What is Quranism?
For those of you reading New Signs Magazine (NSM) for the first time and are unfamiliar with its print medium predecessor, you may ask, who are the people behind NSM and how do we think about Islam and The Quran?
In the world today, we find many sects, streams of thought and schools of law under the banner of Islam. But which was the original Islam, intended by God? We at NSM are Quranists, those who believe that The Quran is the only source of Islam.
For Quranists, the answer to the question ‘what is the original Islam’ is quite clear. The Quran must be the source of this original Islam. The Quran remains the only undisputed source agreed upon by all Muslims. We have acted to preserve it both in the past, in the present and for the foreseeable future. The problem is, the overwhelming majority of Muslims encouch The Quran with an inherited body of traditions. Hence, they are known and even term themselves as ‘Traditional Islam’ (Ahl As-Sunnah Wal Jama’ah).
What is Traditional Islam? As its name suggests, it is Islam which based on Traditions. Traditions – Hadith and Sunnah in their terminology – allegedly represents the sayings, deeds and abstentions of Nabi Muhammad. Added to it are the same from the companions of the Nabi as well as their own followers.
Of course Traditional Islam is also based on The Quran but even so, The Quran is read through the lens of Traditions. This produces a very monotonous exegesis of The Quran. Novelty in understanding is stifled and seen as a challenge to its body of ancient and scholars.
Quranists reject Traditions for various reasons. The most important of these is that The Quran itself simply does not acknowledge Traditions as a source of authority. Nor does it acknowledge any sort of scholarly body to articulate the religion on the authority of Nabi Muhammad. This is how Traditionalists legitimise their authority.
So what do Quranists do instead? Our philosophy can be summed up into the following as ‘ARC’ – Application, Refutation, Conversation.
Application – the utilisation of Quranic teachings. Quranists agree that this can be formulated as God and Good. This basic principle may be unpacked from Quranic verses and used to understand our existence and the best way to live.
Refutation – The Quran is subject to many distortions and misrepresentations by both Traditionalists and its critics alike. Quranists attempt to disprove these in order for the true teachings of The Quran to be evident. We welcome these because they help deepen our Quranic experience.
Conversation – this is perhaps the most vibrant of Quranist activities, even before the advent of the internet.
As Quranists are no longer shackled by Traditions, they need to outline and articulate Quranic teachings for themselves. The conversation they engage in produces a variety of approaches, some of which are described below:
Traditional Quranism – this is where Quranists adopt Traditions for ritual practises but generally reject Islamic law.
Pseudo-Traditional Quranism – in this approach, Quranists practise Traditional rituals but modify them from what Traditionalists practise in order to be more parallel to what they perceive to be Quranic principles.
Secular Quranism – Secular Quranists reject the notion that rituals are taught by The Quran at all. They seek to understand terms related to rituals (e.g. salat, sawm, zakat, hajj, ‘umra) in other ways
Philosophical – These Quranists attempt to outline Quranic teachings in a philosophical framework. The Quran seems to naturally fit into these frameworks.
Scientistic – Scientism is a relatively new trend among Traditionalist Quranists in which they seek to find proofs of divine authority through scientific facts. Scientistic Quranists follow suit but restrict their research to The Quran.
Biblical – The Bible is seen by Biblical Quranists as ‘previous revelation’ and hence Biblically originated information becomes a source of adding detail to Quranic teachings.
These are only about a quarter of the existing approaches within the Quranist world. As no authority exists to dictate to us what to believe, we are free to choose what makes sense to us. Hence, the use of reason is vital.
Quranist Islam is neither a religion nor even a sect but rather an approach to Islam and a space for activity. It is rather an approach we rely on with The Quran as our sole divine source and the space is where we discuss its teachings.
Quranist Islam is how it began with Nabi Muhammad. In order to extract the most benefit from our religion, it is vital we return to it. It is the original Islam.