Casablanca - In the first part of this article series, I introduced Mark A. Gabriel’s book and situated it within the Islamophobic literature whose simplistic approach serves no purpose except to fuel hatred in the world. To substantiate my claim, in this article I shed light on the first technique that is heavily utilized in the Gabriel’s book, Islam and Terrorism: decontextualizing the scriptural texts.
Casablanca – In the first part of this article series, I introduced Mark A. Gabriel’s book and situated it within the Islamophobic literature whose simplistic approach serves no purpose except to fuel hatred in the world. To substantiate my claim, in this article I shed light on the first technique that is heavily utilized in the Gabriel’s book, Islam and Terrorism: decontextualizing the scriptural texts.
Decontextualizing the Texts:
Decontextualizing the text simply relates to the process of drawing a ruling from the Quran or hadith without taking into account its spatiotemporal specificities. The Quran was episodically revealed to the Prophet over a period that stretched for 22 years. A great many of these revelations were thematically linked to specific social and political incidents, the invocation of which is crucial for understanding the meaning of the Quranic verses and subsequently drawing legal rulings from them. Radicals’ disregard of the context springs from conception that the texts and their understandings are inseparable. This disregard is equaled in the Islamophobic logic, since it provides an effortless way to demonize Islam.
This strategy disperses throughout the book and can be detected mainly in two levels: When quoting the Quran, and when using the fundamentalists’ explanations of it. The effect of this technique promises a fallacious conception of Islam in the mind of the non-Muslim.
Quran: The author quotes a number of Quranic verses that pertain to Jihad in Islam in his entire book. In chapter 4, Holy War in the Quran, and its subsections, Jews and Christians Are the Enemies of Islam, and Convincing the Muslims to Go Fight, he lists the verses that support his claim that Islam’s disposition of war predominates its other aspects. These verses are (2:217; 4:71–104; 8:24–36, 39–65; 4:89; 47:4; 9:123; 8:67; 8:59–60; 8:39; 8:59–60; 8:39; 5:51; 4:47; 9:5). Nevertheless, he admits in Chapter 13 that “There are at least 114 verses in the Quran that speak of kindness and forgiveness.” However, he adds in the same line of thought “But when Surah 9:5 was revealed later, it canceled out those previous verses (verses of kindness and forgiveness).” Here the author refers to an Islamic principle called Naskh (abrogation) and its concepts Nasikh (the verse that abrogates or overrides another) and Mansoukh (the abrogated verse), which simply mean that the ruling of certain verses in the Quran cancel out the rulings of others.
The first falsehood is that none of the verses presented above appear among the forty-five abrogating verses except verse five in chapter 9 (The Repentance), “Fight and slay the Pagans wherever you find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); … ”. Maintaining that this verse overrides others is the second falsehood, for Maki Ibn Abi Talib is the only Muslin scholar who maintains that when the majority of scholars such as Annahas, Ibn Al-Jaouzi, Assayoti, Ad-dahlawi, Az-zarkani , Mustapha Zayd and so forth, all say that it does not cancel out verses such as “And [Allah acknowledges] his saying, “O my lord, indeed these are a people who do not believe, So turn aside from them and say, ‘Peace.’ But they are going to know” (43:88-89). The fact that the Jihad verses do not override the others of peace and tolerance in the Quran only signifies that the Jihad verses should be read in the light of their specific historical context where Muslims were in states of war.
As a scholar of religions, Reza Aslan rightly suggests in his book No God but God: “The way scholars form a reasonable interpretation of a particular religious tradition is by merging that religion’s myths with what can be known about the spiritual and political landscape in which those myths arose” (20). Examining the political and historical circumstances in which these were revealed can aid our understanding of the purposes behind their revelation. Christianity, for instance, was also established as a governing power and not relegated to the personal, private sphere, as is the case today. Hence, mentioning Christians in the Quran as enemies does not at all signify the Christians as holders of a faith, but rather as a political and military entity since there was no conception of secularism at the time. This verse, for instance: “and you will find the nearest of them in affection to the believers those who say, ‘We are Christians.’ That is because among them are priests and monks and because they are not arrogant.” (5:82) on the one hand debunks the author’s stance, and discharges Islam of its accusations as hostile to other confessions on the other.
Extremists’ exegesis: Another (out of many) example of his literal interpretation is in Chapter 20, “Justice Loses, Quran Wins”, where the reader can feel passion firing through the author as he presents and comments on a portion of the script of Sheikh Abdel-Rahman in the court following the assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat in 1981. He begins with a vindictive statement “when you read carefully the court transcript and his answers, you will see Islam’s true colors,” which he later reinforces through taking the defendant’s words at face-value: “Sheikh Abdel Rahman established the authority of his words by claiming, “What I am saying is not opinion or one person’s spiritual ideas, but it is what Allah’s books says.”
This parallelism between the author’s understanding and that of Sheikh Abdel Rahman as a representative extremist, and his total disregard of the thousands of Islamic scholars who disagree with their fanatic conception of religion show that he would have been himself a mastermind of Jihadi offense against innocent civilians, had he not left the Islamic faith.
To Read Part 1
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