Yesterday, on the most recent Inside Islam radio program, Professor Anna M. Gade spoke with Jean about the Qur’an. Professor Gade shed light on the Qur’an and its complexity. She also emphasized the important role that the Qur’an plays in Muslim life.
The show was divided into roughly three sections. In the first part of the show, Professor Gade discussed the structure of the Qur’an, which for the unfamiliar can seem confusing. The Qur’an’s non-linear structure, Professor Gade maintained, reflects the multifaceted nature of the text that requires that the believer reflect, think, and ponder on the nature of the world and the meaning of life. The structure forces the believer to constantly return to the text and engage it.
In the second part of the show, Professor Gade addressed the so-called controversial verses. Specifically, she discussed the following verses:
O you who believe! do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends; they are friends of each other; and whoever amongst you takes them for a friend, then surely he is one of them; surely Allah does not guide the unjust people. (Qur’an 5:51)
But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practice regular charity, then open the way for them: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful. If one amongst the pagans ask thee for asylum, grant it to him, so that he may hear the word of Allah; and then escort him to where he can be secure. That is because they are men without knowledge. (Qur’an 9:5-6)
In relation to the first, Professor Gade highlighted that the issue surrounding this verse is semantic. That is, the key word is the Arabic awliyaa’ which is translated here as “friends.” According to Gade, in the Sufi context this term has been taken to mean friend in the sense of “friend of God”; however, in relation to this verse, it should be translated as “guardian” or “protector” reflecting the historical context. At that time, the small Muslim community was challenged from multiple directions, and thus the verse was essentially saying have your own people as protection.
In relation to the second citation, Gade argued that it is similarly important to recognize the historical context of the Qur’an and the challenges that the growing Muslim community faced. Often verse 5 is taken out of context and thus an important aspect of the message is lost: if those who fight you cease, you must cease. Basically, this verse, and others like it, set limits to warfare.
Finally, Professor Gade ended with a discussion of God’s nature in the Qur’an. She underlined that the central message of the Qur’an is monotheism. Thus, in the Qur’an, God has no partners and is beyond anything we can imagine. Gade’s explanation of the Qur’an demonstrated the complexity of the text and to approach it one must ponder and truly reflect.
What did you think of the show? Have you read the Qur’an? What do you think the message of the Qur’an is? Please share your thoughts below.