Q. I'm very curious about your views on three particular subjects.

- The first matter concerns Rashad Khalifa and the number 19 in the Qur'an. I would like to know your thoughts on him and the code 19, because your interpretations of Islam seem to correlate on a lot of points.

- The second matter concerns the widespread opinion among us Muslims that the Qur'an is not corrupt. In one of your responses, you state: "If we are debating about the hadith, the proof for or against the hadith has to come from other than the hadith. This means that you cannot use the hadith itself to prove its validity or lack thereof, since to accept any hadith is to accept its validity -- but how can you assume its validity when that is the very point we are arguing?"

I completely agree with you. However, we believe that the Qur'an has remained uncorrupted since the time of the Prophet Muhammad. Why? Because the Qur'an itself says in the verse 15:9: "We have, without doubt, sent down the Message; and We will assuredly guard it (from corruption)". So, why do we not apply the same logic with the Qur'an as with the ahadith?

- The third matter concerns sending blessings on the Prophet Muhammad during prayer and therefore the shahada itself. Is it "I testify that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is his Messenger" or only "I testify that there is no god but Allah"? If we follow your logic that belief in Allah does not depend on religion, I cannot imagine a Jew or a Christian mentioning the Prophet's name in a prayer. In addition, a few Muslims (including me) believe that the mention of the Prophet's name in prayer amounts to shirk.

A. 1) On the matter of 19, I am afraid I don't subscribe to it for several reasons. The first is that to reduce the Qur'an to some sort of numerical code is to deny the wisdom of God, and to FORCE God to act in a certain manner. Given that knowledge, or what passes as such therefore is often relative, and I find Khalifa's contention to be rather arrogant. Another reason is that several have refuted the idea by the simple fact that the hamza al wasl and hamza al qat' are different in their numerical values, so the entire idea gets tossed on its head.

2) Your question is an astute one. However, as far as the Qur'an is concerned, we do NOT hold it to the yardstick that we hold for other documents for one simple reason: all other documents we hold to be man-made. We believe, however, that the Qur'an comes from God, and therefore does not subject itself to external assessment, except of course that it allows investigation by saying that: "Were it from other than God we would find much contradiction therein." To date, none has done that in a reliable manner. It is this aspect that separates a religious scripture from others...the FAITH. Like Jews, we take our scripture as from God. Therefore it is creedal and not subject to the normal disputation as it is based on faith. In an academic discussion, we could of course subject the Qur'an to such scrutiny since it is then treated as just a TEXT in a secular environment and not revelation.

3) This point is a good one too. The actual part you mention is not problematic because belief in Muhammad as a messenger of God is simply an article of faith peculiar to Muslims. Shirk is to create partners with God. By associating the prophet as prophet with God, I don't think we are committing shirk. But the part I thought you were going to question is "assalamu alayka ya ayyuhan nabi:" The prophet is dead, and so we say  instead, "assalamu ala an-nabi." In any case, we do not have any firm indication of what is to be said in the non-Qur'anic parts of prayer, and I feel that it is up to the individual to say such things that he/she is comfortable with. This is why the Qur'an says: "...and if my servants ask you concerning me, (know) that I am close, answering the supplication of the one who prays if that person asks...."

In my view, the search for spirituality is a personal one and must therefore undergo personal interpretation, for God responds to each of us individually. This is why the Qur'an says: "To each nation"...and then "for each among you we have made a law and a way..." If God can make religion specific to a community, why not an individual? Based on the ayah quoted earlier, notice that in the first part, there is the plural (servants), but in the second part, it becomes singular, i.e., individual. That to me is rather telling, and I hope that you understand my rather stilted language. In matters of spirituality, language becomes a barrier since spirituality is a matter of the heart. And Allah knows best.

Posted November 16, 2008