Rippin, The Quran

Rippin, The Quran - Muslims :Their religious beliefs and...

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Unformatted text preview: Muslims :Their religious beliefs and practices Library of Religious Beliefs and Practices Series editors: John Hinnells and the late Ninian Smart This series provides pioneering and scholarly introductions to dif— ferent religions in a readable form. it is concerned with the beliefs and practices of religions in their social, cultural and historical setting. Authors come from a variety of backgrounds and approach the study of religious beliefs and practices from their different points of View. ' Sonic focus mainly on questions of history, teachings, customs and ritual practices. Others consider, within the context of a specific region, the interrelationships between religions; the interaction of reli- gion and the arts; religion and social organization; the involvement of religion in political affairs; and, for ancient cultures, the inter- pretation of archaeological evidence. In this way the series brings out the multidisciplinary nature of the study of religion. It is intended for students of religion, philosophy, social sciences and history, and for the interested lay person. third edition Andrew Rippin Other titles in the series include: Hindus Their Religious Beliefs and Practices Julius szner Mahayana Buddhism The Doctrinal Foundations Paul? Williams Religions of Oceania Tony Swain and Garry Trompf Theravada Buddhism A Social History from Ancient Benares to Modern Colombo Richard Gombrich Zoroastrians R I Their Religious Beliefs and Practices E DUt edge Taylor&Francis Group Mary Boyce {ONDON AND NEW YORK first published 1990 by Routledge Second edition published in 2001 by Routlcdge This edition published in 2065 by Roetledge 2 Park Square. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 ARN Simultaraeoosly pnblislred in the USA and Canada by Routledge 270 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016 Reprinted 2006. 2008 Randedge is an imprint of the Taylor 62 Francis Group, on infomta business © 1990, 2001, 2005 Andrew Rippin Typesot in Times by Florence Production Ltd, Stoodieigh, Devon Printed and bound Era Great Britain by the MPG Books Groep All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic. mechanicalor other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without pennission in writing fiom the publishers. For Beth British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloguing in Publication Data Rippin, Andrew, 1950— Musiims : their religious beliefs and practices/Andrew Rippin.w 3rd ed. p. cm. — (The library of religious beliefs and practices) Includes bibliographical references anti index. 1. Islam. 2. Muslims. 3. Islam — Doctrines. 4, Islam — Customs and practices. I. Title. IE. Series. BP161,2.R53 2005 297-dc22 2004023465 ISBN 978~0415w34882—9 (hbk) {SEN 97841411 5—34888—1 (pbk) 2 The Qur’an Islam as a religion focuses on its scripture, the Qur’an. Written in Arabic, the Qur’an is a short book which holds a special appeal for its listeners and readers. It is relatively easy to give a brief descrip- tion of the Qur’an in terms of the book as we have it before us today. Even the Qur’an’s contents are readily summarized, as long as one does not attempt to perceive a necessarily systematic theological posi— tion within it. But accounting for how, why and when the Qnr’an ” i came into being as a text and why it looks and sounds the way it does, is far more difficult. It will be beneficial to start with the easy tasks and then attempt the more difficult ones afterwards. The Quran as a book The Qur’an consists of 114 chapters, called Slims, arranged roughly in order of length from the longest (some twenty~two pages of Arabic text for Sam 2) through the shortest (only a single line for sfira 108). The major exception to this principle of ordering is the first chapter, called “The Opening,” al—fdtfha, which is essentially a prayer and is used as such in Muslim ritual. Each chapter is divided into verses, dyas, the total number amounting to somewhere between 6204 and 6236, differing according to various schemes of counting. These verse _' divisions do not always correspond to the sense of the text but are generally related to the rhyme structure of the individual Slims. .' Twenty-nine chapters are preceded by disconnected letters of the Arabic alphabet, some single letters (Q m qdf, sfira 50; N w nan, Slim 68) or up to five letters together. The significance of these so—called __; ' r '} . mysterious letters has eluded traditional Muslim and modern scholar- ' ship_alike_;.A_lso prefacing each chapter, with the exception of Sara 9, ' hasmald— the statement “In the name of God, the Mercifiil, 33th Compassionate7’- (a statement which also occurs at the beginning The Qur’a‘n 23 :3. of a letter which is cited in Qur’an 27/30). The text as it is generally _ found today indicates both the Arabic consonants and the vowels according to a standard system of notation, along with a variety of other marks connected to recitation practices and verse divisions. Early manuscripts of the Qur’an dating from the eighth and ninth centuries provide only the consonantal form of the Arabic, however. _ . ' Reading the Qur’an discloses a thematic preoccupation with three ' major topics: law, the previous prophets and the final judgement. The three combine to create what has been termed by some “a curious amalgam” of an assumption of biblical knowledge on the part of the ' reader with another element, which would appear to be some sort of native Arabian tradition.1 God as the central theme . Ruling over all of the Qur’an, and the reference point for all the developments of the themes, is the figure of God, Allah in Arabic. ' The all—mighty, allupowerful and all—merciful God has brought the world into being for the benefit of His creatures, has sent messages 7 -to- His creatures in the past to guide them in the way of living most befitting to them and to Him, has given them the law by which they should live — and which has reached its perfection and comple— tion in Islam w and will bring about the end of the world at a time known only to Him when all shall be judged strictly according to their deeds. The basic message is a familiar one in the Judaeo— Christian tradition. ' The Qur’an declares in sz’ira 20, verses 7m8, “Be loud in your speech, yet surely He knows the secrets and what is even more hidden. ..- God, there is no god except Him! His are the most beautiful names.” This emphasis on the uniqueness of God, that He is the only god who exists, is presented both in opposition to the Judaeo—Christian tradition and in opposition to the polytheist idolaters. ' The Jews say, “Ezra is God’s son”; the Christians say, “Christ is God’s son.” That is what they say with their mouths, conforming with the unbelievers before them. May God fight them off ! How they are perverted! They have taken their rabbis and monks -' as lords apart from God, and the Messiah, the son of Mary — and they were ordered to serve God alone; there is no god except Him. Glory be to Him, above what they may associate {with .- Him}! . (Qur’an 9/30—1) 24 Formative elements of classical Islam The Qur’dn 25 not just call or speak once but comes over and over again. Satan is not, however, a rival to God in a sense that wouid suggest a dual— istic system of deities; he is clearly a created being whose role mirrors the human experience of temptation. While the precise reference of the charge that Ezra is the son of God according to the Jews has never been made clear, the overali emphasis -' of the passage on the association of simple mortals aiongside God is obvious enough. As far as Jesus is concerned, there is a ciear denun- ciation of his divine sonship throughout the Qur’an, and, while he is called al-Masih, the Messiah (“the anointed one”), this is presented - " as his name oniy and not as an indication of his function or status. prophets 0f the Pa“ The figure of God in the Qur’an is evidently the same God who The? have set “P jinn 33 333033333 With (30d: W611 thOlIgh H3 Communicated to the prophets of the past. Qur’an 20/9—l4 states: created them! They have imputed sons and daughters to Him without any knowledge. Glory be to Him! Exalted is He over whatever they describe! The creator of heaven and earth — how can He have a son while He has no consort, and He created every- thing and He has knowiedge of everything? That then is God, your Lord; there is no god except Him, the Creator of everything. 30 serve Him for He is trustee over everything. - (Qur’an 6/l00w2) Has Moses’ story ever reached you? When he saw a fire, and _. : told his family, “Wait here; I have glimpsed a fire. Perhaps I can .' .- bring you a brand from it, or I shall find some guidance at the ' ' -- fire.” When he came to it, {a voice] called out: “Moses, 1 am your - Lord! Take off your sandals; you are in the sacred valley, Iowa. I Myself have chosen you, so iisten to this revelation. indeed I am God! There is no god except Me; therefore serve Me and 5- perform the prayer of My remembrance.” The reference to the jinn, or the “genies” of the Arabian Nights, is mentioned here in such a way as to object to their being considered— as divine powers of any sort (as apparently the polytheists thought), but their existence is quite obviously accepted. Along with the angels and humanity, thejinn are seen as part of creation but existing in a dif— ferent dimension. The creation of humanity fi'orn ciay (Qur’an 15/26, 55/ 14) is paralleled by the creation of the jinn from fire (Qur’z'in 15/27, 55/15). The belief that the angels were created from light is a strong tradition in islam but it is not actuaily mentioned in the Qur’“5‘an.2 Overall, each part of creation has its own sphere and its own specific duties in its relationship to God. The figure of Satan (known in Arabic as Shayth and Iblis) also enters here, sometimes described as one of the jinn but also pictured as the fallen angel. Among his many roles, Satan is the one who, in Queen 7/20 and 20/120, tempts Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and in Qur’an 114/46, he is portrayed as the evil whisperer who insinuates himself into the hearts of men. In general, Satan is seen as responsible for a number of specific and more generat sins related to actions which take people away from God. The force of evil, presented as the personified entity of Satan (or as a collection of “devils,” shaydfln}, always insinuates its way into human existence. The powerlessness of the individual before Satan’s insistence as conveyed throughout the Qur’an is illustrated by the use of the word waswas meaning “Whisper,” a word formed through repetition and representative of the notion that Satan does This passage illustrates nicely the Quranic approach to previous reve- lation. The story itself is familiar from the Hebrew Bible (Exodus 3) but is presented here shorn of the extensive narrative element which seems so essential to the Judaeo~Christian way of understanding scrip— ture. in contrast, the Qur’an simply presents a summary of the story and gets directly to the religio—morai point, each aspect of which is, in fact, central to the Islamic message. In this case, clearly, the empha~ sis is upon the oneness of God, but it is also on the institution of prayer and the instruction of obedience to God as the essential element of faith. To understand such passages fully in terms of a coherent overall narrative it is frequently necessary to place the Quranic accounts into the framework of the bibiical tradition. This fact empha— sizes the need to consider an area far broader than central Arabia when thinking of the original context of the message of lsiam. Other than Muhammad, twenty—eight figures are named in the Qur’an as having been commissioned or selected by God to spread the message of the true way of obedience to Him. Only a limited number of these figures were given scriptures of some sort to share with the community. Abraham, Moses, David and Jesus are specifi» .cally cited in this regard. Not all of the messengers are familiar from the biblical tradition (or, at least, their identification with personages of the past is less than clear): Hud, satin, Shu‘ayb and Luqman are generally treated as prophets of the specifically Arabian context prior l was. a'- totally separate character. The reading of Ishmael as the - 26 Formative elements of classical Islam 17:6 Qur’dn 27 {biblicai account to reflect well on their own heritage traced through " saac; the Jews had done this rather than enhance the status of the -..Arabs and their descent through Ishmael (as related in the Bible, :_ although that genealogy is nowhere echoed in the Qur’an). Regardless, ._-the story provides another illustration of the approach of the Qur’an lto'biblical narratives Qur’én 37/1029 states: to Muhanunad. Dhfi’l—Qarnayn is identified as Alexander the Great according to the legends which have gathered around the name. Dhfi’l-Kifi, the “lord of the portion” (mentioned in Qur’an 21/85 and 38/48), is variously and very uncertainly identified as Obadiah of 5 I Kings, Ezekiel or Elijah, but is often left as ‘finiknown” from the perspective of history. The stories of these prophets are recounted frequently in stereo- typed passages, reflecting the general Islamic message. The prophet is commissioned by God, the prophet confronts his people, the people reject him and the people are, as a result, destroyed, and the prophet and any persons faithful to his message are saved by the mercy of ' God. A Sam such as the eleventh, entitled “Had,” is typical in its presentation of these stories. Here we find, joined together in nar— ratives always similar in structure and even in wording in some - instances, accounts of Noah, Hud, Salih, Abraham, Lot, Shn‘ayb and Moses. The moral is atways the same. God will triumph over the . unbelievers and His message will always remain in the world in one ' form or another. A few other prophets have their stories told in more expansive form. The story of Joseph, recounted in Sam 12 and one of the most cohesive narratives found in the Qur’an, is presented in .; quite an extended manner and in parts is even more elaborate than _ the biblical account. This elaboration indicates that the Qur’an is not simply a retelling of the biblical stories but a reflection of the poputar - form of the prophet stories in the Near Eastern milieu of the seventh _ century. Elements in the Quranic versions of these stories are some— ' tirnes found in works such as the Jewish Talmud or Midrash, for '_ example. Thus, the context within which the Qur’an must be read is : far more than the framework provided by the text of the Bible aione; rather, the living tradition of Judaism and Christianity, and all the - other faiths and folklore of the area are reflected in the Qur’an and _ provide the necessary background for its comprehension. The famous story from Genesis 22 concerning the sacrifice of the son of Abraham is also retold in the Qur’an, but the son is not iden— - tified by name and his identity becarne, for a time, subject to great debate in Islam.3 The context of the Quranic passage would seem to suggest that Ishmael was the one who was sacrificed, since after the _- -, discussion of the sacrifice in the Qur’an (Slim 37, verses 102m9) the passage goes on in verse 112 to say, “then We gave him the good - tidings of Isaac, a prophet, one of the righteous,” suggesting that this - and when {the son} had reached the age of running with him, he said, “My son, I saw in a dream that I will sacrifice you. Consider, what do you think?” He said, “My father, do as you are ordered; you will find me, God willing, one of the steadfast.” When they had surrendered and he flung him down on his brow, We called out to him, “Abraham, you have confirmed the vision! Thus We reward the goodwdoers. This is a manifest tria .” We ransomed _ him by means of a mighty sacrifice and left for him among the " - later people, “Peace be upon Abraham!” ' Compacted here into a few lines is a chapter of the Bible which has __ ften been cited as one that was well crafted for dramatic impact and “for its use of narrative tension in having the young Isaac travelling o- the sacrifice not knowing the fate in store for him. The Qur’an, owever, removes the drama but saves the message, the supreme faith f-both Abraham and his son. This faithful attitude on the part of - Isaac is also emphasized in the development of the tradition in Jewish ' nd subsequently Christian circles, iii-which Abraham’s son becomes the prefigurement of Jesus in his willing self-sacrifice. Also signifin cant in the Quranic story is the emphasis on the fact that Abraham nd his son “surrendered,” in Arabic asl’ama, essentially “became Z'Muslims”; even here then (or, perhaps, especially'here), the story is old with Muslim understanding and insights. Jesus Simitar observations may be made concerning the story of Jesus which, while it is found scattered throughout the Queen rather than in one . cohesive narrative, presents a picture that has often been seen to reflect - varying tendencies within Christianity — Gnostic, Monophysite and Nestorian.“ Born of the Virgin Mary (Qur’an l9/16~34), Jesus spoke This first miracle from the cradle.5 His task on earth was to provide the Felear proofs” or “explanations” (Qur’an 2/253 and elsewhere) and his -. mission was punctuated by miracles as in Qur’an 3/49: healing, loiowing secrets and fashioning birds out of clay into which he breathed ' ;-__intended victim gained further standing through the later ideology of . gthe .Musiim community which argued that the Jews had changed the 3 28 Formative elements of classical Islam life, the latter being a» story known from the Christian apocryphal Infancy Gospel of Thomas- The crucifix—ion of Jesus, spoken of in Qur’an 4/157—8, has created the greatest amount of interest, with a view to its possible reflection of sectarian Christian disputes: “{The lows] neither killed nor crucified him, only a likeness of that was shown to them. . . . God lifted him up to Himself.” The notion that Jesus did not “really” die on the cross has been seen as a continuation of Christian discussions over the nature of Jesus — divine and/or human. Once again, however, the Qur’an would seem to reflect a strange amalgam: on the one hand supporting the argument for the truly divine nature of Jesus and thus denying the reality of his death, while on the other hand denying that Jesus was anything other than a human being. The message of the judgement day All of these prophets, and many additional figures who are not mentioned by name in the Qur’an but who are said to have been sent (as Qur’an 10/47 states: “Every nation has its messenger”), brought the same message of the coming judgement for those who do not repent and follow the law of God. Qur’an 19/59w61 states: There followed after them [the prophets] a succession who neglected prayer and followed passions. So they shall meet error except for anyone who repeats and believes and acts righteously; those — they will enter paradise and they will not be wronged in any way; the gardens of Eden which the Mercy-giving has promised His servants in the unseen. The message is a simple one. All people shall die at their appointed time and then, at a point known only to God, the resurrection shall take place, at which point each person shall be judged according to the deeds they have performed on earth. “The agony of death will come in truth; that is what you have been trying to escape! The trumpet shall be blown: that is the day of the threat!” states Qur’an 50/19—20, making reference to the eschatological trumpet, one of many Qnranic elements familiar also from the visions of John recorded in the Book of Revelation. The scene of the judgement is painted in graphic style. For each person, a book of deeds shall be brought forth, bearing witness to his or her good or evil state (Qur’an :83);-the image of the balance and the weighing of deeds is also 5 ' '- employed (Qur’an 21/47). The judgement shall determine the ultimate The Qur’dn 29 fate of the individual, be that either the bliss of paradise in the gardens 'or the burning torment of hell. Both of these places are depicted in ,vivid terms quite frequently in the Qur’an, as for example in 312%: 55 where the “flare of sparks and fire” and the “seething bath” of hell _.are contrasted to the “two gardens” of paradise which have “every kind of fruit, flowing springs” and exotic rewards for the righteous. The fate of the individual is described as being in the hands of God but also as up to the individual. God as the allnpowerful creator can control His world fully but humanity must accept responsibility for its own actions. The tension which such statements create proved to be a major topic for theological speculation in Islam. Be that as it may, the Qur’an is clear that each individual is expected to follow _- the law which God has sat down in His scripture, if there is to be ,any hope of entry into paradise in the hereafter. People are capable flof sin, that being defined as an “error” in parting from the ways of ';. God. As was explained earlier, the figure of Satan is introduced to explain the presence of this potential for evil in the world. iThe path to paradise ZQur’dn 4/ 136 proclaims: 0 you who believe, believe in God and His messenger, and the book which He has sent down on His messenger as well as the book which He sent down previously. Anyone who disbelieves __ . in God and His angels, His books, His messengers and the last ' day has surely gone astray. Here is a veritable creedal statement, bringing together all the ;3 elements considered essential for reaping the final reward in paradise. One must believe in the truth and the contents of the scripture, and .what is the evidence of belief in it, if it is not putting the words into action? The previously quoted Qur’an l9/60 emphasizes the reward _ “for anyone who repents and believes and acts righteonsly.” Fulfilling '. the law of God e “acting righteously” m is a prerequisite for an indi- vidual to achieve salvation. The law, as proclaimed in the Qur’an, is reminiscent of the Jewish law in matters such as its continuation of the prohibition of pork and the institution of ritual slaughter (cg. gQur’En 2/173, 5/ lw—3), some purity regulations (especially as regards women, Qur’an 2/222, and within a ritual situation, Qur’an 4/43, 5/6) and the emphasis on the regulation of marriage (eg. Qur’an 4/23), divorce (e.g. Qur’an 4/1942) and inheritance (eg. Qur’dn 4/6-12). 30 Formative elements of classical Islam Clearly, Islam sides with Judaism against Christianity in its position '- on the role of the law as the appropriate implementation of faith, a law given by God as a gift to humanity to provide guidance in living _ the proper, fully human life. As well, various emblems of Islam are '. mentioned in the Qur’an, but often only in an unelaborated form. The pilgrimage (cg. Qur’an $196400), the month of fasting (cg. Qur’an . 2/i 83—47), the institution of prayer (e.g. Qur’an 2/142—52, 2/238m9) and the idea of charity (e.g. Qur’an 9/53—60) are all dealt with to varying degrees. Regardless of the somewhat vague nature of some - of the descriptions of these activities within the Qur’an (as compared '. to their elaborate formulation in other Muslim sources, a topic dealt ' with in more detail in Chapter 7), it is clear that they are conceived as a compulsory part of Muslim life. A dichotomy of forbidden (hardm) and permitted (ha/til) perme— ' ates the Qur’an and provides an element of the foundation for Islamic ethics. With these words the ethical aspects of the world—view of the ' Qur’an come into play, providing insights into the understanding of . the relationship between the sacred and the profane, of God’s will for human existence, and of the moral categories by which people will be judged eligible or not for the hereafter in paradise. The word harder has a complex meaning structure in that the word - mirrors a broader pattern known in many religious world-Views that brings together the basic sense of to “sanctify” with the meaning of “forbid.” The connotation of “sanctity” arises especially in relation" ship to sacred space. God is involved in establishing and maintaining the holy house (aiwbayt al—hardm) in Qur’an 5/97, a secure sanctuary (hardm amin) in Qur’an 28/57 and 29/67, sacred territory in Qur’an 27/91, and, most of all, the sanctified mosque, al~masjid al—hardm, . invoked on fifteen occasions and understood to be the Ka‘ba in Mecca (see e.g. Qur’an 2/144—50). The notion of the purity of these sancti— fied places becomes apparent when al—masjid aluhardm is spoken of in Qur‘an 9/28: “The idolaters are indeed unclean {najas] so let them not come near the sanctified mosque after this year of theirs.” Notions of the security of the sanctified place are also strong and are linked to its inviolability (see Qur’an 2/ 191, 28/57, 29/67 and 48/27). Time is also sanctified in the Qur’an in the notion of the “holy month,” al—s/m/zr al—liardm in Qur’an 5/2, 5/97, 9/5 and 986—7. The latter verses are especially noteworthy: The month postponed [referring to the practice of calendar intercalculation] is an increase in unbelief whereby the un— believers go astray; one year they make it profane Whirl/tine} The Qur’dn 31 and hallow it another [yuharrimflna] to agree with the number God has hallowed {harroma} and so profane Uuhillu] what God has hallowed [barrel/no}. Finally, Muslims undertaking the pilgrimage (hay) enter a state of sanctity (harem) by the process of ibrdm (Qur’an 5/95), with an emphasis on avoiding hunting. Harem in all of these passages, then, indicates something directly I' connected to God and something that God dictates to, or appoints for, humanity. Respecting these restrictions is the mark of the believer. Further, things which are hardm are free from impurity, at least in a physical sense. What is harem is secure and inviolable and violation will bring retribution, either wilfully given on the part of a believer who has committed a violation or extracted by some other means from the guilty unbeliever. .: It is clear that passages in which hardm has the sense of “sanctity” _. do not imply that the places or times are in any sense to be avoided; 2} however, in other passages, there is a clear indication of matters being forbidden and thus they are to be avoided when they are designated by - the word harem. The food laws figure prominently in this regard, as in Qatar; 6/1 19: “How is it with you that you do not eat that over which God’s name has been mentioned, seeing that he has distinguished for ._ on that which he has forbidden you [barrama ‘alaykum] unless you gate constrained to it.” Meat which has not been properly slaughtered is declared harem because it is against God’s will to slaughter animals improperly. The flesh of the pig is declared harem because it is njs, '~<‘, an “abomination”; eating of carrion, consuming blood and dedicating laughtered animals to deities other than God are also declared harem n Qur’in 2/ 172—3 and 5/3, as are improper modes of slaughter (also It Qunan 5/3) and corrupt things (Qur’an 7/ l 57). . sum then, that which is harem is always declared so by God Ins-alone. Things which are harem are to be seen as simply against the will of God, or are things alienated from God, or are things connected I to the sin of pagan practice. The word Era/(El, on the other hand, con- .; 'veys the opposite of both senses of the word bardm: that is, halal can mean “profane” (in opposition to the sense of bardm’s “sanctity? as _. well as “permitted” (as opposed to hardm’s “forbidden”). As with "harem in the sense of “sanctity,” Eta/til can suggest a special role' " ionship with God which marks its opposite off as separate. The pre— dominate meaning of the word, however, is the assertion of the lawful haracter of something, or, when expressed with the negative particle not,” the equivalent of harem in the sense of “forbidden.” The Qur’dn 33 foster mothers and your foster sisters, your mothersuin-law and __ stepwdaughters who are under your guardianship being born of - your wives with whom you have consummated marriage (how- ever, if you have not consummated it with them, there is no fault on you) and the wives of your sons who are your own fleshuandu blood; nor may you take two sisters together unless this is a thing of the past. God is Allnforgiving, All-merciful. 32 Formative elements of classical Islam Halo! is employed as a legal category on seven occasions in a nega- tive expression meaning “to be unlawfu ” in reference to women, marriage and divorce; these instances appear to be specific situations _-; in which the general permissibility of an action or circumstance is '3 contravened, perhaps even with the sense that this is temporary, as .2. in Qur’an 2/230: “lf he divorces her finally, she shall not be lawful ._ [Id tuhillu} to him after that until she marries another husband.” Halal declares things permitted, especially types of food, as in Qur’an 5/5: .- “The food of those who were given the book is permitted to you.” Hold! is also employed in a sense which is opposite to that of harem 5 in its meaning of “sanctify.” One way to understand the word halal ' in these instances is that it means “ceasing ritual avoidance behav- ' iour.” Halo“! is used to indicate leaving pilgrim sanctity (i.e. leaving 3 thrdm) in Qur’an 5/2, and, in the same verse, pilgrims are ordered : “not to profane God’s wayrnarlrs or the holy months.” As noted _' earlier, the idea that the sanctified months could be altered comes in for criticism in Qur’an 9/37 in which it is declared to make a month '3 which is supposed to be sanctified (border) into one which is halal, thus making an inviolable‘ month (in the sense that no fighting should -' take place in it) into one which can be violated. :2 Much of this basic moral attitude reflected in the terminology of ', “forbidden” and “permitted” corresponds to that found in Near -- Eastern religion in general and in the Bible especially. Such paral— lels are sometimes seen to go further. A comparison is sometimes - drawn between the biblical “ten commandments” and slim l'l', verses _' 22—39. Certainly the moral aim of many of the statements is similar ' belief in only one God, showing respect to parents, not committing ' adultery and so forth. In terms of its narrative structure, however, the 5 law is quite clearly not presented in the same way in the Qur’an as . it is in the Bible. In no sense is this passage a pivotal or focal point '. of the text, nor is it portrayed in Muslim tradition as central within the context of Muhanunad’s career. Thus, the passage does not stand parallel to the traditional understanding of the “ten commandments” ' in relationship to Moses and the Bible. Rather, the law in the Qur’an :3 is an integral part of the text with nothing to mark it off from the rest of the word of God. This presentation of the law does not preclude it being stipulated in great detail in numerous places, however, just as in the Bible: (Qur’an 4/23) _'-f- The Qur’an speaks also of the law as it was revealed to the previ— ous communities. Both the Torah of Moses and the Gospel of Jesus _ are specifically cited as previous revelations.5 The Qur’an is seen as leerifinning both scriptures and as acting as a resolver of disputes between them: “We sent down to you the Remembrance [i.e. the -:;-Qll1"§n] so you may make clear to people what was sent down to = them, so perhaps they may reflect” (Qur’an 16/44). But the Qur’an also serves a correcting function, according to Muslim understand rig, because humans have misinterpreted and tampered with the _ earlier revelations, infusing the word of God with human perversions " '(see Qur’an 5/48). The Qur’an provides a clear and perfect version of the will of God, the correct rendition of revelation. character of the Qur’an A‘ summary of the contents of the Qur’an, such as that just provided, while necessarily incomplete, glosses over an important point about the composition of the book itself w its apparent random character and seeming arbitrary sense of organization which immediately '-'- strikes most first—time readers.7 This unique composition is illustrated thy-examining the contents of any of the longer Slims, which are .__clearly a composite of many different themes and strata of thought. jjStlm 2, for example, the longest in the Qur’an, presents a startling --p_i_ct_ure when looked at in outline: _- - Verses Topic -'_Ig -l—29 Faith and disbelief . _ _'30—9 Creation, Adam, Satan '- 40—86 Biblical history m Moses 87—103 Biblical history — Jews, Jesus, Moses " 104431 Polemic — Muslim, Jewish, Christian 12241 Biblical history — Abraham Forbidden to you {in marriage} are your mothers, your daughters, _ your sisters, your aunts on your father’s side and on your mother’s side, your brother’s and your sister’s daughters, your - 34 Formative elements of classical Islam The Qurfin 35 l42w6’7 Islamic identity (direction of prayer, prayer itself, pilgrimage) 168—203 Juridical problems (food, wills, fast, pilgrimage, etc.) I 204—14 Salvation history 215—42 Juridical problems Uihdd, marriage, divorce, etc.) 24363 Salvation history 254w60 Mixed topics . 261—83 luridical problems (charity, usury) 284% Faith of Muhammad, is generally credited with an early collection of the scripture and the pages of the text are said to have been entrusted to r._H_afsa, one of Muhammad’s wives. Under the instructions of‘litlrnnan, the third ruler of the empire after the death of Muhammad, the major collection of the text “as we now have it” (as the Muslim claims fstate) is said to have taken place. Working on the basis of pieces of xt written “on palm leaves or flat stones or in the hearts of men,” the complete text {deemed to have survived in full) was written out "in-full and distributed to the major centres of the early empire. Thus, --_within thirty years of the death of Muhammad, it is understood that the Qur’an existed in its fixed, if skeletal form; theologically, it is [held that the form that the text was in at this point was an image of the “heavenly tablet,” suggesting that its structure and content were "precisely that which God desired for it-” From this skeleton text, " hich indicated only the consonants of the Arabic script in a rudi— '--'mentary form, the final text of the Qur’an was developed over the ext two centuries, such that all the subtleties of the language and the script were indicated. Most important from the Muslim perspec~ live, it is held that an oral tradition preserved the full text from the me of its revelation, the written form serving only as a mnemonic evice for memorization of the text. There are, in a sense, two ways f dealing with the Qur’an within Muslim tradition: the oral, the tradi- -.ti_on' about which stems from Muharmnad, and the written, the "tradition stemming from the caliph cUthrnan. Such a brief outline does not do justice to the complexity‘of the thematic structure of the Sam by any means,8 but, even so, it does provide some material for provoking thought. How did the Qnrian come to look the way it does, with the subject matter Within indivld-. ual chapters jumping from one topic to the next, With duplications and apparent inconsistencies in grammar, law and theology abounde ing? Despite these apparent surface disruptlons, some scholars have found a structural coherence to these compositions, noting liturgical patterning and signs of Comprehensible internal development still reflected in the structure of the saints? To the source critic, however, the work displays all the tendencies of rushed editing with only the ._3 most superficial concern for the content, the editors/compilers appar- _ ently engaged only in establishing a fixed text of scripture. Within . this perspective, a logical historical point for the emergence of this _, fixed text is provided by the rise of the Qur’an to a status of absolute: authority in matters of law and theology (as opposed to the authority 3 of tradition, of the caliph or of reason, as we shall see later in this book). Creating a stable text of scripture, canoniaing the various elements into a whole, may be seen as going handnin-hand With the 3: text being confirmed as the major source of legal and theological authority for the Muslim community. he evidence of the manuscripts “hr-1972, a treasure trove of ancient manuscripts of the Qur’an fiwas discovered in the Great Mosque of Sana’a during renovations. In g_-‘l_979, a German team of scholars started working through some 312,000 fragments of parchment and paper, some of which (twenty- 5 two groups of fragments) have been dated to the eighth century ._ rimarily on the basis of their use of the early Arabic script known '3 as the Hijdzi style.11 This discovery has excited at good deal of schol- _'arly and popular interest. The existence of early copies of the text of :-'-._the' Qnr’an might well be thought to help answer some of the riddles ':'_ab_out its composition. So far, however, that has not been the case rid only very tentative conclusions have been put forth. if Certainly, the existence of manuscripts of the Qur’an indicates that the text (or, at the very least, substantial parts of it) existed in some sort of collected form by the eighth century. That, of course, does .- not tell us anything about the status of the text itself within a Muslim accounts of the collection of the text The Muslim community itself has, of course, an explanation for why- the Qur’fin looks the way it does, but the contradictory nature of the - accounts with‘n the multiplicity of versions of the story has raised grave doubts on the part of many scholars as to their motivation. .. Generally, Muhammad himself is excluded from any role in the col— - lection of the text, although it is possible to find some accounts which {talk-of him going over the whole text with ‘Ali, his cousin, son-ink nd-gfigurehead of the later Shi‘a. Zayd ibn Thabit, a companion The Qur’dn 37 having a tong “a”) with the unexplained exception of spelling these o; passages in Sam 21 which were read as if the long “a” was present. This may well have occurred because somebody was working lithe basis of the written text in the absence of a parallel oral tradi~ tion' which would have maintained the “proper” reading of “Say!” if had existed. his fair to say, then, that the manuscript tradition may have a __1gn_iiicant impact upon our understanding of the early history of the toxti of the Qur’an. The study of these manuscripts is still in its infancy, however, and the impact of these texts has yet really to be felt. 36 Formative elements ofclassieal Islam community of believers. Some discrepancies in the order to the Slims"; as they are found in a few manuscripts may indicate some variability " in the overall form of the text. More interesting, though, is the fact? that the text contains variant readings of a minor nature that suggestgf to some scholars that the idea of an oral tradition running parallel t ._ the written one cannot be given historical credence. What we may-'5 have evidence of is the interpretative nature of the detailed annota- tions that were added to the text later: that is, that the current text is: the product of reflection upon a primitive written text and not upon" the parallel transmission of an oral text as the Muslim tradition has " suggested. Examples can be provided, on the evidence of the early manu—-- scripts, of instances in which words, because of the way they were written in the primitive script of the time, were likely mispronounced as a result of a misunderstanding of the script and in the absence of - a firm oral tradition. Examples include the name Ibrahim, more easily? and better understood in a version closer to the Hebrew, Abraham; and Shaytan, once again closer to the Hebrew if read Saran. Both of these developed readings depend upon the misunderstanding of the: early writing of the long “a” sound in the middle of the word.12 A different but somewhat complex example may help to indicatef what is at stake here. The very last verse (112) of 311m 21 starts “He said (gala), ‘My Lord, judge according to the truth. Our Lord is" the All—mercifiil’.” The reference to “My Lord” and “Our Lord” in 5 the text indicates that the subject of “He said” cannot be God but"; must be the reciter of the Qur’an, in the first place understood to be. Muhammad. Such a passage would then fall into a common form of Quranic speech found in passages normally prefaced by the impera—. tive word “Say!” (qul). In the text of the Qur’an as we now have it,- the word here translated as “He said” is, in fact, more easily read as (and is written as) “Sayl” due to the absence of the long “a” marker (something which commonly happens in the Qur’an with other words, to be sure, but the word qdla is spelled this way only twice in the established text of scripture — here in Qur’an 21/l12 and in Qur’an 21/4, according to some but not all traditions of the writing of the- text). in the early Sana’a manuscripts, the absence of the long “a” in the word grille is a marker of an entire set of early texts. But why should it be that this particular passage is read as “He said”? It really should read “Say!” to be parallel to the rest of the text of the Qur’fin and to fit in its own context. It would appear that in the process of editing the text, most passages where this word was found were understood as “Sayl” in both interpretation and writing (and thus not The-{authority of the Qur’an The value and the point of the stories about the collection of the Qur’dn effstili under debate among scholars but, whatever the case, one remains quite clear. The Qur’an is, and has been from the ginning of the emergence of Islam as a firmly established religion, the'fprimary point to which reference must always be made in order {define something as “Islamic.” The Qur’an is the defining point Off}. Islamic identity. The emergence of the Muslim community is intimately connected with the emergence of the Qur’an as an auth— oritative text in making decisions on matters of law and theology. What research has revealed is that scripture’s status and authority were debated in early times, especially between the various religious bommunities of the Near East and also within the newly emerging lSlamic community itself. Elements of the process by which the Qur’an emerged as the authoritative source, side~by~side with the emergence ofthe community of lslam itself, can be traced in the writing of variOus texts of Quranic interpretation in the early centuries of Islam,13 in early works of law, and in several documents of interreligious polemic. The ultimate enshrinement of the text of the Qur’an as we now know it, understood to be literally the word of God, miraculous, inimitable, linked to an illiterate prophet, and thereby having its authority within __e_-.cornmunity, was the result of two to three centuries of vigorous debate as reflected in these texts. Supporting the status of the authority of the Qur’an are a number oftheological dogmas connected directly to the book by which insti~ tutionalized islam was able to argue for the Qur’an as the prime source in;-._-.law and theology. These dogmas have as their end result the skirting of issues connected to the construction of the text. They do by seeing the very shape of the book as evidence of the divine hand at work. But it is on this point that early poiernical texts reveal 38 Formative elements of classical Islam The Qur’dn 39 ._ polemic against Islam - that Muhammad’s religion was spread by '-'-the sword — is combined here with the demand for proof of a miracle. ._ Anticipating the Muslim response that the Qur‘an was that evidence, :'_al»l(indi continues: a great deal of discussion, and early islarnic exegetical texts dealing with the Qur’an indicate that the argument concerning the form of:- the text as evidence of divine authorship took at least three centuries I to reach its fully developed formulation. The result of all of this [process by which the Qur’an came into being] is patent to you who have read the scriptures and see how, .- in your book, histories are all jumbled together and intermingled; ._ ' an evidence that many different hands have been at work therein, . ' and caused discrepancies, adding or cutting out whatever they - liked or disliked. Are such, now, the conditions of a revelation sent down from heaven?14 The Qur’an as the proof of Islam It would appear that, early on, Muslims had to defend their nascent religion against Christian theological attack in the area of the Fertile -' Crescent, especially Iraq. The following argument was constructed miracles prove the status of prophethood and the Qur’an is Muham mad’s miracle; therefore, Muhammad was truly a prophet and Islam is a true, revealed religion. All participants in the debate appear-3 to have agreed on the first premise. What Muslims had to prove and Christians disprove, was the validity of the second, for the con- :- clusion, the truth of Islam, stood or fell on its credibility. Over:- time, the argument became one concerned to prove the “inimitability” " of the Qur’fin, an argument which, its proponents were quick to poin out, had a basis in the Qufian itself, although whether that was clear, before the demands of the argument were put upon those verses” is not entirely obvious. Known as the “challenge versos,” the pro duction of a text “like” the Qur’an is encouraged but known to be. impossible: “Produce a sure like it [i.e. the Qur’an], and call on whom-f you can, besides God, if you speak truthfully” (Qur’an 10/38); “Well. .; then bring ten chapters the like of it, forged!” (Qur’an 11/13). God ; has given the Qur’an to Muhamad and because of its divine origin, no text “like” it can, in fact, he produced. The inimitability of the text proves its divine authorship and thus its status as a miracle, : confirming Muhammad’s role and the veracity of Islam. Polemical texts from some 150—200 years after Muhammad indi cate the sorts of discussions that were going on; the existence of the".- arguments indicates that there were no clearly formulated Muslim answers to these concerns at the time. That suggests that the Qur’an as a fixed text of scripture was still in the process of finding support -} for its authority within the community; indeed, it took at least 100 Q more years before the full enunciatiou of the doctrine of inimitability ." could respond cohesiver to such challenges. The Christian al-Kindi, who wrote a text around the year 830, starts off by demanding the” following: “Show me any proof or Sign of a wonderful work done I; by your master Muhammad, to certify his mission, and to prove what he did in slaughter and rapine was, like the other, by Divine command.” The isolation of one of the central elements of Christian The literary state of the Qur’an is used against the Muslims by al—Kindi as proof of its non~divine origin. The doctrine of inimitability The Muslim response to these charges did not reach its full defen— "sive literary expression until towards the end of the tenth century the hands of the theologian/grammarian aluRummani (d. 996) who argued for the ijc’iz, “inimitability,” of the Qur’an on the basis _-primarily of its literary qualities, especially its easily quantifiable merits such as its concision.15 At one point in his argument, al— _ Rummani cites a popular Arab saying, suggests that its meaning is close to a Quranic statement but then points out that the Qur’an "Texpresses the same sentiment (and even more, he claims) in a fewer 3' number of letters. Furthermore, what to polemical writers of earlier centuries were faults within the Qur’an — evidence of its human production and thus non-miraculous status w become for al—Rummani _ positive elements within the book, Ellipses within the text, for example, were considered positive rhetorical devices rather than evidence of rushed or careless writing. Much of this sort of argu— ii'rnentation became tied to an understanding of the nature of the Arabic .. language, a language full of rhetorical potential of which, naturally, the Qur’an must take full advantage. The Qur’an, according to its own 3' statements (Qur’fin 12/2, 26/ l92—5) was revealed by God “in a clear Arabic tongue” and, the argument is made, it must partake in all the features of that language. This sort of argument is difficult, if not impossible, to evaluate, due to the lack of contemporaneous prom fane literature by which the rhetorical accomplishment of the Qur’an __can actually be assessed. The argument remains a dogmatic one, 40 F emotive elements ofciassicai Islam T he Qur’dn 41 including lexicographical and more narrowly “Masoretic” issues. Another tendency is seen in the work of Abu ‘Ubayda (who died in 824) called Majciz al—Qur’dn, which focuses on literary figures and expressions. it presents a listing of types of “problematic” verses in the Qur’an and their explanation: items such as ellipses due to omis» sion, grammatical numerical discord (cg. plural verbs with singular subjects), and variation in the treatment of the gender of nouns are all recorded. This cataloguing of difficulties in the Qur’an is also found in other works treating the vocabulary of the text itself as well as the text’s stylistic features and variant readings. With the emergence of the doctrine of inimitability, the attitude towards these sorts of elements changed, as has already been suggested. More major works of interpretation of the Qur’an emerged in the ninth century, and they aimed to clarify the text in the tight of contemporary under? Israndings and conditions. Not only was this the result of the maturation of the Muslim community and a consolidation of opinion about the scripture, but it was also the result of practical pressures. As the Islamic community expanded, it incorporated a large number of people who did not know Arabic and who were not fully acquainted with the biblical tradition, which, as was pointed out earlier, seems to'be an assumed basis for understanding the Quranic text. The first landmark of what became a vast library of books providing com- prehensive interpretations of the Qur’an, was written by Abu Ja‘far al-Tabari who died in 923.18 A verse—by—verse analysis provides a detailed discussion of every major interpretational trend (except Sectarian tendencies, for example, Shi‘i); every idea is documented by the transmission of the opinions said to derive from Muhammad or-his closest companions, who are pictured as having the best information regarding the understanding of the text. It also becomes clear that grammar atong with theological perspective become the main guiding tools for constructing a mature exegesis of the Qur’an. Grammar served to assert the scholar’s status and authority within the whole discipline of tafsir, such that the ability to pursue the minu— tiae of Arabic constructions became a focal point of argumentation over how a meaning of the text could be derived. Theology tended to play a lesser role, usually subsumed under grammatical or legal wrangling. While a brief quotation cannot do justice to the complexities of a1» Tabari’s text, the following short section gives some indication of his own bases for reasoning, although we do not here see his constant reference to reports from Muhammad and his companions which provide the material basis to many discussions and variations in essential to the proof of the status of the text, but one which oper-- ates (like many other religious arguments) within the presuppositions of Islam alone. '- _ Interpretation of the Qur’an In fact, Muslims, in the two centuries for which there is some literary evidence before aiuRurnmani, appear to have had siightly different: feelings about their scripture. They appear to have been more concerned with cataloguing the peculiarities of the text itself and facing the practical job of understanding the text, rather than worrying about defending its intricacies. Therefore,-the more general problem- of interpretation, and hand—in—hand with that, the consolidation of its- authority through clear enunciation of its meaning, were of far greater concern. The text of the Qur’an presents many ambiguities, difficuit words- whose precise readings are uncertain, problems of textuai division, and apparently incompatible statements. With the text’s rise to the status of authority, or perhaps parallel to it and stimulating that very rise to authority, there emerged the discipline of interpretation, known as tafstr or, in a more general sense, the Quranic sciences called ‘ulfim o.l’~Qur>drz.16 Fundamentally, a work of rafrfr provides an interpretation of the Arabic text of scripture and is defined by a number of formal char—' acteristics: it will follow the text of the Qur’an from beginning to end- and wili provide an interpretation of the text segmented either into words, phrases or verses. White exceptions are found to these char- acteristics in some works which would be accepted as tafsirs, the vast . majority of works fit into this pattern. Early works tend to focus on certain tendencies in interpretation. Some pursue the narrative (“haggadic”) aspects of the Qur’zin, developing the text into an enter—' taming and edifying whole, paying attention to the needs of the reader who will approach the text of scripture with a curious and specula- tive mind.‘7 Thus, providing the historical background to the various pieces of revelation (in a format which later becomes known as asbdb al—nuzfil, the “occasions of revelation”) and identifying peopie, places and things which are only alluded to (known later as ta‘yi‘n al- mubham) become important aspects. Other works pursue the legal (“halakhic”) aspects of the text, focusing on the early community’s need to support legal practice by reference to the text of scripture, sometimes facilitated by organizing the Qur’an into topics rather than follow the text ad seriazim. Yet other works examine textual matters, 42 Formative elements ofclassicai Islam interpretations. In dealing with Qur’an 3/7, “It is He who sent down i: upon you the book in which there are clear verses w they are the . mother of the book w and others are ambiguous,” al-Tabari makes the following statement: Then God described these “clear verses” by saying that they are the “mother of the book,” meaning that they are the source of the 3' book which contains within it all the duties of the religion, -' including the responsibilities and the penalties and everything 1 else which creation needs in the law of its religion. Also included -. are the responsibilities which are assigned in this world and the ' :. hereafier. These are called “the mother of the book” because . they are the major portion of the book and they are a place of . refuge for the people of the Qur’an when they are in need of such. ' That is the practice of the Arabs in calling the gathering of a major _ portion of something its “mother.” So they named the banner of the people under which they gathered in their fighting groups their _. “mother”; also the leader who handled the majority of the matters of the village or district was called its “mother.” . . . “Mother of '_ the boo ” is in the singular; it is not made plural as in “They are the mothers of the book.” “They” is used, however, because all -' of the “clear verses” are intended by “the mother of the book,” but not each verse of them is the “mother of the book.” if the ' ' meaning was such that each of the “clear verses” was the “mother . of the book,” there would be no doubt in the matter, because then it would have been said: “They are the mothers of the book.” The _- analogous statement of God to “They are the mother of the book” as we have interpreted it in the singular sense of “mother” being the grammatical complement of “they” is in Qur’an 23/50, “We '2 made the son of Mary and his mother a sign.” He did not say: .' “two signs” because the meaning is “We made the two of them . together a sign.” The meaning is singular because they gave a - single warning to humanity. If the intention had been that each one of them independently gave a warning to humanity, then it -' would have been stated, “We made the son of Mary and his mother two signs,” because then in each one of them there would have '- been a warning. The signs are that Mary had a child not by a man and that her son spoke from the cradle as a baby. So, in each of those events there is a sign for the people.:9 The historicization of the text of the Qur’an was another important ' element in the production of many works of exegesis. The integration The Qur’dn 43 _; .of the text with the stories of the prophets of the past (primarily 2_'._bib1ical) in the material known as the qisas al—anbz‘yc‘i’, “stories of the prophets,” and with the story of the life of Muhammad as embedded " {in books of Sim (“life story”) such as that of Ibn Ishaq (d. "767), was I designed both to prove the theological fact of the reality of revelatiOn and to provide a context for interpretation for an otherwise historic- I-Ially opaque text. The result was a text which was grounded in -.day—to—day human existence with an emphasis on the period of the formative Muslim community.26 The Qur’an as an object of faith -' For the Muslim community, the Qur’an is the word of God as revealed 0 Muhammad, the focal point of the Islamic faith. As a symbol of that faith, the book has naturally garnered far more importance for the individual believer than the polemical discussions sketched above would suggest. After all, for Muslims there is no doubt about the status of their scripture; at every moment, their faith confirms for them the veracity of the book. There arose a great number of beliefs about the text of the book itself, separate from its contents, which " reflect the honour and significance which are accorded to the scrip- ture as a book. Within at most 200 years of the death of Muhammad, traditions arose that spoke of the significance of individual sections of-the Qur’an. The first chapter, Surat alfrttiha, is not only argued to be an essential element of the ritual of prayer,21 but also the “greatest” of all the Slims, the recitation of which is recorded as curing the bite of a scorpion, for example; likewise, saints 113 and IE4 are seen as effective in curing illnesses. Reciting specific individual portions of -. the Qur’an, the last two verses of sfim 2 especially, are spoken of as giving protection from Satan for the night. Recitation of sum 18, fl siira 48 or sum 11?. brings merit and benefits.22 The result of these practices has been the emergence of a complex group of medical " and-spirimal beliefs all connected to the book, known as khawdss al—Qur’dn. The history of these practices, like most popular beliefs, __ is not well known but it is likely that modern practices,23 such 5.; as wearing a tiny copy of the Qur’an or the name Allah as an amulet, in the manner in which Christians wear a crucifix or Jews a star of ' ' David, have a heritage which extends well back into the early Islamic _.peri0d. The Qur’an has been the central symbol of Islam as well as its vital source and, as is true of Jesus in Christianity, its power .. -_ and effect to move and motivate individuals has never been under- estimated by Muslims. ...
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Rippin, The Quran - Muslims :Their religious beliefs and...

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