“Historically, what is or isn’t mainstream (in Islam) has always been a function of power, not of truth” -Iyad El-Baghdadi, Arab Spring activist
Imaan–I was born in 2002 in Singapore. I’ve been researching Islamic law and studying the Qur’an since I was 11. I started this blog at the age of 14 when I realized that much of what we consider Islamic practice has little or nothing to do with the Qur’an, and often facilitates sectarian division, religious intolerance, and extremism.
Islam as derived from the Qur’an is a just and compassionate faith. My aim is to vindicate the Qur’an’s teachings and to rediscover the truth of this universe.
My goals are:
- To portray the Qur’an’s teachings as accurately as possible
- To investigate whether common religious practices are supported by the Quran
- To expose mistranslations
- To place verses back in their original Qur’anic contexts
- To comment on widespread problems in the American Muslim community, as well as MENA at large
I entertain productive debates and interfaith dialogue. I despise it when people take Qur’anic verses out of context or mistranslate them, so it would be endlessly hypocritical if I were to do this. If you feel like I’ve made a mistake in translation or taken a verse out of context, feel free to tell me. If a mistake has been made, I have no problem remedying it.
Everything good is from Allah and everything inaccurate is from myself.
Everything on this site can be freely reproduced as long as the following citation is provided:
- Imaan Az-Zahra
Are you Muslim?
Yes. I understand that truth can be found in different theological denominations/religions, but I do identify as a Muslim. I follow the Qur’an, which means that I condemn all terrorism and extremism perpetrated in the name of God.
What do you mean by “orthodox/mainstream/normative” Islam?
Orthodox Islam refers to Islamic rulings as dictated by the four main Sunni schools of thought (laid out through the Amman Message, endorsed in 2005). I actually dislike using adjectives such as “orthodox” because they sound awfully sectarian, but they serve to distinguish what Islam actually is from what Hanafi/Maliki/Shafi’i/Hanbali scholars say it is.
How do you interpret the Qur’an and what is your position on hadith?
I study the hadith corpus for its historical/contextual value but do not regard it as religious legislation. While hadith can be useful, they often inhibit Qur’anic exegesis and there is no guarantee of their veracity. The Qur’an doesn’t indicate that hadith are necessary to understand or explain God’s word. I believe prohibitions and allowances cannot be formulated purely on the basis of secondary sources without explicit Qur’anic evidence to support them. I interpret the Qur’an through its own lens, against itself, using it as its own dictionary. More information is here. (On a separate note, I do have lists of hadith that I like. I read them like Sufi poetry.) I recognize that hadith can be misinterpreted and taken out of context just like Qur’anic/Biblical verses can be, so I do make an effort to understand the full story behind them. However, the hadith corpus at large lacks the internal logic/consistency that the Qur’an upholds, and therefore does not stand up to intellectual or moral scrutiny.
Do you endorse Rashad Khalifa?
I absolutely do not endorse him in any way, shape, or form. I categorically reject the idea of removing verses from the Qur’an.
If you “reject” secondary sources, why do you refer to classical Arabic lexicons so often?
The Qur’an states that it is preserved/guarded, which includes an appropriate ability to discern the meaning of its words. This constitutes implicit endorsement of any source used to understand the meaning of individual words. [Joseph A. Islam] I make use of early classical Arabic lexicons (Edward Lanes, Taj Al-Arus, Kitab Al Ayn) to determine the meanings/grammatical nuances of specific words used in the Qur’an. This is very different from using secondary sources with highly dubious chains of narration, such as hadith, to interpret entire Qur’anic verses.
Why do you think you can ignore the scholarly opinions and consensus gathered over the past 1,438 years?
The Qur’an is a guidance for all of humanity, and thus cannot be delivered to the masses through the exclusive consensus of scholars, all of whom possess their own prejudices, failings, and are influenced by their respective environments. Of course, in the 21st century we are influenced by our environments as well, and I am fully aware of my own fallibility. I take a different interpretive route than the vast majority of scholars because I do not take hadith as religious legislation. This means that my interpretations are based on the Qur’an itself and lack the external projections that originate from imposing secondary sources on the text. I do study the work of orthodox scholars and I respect much of it. However, I am also repulsed by the sheer hypocrisy present in their sometimes deliberate (mis)interpretations of verses pertaining to women, apostates/atheists, Christians, Jews, other religious minorities, etc.
So you want to reform Islam?
I don’t want to reform Islam. Islam, in its purest form, is a beautiful religion that centers on the protection of human rights, dignity, and justice. Primarily, I believe that since Islam in its true form was never oppressive or inherently violent, there’s no need to reform it. Rather, I’m reviving it: Returning to/examining the classical language of the Qur’an and freeing it from both secondary sources and ethno-political bias, so that it can be interpreted the way it was originally meant to be, instead of being used as ideological weaponry.
Why are your posts locked sometimes?
Usually because I’m working on them. If you want access, DM me on Twitter or Facebook, or email me through the contact form (I read everything, though it may take a while to respond). I may withhold all passwords at my own discretion if I decide you don’t actually need them.
Which translation of the Qur’an do you read?
I read them all. The most semi-accurate orthodox translation is that of Yusuf Ali, though his language is rather Victorian. The most accurate non-traditional translation, in my opinion, is this one. It should be understood, however, that translations are often untrue to the original Arabic text, and are replete with translator bias. A translation of the Qur’an is only a personal interpretation–and sometimes a misinterpretation at that.
Several individuals have helped me extensively with regards to researching Islam and studying the Qur’an. I owe them a great deal. For reference, their websites are below:
- Joseph Abraham Islam: quransmessage.com
- Shafiqah Othman Hamzah: shafiqahothman.wordpress.com
- Wakas Muhammad: misconceptions-about-islam.com and quran434.com
- Nahida S. Nisa: thefatalfeminist.com
I am not responsible for anything found on external websites. I do not endorse all the views of the above authors. I have simply listed them for reference.
The only views I fully endorse are my own, and all writing found on this website is my own unless otherwise cited. I have cited every source used.
On social media, my work has been shared by Dr. Amina Wadud and others. I am not responsible for any views held by these individuals, although I may occasionally reference their work in citations.