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Religion in modern world
#21
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#22
(14-05-19, 12:32 AM)Real European Wrote: There is no "story of Creation" in the Quran like there is in Genesis in the Bible. And early on we had scholars, philosophers etc writing about evolution.   More than a thousand years before Darwin, Al Jahiz (781-869) wrote " Animals engage in a struggle for existence; for resources, to avoid being eaten and to breed. Environmental factors influence organisms to develop new characteristics to ensure survival, thus transforming into new species. Animals that survive to breed can pass on their successful characteristics to offspring."

Darwin was familiar with the works of these and many other Muslim authors - several were translated in English and were available in London. Darwin also knew Arabic and had been introduced to the works of these scholars at Cambridge University.

In 1878 William   Draper,   a contemporary  of  Charles  Darwin, wrote a book called the "Mohammedan theory of evolution". In this book he said  : "Sometimes,  not  without  surprise,  we  meet  with  ideas  which  we  flatter  ourselves  have  originated  in  our  own  times.  Thus  our  modern  doctrines  of  evolution  and  development  were  taught  in  their  schools.  In  fact,  they  carried  them  much  farther  than  we  are  disposed  to  do  extending  them  even  to  inorganic  or  mineral  things”

Obviously Darwin did not just copy those ideas, he added his own insights to it. But he did not wake up one morning and invent evolution theory.

This viewpoint is a little problematic for me.  I'm not sure there is much evidence that Darwin knew Arabic or that he knew of Al-Jahiz (https://www.quora.com/Did-Charles-Darwin-know-Arabic).  He was more likely to have been familiar with Aristotle, or indeed his own grandfather Erasmus Darwin, who wrote a poem about evolution of life forms, The Temple of Nature.

On the other hand, it is true that several Islamic scholars speculated on such matters: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfre...on-science.

Might I suggest you take a look at a book called Darwin's Ghosts - a fascinating account of some of the writers and philosophers who pre-dated Darwin and who may be said to have discovered something along the lines of the theory of evolution.  The author has a section devoted to Al-Jahiz.  But in fact it starts with the Ancient Greeks.

If I recall, and as suggested by your quote above, Al-Jahiz could perhaps be described as a "Lamarckian", believing that somehow new or changed traits could be "acquired" by a parent organism due to their environment, and actions during life, and then transferred somehow to their offspring.  This is truly remarkable from someone writing in the 8th C CE, but Darwin can't be said to have "copied those ideas". 

- Darwin's insights were absolutely dependent on the concept of "deep time", i.e. that the Earth was much, much older than previous ages of humanity could ever have conceived.  Darwin did some training as a geologist.
- Darwin was a pigeon fancier as well as a naturalist, and saw the cross-generational effect of humans' selection of particular traits in animals that were then allowed to breed. Darwin's essential insight concerns the idea that this "selection" could be effected by nature, competition for resources, and the reproductive success, over millions of years, of particular branches in the tree of life.
- Darwin's theory was built on scientific method rather than, or as well as, philosophical speculation.
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#23
At CaroleG, Real European


Carole, agree with what you said. My thoughts upon reading Real's quote of Al Jahiz were 'phylosophical speculation' (as opposed to evidence-based scientific hypothesis) and 'lamarckism'. There were several similar 'evolutionary' speculations before Darwin and before Lamarck also in the western world, but made little impact.

Darwin's huge contribution was that he based his hypothesis about evolution on a very impressive amount of scientific evidence = collected data about nature (where these data/evidence may be either observations of 'wild' nature - e.g. fossils, different contemporary species around the world or results of experiments). 

I have read quite a lot about Darwin (I am a sort of 'historically in love' with him  Wink ), including his autobiography and quite many of his letters. It is quite easy to follow the gradual development of Darwin's thought from fully admiring theologian William Paley and his book Natural Theology (Darwin wrote somewhere that he knew this book by heart - this is something that he has definitely learned during his studies in Cambridge) to dismantling Paley's very claims in On origin of species. Darwin's personal journey from being very religious to gradually becoming an agnostic/atheist is also well documented, in Darwin's own writings.

Quote:Real: 
Darwin was familiar with the works of these and many other Muslim authors - several were translated in English and were available in London. Darwin also knew Arabic and had been introduced to the works of these scholars at Cambridge University.

I have never heard before that Darwin understood Arabic. Real, is there evidence for it? Also, any reliable source for Al Jahiz's quote (in English)? I could not find any.

Presence of a book in a library in Cambridge does not prove that Darwin read it. And even if he did (during his studies?), he was at that time totally devoted to Paley's Natural Theology - so I suspect he would not take much note.

Darwin was a very hard worker and very widely knowledgeable, but he did not know everything. For example, Darwin was interested in mechanisms of inheritance, and he also did some experiments about it. He even made experiments with pea plants. Gregor Mendel was Darwin's contemporary. Mendel figured out these genetic mechanisms. There was a copy of Mendel's paper in Darwin's personal library, but in an 'uncut' version (at that time the pages of reprints had to be cut apart with a knife). So rather unfortunately it seems that Darwin did not know about Mendel's huge discovery, even if he had this reprint right there under his nose.

I also suspect that should Darwin draw significantly from Arab scholars (which were indeed very good in particular in the middle ages while Europe was held behind by religion), he would very likely mention this somewhere - likely in his printed works (or at least in his very many letters - of which many are full of detailed scientific debate with his colleagues).

In the 1872 (6th) edition of the Origin, Darwin added this introductory chapter:

AN HISTORICAL SKETCH OF THE PROGRESS OF OPINION ON THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES, PREVIOUSLY TO THE PUBLICATION OF THE FIRST EDITION OF THIS WORK
http://darwin-online.org.uk/content/fram...pageseq=18

I think that this chapter rather nicely illustrates Darwin's huge knowledge and scientific thoroughness, as well as honesty - he for example apologises for some misconceptions he used to have about Owen's work.

I regard Darwin as a very ethical person (while being of course a child of his time). And he is a good role model for religious tolerance - as demonstrated in relationships in his family.
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#24
(14-05-19, 11:13 AM)Ajda Slovenia Wrote: I have never heard before that Darwin understood Arabic. Real, is there evidence for it? Also, any reliable source for Al Jahiz's quote (in English)? I could not find any.

I just googled the entire sentence and it does come up in several locations, e.g. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfre...on-science.  All the English translations are remarkably similar though, and I have no idea who did the translation.  Apart from it being rather clearly Lamarckian, though, it is powerful stuff given the state of knowledge of the time.  How good's your Arabic: read the whole 500-page document here. Sad


Quote:There was a copy of Mendel's paper in Darwin's personal library, but in an 'uncut' version (at that time the pages of reprints had to be cut apart with a knife). So rather unfortunately it seems that Darwin did not know about Mendel's huge discovery, even if he had this reprint right there under his nose.

What a widely read person you are.  Thanks for recounting this fascinating stuff.  There's an article here about all this:

"... If Darwin had received and read Mendel's article, he would have found a detailed analysis of the frequencies observed for different inherited traits from generation to generation of the edible pea. But these results were given in a mathematical form that might have put Darwin off from reading any more of the article. Darwin said that: ‘Mathematics in biology was like a scalpel in a carpenter's shop – there was no use for it.’ "

... it also says Darwin read German only slowly.  What a shame he never read the paper.  But he might have been initially very puzzled rather than thrilled: before Mendel, and that quote about mathematics in biology says it all, Darwin and others probably imagined that "inheritance juices" / "blending inheritance" (i.e. analogue qualities) were responsible for passing inherited traits from each parent to the offspring. 

But (I speculate) Darwin would probably have been persuaded by Mendel's rigorous scientific method.  Mendel's paper was publlished in 1865.  It is really quite surprising if Darwin never even heard something about it through his scientific acquaintances over the next 15 years.  Down House is said in the above article to have been a "communication hub" for European naturalists. 

Maybe it was all too mathematical, Teutonic and "dry" for Victorian Englishmen...

PS however it appears that no-one really recognised the significance of Mendel's work at the time, and it was only in the early 20th that the intrusive reality of "discontinuous inheritance" led to the rediscovery of his laws of inheritance and the establishment of genetics.
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#25
(14-05-19, 12:22 PM)CaroleG Wrote: Thanks for recounting this fascinating stuff.

In relation to Darwin and religion, do you know about the touching letter that his wife Emma (who was very religious) wrote to him about her worries about Charles' parting with religion. Namely, when they got married Darwin had already worked through quite a lot of evolutionary stuff and has already distanced himself from god. Before he married Emma, he honestly told her about his doubts in god (giving Emma a chance to pull out of the engagement if Charles' ungodly beliefs were too much for her to take on). Emma still decided to marry him.

Here is the transcript of the letter:

http://darwin-online.org.uk/content/fram...&pageseq=1

Emma:

May not the habit in scientific pursuits of believing nothing till it is proved, influence your mind too much in other things which cannot be proved in the same way, & which if true are likely to be above our comprehension... Every thing that concerns you concerns me & I should be most unhappy if I thought we did not belong to each other forever....

Charles wrote this at the bottom of the letter:

When I am dead, know that many times, I have kissed & cryed over this. C. D.

I find it all very touching and very human.

Charles died before Emma. He made sure that after his death Emma got her letter back, so that she could read Charles' note. After Emma had died, this letter was found among her things.
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#26
(14-05-19, 01:29 PM)Ajda Slovenia Wrote: I find it all very touching and very human.

Charles died before Emma. He made sure that after his death Emma got her letter back, so that she could read Charles' note. After Emma had died, this letter was found among her things.

Yes, I have read one biography. They were devoted to one another.

But his life does seem to have been quite a melancholy one at times, although maybe not during his Beagle travels.  I do remember his wife being very religious, and the devastating impact of the death of their daughter Anne in 1851, at the age of 10.  As I'm sure you know, Darwin suffered from guilt at having married his cousin, informed by his own observations as a naturalist of the results of too much in-breeding, and suspected that the deaths of Anne and two other children, and the apparent infertility of the surviving children, may have been partly due to this.

He also seemed to have suffered a lot from stomach problems which made his later life rather miserable, and I seem to recall he ended up hating to have to go very far from Down.  This may have been the result of a virus picked up during his Beagle journeys to tropical locations.

Lamarck's ideas about the reality of evolution (whatever the mechanism) had I think been widely accepted in "godless" post-Revolutionary France, and "Christian England" reacted against such notions, which appears to have been another factor (in addition to his wife's beliefs) making him reluctant to go public before 1859, and also a reason why the evidence had to be overwhelmingly irrefutable.
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#27
(14-05-19, 12:32 AM)Real European Wrote: There is no "story of Creation" in the Quran like there is in Genesis in the Bible. And early on we had scholars, philosophers etc writing about evolution.   More than a thousand years before Darwin, Al Jahiz (781-869) wrote " Animals engage in a struggle for existence; for resources, to avoid being eaten and to breed. Environmental factors influence organisms to develop new characteristics to ensure survival, thus transforming into new species. Animals that survive to breed can pass on their successful characteristics to offspring."

(14-05-19, 12:22 PM)CaroleG Wrote: I just googled the entire sentence and it does come up in several locations, e.g. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfre...on-science.  All the English translations are remarkably similar though, and I have no idea who did the translation. 

Yes, Carole, I googled too, but I could not find any reliable source for the quote - it just seems to be copy/pasted in various newspaper articles and blogs.

I also came across this debate about the issue at Wiki:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk%3AAl-Jahiz

Under another article which also contained the quote, somebody posted a question specifically asking the author for a reliable source of the quote - no reply.

I am quite amazed by Arabic scientific advances while Europe was lagging behind. I have not heard about this evolutionary quote before though. Maybe it was 'launched' quite recently? Just being a bit fake-news careful here.

Real, do you have a source? In the debate at wiki, someone claims to have looked through the whole Book of Animals in Arabic but not being able to find the quote.

Re Arab vs European science (centuries ago), I find it very interesting how deeply religious Galileo was (regarded to be the 'father' of modern empirical science) and how he worried than unless the Church changes its geocentric model (which he could see was wrong because it was at odds with the data from nature - which he collected by observing planets and stars), the 'infidels' (Arabs) who were very advanced astronomers will laugh at the Church. So really Galileo wanted to protect the reputation of the Church.

I also find interesting Galileo's reconciliation of his science with the bible - along the lines 'had god wanted the bible to be an astronomic atlas, he would have done so. However, the bible is not an astronomical atlas but rather a moral compass, so scientific explanations about nature should not be drawn from the bible but rather from direct observation of nature. God created the world and left it to humans to discover how wonderful this creation is.'

A great book for those who like science, history or both:

Galileo's Daughter by Dava Sobel

I just love this book. I just could not put it down until I read all of it.
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#28
I don't know why it surprises you and have no explanation other than the fact that the West has wiped out the role Muslims played in their history and culture  and say their societies have Judeo-Christian roots, conveniently removing the entire Islamic episode from their collective memory and "official" history.

While Europe went through its Dark Ages and burnt books, the Muslim world had its Golden Age. Muslims of the Mu'tazili school further developed the works of the Ancient Greeks, and laid many foundations Western scholars would later openly connect with after the Middle Ages.

When Immanual Kant received his degree of Doctor in Philosophy, the bull (or whatever it is called in English) opened with "Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim".

Copernicus (1473-1543) used calculation tables and diagrams that were literally copied from the works of Ibn Shatir, an Arab astronomer of the previous century. 

400 years before Thomas Harvey described the blood circulation in the body, 13nd century Iban al-Natis (Syria) already did so.

In the 10th century already, Ibn Haythem (Iran!) said that while reason and logic are important, both can make mistakes and therefor science must be based on measurable observations. That's 700 years before Francis Bacon and Descartes arrived at the same conclusion. Remarkably - and incredibly -  the West keeps claiming that the scientific method was a Western invention. 

They were not just approaching things from a philosophical angle. Al Jahiz had made a whole collection of observations which he classified based on which he developed his thoughts on natural selection. 

Evolution theory was widely taught at schools already then.

You can find an overview of some of the early Muslim evolution theorists in the following article 

http://pu.edu.pk/images/journal/uoc/PDF-...h_86_2.pdf

It's author is Dr Muhammad Sultan Shah, Chairman of the Department of Islamic Studies at the Government College University of Lahore - yes, that's in Pakistan.


The article is fully referenced so you can look up all the original works as well.

The degree to which Darwin used their material was discussed already in works like that of Fr. Dieterici ('Der Darwinismus im X. und XIX. Jahrhundert' (Die Philosophie der Araber, No. 9) , Leipzig, 1878) and E. Wiedemann ('Darwinistisches bei Gahiz', Sitzungsbericht der physikalisch-medizinischen Sozietaet in Erlangen, 47, 1915., H. S. Nyberg ("Kleinere Schriften des Ibn al-'Arabi", Leiden, 1919) etc.

All wiped out from Western collective memory.

The only signficant difference between the work of Al Jahiz and Darwin was of an idological nature, not a scientific one. Al Jahiz's model was more tanscendent in it that he defined the first cause of evolution as Divine. While Darwin's model was more materialistic. But the methods they describe of biological evolution are largely the same.

That's why, unlike in the Christian sphere where some parts of Christianity fiercely criticised Darwin and emphasised creationism, there was no such criticism in the Muslim world. Darwin said what Muslim theologist, scholars and  scientist has been saying for centuries and Darwin did not even go quite as far as they did. 

Evolution Theory has been taught in Iran, in Indonesia (the most populous Muslim country with almost 9 times more Muslims than Saudi Arabia) etc etc.

In Wahhabi Saudi Arabia it is prohibited - but Wahhabism (and Salafism in parts of Pakistan) is a cult that is considered to be outside of the pale of mainstream Islam and a dangerous devidant cult by even Al Azhar.

For some strange reason, the West associates Islam and its beliefs with cults that the very large majority of Muslims do not even regard as Islamic.

In Islam science never conflicted with religion as it did in the West with Christianity.  The Quran itself encourages science, instructs Muslims to observe nature and study it. 


Evolution theory is very much engrained part of Islamic beliefs. Creatonism in the Muslim world is a very recent phenomenon and it originates in Turkish far right. When Attaturk secularised Islam, Islam completely disappeared from the school curiculum. Very much to the dislike of far right extremists (aka islamists). 

Eventually they thought of a way to fight back and a means to try to islamise society: they tried to put creationism on the curriculum for biology lessons. They used leaflets and books of the American Chirstian fundamentalist Institute for Creation Research and just left out obvious references to the Bible. Some time after that, they set up the Bilim Arastirma Vakfi (BAV - Science Research Foundation) that among others  organised congress where American far right Christian fundamentalists gave speeches (how strange is that? The Christian fundamentalists consider Islam to be evil and satanic. But both are far right, and that seems to be their common cause). The Islamists claimed that Darwinism  was a conspiracy between Jews and Freemasons to undermine revelations (!)

Mainstream Muslims were alarmed by all this. Prominent theologists issued statements and published books that the Quran is evolunionist.

The BAV then targeted evolutionist academics and tried to descredit them by calling them maoists. Following which a number of academics filed and won a court case against them.

In 1998 the Turkish Academy of Science issued a long statement against the BAV's creationsim,  and in 2007, 700 scientists collectively launched a court case agains the integrists who had succeeded in getting creationism as an alternative explanation in biology lessons again, to get it removed from the curriculum again.

Meanwhile the BAV had been distributing glossy magazines for free via shopping malls etc all over the Middle East. A well know face of this group is Harun Yahyah, who now says he is focusing his attention in the Second Coming of Jesus. Everybody wonders who is financing this group, but the links with the Christian far right in the US are very clear. 

These far right integrists, who are a small but vocal minority,  are opposed by many different groups from mainstraim Islam, by academics and Islamic scholars alike.
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#29
(14-05-19, 05:55 PM)Real European Wrote: I don't know why it surprises you and have no explanation other than the fact that the West has wiped out the role Muslims played in their history and culture  and say their societies have Judeo-Christian roots, conveniently removing the entire Islamic episode from their collective memory and "official" history.

...

They were not just approaching things from a philosophical angle. Al Jahiz had made a whole collection of observations which he classified based on which he developed his thoughts on natural selection. 

Real, the debt of the Western scientific and philosophical world to some of these remarkable people in the early centuries of Islam is immense and badly under-acknowledged.  But I feel it is important to get our evidence lined up and to examine claims very closely.
From the quote you gave from Al-Jahiz (as translated by someone), it appears that he had an idea of evolution of species, and an idea of competition in nature or natural selection.  But I'd really like to see evidence that he linked the two concepts.

One funny thing I read about Darwin's theory is that some of his contemporaries, on hearing it in 1859, responded: "Oh, is that all there is to it? Well, it's obvious when you think about it...".  But the point is that no-one had hitherto made that "giant leap" of the imagination - unless you can show that Al-Jahiz did.


Quote:Evolution theory was widely taught at schools already then.

You can find an overview of some of the early Muslim evolution theorists in the following article 

http://pu.edu.pk/images/journal/uoc/PDF-...h_86_2.pdf

It's author is Dr Muhammad Sultan Shah, Chairman of the Department of Islamic Studies at the Government College University of Lahore - yes, that's in Pakistan.


The article is fully referenced so you can look up all the original works as well.

I had found that independently.  Some of its claims seem a little difficult to go along with.  And most of what he describes falls into the domain of speculation, or indeed poetry, often inspired by the religious wish to gain some understanding of God and her creations.  Contemplating and struggling to account for the mysterious phenomena of change, in nature and life, against a backdrop of religious conviction, may not really be the same thing as identifying and proving the mechanism whereby so many trillions of different life forms come to inhabit this planet.

Also, just as the West owes so much to Islam, it's important to acknowledge that the scholars of early Islam owed a great deal to the Ancient Greeks, particularly Aristotle, whose works they studied intently.  The Ancient Greeks' thought was divided, by themselves, into 3 domains: metaphysical enquiry, practical philosophy (ethics/how to live) and epistemological philosophy (what is knowledge?).  The metaphysical domain was really the least successful, as the Greeks had to rely on pure speculation and metaphorical explanations to account for a world which was obviously there and unexplained.  Reading that paper by Dr Shah I get the same feeling: we are in the domain of metaphors.

Quote:The degree to which Darwin used their material was discussed already in works like that of Fr. Dieterici ('Der Darwinismus im X. und XIX. Jahrhundert' (Die Philosophie der Araber, No. 9) , Leipzig, 1878) and E. Wiedemann ('Darwinistisches bei Gahiz', Sitzungsbericht der physikalisch-medizinischen Sozietaet in Erlangen, 47, 1915., H. S. Nyberg ("Kleinere Schriften des Ibn al-'Arabi", Leiden, 1919) etc. 

All wiped out from Western collective memory.

The only signficant difference between the work of Al Jahiz and Darwin was of an idological nature, not a scientific one. Al Jahiz's model was more tanscendent in it that he defined the first cause of evolution as Divine. While Darwin's model was more materialistic. But the methods they describe of biological evolution are largely the same. 

This is quite a claim - could you please substantiate it, maybe by quoting from The Book of Animals?  I haven't found an English translation, but it appears to have been translated into French.  Do you know Arabic?

Quote:That's why, unlike in the Christian sphere where some parts of Christianity fiercely criticised Darwin and emphasised creationism, there was no such criticism in the Muslim world. Darwin said what Muslim theologist, scholars and  scientist has been saying for centuries and Darwin did not even go quite as far as they did. 

Evolution Theory has been taught in Iran, in Indonesia (the most populous Muslim country with almost 9 times more Muslims than Saudi Arabia) etc etc.

In Wahhabi Saudi Arabia it is prohibited - but Wahhabism (and Salafism in parts of Pakistan) is a cult that is considered to be outside of the pale of mainstream Islam and a dangerous devidant cult by even Al Azhar.

For some strange reason, the West associates Islam and its beliefs with cults that the very large majority of Muslims do not even regard as Islamic.

In Islam science never conflicted with religion as it did in the West with Christianity.  The Quran itself encourages science, instructs Muslims to observe nature and study it. 

Evolution theory is very much engrained part of Islamic beliefs. Creatonism in the Muslim world is a very recent phenomenon and it originates in Turkish far right. When Attaturk secularised Islam, Islam completely disappeared from the school curiculum. Very much to the dislike of far right extremists (aka islamists). 

Are you really sure it is that simple?  Doesn't the Qur'an say that Adam was created by God from clay?... and literalists would say that if the Qur'an is the Word of God, that must be literally true, so no evolutionary explanation for humans.  Do we really find such literalists only where Wahhabism predominates? This article suggests that there is quite a lot of trouble accepting specifically that humans evolved through natural selection for (some) Muslims.

Isn't there sometimes tension between the God-centred account and the science-derived explanation?  There is a summary here of the various attitudes to Darwinian evolution which are said to have been voiced by a gathering of Muslim academics.  Reading it I was struck by the fact that even if the Muslim academics here could accept evolution (one is said to describe evolution as a "false religion" in and of itself), they "justified" such belief by interpreting certain passages from the Qur'an in sometimes tortuous ways. 

These sorts of interpretations seem incongruous to me, but also perplexing: they seem to indicate that a scientific explanation can be accepted only if it can be reconciled with close readings of the Qur'an, even though there might be some scope for interpretation of the latter.  It seems that every hypothesis must pass a Qur'anic test of validity before it can be entertained.
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#30
(14-05-19, 07:18 PM)CaroleG Wrote: Are you really sure it is that simple?  Doesn't the Qur'an say that Adam was created by God from clay?... and literalists would say that if the Qur'an is the Word of God, that must be literally true, so no evolutionary explanation for humans.


What literalists?  All legal schools of Islam are in full agreement that a literal reading of the Quran is prohibited (in fact it is prohibited by the Quran itself).

It's not because some deviant far right extremists cults (that are not even considered as Islamic by Muslims themselves)  are literalists that Islam is literalist. Shall I start quoting literally from, say, nazi publications to describe democracy to you?

All four legal schools are in agreement that to seek a meaning of a verse you have to:
  1. Collect all relevent verses and hadiths (in fact you have to relate a verse to all other verses of the Quran - this is the legal principle that the only way to understand the Quran, is by the Quran itself)
  2. Distinguish between wat is general and what is specifici, what is conditional and what is unconditional, what is allegoric etc.  (again this translates in a series of principles of exegensis such as that general expressions must be interpretated in the light of qualifying verses etc)
  3. Then, the reason for and circumstances of all of the related verses and hadiths have to be examined 
  4. Finally, all hermeneutic conditions defined by the classic imams have to be met as well. 
Only when you have done all of the above, you can begin to understand the meaning of a verse.

This does not mean there is just "one and the only correct" interpretation of a verse because there is elasticity in the interpretation of non-essential aspects, but not to the extent that they no longer match with the backbone of the entire framework.
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