Al-Mahdi Journal

"Am I reading what the Qur'an says or what I think it should say?"
A Correspondance
With M Amin-Evans

There are many ways in which the Qur'an can be misread, sometimes deliberately, and one of the commonest errors is to forget that the Qur'an is not, a spiritual cookery book nor a scientific textbook but a revealed text composed in a literary style that uses the linguistic devices of Arabic to describe concepts, events and phenomena.   This is not a new occurrence and it is true of many texts that opponents to the thought or purpose expressed in a written work read it with the prejudiced intent of finding faults.  In the early history of Islam many non-Muslim scholars studied the Qur'an solely for this purpose and even the debates between the Mu'tazilites and the Asharites were not free from it as Ignaz Goldziher (1850-1921) observed in his discussion upon the reaction to the rational arguments put forward by the early Asharites, "And how much more of one [an abomination] in the eyes of the anthropomorphists, those slaves to the letter who would not hear of metaphors, tropes and other rhetorical-exegetal dodges in connection with the scriptural attributes of God."1

What at first seems curious in this defence of reason against literalism by Goldziher is his inclusion of the less than flattering concept of 'dodges' or tricks to describe the work of rationalist exegetes.  It is, however, understandable because his critical attitude towards Islam is rooted in the complete acceptance of a European and Judeo-Christian stance towards Islam and the Qur'an that was current in his lifetime.  Thus, he regards all arguments against his criticisms as products of and justifications for a trickery that flies in the face of his certain knowledge.  That being said his work was not an irrational or unscholarly attack on Islam and his poor reputation amongst Muslim popular opinion has more to do with the excesses of propagandist writers who cite him rather than his own work.

I recently received some questions about the veracity of the Qur'an and offer to the readers of the Journal both the questions and my immediate responses, for their lengthier consideration.  I have, however, made some revisions by adding some explanatory notes and correcting some grammatical errors, though many still remain, to make the whole discussion clearer.

The question that any reader of the Qur'an must pose to himself is, "Am I reading what the Qur'an says or what I think it should say?"

Dear Shk. M. Amin Sir,
Peace be on you all the time.
It is a great pleasure to get your prompt response. I am really struggling with some questions in my mind. I confess that I have a problem ie I too strongly believe in logic and science. I always try to believe that 2+2=4 and it can't be 5 any way. That's why when I read Qur'an I try to see things very straightway. For example, all throughout the Qur'an it is written that our Holy Lord has created the whole universe including the earth in 6 days but in one place the calculation comes exactly 8 days. Why is it? I am mentioning the verses for your understanding.
· Qur'an-7:54: Your guardian-Lord is Allah who created the heavens and earth in Six Days
· Qur'an-10:3: Verily your Lord is Allah, who created the heavens and earth in Six Days
· Qur'an- 11:7: He it is Who created the heavens and earth in Six Days
· Qur'an-25:59: He Who created the heavens and earth and all that is between, in Six Days

· Qur'an-41:9: Is it that ye deny Him who created the earth in Two Days?
· Qur'an- 41:10: He set on the (earth) Mountains standing firm high above it, and bestowed blessing on the earth, and measured therein all things to give them nourishment in due proportion, in FOUR DAYS…
· Qur'an-41:12: So He completed them (heavens) as seven firmaments in Two days and …
Now do the calculation for the 2nd instance: 2 (for earth) + 4 (for nourishment) + 2 (for heavens) = 8 days; and not 6 days.

How come it's possible?

There is another problem. We know the Sun is a star and the earth with its satellite moon is revolving around the Sun. This is why we find sunrise and sunset. Although we say "rise" and "set" to attribute action for Sun but it is because of the earth's revolution (the Sun has nothing to do with it). But in Qur'an this simple phenomenon is mentioned very unscientifically. How come this simple phenomenon is misrepresented in Qur'an? For your convenience I am mentioning the verses.
· Qur'an-18:86: Till, when he (the traveler Zul-qarnain) reached the setting-place of the Sun, he found it going down into a muddy spring…
· Qur'an- 18:90: Till, when he reached the rising-place of the Sun, he found it rising on a people for whom We had appointed no shelter from it.
It is an established fact that the Sun never goes down into a muddy spring, it can't be although it looks like when you sit beside a river. And if you stand in a vast open field you feel the Sun is rising. Interestingly it seems

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1 Goldziher, I., Introduction to Islamic Theology and Law, (Heidelberg 1910) English translation of A. and R. Hamori, Princeton, NJ., 1981.