Disclaimer: I am not a scholar and I don’t claim to be, nor do I claim to understand the Qur’an. I am merely trying to point out why quoting the Qur’an is not as simple as it seems.
It gets really, really exhausting and I won’t lie – frustrating; the number of people who quote an ayah (verse) from the Qur’an to back up their argument of why Islam is the epitome of evil and is hence everything wrong with the world.
It seems to be the get out of jail free card. I am quoting from the Qur’an therefore you cannot possibly counter argue my point. Questions raised as to whether a person has actually read the whole Qur’an, as opposed to copied an ayah they found on the internet, are rarely addressed.
Even if you have read the whole Qur’an, and have selected a quote you think is fit for your agenda, that does not mean you understand it. You cannot read a quote and think you know the meaning. It is slightly more complicated than that. Let me break it down for you:
- First of all, you are quoting a translation. Arabic is a rich and complex language and very different from English in many ways. I know, because I’m attempting to learn Arabic (I am merely scratching the surface) and there are so many things to consider. Arabic is full of words of which there are no equivalent in English. Therefore, an English translation of the Qur’an is simply the closest resemblance of the Qur’an that it can possibly be. Furthermore, you will find many different versions of English translations with varying differences between them because of this. Any English translation tries to convey the meaning as best as English can but it is in fact not the Qur’an in its full and intended meaning (thus why I am learning Arabic).
- People devote their lives to understanding the meaning of the Qur’an, you think you understand, just like that?
- Every ayah was revealed in context. Every ayah has to be considered within the whole Surah (chapter). There are stories and meanings which can become clear only after reading the whole Surah.
- Every ayah was revealed at different times. There is a context and background to which every ayah was revealed. There was a reason for every ayah being revealed which was relevant and necessary at the time. We have to understand the context of the revelation in order to truly understand the meaning and message of the ayah.
- The reason for said ayah being revealed and the context in which it was applied, may not necessarily be applicable today. This is very important.
- There is a thing called tafsir. As Muslims, when we read the Qur’an, if we want to try to fully understand its meaning this is what we turn to. If Muslims don’t try to understand the Qur’an without it, why do non-Muslims? Tafsir is a critical explanation and interpretation of the Qur’an. The interpretation is vitally important in the understanding process and this is why many people mistake an ayah for saying something it is not.
If someone was to read Surah 9; ayah 5 it says:
“And when the sacred months have passed, then kill the polytheists wherever you find them and capture them and besiege them and sit in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they should repent, establish prayer, and give zakah, let them [go] on their way. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.”
This might be a good reason to claim ‘Islam is evil! Every Muslim hates all of the unbelievers and wants to kill us! They want to ambush us!’
But if you read on to Surah 9; ayah 6 it says:
“And if any one of the polytheists seeks your protection, then grant him protection so that he may hear the words of Allah . Then deliver him to his place of safety. That is because they are a people who do not know.”
Ayah 7 goes on to say:
“How can there be for the polytheists a treaty in the sight of Allah and with His Messenger, except for those with whom you made a treaty at al-Masjid al-Haram? So as long as they are upright toward you, be upright toward them. Indeed, Allah loves the righteous.”
This is just one example of how taking one ayah from the Qur’an can cause it to be completely and utterly taken out of context. How frustrating would it be, if people took one sentence we said out of a whole conversation and twisted it to be portrayed unfairly.
There is detailed tafsir regarding the background of the revelation of the Surah I quoted those ayahs from; this was a difficult and troubling period for the Muslims of that time.
Tafsir can even be found on the internet, just saying.
My best friend is not Muslim and I manage not to bombard her with death threats; nor do I demand that she converts to Islam.
Islam is a religion which not only encourages Muslims to learn their religion but in fact it is our duty to do so. The complexity and intricacy of the Qur’an, along with the ahadith (sayings of the Prophet pbuh), mean that only with studying and contemplation can they be understood in their intended meaning.
If you want to quote from the Qur’an, great, I encourage and applaud anyone and everyone who reads the Qur’an, but please do so with consideration. Muslims are not terrorists and we not want to kill every non-believer. I don’t want to kill anyone. I’m petrified of spiders (cliche, I know) but I don’t even want to kill them.
Assalamu alaykum – peace be upon you 🙂