Dearest readers, you are lucky and indeed blessed today because I’m giving you prior warning of being bored rigid. You know those people who corner you at parties and bang on endlessly about something you couldn’t give a flying fuck about? That. You’re welcome.
So obviously at this point in time the largest proportion of my head noise is about the D-word. I have one month to go until submission so really you’re doubly blessed because I’ve shown so much restraint in not boring you about this before.
There has been a thread running through all my essays on different aspects of the Qur’an and that is its persuasive and dissuasive elements. It’s an incredibly convincing text and I noticed it in everything I studied. I’ve written about war and violence in the Qur’an, paradise and hell, past prophets… and now I’m writing about God’s mercy as expressed in the Qur’an.
A bloke called Fazlur Rahman wrote a book about the Qur’an and his ideas about mercy come through really strongly, he’s so convinced of his own ideas that he actually ties himself up in knots, which makes it very easy for me to critique, yay! It totally fascinates me – how merciful is the God of Islam, is he this tyrannical being that Western people in particular often think he is, what are the limits of his mercy, how does judgement fit into this, what is the tension between judgement and mercy…??? I have endless questions.
There’s this word in the Qur’an called taqwa and it’s often been translated as fear of God. There’s a general movement away from this concept now though, most likely in response to a bunch of people telling Muslims how horrible their God is. It happens in Christianity too – it used to be all about the hellfire and damnation and now it’s all about the love. And that’s exactly what I’m trying to figure out in the Qur’an. Where is the line drawn?
This totally impacts on the persuasive/dissuasive features of the Qur’an. I read an article saying that the Qur’an uses the most effective tools possible to communicate its message – so what is it that pushes people into the submitting to God? Is it the hope of mercy or the fear of judgement or a mix of both or something else entirely that is most effective? I haven’t reached the answer to my question but I keep it in mind as the thread throughout everything I do.
Thing is though, I can’t just go on what I think about passages from the Qur’an, although obviously my own opinions have to run throughout and will form my conclusion. I can’t even just use contemporary sources, I have to use this thing called tafsir, which is the old, old, OLD commentaries on the Qur’an. We’re talking medieval old and we’re also talking verbosity. None of them could ever just get to the point. When I wrote the essay on paradise and hell I used one tafsir and basically I dipped in and out, looking at an old man’s explanations of relevant verses and if I understood what he was saying I popped it in the essay, if not I skipped it. But I have to use more sources now and it takes FOREVER. They’re so huge that it’s hard to know where to begin in a more systematic way but jumping in and out is haphazard and has no guarantee of any success. I spent a day doing this a couple of weeks ago and had barely anything to show for it. I can’t not use tafsir but it’s a seriously panicky bit of the dissertation – need lots and lots of words, can’t afford to waste time floundering through lots of pretty squiggles in the hope I understand some of them.
So I plucked up the courage and emailed prof for some guidance and as a reward he told me to… do exactly what I’m doing. What a waste of time! I knew I was right to just do this myself. I have no idea what a supervisor is for anyway. Am I supposed to ask him what he thinks of what I’ve done? I’m not entirely sure I want to risk being told now that I’m barking completely up the wrong tree and need to sit on the naughty step. If it’s shit then it’s shit, hopefully it’s not shit.
Right. Now I need to focus on work, not study. This is my last week before I go on leave, so although thoughts about pretty squiggles are filling my head, I really need to think about my job for a bit longer. I do wish people would shut the fuck up though. I had back to back meetings for hours yesterday and by the end of the day I was close to turning into a screaming killing machine.