Thursday 31 March 2011

Justifying the Quranist / Quranism labels

Having previously been so very aware of sects within "Islam" and trying my hardest to avoid them, I fear I may have overcompensated by saying ' muslims don't need a new name of "Quranist" ' as was my initial reaction to the term.  Whilst saying "I am an not sunni, I am not shia, I am not in any sect, I am muslim alhamdulillah" which on the face of it is true, it avoids the core truth of the matter. 

After understanding what it means to be a Quranist or to use one of the Quranist methodologies, it has become apparent to me that on a practical level, having a name/label/tag is essential for effective communication in a non-misleading way. I have had to think long and hard about this, and have done word studies  on sects / parties / groups / divisions/dividing to come to my conclusion. I think what swung it for me in the end was the example of Musa and Aaron in 20:92 to 20:94 and also when I read about the "party of Allah" (58:22)  

The sects that divide the deen mentioned in (6:159 and 30:32), were the reason I thought sects were a big no-no. After further investigation, I now read these verses and think of people who believe in a portion of the book and reject part of it (2:85) or I think of people who literally say "this is half the deen, that is half the deen"  I was also quite amazed to see Musa and Ibrahim mentioned with the word shīʿatihi  (28:15)  and (37:83)   respectively.

I believe that 6:159 is informing us that the ones who split the deen AND become sects; you are not with them in anything. Which I take to mean each person is accountable for their own actions and beliefs and that no-one has back-up from schools of thought or support from people who follow the tenets of the organised sectarianism. Our own individual thoughts and beliefs are what matter. 

Quranism may at first appear to be a sect (depending on your definition of what a sect is!), given that it is an alternative to being Sunni or Shia. I believe that despite first appearance, Quranism is NOT a sect. Quranism was there before sects came to split the deen. Logically and by default when 2 things split off from the main thing, the original thing is left in place. This example is known as "cake-ology" (!) whereby a chocolate cake is cut and a couple of slices are taken away from the plate - the original cake is still on the plate - it did not move, but by default it has become a "piece" of cake due to the other pieces being cut. The cut pieces are still chocolate cake, they are just not on the plate because they have moved away from the source. The main "piece" still on the plate did not choose to become a "piece", it is only a "piece" through no fault of its own. Another example is : a dog gives birth to 2 pups; the mother is still there. Now there are 3 dogs - one adult and 2 pups. The original dog did not get divided - she is still whole and complete. Components/features/genes of the mother are in the pups. The pups are still dogs, they are just outside of the womb of the mother now. 

Why is the "Quranist" label difficult to accept for many? I think the reason for my own hesitation to embrace the "Quranist" label (after I came to understand that Quranism is not a sect), is that adopting a label for oneself, requires commitment, courage and strength. Was it a "stage of denial"? Maybe. When you label yourself as something, and introduce yourself as it, you can be met with enthusiasm and welcomed by fellow people who share the common interest BUT at the same time you become vulnerable to exposure and at risk of being ridiculed, rejected or persecuted by those who oppose your interests/beliefs.  

See these 2 examples:
1. There are 2 people: One enjoys watching Star Trek, the other is a self-proclaimed "Trekkie".  
2. There are 2 people: One drives a Skoda, the other is a self-procalimed "Skoda Driver".  

What's the difference? It's ALL in the labels. You may notice one is active the other is passive. Describing what you do and describing who you are are sensitive issues. One "happens" to drive a Skoda and it's not a big issue. The Skoda Driver is PERCEIVED to wear a Skoda T-Shirt, sport the keyring, duffle bag, and umbrella and goes to the all the Skoda meetings and clubs up and down the country and has pictures of Skoda vehicles up at home and in the office. 

The person who "happens" to watch Star Trek watches lots of other things on TV too. The Trekkie is PERCEIVED to go to clubs, conventions, wear the Com Badge and have posters and books and all sorts of merchandise, possibly perceived also to be a geek with no social life. No offence to Trekkies or Skoda Drivers. I am just giving examples of stereotypes when one associates a label to a person to describe WHO they are and what their personality is like when the INTENTION of the label is actually there to help unite people who share common interests and beliefs. 

So to "admit" you are a "Trekkie" or a "Skoda Driver" requires commitment and courage, and the strength to stand up and come out and say, "Hey, this is my passion, this is what I believe, this is what I love, and I don't care who knows it." 

I could go to an exhibition about basket weaving and I would be there as someone with an interest as to how it works along with my many other hobbies, but I wouldn't introduce myself to someone as a "Basket Weaver". That would imply some level of deep interest, passion and commitment which trumps all other hobbies (and that I actually know the all the ins and outs...) Smiley  

But the Qur'an is not a hobby neither is it for entertainment. The Star Trek analogy and the Skoda Driver and the basket weaving examples serve only to show the difference of the IMPLICATIONS and CONNOTATIONS between "being someone with an interest in doing something" and "being someone who is proud and committed to their cause." 

The term Quranist as a label will probably always have that "stumbling block" element that makes people hesitate before using the term due to the above negative stereotypes associated with labelling oneself. It's like getting a tattoo. Once it's on, it's on forever. The beauty of this tattoo, however, is that there are many different angles from which you can view it, and the imagery, the colours and the swirls and the intrigue of the pattern leave you mesmerized.

I am a Quranist. I am also a passionate and enthusiastic one. Contrary to the examples I gave which show the reasons why people shy away from using labels, being a Quranist does not automatically by definition mean that passion and enthusiasm for the Quran are pre-requisite. Quranism is not a sect, or a fan club. It is an approach - it contains my methodology.         

Why is so much courage and strength required to "come out"? I am a revert/convert to islam and it was difficult enough as it was, "coming out" to tell people I had changed my religion. Having to answer questions, justify decisions, back up answers with sound reasoning. Not an easy job for the ill-prepared. There are a lot of convert stories that depict the typical loneliness and rejection  and the disappointment / negativity from family / friends / acquaintances who had preconceptions about islam, stories which end happily ever after when they meet fellow muslims / converts who become new "family" - the brotherhoods and the sisterhoods of Islam. Imagine then having to "come out" to them too and face the loneliness and rejection and negativity all over again. We are weak as human beings. We crave support from friends and family, it takes strength and courage to stand up for what you believe in, even more so when you are doing that on your own. Inshaa'Allah "coming out" will get easier, the more Quranism is recognised and acknowledged. 

For a long time, I perceived Quranism (not knowing it was called that) to be "underground", taboo, not socially acceptable.  Now I feel Quranism is raising its profile and becoming recognised as a key player in the realms of free-thinking, philosophising and approaches to spiritual well-being.  And I am proud to be on the team, Alhamdulillah.

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Further reading Metaphor of the House from Quranist Islam blog by Farouk A. Peru


  1. Maybe this will help understand what Koran means by sects:

    Notice all the Jewish sects other than the Pharisees were like the Koranist today. Some accepted some oral tradition and others rejected it outright but only the Pharisees accepted the oral traditions as binding. This is simlar to Sunni/Shiasm which took the traditions as binding. Sects emerges in the Koran after the guidance (scriptures) came to them.

    That explains why Jesus was in a strong conflict with the Pharisees.

  2. I am happy for your brother. I grew up Muslim. Hence, i grew up in the 'brotherhood' and then here i was in my late teens and 20's rejecting the hadeeth and re-evaluating even the term Islam itself! Not to mention re-evaluating all of those things Muslims take for granted: Salat, Ramadan, Hajj. It has been an awfully lonely journey for me and I've been rejected too many times to count along the way by my non-Quranist Muslim brothers and sisters. I find that in some circles rejecting hadeeth and sticking to the Quran (or atleast saying that) is not so frowned upon. But when you start questioning everything (especially the rituals), support quickly fades. People need stability and so far Quranists with our constant questioning and re-evaluating have caused serious confusion and anger in the Sunni/Shia/Sufi community. I have even had issues with AHMADIS!!! My search for truth as a Quranist has drawn me back closer to some traditonal ideas of Salat, Ramadan, Hajj, Hadeeth and even calling myself Muslim, although on much, much different terms than Sunnis, Shias and Sufis. I'm still a Quranist and I'm still going strong. I'm just more silent and strategic about it now.

  3. I am a muslim and only believe in following the Quran as a complete guidance. To say that I am a Quranist is not correct as it can be seen as inventing another sect. What I would say is that I only follow the Quran, which should make me a true muslim. It is difficult to say that your are a Quranist without promoting another sect. If possible then I have no problem with calling myself a Quranist. I don't think this has anything to do with courage...I always reject most hadith, especially those that go against the Quran or those that are impossible to believe.

  4. I guess it comes down to if calling oneself "Quranist" actually divides/splits "deen". I'm not sure if it does.

  5. MUTT was a Murdering, Raping, Child Molesting, Enslaving, Thieving Arabian Thug!

    He claimed to be a prophet based on Deuteronomy 18:18, but 2 verses proves he should have been STONED TO DEATH, because of the SATANIC VERSES!