Disiplinlerarası Çalışmalar Dergisi Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies ISSN 1309-6834

“Being Inspired Directly by the Qur’an”: From Returning to the Qur’an to the Discourse of Qur’anic Islam

The discourse of “Qur’anic Islam” is an extreme form of some of the demands posed by the (intellectual) movement of “returning to the Qur’an.” It has been born out of the efforts by some Muslim intellectuals to overcome the obstacle created by “the tradition” in the face of the constraints imposed by modern social conditions, of which these intellectuals sought a way out by constructing a “modern” conception of Islam. They assume that the reason for the ‘backwardness’ and disintegration of the Muslim World was due to Muslims’ ignorance of the Qur’an, and thus propose to “return” to the Qur’an by rejecting (partially or entirely) other sources of Islamic worldview and particularly the intellectual tradition that Muslims have produced throughout the history of Islam. Assuming that meaning is intrinsic in the text, the discourse of Qur’anic Islam focuses only on the Qur’anic text, thereby completely ignoring the prophetic Sunna, which has in fact a crucial function in term of understanding the Qur’an and applying it to real-life cases. Other weaknesses of this discourse include the fact that it lacks a sound methodology and any scientific principles, and that it remains superficial in its judgments. Finally, unlike its main objective of decreasing conflicts and disagreements among Muslims, it has increased them instead. A consequence of the above-mentioned lack of methodology, which is produced by the discourse of Qur’anic Islam that represents the extreme form of the movement of “returning to the Qur’an,” is the reading of the Qur’an freely (without regard to any principles), which in turn results in the fact that certain Qur’anic verses have been turned into slogans and that a rather individualistic and subjective/relativized conception of religion has emerged. This implies, moreover, a chaotic situation where Islam is reduced to a set of theoretical principles devoid of any practical application, which furthers divisions among Muslims hurting the idea of a unified ummah. Finally, with all these features, the discourse of Qur’anic Islam implies, though not directly aims at, a particular understanding of religion that begs the question of whether or not it in fact serves the secularization of religion.

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