Poetry, literature, and rhetoric use words to influence, rather than to communicate precise ideas. This type of language, without precise meanings, is unsuitable for the pursuit of any discipline such as Science, Mathematics or Philosophy but eminently suitable for the arts. Every discipline for serious study therefore develops its own precise language for communication and there is little chance of misunderstanding what a Mathematician or a Scientist or a Logician or a Jurist or even a Social Scientist is saying, when they are discussing their subject. We therefore, do not need to interpret textbooks. Imagine the chaos and confusion if students were to interpret their text books each in her own way!
Mathematicians think in precisely defined and mapped objects and relations, jurists and legal thinkers in constructs, logicians in logical operators or connectives. Philosophy developed rigor in discourse to avoid mixed-up notions by insisting on clearly defining every term it uses. We find every academic discipline is driven by precision in mapping terms. Speaking of the language of mathematics, a word in general usage has a specific meaning within mathematics. For example, words such as group, ring, field, category, term, factor, union, intersection, set, etc. have a specific meaning in mathematics not to be confused with the range of meanings of these words outside mathematics. Every discipline also has its jargon with specific meanings and stock phrases such as “necessary and sufficient”, “if and only if”, “without loss of generality” etc. Words with precisely defined meaning, jargon specific to the discipline, conventions and rules, make communicating ideas within the discipline very precise with no scope for any misunderstanding. A mathematical theory and its proof is therefore never misunderstood whether the same is presented by a person whose native language is German, English, Chinese, Hindi, Turkish or any other language.
The language of the Quran is similar. The Quran makes clear through multiple verses what every key word means and what it does not mean. It therefore does not make any difference whether the native language of the reader is Arabic or not and every sincere reader of the Quran can understand its message correctly. If this is so, why is the Quran not understood uniformly by all people? It is because our scholars do not wish to take literally, what the Quran says, because what it says does not agree with their prejudices.
How do the theologians distort the message to suit their prejudices? There are three powerful tools they have developed and use.
Falsely invoke the doctrine of abrogation to sweep aside verses that are inconvenient to their bigoted ideas. The Quran only talks of abrogation of previous verses which are replaced by better ones. For example, the principle of reciprocity, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is replaced by the doctrine of “Ehsan” or returning with what is better and forgiveness. As mankind progressed on the path of civilization, the doctrines changed for the better. Abrogation does not apply to the Quran at all but to the previous scriptures. The proof that no verse of the Quran is abrogated is in the fact that no verse of the Quran contradicts another verse. Why are many of the verses then treated as abrogated? Because these verses expose the lies peddled by the bigots.
The word Islam and Muslim have a broad meaning in the Quran and these words do not mean that Islam is only the religion of the followers of Muhammad or that Muslim only means those who accept Muhammad as the Messenger of God. Verse 22:78 “It is Allah Who has named you Muslims, both before and in this (Revelation)”. The followers of all previous prophets are also Muslim which is why the verse 2:112 cited above, covers a broad spectrum of people.
However, the common understanding among both the followers of Muhammad and others, is that only the religion brought by Muhammad is Islam and only his followers are Muslim. This common understanding is exploited by the bigots to claim that only the religion taught by Muhammad is Islam and only this religion is the true religion and accepted by God and all others will be the losers. To do that, they must treat verses such as 2:112, 5:69 etc as abrogated, because these verses contradict the bigots’ understanding.
Shan-e-Nuzool or the context of the revelation. This is invoked to limit and constrain the meaning of the verses. For example, take the verses 8:36 to 8:40
(8:36) The kafaru spend their wealth to hinder (man) from the path of Allah, and so will they continue to spend; but in the end they will have (only) regrets and sighs; at length they will be overcome: and the kafaru will be gathered together to Hell;-
(37) In order that Allah may separate the impure from the pure, put the impure, one on another, heap them together, and cast them into Hell. They will be the ones to have lost.
(38) Say to the Kafaru, if (now) they desist, their past would be forgiven them; but if they persist, the punishment of those before them is already (a matter of warning for them).
(39) And fight them on until there is no more Fitna (tumult or oppression), and there prevail justice and faith in Allah altogether and everywhere; but if they cease, verily Allah doth see all that they do.
From a plain and literal reading of the Quran,
The Kafaru are those who spend their wealth and might to hinder people from following the path of Allah or in other words, these are the religious persecutors.
The command is to fight them until they continue to persecute but if they desist from their persecution, to forgive them all their past deeds of persecution.
The fight must continue until there is no more oppression and there prevail the justice of Allah and the Law of Allah according to which there can be no compulsion in religion (2:256) and everyone is entitled to peacefully follow their own religion (109:6). The Kafaru in general, could be people of any faith (including those who call themselves Muslim) persecuting other people for their faith and the command is to fight all such persecution until Allah’s justice and laws prevail, under which people have freedom to practice their religion if it does not involve persecuting others for their religion.
The Kafaru have become “Unbelievers” and therefore these verses do not apply to those who call themselves “Muslims” even if they persecute others for their faith. This is because the context of the verse is the polytheists of Mecca persecuting the Muslims. Kafaru however does not mean “Unbeliever” or “Disbeliever” or even “polytheist” but considering the context of the verses, the Kafaru were among the polytheists of Mecca.
Since the context of the verse is the polytheists persecuting the Muslims for their religion, polytheism itself is equated with Fitna and the fight must go on not until the persecution ends, but until polytheism is eradicated and everyone accepts Islam!
Whereas the verse speaks of Allah’s justice and law prevailing, the meaning is twisted to “only worship of Allah prevails” which means polytheism is to be annihilated!
The generality of the verses, which apply to every persecutor, irrespective of his faith, is curtailed, by confining it to only the context of the verses which results in the Muslims never being able to see themselves as religious persecutors, especially, if they are persecuting the polytheists and the followers of every other religion, are polytheists even according to the Quran!
Wherever the context is necessary for understanding the verses of the Quran, the Quran itself provides the necessary contextual information. Importing context from outside of the Quran in no case helps understanding the Quran better, and is only used to distort its meaning to suit the prejudices of the bigots.
The third tool that is used to twist the meaning of the Quran is to concoct “Ahadith” and falsely attribute the sayings to the Prophet (PBUH). These Ahadith contradict the Quran on every subject which means that twisting the meaning of the Quran to suit the prejudices of the bigots, is an organized effort and virtual industry.
The Quran renders itself capable of being read as any textbook without the need for interpretation, as it painstakingly makes its meaning clear. There is however an industry of bigoted scholars who are bent on not taking its clear literal meaning, but bending the same to suit their prejudices.