Every time Islam is discussed, someone will come with “But it’s all about interpretation”. For sure, there are differences in how people understand this or that verse. And it depends a lot on knowing the context, the place of a particular verse among other verses and situation in which it appeared. The Islamic tradition of interpreting the Koran always relies on Sunna of prophet Muhammad, stories about what he did or said. And with knowing the context, there are still verses that are either allegoric or ambiguous. However, there are also verses which are plain clear and contain direct instructions, like this one for example: “O you who have believed, when you rise to [perform] prayer, wash your faces and your forearms to the elbows and wipe over your heads and wash your feet to the ankles.” (Koran 5:6). And there are many things in the Islamic doctrine for which all or most Islamic clerics have very similar understanding.
On the Religion Channel I have posted a series of Ops about life of Muhammad, accompanied with the question which I guess bored everyone to death: what are the alternative interpretations of these events? And no one offered any. Because it’s impossible to reinvent biography of a man described in smallest details.
- That’s why both “moderate” and “extremist” Muslims believe Muhammad married a rich widow and had four daughters with her.
- Both “moderate” and “extremist” Muslims believe that Muhammad started receiving revelations from Allah through an angel.
- Both “moderate” and “extremist” Muslims believe that Muhammad was persecuted by his clansmen.
(And from a non-Muslim’s point of view, it is understandable that this persecution was caused by Muhammad’s attack on his clansmen’s religion, traditions and forefathers, and when you attack people’s values, their reaction can be harsh.)
- Both “moderate” and “extremist” Muslims believe that Muhammad emigrated to Medina. And emigration is such important concept in Islam that Islamic calendar starts not with birth of the prophet or beginning of his revelations, but with the date of his migration.
- Both “moderate” and “extremist” Muslims believe that Muhammad started attacking Meccan caravans.
- Both “moderate” and “extremist” Muslims believe that Muhammad suppressed any opposition to Islam in Medina, killing, banishing or enslaving those who refused to convert to Islam.
- Both “moderate” and “extremist” Muslims believe that Muhammad, after 9 years of jihad, captured Mecca, established Islam there and prohibited worship of traditional pre-Islamic gods.
Basically, some variations do exist, for example Shia and Sunni disagree on the role of Ali, Muhammad’s cousin and the fourth caliph, and they interpreted the same verses related to him differently.
And I would like to offer a question for discussion, do you know any mainstream tradition of Islam which treats Kafirs (non-Muslims), women or apostates in a significantly different manner?