Revelation by God, but through a man

Islamic scholar Abdulkarim Soroush thinks the Koran should be viewed in historical context, and as the writing of a human being (albeit a divinely inspired one) rather than the transcribed word of God.

[Soroush] told me that the prophet “was at the same time the receiver and the producer of the Koran or, if you will, the subject and the object of the revelation.” Soroush said that “when you read the Koran, you have to feel that a human being is speaking to you, i.e. the words, images, rules and regulations and the like all are coming from a human mind.” He added, “This mind, of course, is special in the sense that it is imbued with divinity and inspired by God.”

As might be expected, this hasn’t endeared Soroush to conservative Muslims. But it’s an encouraging line of thought. Precisely this kind of thinking about the Bible has led Christianity to an understanding of the text that is, I’d argue, more in line with what its authors understood it to be: a collection of accounts by fallible humans seeking the divine. In this light, scripture (whether the Bible, the Koran, or something else) is not taken at face value – it forces the reader to engage the text, and decide what it means to him or her, today. That’s no impenetrable firewall against extremism, but it’s an important first step.

2 thoughts on “Revelation by God, but through a man

  1. Thank you for your thoughtful post. You are so right on! I like the line “…That’s no impenetrable firewall against extremism..” If that is your own original quote – let’s get you writing more of them! If some other cat meowed that 1st – share with me the name of said elocutor(?) so I can check out more of his/her writings. (Thanks)
    Never once do you hear tell of Jesus or Mohamed or Buddha or Krishna OR MaharaJi or Jerry Garcia (or Terence McKenna FTM)
    holding texts in their hand saying “lookee here, this page is the one you must Obey” but I guess Moses is guilty of such – hence the fixation on LAW and judgement and punishment – so much so that Jesus just had to come along and counter all that legal fixation

    with compassion and forgiveness for all (otherwise known as LOVE instead of LAW…)

    those words I just texted are now going to become song lyrics, can you hear the rhyme scheme??!!
    “… forgiveness for ALL,
    otherwise known as LOVE instead of LAW…”

    well it depends if you have
    “a New Jersey drawl
    with a little Aloha”
    thrown in….

  2. I think all spiritual traditions have this tension between a literal/naive reading of their scriptures and a more flexible understanding. And in all cases, the letter of the law kills, but the Spirit gives life.

    “Firewall against extremism” is me, or at least the grab-bag of associations in my subconscious. Glad you like it!

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