Quranism vis-à-vis Traditionalist Islam

A brief comparison

While not all Traditionalists hold to all of the views below in exactly the way described, the description is a fair one over the generality of those who would identify as Sunni Muslims.

The points found in the bullet points summarise positions held implicitly and explicitly across the translation and are, where necessary, supported in the Notes and expounded upon in the Appendix of The Qur’an: A Complete Revelation.

Islam is a religion with a set of tenets which one chooses or embraces and then begins to practice.

  • Islam means submission; it is a state resulting from a decision to submit to God. While those who call themselves Muslim may have this state, it is not the preserve of those who call themselves Muslim or in any way correlated with the religion commonly associated with them.

God has outlined in exact detail what a believer should do. These directives together form a religion. The particulars of this religion are so exacting and complicated only advanced scholars can understand them.

  • God is not a micromanager. He has given those who choose to obey him principles and boundaries. What a man chooses to do within those is his business.
  • It is God who guides, not a religion or advanced scholars or anyone else.

Ibrāhīm was a Muslim; the religion he practiced was materially like what the Traditionalist Muslim practices.

  • To illustrate why I reject this, I would simply ask what kind of Muslim Ibrāhīm was: Sunni or Shi’a – and what madhab did he subscribe to?
  • Beyond taqwā (prudent fear of God) where it exists among Muslims there is little the Ibrāhīm of the Qur’an would recognise in the cult today called Islam.
  • Ibrāhīm’s example was that he removed himself from false religion and refused to be part of it.
  • We are called upon to follow Ibrāhīm’s example.

The Qur’an is the holy book of the Muslims.

  • The Qur’an is a preaching to all men. It nowhere addresses ‘Muslims’ by name. In any case, the word muslīm as used by the Qur’an means something distinct from what is understood by the term today.

Membership of the religion of Islam provides protection against the judgment of God.

  • There is no protection against the judgment of God beyond faith and good works. Membership of any cult, be it religious or secular, is a matter of indifference in and of itself.
  • If a person believes in God and the Last Day and does good works, he has his reward.
  • If one commits crimes in the name of religion, they remain crimes – perhaps more so than if committed without the cloak of religion.
  • We are judged on our faith and our deeds. Our religion will not save us; in fact, it damns us, if we know but do not act.

Christian, Jewish or other cults are in some way inferior to the Islamic cult.

  • The preceding answer applies.

The religion of Islam is built upon the Qur’an and ḥadīth literature, fiqh; etc.

  • The Qur’an does not indicate a religion in the sense the Traditionalist means it. It contains core principles which can be implemented in any number of ways.

Muḥammad came from Makkah.

  • Muḥammad cannot be shown to have come from Makkah.
  • Makkah did not exist at the time of Muḥammad and there is no objective historical evidence that it did.
  • Muḥammad not only never went to Makkah he likely never heard of it.

To be a ‘Muslim’ one has to conform to (generally) five ‘pillars’.

  • These ‘pillars’ come from the ḥadīth literature and have no Qur’anic basis.
  • Whatever muslīm means in the Qur’an, it is not contingent upon the Traditionalist’s claims for it.

You still have to conform to the five pillars.

  • shahāda – a statement nowhere found in Qur’an and which – were it invented today – would rightly be rejected by the Traditionalist as an expression of shirk
  • fast during ramaḍān – what month is meant by ramaḍān is uncertain.5 The Qur’an does not say to fast during ramaḍān; it says to fast in a month you witness (i.e. in which you are alive), and the number of days is not given
  • perform ṣalāt – by ṣalāt the Traditionalist understands a set ritual prayer because that is what his ḥadīth literature tells him it means. There is no Qur’anic basis for thinking ṣalāt exclusively denotes prayer of any kind. The Qur’an treats ṣalāt as an abstract noun
  • give zakāt – by which the Traditionalist understands a requirement to pay a set yearly tax. Nowhere is there an explicit Qur’anic statement that zakāt is a tax of any kind. The meaning derived from all instances of āta al zakāt within the text is to give (what is conducive to) – or to pay (the price of) – (sexual) purity (i.e. to abjure social activity of any type with an implied sexual connotation outside the bond of marriage); this value is based upon  pan-textual analysis of contexts and usage. That we are to give (of whatever God gives us), seeking his countenance and in order to purify ourselves, is an explicit normative requirement of believers; the Traditionalist has imported his value for zakāt from elsewhere and conflated it with the Qur’anic requirement in order to create a tax on wealth
  • perform ḥajj – this was a directive for a community which convened each year to trade and bury their dead and to call upon God. A visit to the original site for that purpose is now impossible since the Arabs themselves destroyed Petra and later created a cultic centre at Makkah. The Qur’an itself prohibits further visits to al masjid al ḥarām (9:28).

Stoning or killing for sexual misconduct is required by God.

  • Stoning and killing in such circumstances are capital crimes which themselves should be punished. There is no justification for such actions in the Qur’an.

The ‘ulema’ (or scholars) know best how to obey God.

  • Insofar as they go to sources outside the Qur’an as a basis for what they call religion they can – and should – be ignored.

The kaʿaba is the stone structure found at Makkah.

  • The idea that kaʿaba means a box-like structure comes from non-Qur’anic sources.
  • The word kaʿaba is a simple Arabic noun which means joint (as in leg-joint) and in one instance in the Qur’an the Traditionalist himself renders the word thus. The position here is that explicit, clear meanings of words may not be superseded by spurious, unsubstantiated external claims.

One has to bow towards the ‘kaʿaba’.

  • Even if kaʿaba meant the box-like structure the Traditionalist bows down to at Makkah, bowing down to anything is idolatry and contravenes core Qur’anic principles.
  • Bowing towards the so-called kaʿaba is assumed by the Traditionalist. It is nowhere mentioned in the Qur’an.
  • Bowing towards anything is not mentioned in the Qur’an.
  • The Qur’an calls for the hearers to turn their faces (i.e. their selves, their attention) towards a qibla. The word qibla is found in the Qur’an in a context where it can only mean focus or direction or general course. Again, the position here is that an explicit value cannot be supplanted by one of dubious origins.

The box-like structure at Makkah was founded by Ādam and again by Ibrāhīm, and Makkah was a major centre at the time of Muḥammad.

  • Objective history does not bear this out. Makkah is nowhere found on any map until around 900 CE.

The messenger was from Makkah.

  • Makkah frustrates any serious attempt to link it with the city of the messenger on the basis of the Qur’an or real history.
  • The locus of al masjid al ḥarām as described in the Qur’an fits in every regard the place known today as Petra in Jordan.
  • Muḥammad may have been from Petra or from another place. Theories exist which point to both the ʿAsīr-Ḥejāz region and the Arabia Felix region (Yemen). More work is required to establish the facts.

The purpose of the ummah (community) is to form a state, impose shariʿah law and expand outwards; the shariʿah law – as the Traditionalist Muslim understands it – is God’s law for all people and governs every aspect of life.

  • The concept of shariʿah law is found nowhere in the Qur’an. It is a man-made ism, a mixture of good and bad.
  • The purpose of the ummah (community) is to follow the example of the messenger: to live by what is in the Qur’an and to warn nearby communities by the Qur’an to turn to the One God, and having done so to leave God to judge them.7 If attacked they are to defend themselves.
  • The Qur’an provides a small number of core legal principles which the faithful are called to adhere to and operate within.
  • All legal processes and human activities which are not contrary to this small number of legal principles are valid by default and can change over time.
  • The concept of a micromanaged society is nowhere found in the Qur’an.

The Qur’an is a holy book, the Traditionalist knows what it means and it (the Qur’an) is the foundation of his religion.

  • The claim that the Traditionalist’s religion is not attached to the Qur’an in any meaningful way can be verified easily by attempting in any mosque to engage those inside in conversation about the Qur’an alone.
  • The Traditionalist typically never looks to the Qur’an for guidance, and when he does so his understanding is shaped by his non-Qur’anic interpolations. He sings small portions of the Qur’an at God since his extra-Qur’anic cult requires it of him. He rarely seeks to understand what he reads or sees any need to do so.

The majority of Muslims will never be wrong.

  • The majority is always wrong.
  • The Qur’an nowhere says that the majority of ‘Muslims’ will never err.

The Qur’an is not to be tested or its supremacy questioned.

  • We are to test the Qur’an.
  • Were there a better revelation than the Qur’an we should follow it.

The Qur’an as a physical book has spiritual properties.

  • The Qur’an is a preaching and a teaching whose only value is in the consideration and application of its contents.

The Qur’an is a book of religion.

  • The Qur’an is a handbook providing guidance on how to confront and overthrow tyranny, how to reach Eternity in the best possible condition, and on how to maintain decency within a community of believers.

When we do what the Traditionalist says, we will be rightly guided.

  • Only God makes the Qur’an accessible to a man’s heart and guides him.

The Qur’an falls into two sections: revelation at Makkah and revelation at Yathrib and the significance of these two sections and where each was revealed is known.

  • The Qur’an is one book. The divisions assumed by the Traditionalist are based on non-Qur’anic sources and are rejected for that reason.
  • Dividing the Qur’an is an anti-Qur’anic stance.
  • Certainly, Qur’anic chapters tend to focus on two stages: that of living and warning under the aegis of a rejecting community and that of living and warning under the aegis of a believing community. Both scenarios have their challenges, but this is no basis for dividing God’s revelation.
  • The life of any person or set of people setting out in earnest to follow the Qur’anic injunctions will fall into two stages:
  • Warning at home followed – in all likelihood – by rejection
  • The creation of an independent community.
  • The purpose of the creation of an independent, God-fearing community is to form a base from which to continue warning, not to create an ‘Islamic’ state.
  • The Traditionalist’s assertions regarding the time and circumstances of the revelation of particular parts of the Qur’an are mere hearsay and a distraction and have no Qur’anic basis or justification.

Those who refuse to convert to the Traditionalist’s understanding of Islam are infidels.

  • The Traditionalist has never demonstrated a proper understanding of the Qur’anic definition of the word he renders infidel.
  • The Qur’anic definition of the word he understands thus (al kāfirūn) is very different from what he assumes.

Alcohol is ḥarām (forbidden).

  • To make ḥarām what God has not made ḥarām is itself a crime.
  • Alcohol is certainly discouraged, but no more.

Dogs are dirty.

  • Nonsense from the ḥadīth literature. Nowhere are dogs found in the Qur’an to be dirty animals.

Men may not wear silk or gold.

  • Nonsense from the ḥadīth literature.

The ḥadīth literature constitutes a basis for religion.

  • Nonsense from the ḥadīth literature. The ḥadīth literature is, at best, hearsay. Hearsay is nowhere admissible as evidence in the Qur’an.

Without the ḥadīth literature one does not know how to pray the ritual prayer known as ṣalāt.

  • The Qur’an nowhere indicates that ṣalāt is specifically a prayer – ritual or otherwise. The Traditionalist assumes it to be one on the basis of his non-Qur’anic sources and then proceeds to insinuate that the Qur’an is incomplete on that basis.

Without the ḥadīth literature it is not possible to follow Islam.

  • The Traditionalist is right if by Islam he means a man-made social and political matrix based on what his traditions contain. However, since his traditions are not in the Qur’an and constitute (by universal consent) hearsay, they can have no bearing on what Islam may or may not mean.

The Qur’an cannot be understood without the ḥadīth literature.

  • The Qur’an itself claims to be fully detailed.

The Qur’an requires extra details not found in the Qur’an.

  • The Qur’an states that God could have given us infinitely more, but chose not to.
  • The Traditionalist’s position implies that God made a mistake – a possibility which is not accepted here.
  • The Traditionalist’s position replicates the position of Rabbinic Judaism which is that Mūsā received an oral Torah. The Jews are challenged by the Qur’an to bring the written Torah, never to bring the traditions created by their priestly class.

Muḥammad knew all sorts of things not found in the Qur’an.

  • Muḥammad had no special knowledge.
  • The character of that name in the ḥadīth literature who appears to know about the future is difficult to reconcile with the messenger of the Qur’an.

Muḥammad was a special prophet and faith in him is a feature of what it is to be Muslim.

  • There is no difference between prophets. Placing a particular emphasis on any one of them is shirk (the act of diluting God’s completeness).

Muḥammad had eleven wives.

  • This accusation stands in direct contradiction to the Qur’an.

Muḥammad took a child bride.

  • This is outright calumny originating with the ḥadīth literature.
  • The Qur’an is clear: women accept or reject proposals. The noun is nisā’ (women). A woman is a female who has reached the age of majority.

Arabic is a special language.

  • Arabic is not a special language. Its root system has certain characteristics which facilitate the uncovering of the meanings of words which have been corrupted over time. This feature is especially useful in expunging the accretions and insinuations which have been attached to certain words in the Qur’an by the Traditionalist. This feature makes Arabic interesting, but nothing more.

The Qur’an can only be read in Arabic, not in translation.

  • Under the Egypt-Palestine thesis (see Article XVIII) the speech of certain people in the Qur’an would be necessarily presented in translation in any case, for example Firʿawn for whom Arabic was not a native language; under the Arabia Felix thesis (see same Article) this point is less pressing – although it is unlikely that the language of Ādam and Nūḥ would be intelligible without translation.
  • One should read the Qur’an to understand it and apply it.

Women must wear a headscarf.

  • There are dress requirements in the Qur’an but a headscarf is not one of them.
  • Historically, the wearing of a headscarf has indicated adherence to faith in God, and the signalling of faith through dress to non-believers is a Qur’anic directive. On that basis, the wearing of a headscarf may be argued to be an act of piety. However, that is not the same thing as saying the Qur’an directs women to wear a headscarf, and the claim that it makes such a statement is false.

You have to be an expert, to have studied at an ‘Islamic’ university and have a doctorate in Islamic Studies to be qualified to have an opinion on the Qur’an.

  • Islamic Studies courses are based on a series of religious sects which grew out of the ḥadīth literature and on the history of the lamentable deterioration of societies thus afflicted. Such a study bears little or no relation to approaching the Qur’an to derive knowledge.
  • The Qur’an says that it is easy to understand and to remember.
  • The Qur’an does not admit of a priesthood.
  • All religions based on a top-down structure – including what is called Islam – serve unstated agendas.

The Mahdi (Guided One) will return to save us and impose the religion of Islam.

  • The concept of a Mahdi is nowhere found in the Qur’an. It is a later invention found in the ḥadīth literature.
  • The creation of saviour mythologies is a standard operating procedure among rulers who want to inject passive and fatalistic tendencies into their subjects’ worldview.
  • God does not change the state of a people until they change what is in themselves.

Music is ḥarām.

  • Music is not specifically mentioned or warned against in the Qur’an.
  • To make ḥarām what God has not made ḥarām is specifically mentioned and warned against in the Qur’an.
  • As a man draws closer to God his appetites will evolve and make vulgarity and immodesty in any form repugnant to him.
  • A man does not require a religious police to tell him what to do in the privacy of his own home.

The Arabs have some special understanding of and relationship with the Qur’an.

  • According to the Qur’an, on the Day of Judgment the messenger will lament that his people (the Arabs) have forsaken the Qur’an.
  • Only a man whose heart God has opened to the Qur’an will understand it.

The Ancient House is another word for the box in Makkah which the Traditionalist calls the kaʿaba and bows to.

  • The Ancient House likely refers to the burial ground in the ancient burial city of Petra and is just one of many historical references in the Qur’an. Petra is now defunct and al masjid al ḥarām closed (9:28). Such references in the Qur’an have no relevance to us beyond general lessons.

We have to make ḥajj to Makkah.

  • The box at Makkah is an idol.
  • The traditional Arabian twice-yearly pilgrimage to Petra was the platform God assigned Muḥammad to deliver the warning of the Qur’an. At the end of that stage, al masjid al ḥarām was abandoned (9:28).
  • While it is understandable that after the destruction of Petra the Muslims created a new centre for their religion, the attempt to conflate that new centre with the original one by means of a fraudulent literature is without justification.
  • The rituals practiced at Makkah are a syncretic mixture of Hinduism, Arab paganism, sun worship, moon worship and Saturn worship.

The jiz’ is a fixed tax on non-Muslims.

  • The jiz’ indicates the requirement to hold those who claim previous scriptures to observe the Jubilee.

The six collectors of ‘reliable’ Sunni ḥadīth literature were reliable.

  • The six collectors of ‘reliable’ Sunni ḥadīth were Persian. The Persians had been defeated by the Arabs militarily. The Persians were an ancient people even then, well advanced in the arts of what today are called psyops and counter-intelligence. One would need to be naïve indeed to suppose that such an advanced nation would have sat idly by in the face of military subjugation; rather, the question of how to defeat the Arab invaders would have occupied the best minds among the Persian intellectual and military elites. The Persian elite created a long-term plan by which to defeat the Arabs ideologically by undermining their attachment to the Qur’an and insinuating something else between them and it, and the six collectors of the so-called reliable ḥadīth were educated and trained to that end. The efficacy of their strategy may be gauged by the fact that the religion today called Islam is almost entirely built upon the result of this intelligence operation.

Without the ḥadīth literature one cannot be guided.

  • The ḥadīth literature is hearsay and thus inadmissible. It is God who guides, not the ḥadīth literature. The Qur’an claims to be the best ḥadīth.

The Qur’an is the word of God, complete and uncorrupted.

  • The Qur’an is the word of God, complete and uncorrupted. This does not extend to the diacritic markings, verse numbers, chapter names, punctuation and recital conventions.

The Qur’an should be sung according to particular rules.

  • The Qur’an should be read to be understood and applied. It is best read individually or in small groups, meditated upon and discussed.

The Qur’an should be recited to God in prayer because it pleases him to hear it.

  • God gave us the Qur’an to understand and apply in our lives. If you wish to recite it in your prayers that is your business.

The Qur’an allows men to beat their wives.

  • The Qur’an lists remedial applications in the case of a marriage which is going wrong. The last resort among these remedial applications is for the husband to spank the wife. Some choose now not to read this passage in this way under modern pressures, but the context and the Arabic are clear enough. Naturally, some would see this as a barbaric abuse of a woman’s rights. And people who think this way may take solace in the fact that within a Qur’anic marriage the woman is at all times aware of her rights: she knows the list of remedial applications should she treat her husband with contempt and – should that list be initiated – where the couple are on that list and what comes next. Also, naturally, she has the right to initiate divorce at any time before this last stage is reached. For those who do not consider a man’s exercise of undiluted mastery over his wife anathema to the natural order, the woman has the right – should she wish to exercise it – to remain within the marriage and indirectly require her husband to take charge. This is within a broader legal context where outright violence against someone who has done no violence to you is itself a crime requiring equal requital.

The Muslims should band together and create a caliphate and relive the (largely imaginary) glory years practicing the religion of Islam while opposing the Western moral depravity.

  • The West is certainly depraved.
  • Those who follow the Qur’an should reason with and warn the godless and morally depraved nations and call them to pure monotheism – the worship of God rather than of self and material possession – and to prepare with pious circumspection for the Day of Judgment. When they are rejected and persecuted on that basis they should fight only those who fight them.Outside of this paradigm, Traditionalist Islam in its militant forms is – wittingly or unwittingly – serving a geopolitical agenda set for it by the broader New World Order elite and based on a Hegelian dialectic whereby the world is being guided towards a clash of civilisations.

The thief should have his hand severed.

  • The context in which such a punishment is warranted is clear: when under military attack. There is no Qur’anic indication of – or justification for – such a punishment outside of that scenario.

The Qur’an tells us to follow the messenger, and that is not possible without the ḥadīth literature.

  • The ḥadīth literature is clearly stated by those who hold to it to be hearsay in the isnād (chain of transmission).
  • Hearsay is not admissible as evidence.
  • The Qur’an says that it itself contains the best ḥadīth.
  • The messenger is dead. The Qur’an challenges us not to turn away after his death.
  • God and his messenger are treated in the singular in the Qur’an.
  • We have the example of the messenger in the Qur’an: he witnessed to the message. That message was: repent and turn back to God alone and then obey the messenger (i.e. bear witness to the message and do what it says).
  • The messenger himself followed a messenger: the Angel Jibrīl.
  • The messenger is told that he brings nothing but the Qur’an.
  • The messenger warned by means of the Qur’an.
  • The messenger is warned not to improvise.
  • Nowhere is provision made in the Qur’an for a later literature providing elucidation.
  • The following of later writings is the mistake made by Rabbinic Jews and Pauline Christians.

The ḥadīth literature was decreed and preserved by God to provide the details men needed to follow the religion intended by God.

  • The claim that a messenger brought a second, oral revelation is not new. This claim forms the basis of Rabbinic Judaism – a tradition which the Qur’an tells us has gone astray.

A holy war should be waged against those who do not accept the religion of Islam.

  • The religion of Islam is a man-made construct, and as such it is an idol if worshipped.
  • People are to be warned and then left to God.
  • The only people to be fought are those who fight you, and only for as long as they fight you and in a manner which is proportionate to how they fight you.
  • War is declared in only one case where no attack has previously occurred: against those believers who practice usury after ignoring the warning to cease.

About the Author Sam Gerrans

Sam Gerrans is an English writer and speaker with professional backgrounds in media, strategic communications, and technologies. He is driven by commitment to ultimate meaning, and focused on authentic approaches to revelation and Realpolitik. He is founder of Quranite.com and author of The Qur’an: A Complete Revelation where his consistent, Qur'an-centric hermeneutical methodology is applied to the text of the Qur’an in its entirety. Read more...

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