Theater of Cruelty

Quran interpretation for everyone

Those who are not concerned with the core of Islam should perhaps find something else to read than the Qur'an.


There is a growing demand from the majority that interpretation of the Qur'an, and especially of what it really says about women and equality, must take place in public space. From an integration perspective, this could be interesting, to the extent that it could point to a society where the majority also integrates the minorities' views of life and values ​​into their own.

But the majority want the debate on their own half. They will not get off their feet and go into the mosques to listen, but they will attend with their own views. They have come a long way to understand that the Qur'an cannot be rewritten, but they have found a good replacement in the redeeming mantra: Interpreting. And most importantly new interpretation. And while other demands are made on immigrants for formal competence in relation to participation in secular society, there are no corresponding claims for the new Quran interpreters. No one asks if they know Arabic or have studied Islamic sciences at places approved in the Islamic world.

If you had made such demands, you would have excluded yourself from making contributions. In the Norwegian public interpretation room, happy amateurs, believers and non-believers should be free. Just as one can find imams with a great deal of expertise in Sharia and little knowledge of Norwegian society, so do the non-Muslim community

whites, politicians, and ordinary viewers who are more than happy to throw out a Quranic verse for closer dissection.

Literal and transferred meaning

In the recent book Koran: Introduction to a text and interpretation tradition published by Solum publishing house this year, philologist Nora S. Eggen goes through different reading methods and approaches to the Koran's text and shows the diversity of approaches within the Islamic traditions. Initially, she also discusses various non-Muslim approaches to the content of the Qur'an, and outlines the problems that arise from the fact that there is no context-free reader – a non-religious approach is as ideologically colored as a religious one.

If we stick to non-Muslim readings of the Qur'an, as a piece of literature from 600th century Arabia, there are two fundamentally different approaches. Either one goes to the text with a notion that it constitutes its own universe and delivers its own, inherent horizon of interpretation, and one tries to read it from the assumptions it itself postulates. Alternatively, one understands the text primarily as a mouthpiece for something outside oneself – as a reflection of certain attitudes and ideologies in the context, and one searches it on the assumption that it contains rhetoric that serves certain interests at a certain time.

In practice, most people will to some extent commute between the two reading modes, partly because they necessarily include contexts during the reading. Also, being a believing, practicing Muslim does not guarantee that in practice you always treat the Quran unconditionally as the absolute speech of God. Whether one has one or the other point of departure, meaningful interpretation requires considerable philological competence. This applies either to the purpose of understanding the text's own universe, or to reveal all religion as a socially created humbug.

Muslims must stop reading the Qur'an literally, Unni Wikan argued in Tabloid on TV March 2. It was probably well meant. But is there any access to a text other than through the letters? It is not true that there is one literal and one non-literal way of reading. Perhaps Wikan believed that the Muslims must relativize the content of the Qur'an. But does that apply to the entire content? Or maybe just some offensive verses? When raising the question of the meaning of the text, it is of little value to park statements as "said in the transferred sense" if one cannot specify what this transfer entails.

Small mistakes, a lot of noise

Many twisted paradoxes arise when freedom of expression is exercised. Perhaps the biggest thing is that the speaker has so many more rights than the speech itself. Texts can be largely unpunished tearing out of context, cutting, cutting, row breaking and transplanting. In the same tabloid, Hege Storhaug lectured on the acidic 65 of the Qur'an which was to address Islamic rules for married girl children who had not yet received their first menstruation. In Einar Berg's Norwegian language suit, quite correctly, divorce rules are mentioned "even for those who have not yet menstruated".

MK Bernström's far stronger Swedish translation, on the other hand, uses the wording "those whose bleeding has failed", in the note explained as women who, for biological and medical reasons other than pregnancy and menopause, do not have menstruation. Such an expression of aggression that Storhaug engages in his reading is an accident. Also for Einar Berg, who was the best academy had 25 years ago, this deliberate use of errors in his translation is almost an offense.

Minimum measure of empathy

I myself have chosen to study the Qur'an mediated through Muslim teachings and acquired fragmentary knowledge. What you notice when you get a breather from the discussions about women's rights, gay Muslims, forced marriage, genital mutilation and everyone's right to draw the prophet of God with the bomb in the turban, is this: Islam is first and foremost religion, and the Quran is first and foremost theologically speech.

Although Islam is an all-encompassing concept and the Qur'an also provides the premises for understanding society, freedom of speech and equality, these things are not the pillars. One does not have to be a particular believer to discover that the Qur'an is about worship. But if one still lets a totally reductionist view of religion control understanding, it might be just as good to find another book.

With a little struggle, I have learned the wording of the Qur'an's introductory sorrow – the so-called preface. It is these seven short verses that practicing Muslims recite in prayer. The sequence is repeated several times in each prayer, and is thus recited nineteen times a day by the believer. Many of the world's Muslims probably do not go much further in their study of the Koran.

Not everyone reflects at a high level on women or jihad, which has become the non-Muslim area of ​​interest. And among lay people and scholars, there are some who do not feel called to speak publicly about absolutely everything between heaven and earth. They claim the right to remain silent about things they have no expertise in. Glory be to them.

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