dear brother Hamzeh,

As-salamu alaykum

Thank you for your post which is well argued and really appreciated.  :)
 
As you also quite rightly point out:

  • "What needs to be made clear from this point is that, the Quran does not lack any details at all. It only lacks details from the relative point of whats been added or invented in the name of religion over the past 1400+ years or in others words from the lenses of a present day Islam which one needs to admit that over the span of time could of intentionally or unintentionally obscured its message with false prohibitions and legislations if not resorting to reassessing the source."

I think the prescription of 'ablution' in the Quran also makes this point quite cogently. Here we have a religious ritual that has details unequivocally furnished by the Quran (4:43, 5:6). However, one finds that extra rituals are performed by the traditionalists 'as religious decree' which finds no explicit mention in the Quran such as the rinsing of one’s mouth, the nose cleanse, repeating the washing of the arms thrice etc.

From a Quran-centric position of course, there is no harm in performing these extra rituals as long as they are not considered 'compulsory' as part of religious divine decree. However, the traditionalist must resolve the question that if the Quran does not provide these extra details which the traditionalists accept as compulsory, then how do they square this with the verses where the Quran describes itself as ‘explained in detail’ (11:1) and an ‘explanation / clarification of everything ‘ in matters of religious guidance?

This is a matter they must resolve, cogently.


RELATED:

[1] HOW THE QURAN DESCRIBES ITSELF
http://quransmessage.com/articles/how%20the%20quran%20describes%20itself%20FM3.htm



'During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act' 
George Orwell

Offline Joseph Islam

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Please also kindly see:

Popular Arguments Made When the Ahadith Corpus is Criticised

http://quransmessage.com/forum/index.php?topic=2758.0
'During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act' 
George Orwell