How long do you think it reasonable to allow the adherents of a religion to decipher the enigmatic, rich, multi-faceted and complex language of their God's final message to mankind before we can justifiably ask them what it means? 10 years? 50 years? 100 years even? What if some of those followers are so single-minded in their desire to understand their holy text that they devote their whole lives to the quest? How many lifetimes of study is it reasonable to allow before we should expect clarity on certain basic issues?
Some might argue that if a holy text claims to be a perfect message then it should at least fulfill the basic requirements of communication and be understandable by those to whom it is addressed without the need for expert interpretation . But this is not the case with the Qur'an.
After nearly one and a half thousand years of intense- some might say obsessive - study, there remain passages that are so opaque, references so esoteric, or names so exotic that they have defeated the best efforts of literally billions of man-hours of study.
Who, for example, is Zul-Qarnain, the powerful and enigmatic Muslim mentioned in the Qur'an who travelled to the ends of the Earth ? Ask some Muslims, but don't expect a clear, logical or consistent answer.
In my last post I examined verses 83-99 of surah 18 and suggested that if Zul-Qarnain was actually Alexander the Great then this proved that the Qur'an was written by a fallible human. (Since Alexander was a homosexual, pagan idolater whereas the Qur'an tells us Zul-Qarnain was a great Muslim.) I referred to the numerous tafsirs and Islamic experts who had all agreed that Zul-Qarnain was Alexander. However, when I debated this with my convert friend he, like so many modern Islamic apologists, told me that
some commentators speculated that Dhul Qarnayn was Alexander the Great, many did not, and the Quran does not state that he was.How can this be? How can there be disagreement on such a fundamental issue as the identity of such a powerful Muslim? If the Qur'an is supposed to be unimprovable and perfect, how is it that it is so impenetrable that even the so-called experts cannot agree on who this person is and thus what he is doing and why, and what the message is we are supposed to glean from it?
Perhaps you're thinking that our inability to fathom God's wisdom is our fault. I would counter that God, being omniscient, knows our intellectual limitations and would surely make his final message to us decipherable - if not immediately, then surely after 1,400 years of intense scrutiny! That's not asking too much, is it?
How about trying to fathom the meaning of verses 5-7 of surah 86 which state that semen comes from between the backbone and the ribs. Or perhaps it doesn't. Because there are seven distinct classes of explanation. Mainly because the most obvious one leaves the Qur'an open to accusations of plagiarising Greek ideas from a thousand years before. The verdict is still out on the exact meaning of that one. Still, we've only had a millennium and a half to work on it, so let's not be too impatient.
Or how about the verses where God tells us that mountains stop Earth quakes? No, He doesn't. He tells us that mountains help stabilise the Earth's crust using isostasy. Or does He? Who knows. Certainly the experts can't seem to agree.
Or how about the extent of the Flood. It covered the world say the tafsirs. No, it was local, say the modern apologists. Then how come the Ark came to rest 7,000 feet above sea level? Wouldn't that suggest a global catastrophe?
Now before I am bombarded by comments telling me that the multifarious interpretations of the text simply bear witness to the complex beauty and timeless appeal of the Qur'an, I should reiterate that I am not referring here to spiritual or moral teachings contained in the Qur'an. I am as capable as the next man of appreciating that great literature has depth of meaning. No, what I am talking about is quite simply the apparent inability of generations of desperate readers to agree on the basics.
And now, we have one of the stalwarts of the iERA miracle seeker community, Hamza Tzortzis no less, releasing a paper in which he admits to an almost damascene conversion and reveals to his readers that his reading of the Qur'an regarding its scientific miracles has been er....wrong.
I'm sorry, but I would need clarity on these issues if I were to devote my existence to believing in a Creator who demands total submission to His frankly bizarre notions of how the world works which seem to fly in the face of science, common sense and basic humanity. And all we seem to have after more than a thousand years of trying to understand God's meaning is confusion and disagreement.
Perhaps Hamza's paper is the first crack that will allow the light of reason and common sense to shine on a dark and shameful episode in the long history of religious mendacity. Perhaps.
Finally, here's a question for Hamza, his acolytes at iERA and all those others who can't seem to give me a straight answer: How is it possible to believe in a God whose final, perfect message to His creation is not fit for purpose because we still don't know what He actually means?