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One of the most heavily debated verses in the Qur’an is in the sur dealing With women one of the verses in the fourth states that: “Men have authority over women because God has made the one superior to the other. Good Women are obedient as for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them, forsake them in beds apart, and beat them”. Some western translations contain interpretations of this verse that are easier to digest, but the text clearly states that there is some sort of physical violence involved.
Although most Muslim women have husbands that would never lay a hand on them. for the ones that are beaten by their husbands this verse is a difficult part of the Qur‘an to come to terms with. Some of these women ask themselves each day whether the violence against them is truly justified by their religion.
This question of justification, however, is difficult, perhaps even impossible to answer when one is dealing with religious texts and beliefs.
Nevertheless, this uneasiness and confusion can have grave implications on faith in Islam. The Book of Genesis tells us that it took God only six days to create the universe, the earth, the sun, the plants and animals, and the first two people. It is not surprising that this explanation is immediately met With a bit of skepticism. However, most believers approach this scripture with the belief that “days” is open to interpretation and that six days could in fact be six million years.
If we look at the Qur‘an, which is taken by Muslims to be the infallible Word of God, it is here that the fundamental difference lies between the Qur’an and other religious texts like the Old Testament and New Testament, whereas those texts are human works thought to be “inspired” by God, the Qur’an is literally the “Word of God.”
Within all religious texts, there have always been and always will be things that believers and non-believers alike find hard to believe. However, unlike the Bible, which can be interpreted and adapted by each new generation to conform to and complement the society they live in, the text of the Qur’an is not about change or conformity. It is about a clear set of rules that faithful Muslims must follow rules that are not to be adjusted or modified but that are supposed be unwavering through the course of time. The indisputable nature of the Qur‘an forces the reader to take the text by face value. The contents of the Qur‘an, when placed in the context of modern-day society, have become the focus of much disagreement within and outside of the Muslim community. The immutability of the text only serves to further complicate such controversies.
In the second of the Qur’an, it is revealed that: “As for the unbelievers, it is the same whether or not you forewarn them, they will not have faith. God has set a seal upon their hearts and ears: their sight is dimmed and grievous punishment awaits them”. Moving from one to another, one cannot help but notice a pervasive theme of intolerance. Such feelings are reinforced by the numerous verses that advocate violence against nonbelievers. If there were any doubts about the exact meaning of “punishment” in the second surāh, the ninth makes it blindingly clear. “When the sacred months are over slay the idolaters wherever you find them Arrest them, besiege them, and lie in ambush everywhere for them”.
This verse is not talking about self defense against those that would persecute a faithful Muslim; it is taking Islam on the offense outlining what almost sounds a like war plan to completely annihilate the unbelievers the Old Testament and the Qur’an have similar descriptions and beliefs about Hell. However, the difference here is that unbelievers do not have to wait for punishment in Hell by God Rather, Muslims have been given absolute power over them and a clear mandate to deal out God‘s justice. It is this type of language, present in the ninth that the participants of jihad use to justify their violence. Many Muslims Will argue that interpreting particular verses in a way to justify violence is un Islamic and that these interpretations are misguided. However, because the text ol the Qur’an is immutable. that argument loses much of its weight. Although it is true that nothing in the Qur’an explicitly defines jihad, in the fourth it is proclaimed that: “The believers who stay at home apart from those that suffer from a grave disability are not the equals of those who fight for the cause of God with their goods and their persons.
God has exalted the men who fight With their goods and their persons above those who stay at home“. It is undeniable that some Muslims are pushed to jihad due to the circumstances of society, whether it is poverty. persecution, or war. But in the end, the faithful Muslim must look to the Qur’an for guidance and encouragement. For those that are looking for violence, it is all too easy to find their justification. When the Qur’an talks about slaying infidels, there is no peaceable metaphor that can tame that, and thus it is not surprising that most Muslims living in modern-day society either have a difficult time following such verses or choose to ignore them completely.
Everything contained Within the Qur’an has plenty of justification just as everything in the Bible can be justified but to justify something, reason must be involved. However, the reason is something that is supposed to be universal to all human beings the statements made in the Qur‘an and in many other religious texts can usually only be justified within their own systems of reason–that is if one can even associate reason wrth religion. In the case of the Qur’an, because it is the Word of God, the very fact that something is written in it is ultimately enough justification. Non-believers may see this as a delusion or perversion of reason. Believers Will call it faith. In essence that is how all religions are perceived who is right or wrong Will always be argued in vain, but such an argument can be accepted as a non-issue when dealing with religion.
However, things get complicated when something like violence has involved the problem with the Qur’an and any religious text that tries to justify violent action is that those sorts of mandates affect people that may or may not be believers ol the text. We have Civil laws in place exactly for this reason because people‘s beliefs Will never agree but some sort of concord must be reached for society to be able to function, Because followers of Islam may take actions for their religion that have effects outside the Qur‘an’s sphere of reason, the Qur‘an must justify such actions accordingly based on universal laws and beliefs. One might call this group of tenets reason however to ask a religion to follow an ideal such as reason or rational thought is for the most part, simply unreasonable.
Regardless of what is justified in the Qur’an. most Islamic nations are not cleansing their territories of infidels and idolaters, just as most Muslims would never harm another human being. The result is a religion that is clearly divided where one particular group of believers is being labeled as “extremist” or “fundamentals”. All religions are broken down into different sects because people have different interpretations of their own religion. However, because the Qur’an is a complete and unambiguous guide to how a proper Muslim should live his life and because it is the Word of God the question becomes whether or not believers in the Qur’an have the same convenience as believers of other religious texts do, of, to put it crudely, picking and choosing. The dilemma posed by the aggression and violence that is woven into the Qur’an picks apart at the very foundation of Islam that the Qur’an is the infallible Word of God if one has any doubts about that, then it is not possible to remain a believer.
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