I recently bought a translation of the Qur’an by Tarif Khalidi. It is definitely the best translation I’ve ever read, because I feel like he focuses on translating concepts rather than word for word. Anyway, in his introduction he writes:
If we turn back to the questions posed above, we might argue that a knowledge of, say, conditions in pre-Islamic Arabia would clearly enahce contextual understanding of the Qur’an. But the very allusiveness of the text, its impersonality, its meta-historical tone, seems almost deliberately to de-emphasize context, and to address its audience or readers in a grammatical tense that I have elsewhere called ‘the eternal present tense’. Yes, the Qur’an explicitly recognizes the danger of a wilfully perverted reading of the text, but if approached in a pious frame of mind, or what today we might call sympathy, interpretation must in theory be limitless, since God alone is its perfect interpreter. Thus, of all sacred texts, the Qur’an is perhaps the one that most self-consciously invites its readers to engage with it exegtically.
Relating it to my last post, I feel like every individual is bound to have their own interpretation of the Qur’an. Is this wrong? Is there one correct interpretation? I don’t think so, because as Khalidi points out, that perfect interpretation is God’s alone. We all read the Qur’an with certain ideas already in place, which probably explains why interpretations of it have varied to drastically. As Reza Aslan pointed out, someone looking for gender inequality in the Qur’an will find it, and likewise someone looking for gender equality will find it. Our preconcieved notions, prejudices, and stereotypes will undoubtedly reflect in our reading of the Qur’an. So should we then trust sheikhs and scholars instead of or alongside ourseleves? Aren’t they human too, with their own prejudices and stereotypes? A sheikh who was brought up in a strict patriarchal society may not see gender equality in the Qur’an. If he does not believe that women and men are equal, would he interpret any verses in the Qur’an as saying that?
I feel like I do not have enough knowledge of history, arabic language, sunna, and hadith to interpret the Qur’an as well as it should be interpreted. On the other hand, I don’t trust authority figures in Islam, because of how many of them have abused this power. I wonder what the solution will be?