Rejecting Your Sense of Justice is Rejecting a Device of God

This post is brought to you by a bewildering conversation I had a while ago in which an XY tried to mansplain to me that his interpretation of a specific verse pertaining to women is not unjust because it is from God, and therefore [what is from God] cannot unjust. (Read: His interpretation is from God. That’s the blasphemous, sinful basis of his claim. Says Qur’an 3:78–79: and who say, “This is from God,” the while it is not from God: and thus do they tell a lie about God.)

After explaining where he had erred in his fallacious argument and how it had caused his misinterpretation of the verse, he naturally pulled one of these, and then declared my interpretation “interesting.”

What I found mind-blowing, and what I continuously find mind-blowing, is that men will argue that something is just and impartial “because it is from God” despite the fact that they really don’t believe it is just.

This is obvious, because on several occasions when I’ve debated over exegesis, they’ve attempted to ravel their losing argument into a pretty bow with something like “See? You used the Qur’an itself to liberate women! So we don’t need feminism.”

LOL so you knew your interpretation was oppressive this whole time, while you were trying to convince me it was “just” because the words are from God. I will decide what women need, and whether we need feminism, so please stfu. I don’t need a man to convince me that God’s words are just.

This mentality—in which men define what is just not by the reason that God has given them to employ, but through what they mistake as faith, while simultaneously confusing their own interpretations with the dictations of God—is blasphemous. We were created with reason specifically for this purpose.

Have We not given xir two eyes,
and a tongue and a pair of lips,
and shown xir the two highways (of good and evil)?
But xie would not try to ascend the steep uphill road.
(Qur’an 90:8)

Denying yourself the use of reason is to reject a device of God. We are commanded over and over not to proceed without knowledge or reason. Failing to employ our reason is a sin:

“The things that my Lord
hath indeed forbidden are:
shameful deeds,
whether open or secret; sins
and trespasses against truth or reason:..”
(Qur’an 7:33)

So when you truly feel that an interpretation is oppressive, and yet you continue to assert that it is not because you incorrectly believe that it’s a valid interpretation ordained by God, and then you sigh in relief when you realize it doesn’t say what you thought it said because surprise! you actually thought your interpretation was oppressive the whole time! it’s a dead giveaway that you’re (1) full of shit (2) attributing your own interpretation to God and (3) being entirely disingenuous about how oppressive an interpretation is / not employing reason in deciphering justice.

Say (O Prophet): “This is my way:
Resting upon conscious insight
accessible to reason,
I am calling (you all) unto God –
I and they who follow me.”
(Qur’an 12:108)

Behold, God enjoins justice,
and the doing of good and
generosity towards (one’s) fellow-humans,
and God forbids all that is shameful
and all that runs counter to reason,
as well as envy; (and) God exhorts you
(repeatedly) so that you might
bear (all this) in mind.
(Qur’an 16:90)

A sinner in Hell-fire will
say: “Had we but listened
or used our intelligence,
we should not (now) be among
the Companions of the Blazing Fire!”
(Qur’an 67:10)

Rant over.

I get the best commenters.

sophia said…
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.

Rant over.
Sunday, August 28, 2011