Whenever there was a change in the legal status of the components of the Muslim community, an equivalent amendment had to be made to reflect and manage the nature of the new relations between them. The Qur’ān set itself up to serve this end, but with the passage of time and the change of status it was failing to diagnose and manage them.
SINCE THE RELIGIOUS TEXT is always sacred and may not be violated, whether by any emendation, alteration, deletion, addition or otherwise, it was necessary to accommodate the new variables in separate appendices and footnotes outside the main body of the Text.
Thus it was that over successive stages – following each new reconstitution in the legal status of the components of the Muslim community – there emerged the hadiths of the Prophet, the confirmed Sunnas, the various schools of jurisprudence, and the countless commentaries, interpretations, marginalia, footnotes, opinions, fatwās and so on, all pouring into what became a vast boundless ocean of literature on the Text. These addenda new texts always employed the same mechanism that ‘Uthmān had established with the drafting of the first text (constitution) of the Qur’ān — the authority adopted a select committee of specialists to research into the heritage of the ancients. In the end their jurisprudential product had first to be accepted by the Muslim community, something which could only be achieved if their product on the Text embodied the appropriate Islamic symbols and rituals, or was addresses to the public in the name of Allah and His Messenger.
Muhammad added a new religion to those in which he had been raised, extending them by simplifying them and altering their priorities, employing the same, customary divine cover, using the same mechanisms of symbol, ritual, pattern, tradition and so on. Just as tribal religions and beliefs needed no text to emerge or persist, neither did Muhammad need one, nor create one.
Just as tribal religions and beliefs needed no text to emerge or persist, neither did Muhammad need one, nor create one
* Then, at a later stage, Islam took a step forward on from the tribal religions that had preceded it or were contemporary to it, and thus found itself faced with one of two options: either (1) stand helplessly by until it imploded and fell apart or (2) innovate to manage the new relationship between its components. At that time, it had to move away from its initial essence and move towards institutionalization through creating a basic system (a text / constitution) that could prevent disintegration and allow for further expansion and promulgation.
* Specialists were tasked with developing (‘collecting’) the Qur’ān, which became the founding text (authoritative reference) for all other complementary religious texts that would follow it, all of them passed under the same Islamic symbol and ritual criterion – that is, in the name of Allah and His Messenger. This same mechanism would be repeated the length of Islamic history for creating new texts that kept pace with the changes in the legal status of the Muslim community right up to the present day, again, all under the name of Allah and His Messenger.
* As an example of the importance of legal status that, when changed, necessitated changing the texts, let us take the case of an ordinary person like us called Muḥammad Hosni Mubarak before January 25, 2011, who was serving as President of the Arab Republic of Egypt, and then his situation behind bars subsequent to this date; or the position of the Muslim Brotherhood and of political Islam before this date and immediately after it, and then following the massive wave of anti-Morsi protests of June 30, 2013. Or take another person, again like us, called Ahmed Al-Tayeb preaching on the pulpit with the rank of Shaykh Al-Azhar, only to be found later sitting among the congregation following his resignation; or the situation of the Shiites of Iraq before Saddam Hussein and then after him.
It is not the Text that creates reality, but new realities that require the creation of a new Text
* For it is not the Text that creates reality, but new realities that require the creation of a new Text in order to describe, emend and support it. The more reality changes, the more it is necessary to adjust the Text, or create a new on as a mirror to reflect it, albeit at times in a cloudy and inchoate form.
* The religious Text thus did not establish Islam as a reality and an actual way of living for an entire nation. It was the nation itself that created all of this text, as a record and a mirror reflecting its one and a half thousand year course through history.
* Proofs provided of the divinity, or human origin, of the Qur’ān and the Islamic texts will not cut much ice among the general Muslims or the clerics, since religious sanctity stems from one’s own conscience and is not something to be imposed or taken away from outside, through a text or otherwise.
*A small minority of researchers and specialists working according to the methodologies of modern science may be dismissed or the seriousness of their research called into question as they apply literary criticism to the Text and analyse it while still believing that it is the words of God or the Messenger of God. The reality is that it is, literally, the words of human beings just like them who preceded them, people who had to subject their views to the criterion of Islamic symbol and ritual (Allah and His Messenger) in order to be heard, regardless of how sincere or insincere they were.
* The human origin of all Islamic texts nevertheless does not detract from their importance. On the contrary: it is a human heritage developed, and still being developed, by some of the brightest intellectual minds in various fields under the aegis of religious faith, and its endless number of pages contains all the pains and hopes of an entire nation and chronicles its life down to its smallest details.
See Part One of this essay here