I compare briefly the basic principles of the Jewish Talmudic view of scripture, the Islamic view of the Qur’an, and the prevalent Western secular view of Islam.
What is most important in textual interpretation should be context, that is, a single context – the grammatical-historical (surface) context. The surface text of scripture, namely, its normal linguistic and communicative properties, should be the best guide to its meaning. There are, of course, parts of scripture where the surface text is a hard nut to crack; for example, some of the visions of Ezekiel and parts of the book of Revelation. Those who believe scripture is God-breathed (theopneustos – breathed out by God; divine “expiration”) also believe that there are no deeper meanings lurking below the surface text. So, if one differs in the interpretation of a text, the interpreter is at fault.
In contrast, Rabbi Akiva Tatz says in one of his lectures, “any six-year-old can understand” the Written Torah. Orthdox Judaism generally believes that one has to enter the pardes (the deeper levels) of Torah to derive any lasting good. These deeper levels are not found in the Written Torah, but in the Oral Torah, which for some Jewish movements is not found deep in the Written Torah but above and beyond it. For Tatz, Kabbalah (means “received”) is the apogee of Oral Torah. It is not always, or perhaps not even often, the case that the Oral Torah and the Written Torah complement each other. Often it is rather that the Written Torah implements what the Oral Torah dictates it to mean. For Tatz, it is the Kabbalah that dictates the meaning of Oral Torah (See Christian slave learns Midrash magic, The slaughter of scripture: Let his blood be on us and our children and The Written and Oral Torah: Which is Primary?
Islam and the Qur’an
Islamists (those who know and believe what is written in their texts) say, perhaps not in so many syllables, the Qur’an can be gobbledygook by itself – in Arabic and translation. Anyone who has read the Qur’an – in Arabic or translation – should agree with this view , if not heartlily. In contrast to the Torah or the Bible as a whole, there is no historical context in the Qur’an neither any meaningful connection between chapter and verse. Islam relies on the Hadiths to explain the Qur’an. The Hadiths are a vast collection of the purported deeds and sayings of Muhammad.
There are bits in the Qur’an – for example “kill” doesn’t mean “kiss” – that any preschooler can understand. For example, after you explain what idolatory, beleagure, and Zakat, Surah 9:5 is a piece of cake- And when the forbidden months have passed, kill the idolaters wherever you find them and take them prisoners, and beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they repent and observe Prayer and pay the Zakat, then leave their way free. Surely, Allah is Most Forgiving, Merciful.
Here is one Muslim’s “proof” that anti-Islamists use this verse to malign Islam: “The verse does not say infidels it says idolaters.” Duh. Merci beaucoup for nothing, says the Great Satan. Which takes us West.
Secular West and Islam
Western politicians and the intelligentsia, for example, in the land of free, are abysmally ignorant of the Qur’an; they swallow everything the Islamophiles feed them. For example, one of many lies is that Muslims don’t hate Jews; all they want is an equitable solution to the Israeli-Arab question. The truth is that Islam’s hatred of Zionism and the Jews are two edges of the same sword. The Imam of the Al-Haram mosque in Mecca, Sheikh Abd Al-Rahman Al-Sudayis, said in one of his sermons:
“Read history and you will understand that the Jews of yesterday are the evil forefathers of the even more evil Jews of today: infidels, falsifiers of words, calf worshippers, prophet murderers, deniers of prophecies … the scum of the human race, accursed by Allah, who turned them into apes and pigs … These are the Jews – an ongoing continuum of deceit, obstinacy, licentiousness, evil, and corruption …”
The intense Islamic hatred of the Jew did not originate with the Declaration of the State of Israel in 1948, but with “Allah.” In three places in the uncreated, eternal Qur’an, Allah calls Jews monkeys and/or pigs. For example: Surah 2:65 “And you know well the story of those among you who broke Sabbath. We said to them: “Be apes—despised and hated by all” (Trans. Maududi).”
When it comes to Islam, Western leaders and journalists are delusional. Here is another bit of hilarity from David Wood – “Pop Quiz for Potential World Leaders.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXGFQ8TKzZ8&feature=youtube_gdata_player