4/25/2007

inerrancy

Shadi Hamid at eteraz.org writes that there is a difference in belief between muslims and christians about the inerrancy of the religious texts:

Muslims believe that the every word of the Quran is the literal, unaltered word of God. It is this fact which distinguishes Islam from the two other monotheistic religions. Post-enlightenment, the vast majority of Christians and Jews no longer believe in the inerrancy of their own scripture and this is seen as part of a natural, necessary progression.


I replied, chastising this view in a comment:

Is the premise that Christianity and Judaism (European observances in particular) are not inerrant faiths accurate?

It is dangerous for anyone not of a faith to presume knowledge about it. I think we rightly get annoyed about this behavior when directed at Islam. We shouldn't be so hasty to do the same to other faiths. The issue of the Bible or Torah's inerrancy is, of course, rather more complicated than you paint it to be here in this piece.

The truth is that there is a rationalization process for inerrancy itself. How do muslims explain inerrancy in light of the caliph Omar's compilation of the "official" text? How do Christians justify the translation by King James? How does the Torah survive translation into written tradition from the oral? There are reasonable and rigorous answers to these questions posed from within each of these faiths. It is incumbent on you to make the effort to address the complexity of the issue from within the faith's internal perspective before attempting to draw sweeping generalizations about fundamental clashes of perspective.

3 comments:

islamoyankee said...

Uthmanic Recension? Not sure Umar had the wherewithal to really be involved in compiling the text.

Abu Muhammad said...

assalamu alay'kum Brother Aziz,

This is an accurate mention. The very need for establishing inerrancy is a proof in itself that scriptural texts are not inerrant per se.

For if Quran was thought to be intrinsically exempted from error, the question for supervising a unanimously authentic version would not have been there in early years. Yes, its inerrancy is understood traditionally as an Ijaz (impossibility to imitate) but thats a claim which text makes itself and which has to be established from sources other than itself.

wassalam

Aziz Poonawalla said...

IY, my point about Umar is that applying the casual standard that Hamid did would lead to apparent contradictions in our own Islamic sense of inerrancy - unless you delve deeper into the details.

AM, I think that the distinction we need to make about inerrancy of the text with respect to compilation is that in that case, it's about inerrancy arising from human intervention - intentional or not. I certainly can take a black marker to a copy of teh Qur'an and then teach my children from it; that is in no way a comment n the inerrancy of the divine message. I guess I disagree that the need for an "authentic" version and compilation of same neccessarily proves that the scriptural texts are not inerrant. Just that we flawed mortals arent.