Exploring the Qur’an for Lessons in IR – I


Quran (640x427)


Conflicting paradigms emerge where people who tend to champion themselves in relation to a certain body of knowledge, attempt to limit it. Since knowledge, in essence, is repellent to limitations, any theory depending on extremes, ends up being discarded early in its life. The success of any theorist, then, depends on the extent to which he manages to transcend limitations by merging these extremes, all the while remaining within the ambit of objectivity.


Since knowledge, in essence, is repellent to limitations, any theory depending on extremes, ends up being discarded early in its life.


This holds true for the Qur’an, just as it holds true for any other body of knowledge. Any authoritative explanation of the holy book that attempts to narrow its scope down to a religious dogma, would be inadequate. That is why Islam is Deen, and not just religion. Whereas some verses are prone to miscomprehension in the absence of context, others, by implication, can lead up to greater meanings. The phenomenon of Aakhirah, for example, can be variously interpreted, beyond the standard religious meaning that it has for all of us and that has always been part of our educational curricula. For the judge, it is the embodiment of justice. For the democratically elected official, it is the embodiment of accountability. And for the disaster management expert, it is the disaster that man’s life is but an active preparation of.


The phenomenon of Aakhirah, for example, can be variously interpreted. For the judge, it is the embodiment of justice. For the democratically elected official, it is the embodiment of accountability. And for the disaster management expert, it is the disaster that man’s life is but an active preparation of.


Having seen how the holy book caters to such a wide range of academic pursuits, I couldn’t wait to see what the Qur’an had in it for me, as a student of international relations. The results from the very outset, were remarkable.

Much has been said and written in defence of Jihad as a purely contextual and conditional phenomenon. I will, therefore, not be drawing on verses 190-191 of Surah e Baqarah to reiterate the same. However, there is a statement in there that I found particularly in line with the demands, dynamics and historical as well as contemporary realities of international relations. Roughly translated, it holds that persecution is worse than slaughter – implying that military action becomes inevitable, where a conflict that is especially taxing for the material and morale of the parties involved, appears to be continuing indefinitely. Implying, also, by preferring slaughter to persecution using a negative comparative degree that even the former is detestable, though it is the lesser of two evils.

And the command does not end here. It goes on to tell the Muslims that nothing precludes them from responding to aggression even in the inviolable place of worship – Masjid e Haram – since that inviolability is a matter of mutual understanding, and it would only be rational to respond to its violation by retribution.

One could ask why, if the verses are supposed to lead to a greater meaning, are they ending with a command to fight until persecution is no more ‘and Deen is for Allah’? The answer to that is simple. As mentioned before, military action becomes inevitable in certain circumstances. In such cases, the effort to resolve a conflict would culminate in one interest gaining victory over the other. Now, since in this particular context (the Battle of Badr), the addressee’s interest is the preservation of Islam, the effort would culminate in a victory for Islam, thus leaving Deen only for Allah.


All this has been what any student of international relations can identify at a glance.


All this has been what any student of international relations can identify at a glance. Delving deeper, one would surely come across more. My object, though, was to phrase my findings as clearly as I could for the reader to understand that no body of knowledge is too modern or too technical for it to fall outside the Qur’an’s exceptionally vast, and perhaps unlimited, sphere of knowledge.

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4 thoughts on “Exploring the Qur’an for Lessons in IR – I

  1. Salaam Naima sahiba. It was enlightening to peruse through your writeup titled – Exploring the Qur’an for Lessons in IR. In short It is the Quran and the Sunnah which should be the basis of all what we do and not only in religious perspective but as part of life. May ALLAH bless all to understand the basics of what they are and the life they are living.

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