Commentary Project Draft

Louie Horning

Reading the Qur’an

Professor Sharon Albert

16 November 2017

The Qur’an and the Sword

For this commentary project I will be focusing on the ethics of war (as in, how war may be waged in addition to when it may be waged) in regards to non-believers. The reason that I am writing on this topic is that Islam is twofold. First, the ethics of war is a topic that I examined in high school in the context of the early Christian Scholar Saint Augustine and his Just War Theory. It is of interest to me to read a perspective from a different culture on the topic of warfare and to examine the similarities and differences between the two.  Although the Qur’an is a different type of text entirely than any of Saint Augustine’s works, it is far more influential and still contains ideas regarding the ethics of war that would compare with those found in Christianity. Second, the idea that the Qur’an, and by extension Islam, demands that its followers wage war against the non-believers without exception is an idea that is becoming more prevalent in the Western world, and unfortunately, perhaps in the Middle East as well. It is because of the modern political landscape of a post 9/11 world and the rise of the Islamic State that some in the West have begun to see Islam as a religion based on war and oppression, and as the antithesis of Liberal Western values of freedom. Thus, examining the Qur’an more specifically in regard to waging war against non-believers will allow a more in-depth understanding of the religion and how the words of the Qur’an have been twisted or taken out of context to serve an ideological function. I am already aware that the Qur’an argues that wars can be just, and that Mohammed, in addition to his function as a political leader, also served as a military leader. I am also aware that Mohammed lived in an era when political and military leadership often blurred together. Additionally, I am aware that the Qur’an calls for restraint and forbids violence against women and children. I have several resources with which I am looking to examine this topic. I have acquired the PDFs of 3 books that all address the topic of war in the Qur’an in some aspect. These books are The Qur’an and Combat by Imam Mahmoud Muhammad Shaltut, Warfare in the Qur’an by Joel Hayward, Jihad and the Islamic Law of War. I am also looking to access the works of Ad-Dahhak bin Muzahim, Ibn Khathir.

One verse of great significance in the discussion of war in the Qur’an is the so-called “Verse of the Sword”. Imam Mahmoud Muhammad Shaltut translates this verse in The Qur’an and Combat asOh you who believe, fight those of the disbelievers who are near to you, and let them find harshness in you, and know that God is with the pious.” (Al-Tawhah, 9:123). Shaltut argues that this verse should not be considered alongside other verses that validate the use of warfare, as this particular verse was revealed “to show a practical war plan to be followed when legitimate combat breaks out.” (Shaltut 45) Rather than giving a cause for war, Shaltut states that the verse is instead giving instructions for how to wage war after a legitimate cause has already been acquired. He explains: “The verse guides the Muslims that, when enemies are manifold, the nearest of them should be fought first and so on, in order to clear the road from enemies and to facilitate victory.” (Shaltut 45)

In Warfare in the Qur’an  by Dr. Joel Hayward, Hayward translates the passage as “But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the pagans wherever ye find them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war). (Al-Tawbah, 9:5). He asserts that the Surah was revealed following the violation of the Treaty of Hudaybiyah by Mecca, after which Mohammed peacefully took the city. The passage was revealed as a warning to those who practiced polytheism within the city of Mecca, who were given four months to convert or leave the city of Mecca. If “pagans” still remained in the city of Mecca after these “forbidden months”, then and only in this particular context were Mohammed and his followers to “fight and slay the pagans.” Hayward goes on to cite the early Muslim scholar Ad-Dahhak bin Muzahim, who described the Verse of the Sword as a verse in which the purpose was that it “cancelled out every treaty which had granted pilgrimage rights to Arab pagans to travel along Islamic routes, enter Mecca and perform unpalatable rituals there.” (Hayward 26) Other scholars, such as Robert Spencer cite the medieval Islamic Scholar Ibn Kathir, and interpret his writings (though Hayward argues incorrectly) to mean that the Verse of the Sword “abrogates all peaceful verses ever previously uttered by the prophet.” (Hayward 26)

In Jihad and the Islamic Law of War, the verse is translated more specifically: “When the sacred months have passed, kill the polytheists wherever you find them, capture them and besiege them, and lie in wait for them at every ambush. But if they repent, and perform the Prayer and give Alms, then let them alone. Indeed God is forgiving, merciful. (Al-Tawbah (9:5). One question the text raises is the discussion of whether or not the nonbelievers (in this interpretation polytheists) are to be slain because they are assumed to be enemies of Islam, or if they are to be slain on account of their belief alone. The passage uses the following Surah from the Qur’an to contextualize the Verse of the Sword and to support the former: “If any of the polytheists seeks asylum from you, grant him asylum until he hears the Word of God. Then convey him to his place of safety. That is because they are a people who do not know.” (Al-Tawbah 9:6) Some scholars have claimed that this second verse, however, is abrogated by the first. Yet, the text argues that to claim that abrogating the second verse (thereby claiming that nonbelievers must be fought solely on the basis of their religious beliefs) would contradict with 140 other Quranic verses that call for peace with pagans.

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The Tawhidic Paradigm

The tawhidic paradigm is an approach to interpreting the Qur’an that focuses on the singular nature of God. This approach acknowledges God’s authority over mankind, and explains that human beings cannot emulate God in any way and cannot serve as an extension of God’s sovereignty, as to do so would be shirk, an act that disrespects God’s unity.  A viewpoint of this approach is that no human being can be inherently submissive to another as it is God who is the ultimate authority, and humans must submit only to him.

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Hidayatullah Historical Contextualization Method

While I do believe that the historical contextualization method is both effective and significant (as I have argued in my past essays) I also believe that there are certain passages in the Qur’an that make direct general statements, and that such statements, as they are made in general, are somewhat disconnected from their context. This can be seen with Verse 4:34, which states “Men are in charge of women because God has preferred them and because they provide for them from their means.” Wadud attempts to add historical context to this statement to make it less sexist, however, Wadud’s ultimate interpretation of this passage seems to me to be a stretch. The same is true for Al-Hibri’s interpretation, which she claims is “‘describing (and not recommending)’ a situation” (Hidayatullah 73), but from the translation that was presented, even when given the historical context of a patriarchal society, the wording is extremely direct. I believe the same to be true for verse 4:3. Wadud argues that it cannot sanction taking multiple wives, but the verse is directly sanctioning taking multiple wives. Once more, while I believe historical context is extremely important in interpreting the Qur’an, some verses are far more direct in their wording than others, and even more complex arguments regarding historical context are unconvincing in changing the verses meaning when the verse seems so explicit.

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Hidayatullah and Mattson

One thing that might be likely to arise between Hidayatullah and Mattson is the issue of one’s intention in reading the Qur’an. Mattson discusses interpreting the Qur’an without imposing one’s own fears and desires upon their interpretation. This would potentially conflict with views from Hidayatullah, as Hidayatullah is examining the Qur’an through a Feminist lens, and is thus examining it from a potentially biased point of view. Hidayatullah discusses the reexamination of aspects such as social justice in the Qur’an, Another discussion that might arise between the two authors might be the issue of whether or not there exists a singular, absolute universal truth within the Qur’an.

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The Wiles of Women and Performative Intertextuality

One thing I noticed is how she tells Mohammed that, if she claims she is innocent she will not be believed, but if she confesses falsely to the crime of adultery she will be. I thought this was an interesting statement as it has deeper implications about human nature and our natural suspicion of others. Also in the account, ‘A’isha says that God will prove her innocence, which he does through a revelation to Mohammed. This shows a side of God that is not as inactive as one might think, as ‘A’isha is a single individual, but God’s intervention on her behalf shows a sort of impartiality on the part of God in his interactions with mortals, as it begs the question as to why God would intervene on ‘A’isha’s behalf in particular, especially since God’s intervention is so rare to begin with.

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Sunnah: Book of Military Expeditions

  1. On the day of (the battle) of Al-Yarmuk, the companions of Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said to Az-Zubair, “Will you attack the enemy so that we shall attack them with you?” Az-Zubair replied, “If I attack them, you people would not support me.” They said, “No, we will support you.” So Az-Zubair attacked them (i.e. Byzantine) and pierced through their lines, and went beyond them and none of his companions was with him. Then he returned and the enemy got hold of the bridle of his (horse) and struck him two blows (with the sword) on his shoulder. Between these two wounds there was a scar caused by a blow, he had received on the day of Badr (battle). When I was a child I used to play with those scars by putting my fingers in them. On that day (my brother) “Abdullah bin Az-Zubair was also with him and he was ten years old. Az-Zubair had carried him on a horse and let him to the care of some men.
  2. On the day of Badr, the Prophet (ﷺ) ordered that the corpses of twenty four leaders of Quraish should be thrown into one of the dirty dry wells of Badr. (It was a habit of the Prophet (ﷺ) that whenever he conquered some people, he used to stay at the battle-field for three nights. So, on the third day of the battle of Badr, he ordered that his she-camel be saddled, then he set out, and his companions followed him saying among themselves.” “Definitely he (i.e. the Prophet) is proceeding for some great purpose.” When he halted at the edge of the well, he addressed the corpses of the Quraish infidels by their names and their fathers’ names, “O so-and-so, son of so-and-so and O so-and-so, son of so-andso! Would it have pleased you if you had obeyed Allah and His Apostle? We have found true what our Lord promised us. Have you too found true what your Lord promised you? “`Umar said, “O Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ)! You are speaking to bodies that have no souls!” Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “By Him in Whose Hand Muhammad’s soul is, you do not hear, what I say better than they do.” (Qatada said, “Allah brought them to life (again) to let them hear him, to reprimand them and slight them and take revenge over them and caused them to feel remorseful and regretful.”)
  3. That `Amr bin `Auf, who was an ally of Bani ‘Amir bin Luai and one of those who fought at Badr in the company of the Prophet (ﷺ) , said, “Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) sent Abu ‘Ubaida bin Al-Jarrah to Bahrain to bring the Jizya taxation from its people, for Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) had made a peace treaty with the people of Bahrain and appointed Al-`Ala’ bin Al-Hadrami as their ruler. So, Abu ‘Ubaida arrived with the money from Bahrain. When the Ansar heard of the arrival of Abu ‘Ubaida (on the next day) they offered the morning prayer with the Prophet (ﷺ) and when the morning prayer had finished, they presented themselves before him. On seeing the Ansar, Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) smiled and said, “I think you have heard that Abu ‘Ubaida has brought something?” They replied, “Indeed, it is so, O Allah’s Apostle!” He said, “Be happy, and hope for what will please you. By Allah, I am not afraid that you will be poor, but I fear that worldly wealth will be bestowed upon you as it was bestowed upon those who lived before you. So you will compete amongst yourselves for it, as they competed for it and it will destroy you as it did them.”
  4. That Al-Miqdad bin `Amr Al-Kindi, who was an ally of Bani Zuhra and one of those who fought the battle of Badr together with Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) told him that he said to Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ), “Suppose I met one of the infidels and we fought, and he struck one of my hands with his sword and cut it off and then took refuge in a tree and said, “I surrender to Allah (i.e. I have become a Muslim),’ could I kill him, O Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ), after he had said this?” Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “You should not kill him.” Al- Miqdad said, “O Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ)! But he had cut off one of my two hands, and then he had uttered those words?” Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) replied, “You should not kill him, for if you kill him, he would be in your position where you had been before killing him, and you would be in his position where he had been before uttering those words.”
  5. When the first civil strife (in Islam) took place because of the murder of ‘Uthman, it left none of the Badr warriors alive. When the second civil strife, that is the battle of Al-Harra, took place, it left none of the Hudaibiya treaty companions alive. Then the third civil strife took place and it did not subside till it had exhausted all the strength of the people.

The first passage describes an account from the Battle of Yarmouk, which is considered to be one of the greatest victories in military history and set the stage for Islamic conquest of much of the Byzantine Empire. The name is spelled slightly differently, but I believe that the man described is Az- Zubayr ibn Al-Awam, who was one of the ten companions promised paradise by Mohammed. One curious thing of note about the passage is whether or not it is describing Az-Zubayr as literally charging into combat alone, or if it means that he charged in and fought alongside his own men without reinforcements from the other companions. It is interesting that they fought against the Byzantine Empire, as for me individually that gives me more of a reference point as to when Mohammed’s life was and what the time period was like immediately after his death. Another thing of note is that Az-Zubayr brought his ten-year old son to the battle (though he did not fight), as this demonstrates a much different view of war that was experienced back then than it was today.

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Contextualizing The Qur’an

Louie Horning

Professor Sharon Albert

Religion 285

25 September 2017

Contextualizing The Qur’an

Regardless of religious belief, the vast significance of the Qur’an and its content is undeniable. With over 1.5 billion Muslims in the world today, it is difficult to overestimate the impact that the Qur’an has had and continues to have on the world. Yet, despite so many looking to the text for guidance, the Qur’an is a difficult document to read and requires outside sources in order to be understood. One of the many difficulties present in the Qur’an is the challenge of determining the context of its suras, as the Qur’an does not provide historical context and scholars are forced to rely questionable reports outside of the Qur’an when attempting to interpret it.

Understanding the context of the Qur’an and its suras can change the meaning of a verse entirely. As Carl. W Ernst states in Following Muhammad, “Religion can be understood only with respect to context: we have to understand the actors, the time, the place, and the issues in order to avoid making serious mistakes” (Ernst 38). Yet, determining the context of the suras of the Qur’an is a challenge in and of itself. As Ingrid Mattson explains in The Story of the Qur’an, “The suras roughly ordered according to length, not chronology…one reason why the Qur’an cannot be organized chronologically is that the exact timing of the revelation of each verse is unknown” (Mattson 27). Furthermore, the Qur’an provides little information into its own context: “References to individuals and events as well as allusions to conflicts and victories are scattered throughout the Qur’an; however, the Qur’an contains no detailed or coherent historical narrative about the first Muslim community.” (Mattson 28) Without this historical context, certain verses of the Qur’an may be misinterpreted or misrepresented. One such example of this is a verse which states: “We will put terror into the hearts of the unbelievers. They serve other gods for whom no sanction has been revealed. Hell shall be their home” (3:149). Taken out of context, this verse makes the Qur’an appear as a text that not only condones violence, but encourages it against non-Muslims. However, when given its proper historical context, the meaning of the verse changes entirely. As Ziauddin Sardar explains in Reading the Qur’an, this verse was revealed to the prophet during the battle of Uhud in 625, wherein the Prophet was “concerned with the outcome of the battle” (Sardar 27), and the verse is not “a general instruction to all Muslims, but a commentary on what was happening at the time” (Sardar 27), which promised the prophet “that the enemy will be terrified by the Prophet’s unprofessional army” (Sardar 27). In this way, the context of a verse in the Qur’an can change the meaning entirely. Rather than being a message to all Muslims condoning violence against those are not of faith, the passage is a direct revelation to Mohammed himself prior to a battle, referencing a particular set of nonbelievers of whom Mohammed would soon have to fight. When taken at face value, the verse appears violent and wrathful, but when considered through the lens of history, the true purpose of the verse becomes clear.

This context, however, is not necessarily easy to determine, making interpreting the Qur’an even more of a challenge. In order to determine the context of the verses of the Qur’an, scholars must look to preserved documents detailing the life of Muhammad, such as the hadith. While these reports are essential to understanding the Qur’an, such documents are heavily flawed and the fabrication of reports is not unheard of. “Within the first century of Islam, some Muslims raised concerns that reports about the prophet were being fabricated.” (Mattson 29). Indeed, so prevalent were these fabrications that the development of a “sophisticated science of hadith analysis” (Mattson 29) was developed by early Muslims.  This traditional science of determining the authenticity of a report requires the analysis of “[the report’s] content (the matn)” (Mattson 30) and “the chain of transmission of the report (the isnad)” (Mattson 30), as well as many other factors. However, even this traditional method of determining the context of the Qur’an is questionable, as the success of this science has been “challenged by other schools of thought in the premodern period” (Mattson 30), making historical context even more difficult for the reader or scholar to determine. Furthermore, even if a document may be fundamentally true, it can still not be interpreted to be without error. As Mattson points out, “even the best historical narrative, even the most vivid memory, collective or individual, is necessarily selective.” (Mattson 32) Thus, even if a document may be deemed valid, its significance is still subject to debate, furthering the difficulty of scholars in determining the meaning of the Qur’an and its suras.

Historical context is especially important in the consideration of the Qur’an, as without the context, the Qur’an may be wildly misunderstood as misinterpreted. Nonetheless, it is difficult to truly determine the historical context of many of the passages of the Qur’an, as the Qur’an itself provides little evidence to its own context. It is because of this lack of evidence that readers of the Qur’an are forced to examine reports outside of the Qur’an in attempts to determine proper context for its various suras. However, these reports are flawed, and it can be difficult for scholars to determine whether a report is fact or fiction, further contributing to different interpretations of the Qur’an and its verses. Yet this context is essential in determining the meaning of the Qur’an, as without this context the meaning of a verse changes entirely. Ultimately, the context of the Qur’an is essential to its content, but while the content of the Qur’an is easy to find, it is the context that reveals the Qur’an’s meaning that is difficult to find.

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The Qur’an makes frequent reference to the fact that the Meccans rejected the idea of the resurrection and judgement of the dead. At the rise of Islam, it seems that most Arabs believed that a measure of immortality could be gained only by performing heroic deeds for the sake of one’s tribe, in the hope that later generations would continue to relate stories of these deeds after one’s death. In this way, the hero’s name might live on, and this was as much immortality as a man could hope for. The Qur’an indicates that Meccans were not unaware of the concept of life after death; however, they simply did not find the idea compelling. Their response to the concept seems to have been based on a combination of pragmatism and materialism: although for generations the idea of the resurrection of the dead had been professed by some individuals, until now, no one had ever witnessed a person being resurrected; rather, all they ever witnessed was the physical decay and eventual annihilation of all traces of the dead. In response, the Qur’an tries to engage their imaginations to think beyond their material experiences and to show that in their rather detached belief in a transcendent God lay the possibility of a greater purpose for humanity:

They say, “When we have died and become dust and bones will we be resurrected?

This was promised to us and to our forefathers before and it is nothing but tales of the ancients.”

Say (in response) “To whom belongs the earth and everyone who is in it if you have knowledge?”

They will say, “To God.”

Say, “Will you not then remember (Him)?”

Say, “Who is the Lord of the seven heavens and the Lord of the great throne?”

They will say “(That is) for God.”

Say, “In whose hand is the dominion of all things, and He extends protection but there is no protection from Him, if you have knowledge?”

They will say, “God.”

Say, “Then how are you bewitched?”

(Mu’minun; 23:82-89)


This passage was interesting as it presents the promise of afterlife as having not been a serious motive for the conversion of many Arabs to Islam. The belief in an afterlife is historically extremely common, and the lack thereof among Arabs in this time period shows a unique aspect of the culture.The lack of a belief in an afterlife seems surprisingly pessimistic (especially combined with a belief in God), as in many cultures religious beliefs served as motivation for heroic behavior. Furthermore, the belief that the only form of immortality that could be attained was that which lived on through tales of heroic deeds performed for the sake of one’s tribe demonstrates divisions in the Middle East at this time, as individuals worked not towards the benefit of a larger idea of a nation or ethnicity, but their own tribe. That the Meccans did not find the idea of an afterlife compelling is fascinating, as it is a historic argument that many individuals likely converted either to reap the potential rewards of an afterlife or the avoid the punishments for heresy that came with it. The Qur’an presents the idea of a larger purpose for humanity, beyond that of merely one’s own tribe. Such an idea would be especially useful in uniting people splintered and fragmented among varying tribes of differing loyalties, and as can be seen historically the Mohammed and the Qur’an helped to do just that. The lack of the belief in an afterlife must have been a common enough difficulty for Mohammed if the Qur’an itself addresses how to confront those who do not believe.


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Sura 52 Outline

  1. By the Mount.
  2. And a Book inscribed.
  3. In a published scroll.
  4. And the frequented House.
  5. And the elevated roof.
  6. And the seething sea.

(Descriptions of what will occur on the day of reckoning – 6 verses)


  1. The punishment of your Lord is coming.
  2. There is nothing to avert it.

(Direct address to the reader – 2 verses)


  1. On the Day when the heaven sways in agitation.
  2. And the mountains go into motion.
  3. Woe on that Day to the deniers.
  4. Those who play with speculation.
  5. The Day when they are shoved into the Fire of Hell forcefully.
  6. “This is the Fire which you used to deny.
  7. Is this magic, or do you not see?
  8. Burn in it. Whether you are patient, or impatient, it is the same for you. You are only being repaid for what you used to do.”

(Description of what will happen to nonbelievers – 8 verses)


  1. But the righteous will be amid gardens and bliss.
  2. Enjoying what their Lord has given them, and their Lord has spared them the suffering of Hell.
  3. Eat and drink happily, for what you used to do.
  4. Relaxing on luxurious furnishings; and We will couple them with gorgeous spouses.
  5. Those who believed, and their offspring followed them in faith—We will unite them with their offspring, and We will not deprive them of any of their works. Every person is hostage to what he has earned.
  6. And We will supply them with fruit, and meat; such as they desire.
  7. They will exchange therein a cup; wherein is neither harm, nor sin.
  8. Serving them will be youths like hidden pearls.
  9. And they will approach one another, inquiring.
  10. They will say, “Before this, we were fearful for our families.
  11. But God blessed us, and spared us the agony of the Fiery Winds.
  12. Before this, we used to pray to Him. He is the Good, the Compassionate.”

(Description of heaven – 13 verses)


  1. So remind. By the grace of your Lord, you are neither a soothsayer, nor a madman.
  2. Or do they say, “A poet—we await for him a calamity of time”?
  3. Say, “Go on waiting; I will be waiting with you.”
  4. Or is it that their dreams compel them to this? Or are they aggressive people?
  5. Or do they say, “He made it up”? Rather, they do not believe.
  6. So let them produce a discourse like it, if they are truthful.
  7. Or were they created out of nothing? Or are they the creators?
  8. Or did they create the heavens and the earth? In fact, they are not certain.
  9. Or do they possess the treasuries of your Lord? Or are they the controllers?
  10. Or do they have a stairway by means of which they listen? Then let their listener produce a clear proof.
  11. Or for Him the daughters, and for you the sons?
  12. Or do you demand a payment from them, and they are burdened by debt?
  13. Or do they know the future, and they are writing it down?
  14. Or are they planning a conspiracy? The conspiracy will befall the disbelievers.
  15. Or do they have a god besides God? God transcends what they associate.
  16. Even if they were to see lumps of the sky falling down, they would say, “A mass of clouds.”
  17. So leave them until they meet their Day in which they will be stunned.
  18. The Day when their ploys will avail them nothing; and they will not be helped.
  19. For those who do wrong, there is a punishment besides that; but most of them do not know.

(Discussion on nonbelievers – 28 verses)


  1. So patiently await the decision of your Lord, for you are before Our Eyes; and proclaim the praises of your Lord when you arise.
  2. And glorify Him during the night, and at the receding of the stars.

(Instructions for believers – 2 verses)

Sura 52, “The Mount”, can be divided into three main parts. The first part of the sura takes place from lines 1-17 and gives details as to what will occur on the day of reckoning, and gives frightening imagery as to what will happen to nonbelievers on that day, who will be “shoved into the fires of hell forcefully”. This grim description, however, is then immediately juxtaposed and contrasted with Lines 17-28, which describe the experiences of a believer on the day of reckoning. It gives a description of heaven as a joyous place where parents and their children will be reunited to live amongst “luxurious furnishings” where they will be supplied “with fruit and meat; such as they desire”. However, the structure of the sura, after reassuring the believers of their place in heaven, tells them “So remind. By the grace of your lord you are neither soothsayer or a madman.”, likely calling on them to convert nonbelievers to the faith. Lines 29-47 are concerned with why an individual may be a nonbeliever and offers retorts for a believer to use against a cynic. The word “Or” is repeated numerous times in succession throughout this second half, to cover various possibilities for skepticism and occasionally these questions are juxtaposed with a direct statement as a response. These statements are brief and are punctual, giving a theme of finality to the entire passage. The passage ends by calling on believers to continue their worship.


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Islam as a Religion Writing

“One of the important insights that have emerged from the study of the religion as a historical and cultural reality is the realization that religions change; they are not timeless eternal essences.” (Ernst 50)

“In practice, religion is defined by the state, throughout the world.” (Ernst 57)

“The premodern societies ruled by Muslims generally cannot, in fact, be called Islamic in any fundamental sense.” (Ernst 47)

The first quote is of great significance as religions are quite often viewed as bastions of ancient tradition that have remained unchanged despite centuries of civilization. However, Ernst’s quote draws attention to the fact that religions do in fact change over time as they are forced to adapt just as any other system of belief. While religions are often derived from unaltered holy texts, the interpretations of these texts change throughout history, resulting in differences in practice. Thus, one should not necessarily follow such interpretations of holy texts unquestioningly, as within these interpretations the initial message of the text may be lost (a problem even further exacerbated by the rigors of translation). With these multiple interpretations come different means of worship, and few means to tell which form of worship is most true to the original text. Scholars are well equipped to debate the various interpretations of holy words, but even then it would appear as though such conclusions are difficult to draw.

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