To seriously reconsider the concept of scriptural inerrancy

Ali Rizvi asks an important question in his open letter to moderate Muslims in the Huffington Post:

What would you do if this situation was reversed? What are non-Muslims supposed to think when even moderate Muslims like yourselves defend the very same words and book that these fundamentalists effortlessly quote as justification for killing them — as perfect and infallible?

What indeed?

There are murderous passages in the bible, too, to put it mildly. They should not be defended either.

This is the danger in holy books – the refusal or inability to reject parts.

If any kind of literature is to be interpreted “metaphorically,” it has to at least represent the original idea. Metaphors are meant to illustrate and clarify ideas, not twist and obscure them. When the literal words speak of blatant violence but are claimed to really mean peace and unity, we’re not in interpretation/metaphor zone anymore; we’re heading into distortion/misrepresentation territory.

And there are always people who do – reasonably enough, from one point of view – read the literal words literally. There are some of them who act on those words.

Having grown up as part of a Muslim family in several Muslim-majority countries, I’ve been hearing discussions about an Islamic reformation for as long as I can remember. Ultimately, I came to believe that the first step to any kind of substantive reformation is to seriously reconsider the concept of scriptural inerrancy.

And I’m not the only one. Maajid Nawaz, a committed Muslim, speaks openly about acknowledging problems in the Quran. Recently, in a brave article here right here on The Huffington Post, Imra Nazeer also asked Muslims to reconsider treating the Quran as infallible.

Is she right? At first glance, this may be a shocking thought. But it’s possible, and it actually has precedent.

What’s needed, he sums up at the end, is not moderation but reform.


  1. Blanche Quizno says

    From Wednesday’s Jesus ‘n’ Mo – commentary from the author:

    No sentient adult should have a “holy scripture”. To do so is a complete abnegation of intellectual responsibility. A cop out. A cheat as blatant and shameful as a schoolboy copy-pasting his homework from the internet. There is no excuse for it.

    Here is the link to the comic, which also applies – stingingly:

  2. says

    read the literal words literally

    You have to read the “holy books” as literal and not metaphorical, or the whole exercise is revealed to become pointless – everything becomes a metaphor subject to interpretation. That stuff about jesus dying on the cross? Just a metaphor for unfair labor relations. The prohibitions in leviticus? That was god trying to tell us not to eat pineapple on our pizza, but the scribes didn’t have the right vocabulary. The whole “in the beginning” thing? Just a metaphor for baseball. Etc.

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