Sat | Jul 24, 2021

Defending Islam?

Published:Thursday | December 3, 2015 | 11:28 AM


Imam Maknoon of the Masjid al-Hakeem, Ocho Rios, chided me in response to my piece, 'Islam: why should I care?', published in The Sunday Gleaner on November 29, 2015. The esteemed Imam's rebuttal would have risen to a refutation of my claims had he provided the contextual clarification of the quotations I drew from the holy Qur'an and the Hadith. He did no such thing but simply chided my quotations as "selective use of tidbits taken out of context".

He raised an issue in passing with two texts attributed to our Lord Jesus Christ (Mt 10:34-36 and Lk 12:51-53), which he says could be read as militant or suggestive of an anti-family view, but he correctly rejected a literal reading of these two texts.

The imam said, "However, most people, and I dare assume that includes you [Chisholm] would reason that in the context of Prophet Jesus' mission, one should not take such a literal interpretation ... ."

So literary context, if taken seriously, helps a responsible reading of a text. Another key tool of interpretation hinted at by the imam is "the context of Jesus' mission".

The two texts mentioned by the imam are what some Christian theologians call "hard sayings of the Bible". It is worthy of note that the metaphorical 'sword' in Matthew is replaced by the metaphorical 'division' in Luke, and "[s]o, when Jesus said that he had come to bring 'not peace but a sword', he meant that this would be the effect of his coming, not that it was the purpose of his coming." (Walter Kaiser Jr in Hard Sayings of the Bible, 1996, 378).

It is because of the similar sentiments of the section of the Qur'an that I quoted and the Hadith of the Prophet Muhammad why Imam Maknoon needs to provide contextual clarification for me and other non-Muslims.

Factor in the activism seen in the life of the Prophet Muhammad and contextual clarification is absolutely mandatory.