Very complicated 😛
If the difference is of interpretation, between the fanatic’s ‘literal’ and the moderate’s ‘intellectual(?)’, then the only way it can be resolved is by first agreeing on shared values to which religion itself will be subservient. Since that is impossible, because scripture and our interpretation of it are the sources of our values, there is no hope of reconciliation.
When one admits that religion is simply a matter of “having faith”, and that no real evidence needs to be demanded, then one may “have faith” in any interpretation he/she pleases.
Inevitably, it comes down to what you want the religion to be like. And you may create any kind of a convoluted interpretation to make the text comply with your own chosen ideals.
I was talking to a Muslim the other day about the Quranic verse referring to woman as a man’s “tilth” which he “may do unto as he wills”. Clearly, a misogynistic stance! But the Muslim argued that since tilth is very precious to the farmer, the statement simply means that a man’s wife is very important to him (he virtually ignored the second part of the verse allowing a man to do whatever he wants to his woman).
I doubt if a lot of Muslims read the Quran with a preconceived interpretation in mind. For example, one would be hard pressed to find someone who wants to, say beat his wife, and then goes to the Quran with the express purpose of finding a verse that allows him to do that. That’s a little far fetched. In my experience Muslims haven’t been that hypocritical. And the accusation also implies that Muslims don’t actually believe the Quran to be divine wisdom, but only look for ways for it to sanction their behaviour so they can appear to be doing right. Again, we know that’s not true. Born and raised among Muslims, I’ve found that it is in all earnestness that they ascribe to the Quran divine authorship.
So in order to find out the reason for such wide diversity of interpretation of the same book, one must look at the underlying thought processes at work. These might differ from person to person, people to people etc. Also, the unconscious mind is a major player in determining how we interpret things. Memories, past experiences, inherited predispositions, are some of the things that shape it. Moreover, bear in mind that not a lot of the people who identify themselves as Muslims bother coming up with their own personal interpretations of Islam. In most cases religion is received in the form of instructions from others.
All these things need to be addressed before one can seriously advance any theory of how and why the different versions of Islam came to be.
Finally, the effects of these different interpretations, both on the people espousing them, and on others, must be evaluated.
That’s not precisely what I implied. No, they don’t read the Quran with the express purpose of validating their own ideas – they just derive different meanings of the verses based on their own personalities, views etc.
It is, in a way, like a Rorschach card. Some see a butterfly, others see a bat.
It feels like we’re both arguing the same point here.
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