Monday, November 1, 2010

"In the endless stream of dogma that one encounters

in Muslim conferences, lectures, and publications, the Qur'an and Sunnah are affirmed as authoritative. This is often presented as if it resolves all issues. However, in reality, this is only the beginning of the inquiry. Importantly, one must deal with who is presenting the Qur'an and Sunnah and how they present these sources. Typically, a speaker addressing a particular issue in one of these publications or conferences will quote a couple of Qur'anic verses or hadiths and perhaps an anecdotal story from the religious traditions. Nonetheless, quotations and anecdotes do not make an argument; they simply illustrate it. It is the speaker who makes the argument and it is the speaker who chooses the illustrative quotations or anecdotes. If the speaker is ill informed, simplistic, dogmatic, or ill-intentioned, he or she will seek to exclude the vast spectrum of authoritative texts and opinions in favor of his or her own authoritarianism. The speaker will assume that the text has a clear, precise, and singular meaning, while excluding all evidence to the contrary. Furthermore, after superimposing his or her understanding upon the text, the speaker equates himself or herself to the text. The authoritative text is subsumed into the speaker who, in turn, becomes the authoritarian. Effectively, the speaker approaches an open text - open because the text is accessible to all readers and interpreters - and closes it, rendering it inaccessible. The meaning of the text and the interpretive process of the speaker become one and the same. The source is transformed from an open text to a closed text, and the text and speaker are fused as one.
-And God Knows the Soldiers: The Authoritative and Authoritarian in Islamic Discourses, pg. 41-2

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