Quran: Nothing Contextual About It
There is always the plight of context argument with Islam’s holy text; the Quran. The apologetic version is “Quran cannot be interpreted and understood except with its context.” This paraphrasing is constantly presented by Islamic apologists whenever any argument against the violent verses within the text is raised.
But the way Islam justifies the divine origin of Quran automatically excludes it from the use of historical method of exegesis. There is this dilemma for Muslims to face. The text in fact is contextual as understood by Muslim explanation of its historical formation. But it is not a version of facts Muslims want to subscribe to when they are fomented to believe in the interminable status of the text. The Quran is meant for the whole of humanity is the undisputed Muslim belief. This belief continues on as the book is pertinent to the end of times.
Is not it implausible to believe in the infinite relevance of the Quran and at the same time raise objections and criticisms by embarking on a context smoke screen? Should Muslims not give up the context excuse if they want to use the the Quran as a text whose relevance is extended to the end of times?
There is only an affirmative answer to these questions. Let us see why context argument is logically fallacious and defective for obvious reasons:
If the argument is that the Quran is contextual:
1. It encompasses the whole of the Quran thus effectively spoiling any assay of extracting certain verse or verses from the text and arguing the extracts are excused from context. If the Quran is contextual, the entire constituents of the text will be dumped to a certain backdrop or call it context.
2. It constricts the whole of the Quran to a certain limited bound. And within this limit the Quran cannot conserve timeless bearing. For example, the “Codex of Aeschines” (c.390-c.322 BCE) or “Codex of Hammurabi” are only understood in their historical context. Consequently they do not have any applicability in the existing time. Similarly, the Quran will be locked up in the milieu of history without having any gravity other than a history book.
3. It is incongruous to impose such a notion on the Quran owing to the collective Muslim credence; the text is meant for the whole of humanity. Muslims believe the Quran, though revealed to their prophet in a specific seventh century context, is meant for the whole of humanity to the end of times. Such a book cannot be confined in the necropolis of history. Mankind did not cease to exist with the prophet, and there is more to come. The Quran should influence the survived, enduring and forthcoming generations.
From the three obvious flaws of the context argument, it can be pondered that the Quran cannot be tied on a context if the Muslim objective is to thumb it as a book for the whole of mankind without considering “time”. As we say; contextual argument dictates reclining to history which will be deadly for the Quran because history does not stand up to the evolving time, or to the entire humanity. The exact historical context of the Quran is the life history of a man who lived in the seventh century Arabian Desert, or it is the last 23 or years of Muhammad that formed a Quran.
This way of explaining the Quran will not help Muslims reach the conclusion: the text is meant for eternity. Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, is considered by Muslims as the final messenger of Allah so; his words and deeds have unceasing bearing. The Quran being the sum total of his words (or to concord with Muslims’ belief the summation of words god revealed to Muhammad) can not be a mere historical book by any chance.
This will be more pronounced after knowing the theological context of the text. Since the Quran can not be subtracted from Islam, both have to be considered synonymous. If there is Islam, there should be the Quran too. If Islam is the reflection of Prophet Muhammad’s life and his teachings, the Quran too is the same.
This theological context is more underpinning the contention that the Quran is not bound to any context but it is relevant to all times to all people. In fact if to accord to Muslims’ belief, we are all living in the context of Quran. Let us see how:
The Quran is the words of God. There is not even a single word in this text that doesn’t belong to God- Allah. Mostly Allah spoke as the first person, sometimes as second person, and infrequently as third person too. But let the style vary, it is always Allah who is speaking.
And the Muslim belief is: Allah is omnipresent. He cannot be constricted to any limit. Allah is eternal and so are human beings, because when Allah created Adam the first man and sent him to earth as his delegate, he bestowed a convoluted feature of this omnipresence to the creation. That is death is not the end of human beings. They have to resurrect one day to prepare for an eternal life. Be it in paradise, or in eternal hell, the life is there and it is eternal. So, human beings are eternal according to the Islamic credo.
When facts about the god of Islam remains thus, it should be considered that any message this god sends to this delegate should necessarily have the above said characteristic of being eternal, because it is Allah who communicates, and he messages his delegate. These messages are everlasting, because they emanate from an everlasting source and at the receiving end there is his delegate who is also an eternal being.
Let us come back to the Quran: Allah spoke to a seventh century Arab in the latter’s language. And all of what he said to this prophet is recorded to fructify a Quran. To sum it up, Allah sent his last message to this same prophet, then stopped speaking downright. Because god sent his last message and promised to preserve it forever, and he will not speak any more until the day of resurrection. He will not send any prophet, since sending a prophet will stir him up again. This is the end. God sent his final messenger, and even though he did not endow immortality to the messenger, he blessed the message with immortality.
So, the Quran, Islam’s holy text is not a pushover. It is the ultimate message of god. There is nothing to add or subtract in it. All of its components are divine, equally divine. All are applied to all and all.
In conclusion, if there is a command in the Quran, there is no need to look for its historical context since humanity from the formation of Quran to the end of times are living in the context of the text. It is the Muslim belief. God, Gabriel, and Muhammad, three key figures who formed the Quran have infinite relevance, so the making of the Quran too necessarily possesses the quality of being interminably relevant. If this is the common Muslim belief pertaining to Quran, there is no room for a context excuse in its case.
Thus, the context excuse in the case of Quran is flawed in its fundamentals.
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