Khalid Zaheer
“I am convinced about the veracity of my opinions, but I do consider it likely that they may turn out to be incorrect. Likewise, I am convinced about the incorrectness of the views different from mine, but I do concede the possibility that they may turn out to be correct.” — Imam Shafa’i
MORE Q/A

Mr. Ghulam Ahmed Pervaiz's understanding of Qur'an (2)

Question:
Pervaiz Sahib has a very metaphysical approach to contextual Qur’an. Would you agree?
For example: explanation of jinns, concept of heaven, saying and giving his own explanation of Mary having a husband etc.

It takes out the spirituality. But then practicality has to be balanced out with the spirituality. A lot of the Qur’an has to be explained in the spiritual sense Wahi for example. But faith comes first then only a lot of things can be explained and accepted…at times unquestioned.

The problem with the Muslims is that when they cannot explain they tend to get too much into spirituality…here this metaphysical approach does get important otherwise everyone keeps waiting for a messiah to come and deliver them…thereby putting away their own responsibility in this life.

How do you balance this practical with the spiritual? This brings us to Sufism. How much do you think that to be a branch of Islam?

Response:
Our intellect is a God-given source of guidance. Divine revelation is a guide for our intellect. The Qur’anic description of the unseen realities is metaphorical. Since, we can’t see those realities and there aren’t any words in our vocabulary to describe their truth literally, the Qur’an has used allegorical expressions (mutashabihaat; see Qur’an 3:7) to do so.

We have belief in the unseen; but it’s not blind. We have accepted, or we ought to ideally accept, Qur’an and the prophet, alaihissalaam, on the merit of the arguments that have been presented to believe in them. Once we begin to believe in them, we start accepting whatever we learn through them from reliable sources. That process is based on our faith that we have acquired through our intellectual reasoning and spiritual experiences. Even when we don’t understand intellectually some of the contents of the message we have received from the Qur’an and the prophet, we accept those contents on the one hand and struggle to find the truth about their reality through intellectual reasoning on the other.

All along this journey of faith, our intellect is our guide, which does two things: It helps us in knowing the true meanings of the text of Qur’an on the one hand and in reconciling it with the common sense and undeniable worldly, scientific information we already have on the other. While going through the task of reconciliation, we should never forget the fact that the text of Qur’an is the final authority and all else has to adjust in the light of it. While going through this process, which is at times a difficult task, we cannot ignore the fact that our understanding of Qur’an could be faulty on some occasions while on others our perception of common sense or facts of life could be incorrect. That is why reflecting upon the verses of the Qur’an has to be an ongoing process for all believers.

In the process mentioned above, I have a feeling, and may Allah guide me if I am wrong, that both traditional Muslims and modernists like Pervaiz Sahib have faltered. While the traditionalists have decided that the text of the Qur’an must be understood in the manner the earlier Muslims have understood it, the modernists believe that the text must conform to the understanding of the modern knowledge. We, too, may have erred in our understanding of the text, and I am sure we have erred at least on some occasions, but we are firmly committed to our stance that the Qur’an is the ultimate criterion of deciding what is correct religious understanding from what is not. It is on the basis of this commitment that we are always prepared to review and revise our opinions.

The Qur’an itself has to be understood on the basis of its own language, which was the language of the Arabs who spoke and wrote it immediately before and at the time when the book was being revealed. It has also got to be interpreted in the context of its own verses. Most certainly ahadith at times play an important role in enabling us to know details of some part of the Qur’anic message and clearer meanings of it. But while using ahadith for the purpose, we always have to go by the principle that ahadith have to be understood and interpreted in the light of the Qur’an and not the other way round.

There is no room for esoteric knowledge (available to only a select class) of the meanings of Qur’an. The Qur’an is a guidance for everyone and therefore its meanings should be accessible to everyone. That doesn’t mean that all ordinary people can understand Qur’an like scholars can do. What it means is that the method of learning the true message of Qur’an is clear; anyone who wants to achieve a higher level of understanding of Qur’an can do so by following that methodology. Also, those who achieve that higher level of learning of Qur’an should justify their understanding to the ordinary people through the logic of religious arguments. An ordinary person is not allowed to follow scholars blindly. What I am trying to bring home is the point that there is no room for Sufi understanding in Islam which allows special rights to understand the meanings of Qur’an to the Sufi scholars because of their spirituality.

Please read http://blog.khalidzaheer.com/posts/16 for understanding more what I have tried to say in this message.

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