We always hear that tawhid, or unity, is important in Islam. Yet we rarely see this applied to the Qur’an. Very few Muslims think of the Qur’an as a whole, rather than a compilation of verses that can be taken separately and out of context. But is this how we should look at it?
Fazlur Rahman suggests that we need to see the Qur’an as a whole to find out what God wants from us. Quoting a single verse as proof of something is not good enough. What is more important is the main message of the Qur’an – socio-economic justice – and the values the Qur’an mentions over and over again – peace, justice, kindness, compassion, sincerity, respect, and so on.
Rahman argues that we need to think beyond a single verse when we consider Islamic issues. The message of the Qur’an is a unity, not a block comprised of singular verses. We need to look at the values that underpin the Qur’an – what principles is God asking us to follow? We need to look for the VALUE behind the verse.
An example: the verse saying that women should inherit half of what men inherit. Then, it was seen as just. Today, it is not, because why should a woman only get half of what a man does? So when looked at by itself, it makes the Qur’an seem gender-biased. However, if we look at the value and message BEHIND the verse, we see a different picture: we see that God was giving women SOMETHING, at a time when she got NOTHING. God was saying a woman does have value, and does deserve an inheritance. That is the value and principle behind the verse, and according to Rahman, that is what we should be applying to our lives, not looking at that verse specifically and applying it literally.
Of course I’m sure most Muslims would disagree with him, as he is definitely a modernist and a reformist, but I think his view is very refreshing. It is an interesting question: why do we not apply tawhid to the Qur’an, when it is obviously the most important principle to God. Why do we not look at the SPIRIT of the Qur’an instead of focusing on specific verses?
Khaled abou el-Fadl once said that if we look at individual verses about women in the Qur’an, then it does seem like Islam treats women as less than men. But if we look at them together and see them as part of the Qur’an, we see that God does see them as equal and does want justice for them – because the Qur’an is about justice.
And it’s so refreshing to have someone remind us of that.