Readings of Islamic texts

i have an interest in the idea of an islamic reformation and a rereading of islamic texts… not to say i support the entire movement or every attempt to reform the faith because id rather not have 15 editions of the Quran, but when a cleric is telling men they can be breastfed by female coworkers, i have to draw the line somewhere… and the topic in general is just filled with some pretty interesting debates.

maybe its not a wholesale reformation that we need, just a filtering out of the idiots.

anyway one example of this is a discussion i heard on the radio about a verse in the Quran that talks about God transforming humans into apes and swine: Shall I tell thee of a worse (case) than theirs for retribution with Allah? Worse (is the case of him) whom Allah hath cursed, him on whom His wrath hath fallen! Worse is he of whose sort Allah hath turned some to apes and swine, and who serveth idols. Such are in worse plight and further astray from the plain road. (5:60)

there are couple of other verses that make this reference too. the host mentioned how in the popular culture of the middle east, many muslims treat the verses as a reference to jews…and some clerics will invoke the verse as an insult to jews…in saudi school books for example, the verses are explained in that way.

anthropology professor Gregory Starrett explained the origins of the phrase as addressing the children of israel and chastising them for their disobedience. The professor said the verse is a warning to anyone who disobeys God, whether they be Christians, Jews, or Muslims. Obviously, a literal reading would be that God in fact transformed a group of Hebrews into apes and pigs. A more metaphorical reading would be that God is simply telling his children that if they disobey his commandments, then they might as well be akin to apes, who lack reasoning abilities. there’s a debate among Muslim theologians to this day over these verses… i guess the main issue that underlies most of these conflicts having to do with how islam is practiced and understood, is that of interpretation and authority. are certain verses to be taken literally or metaphorically, and who has the right to expolate these verses? the problem is especially prevalent within the sunni world, where there is no clearly defined religious leadership or hierarchy of scholarship.

i guess the saga continues…



  1. ojcomputer said

    Fuck authority.
    I am the authority.

    I’m gonna go watch Heroes now.

  2. Ali said


    This problem is ONLY prevalent in the “Sunni world,” since there like you said, no clearly defined leadership which was a result of primarily political ambitions. Study the Ummayds and Abbasids dynasties.. you will know what I am talking about.


  3. amel said

    Wa Salam Ali,

    I agree for the most part but to believe that their counterparts in the Shia world are entirely immune from political hijacking is a bit of a stretch. When the clergy is invested with so much authority, as in the case of the GC, the result generally isn’t that different from Sunni world, i.e stagnation and disenfranchisement.

    On a purely spiritual level, complacent and dysfunctional religious leadership specific to the Sunni world is more alarming (to me) because of the lack of guidance and consistency…Islam within the Arab world has been reduced to a stream of fatwas and fragmented theological discourse espoused by self-promoted demagogues with accredited beards for ijazahs.

  4. […] you can find the entire article here: […]

  5. […] all around…so this is in response to blogger Abbas’ response to my post on questions of Sunni leadership and […]

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