This post reminds me that reading can be a political act. It’s also an act that has ethical and moral implications.
I’m wary of readers who can’t think for themselves– who need a scholar to tell them how to read, what to read, and what to think about either.
Such an approach to reading a text is disingenuous, passive, and egotistical (egotistical when used to inform or chasten the “ignorant” from the mouths of those who have unwittingly labeled *themselves* fools in order to usurp the role of the scholar by conflating scholarly knowledge with their own: “I’ve read x who is smart, therefore I am smart. I’ve read x is who wise, righteous, and brilliant, therefore I am brilliant. I’ve read scholars on this matter and they all say x, I agree, therefore I know what I’m talking about.”
Besides being a theft and a fraudulent claim to knowledge, that method of reading breeds a rancid form of arrogant piety.
At its worst, how a reader interprets a text can absolve them of responsibility for their beliefs and actions. Of course, this is a repulsive phenomena. Readers have a choice. And whether or not they find themselves in the neighborhood of being absolved of responsibility depends on what a reader decides to do with what they’ve read.
That nature of that choice, I believe, is a question of character– not intellect.
It’s disturbing and wrong when unethical and immoral methods of reasoning and consequences arise from bad reading habits and scholarship.
It’s outrageous when bad reading habits and scholarship are endorsed as a way for arriving at conclusions that, at best, are problematic– not least of all when it seems that the conclusions and intepretations drawn from a text fail the test of reality and common sense.
Unfortunately, as we’ve witnessed time and again in the realm of sacred and religious texts, readings and readers who are divorced from reality find themselves in a hermeneutical quandry. When coupled with power, that quandry tends to be resolved through means of elaborate theological and philosophical ruses, violence, oppression, priviledge, exclusion, coercion, harrassment, force, psychological aggression, guilt. On and on.
I don’t trust readings of any text that need the thought police or a goon squad in order to enlighten the rest of us.
I’m not a Muslim, but I do at least remember that the Qu’ran has the special status of being God’s direct, revealed word and speech.
With that in mind, I marvel that the Prophet Muhammad was apparently illiterate.
It seems to me that having credentials or a degree isn’t a pre-requisite for understanding the Qu’ran. Nor does it seem, outright, to be a pre-requisite for sharing one’s thoughts or ideas about the Qu’ran.
God’s revelation is to all of humanity (high and low)–not to a select group of scholars that have been asked to interpret it for the rest of us.
Sunday, August 28, 2011