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An example of context

A common response to any critical citations from the Koran is that they have been taken out of context and thus have been misunderstood. This page serves to demonstrate how illogical such a response is.

We need to be clear what we mean by 'context'.

Consider the following text: "Major faults were identified in certain buildings we inspected, which happen to feature driveways. Therefore we didn't buy the buildings with driveways."

To claim therefore the company does not buy buildings with driveways is wrong, it is out of context. The context is provided by the first sentence which clearly states that in this particular case the buildings with driveways were not considered because only those were faulty.

In other words, context is provided by additional notions which are relevant to a subgroup of statements, where both are in a semantic relationship with each other. If there is no relationship there is no context to refer to.

The excerpts from the Koran are statements featuring a negativity which is used to actively differentiate between followers of Islam and the rest. They are also situated within a text that does not provide a wider semantic space which could serve to somehow tone down their message.

Here is but one example to show what this means. The entire quote is the text surrounding the statement identified as "Page 32, 10." It starts on page 32, sentence 7, and ends with sentence 17 on page 33. It therefore includes the paragraph before sentence 10 and the one after.

7 He it is Who has sent down to you the Book: in it are verses basic or fundamental (of established meaning); they are the foundation of the Book: others are allegorical. But those in whose hearts is perversity follow the part thereof that is allegorical, seeking discord, and searching for its true meanings, but no one knows its true meanings except Allah. And those who are firmly grounded in knowledge say: "We believe in the Book; the whole of it is from our Lord:" and none will grasp the Message except men of understanding. 8 "Our Lord!" (they say), "Let not our hearts deviate now after You have guided us, but grant us mercy from Your own Presence; for You are the Grantor of bounties without measure. 9 "Our Lord! You are He that will gather mankind together against a Day about which there is no doubt; for Allah never fails in His promise."

10 Those who reject Faith - neither their possessions nor their (numerous) progeny will avail them at all against Allah: they are themselves but fuel for the Fire. 11 (Their plight will be) no better than that of the people of Pharaoh, and their predecessors: they denied Our Signs, and Allah called them to account for their sins. For Allah is strict in punishment. 12 Say to those who reject Faith: "Soon will you be vanquished and gathered together and driven into Hell - an evil bed indeed (to lie on)! 13 "There has already been for you a Sign in the two armies that met (in combat): one was fighting in the Cause of Allah, the other resisting Allah; these saw with their own eyes twice their number. But Allah does support with His aid whom He pleases. In this is a warning for such as have eyes to see."

14 Fair in the eyes of men is the love of things they covet: women and sons; heaped-up boards of gold and silver; horses branded (for blood and excellence); and (wealth of) cattle and well-tilled land. Such are the possessions of this world's life; but in nearness to Allah is the best of the goals (to return to). 15 Say: Shall I give you glad tidings of things far better than those? For the righteous are Gardens in nearness to their Lord, with rivers flowing beneath; therein is their eternal home; with spouses pure (and holy); and the good pleasure of Allah. For in Allah's sight are (all) His servants - 16 (Namely), those who say: "Our Lord! we have indeed believed: forgive us, then, our sins, and save us from the agony of the Fire;" 17 Those who show patience, firmness and self-control; who are true (in word and deed); who worship devoutly; who spend (in the way of Allah); and who pray for forgiveness in the early hours of the morning.

As can be seen, none of the sentences either preceding or following the 'Page 32, 10' quote offers any contextual qualifications to the application of punishment by fire. The same applies to all the other quotes. They stand on their own.

24 July 2016

© Martin Wurzinger - see Terms of Use