Sometimes, it is hard for people to come to the agreement in their everyday issues but when the situation refers to the global problems, it seems almost impossible to reach consensus. Even while having access to the same facts, the experts in a certain discipline may disagree with each other. The interpretation of religious systems and ethics are two areas of knowledge that usually reveal differences in thoughts and ideas between people. Controversies appear when the facts themselves are not enough for the production of knowledge.
In such cases, people use their personal experience or traditional approach as a background. Various issues of the Muslim society usually get their solutions through the interpretation of Qur’an. However, most of the contemporary problems are not described directly in this religious text, which means that disagreements among the experts in this field are very common, both on the religious and ethical level.
Considering Qur’an to be the most significant fact to all the Islamic experts, it is necessary to make several additional comments about its nature. Muslims believe Qur’an to be the direct God’s word, which was told to the Prophet Mohammed in the period of time around the 7th century of Common Era. Contemporary social needs of the Muslim community are different from those of the ancient society. As a result, the religious text of Qur’an should be interpreted differently. This interpretation is the issue that reveals both religious and ethical discussions. Vishal Arora, the author of the article “The Qur’an in the modern world” (2012), supports the idea of Professor Abdullah Saeed, according to which the 21st -century Muslim scholars must take into account the time framework while dealing with such issues as general human rights, citizenship or gender equality in relation to the text of Qur’an.
According to the scholar, no one can decide what the mainstream view on the interpretation of the text is, as there are many schools of thoughts in Islam, as well as there are endless debates on various issues (Arora, 2012). As long as the crucial fact for the Islamic experts is opened to interpretation, they use additional knowledge to protect their point of view on the issues of religious system knowledge or ethics.
The issue of women rights in Muslim society is a good example of how the experts may disagree while discussing such area of knowledge as a religious system. According to Jon Greenberg (2014), Saudi Arabia is the only one Muslim nation, which does not allow its women to drive. Obviously, when the Muslim experts disagree on women’s rights in Saudi Arabia, they support their positions by the interpretation of the religious knowledge. Some experts consider the idea of women’s driving to be sinful because the women would be exposed and they would be in a mixed society with men in such case. They believe that the justification of the prohibition lies in the Qur’an, as driving “leads to evil consequences” (Greenberg, 2014) which are described in the scripture very clear. Others, however, find no direct evidence in the Qur’an that says women cannot drive.
Such conclusion is based on the fact that there is no directive mentioned in Islamic Law that prohibits a woman from driving, and such prohibition cannot be understood as a part of an Islamic teaching (Greenberg, 2014). The area of religious knowledge system is addressed here. This example is very specific but it leads to the general issue of the Qur’an’s contemporary reading. Those experts who support the idea of banning women’s ability to drive the car are using the traditional approach to the interpretation of scripture. On the other hand, those who consider the women’s ability to drive as a possible option, adopt the ancient text to the modern society needs.
While making an analysis of why the certain expert chooses one or another approach to interpretation, it is necessary to consider the issue of personal knowledge, based on memories, reasoning or emotions. These ways of knowing cause the notable difference in the interpretation of facts. Massimo Campanini, the author of the book The Qur’an: Modern Muslim Interpretations (2010), claims that there is a tendency in Islam to emphasize such factors as a personal and economic success while reflecting on the contemporary values. Contemporary generations of Muslim society are influenced by global mass media, which means that their outlook may differ from the traditional one, and their intellectual and behavioral strategies may change, so that “the authority of the Qur’an might be undermined” (Campanini, 2010, p.3).
In addition, the life story of each person affects his or her position a lot. For example, such issue as the relationships between Islam and science, although involves the scientific interpretation of the scripture, still depends on the personal experience of the expert. If a person is brought up in a liberal home, it will be easier for him or her to accept the idea that not all the biological or physical concepts are described in the scripture respectively. From the other hand, those people who are brought up in the strict Muslim families are considering science to be only the evidence for the divine origin of the Qur’an. Finally, the beliefs of the Islamic experts about certain issues depend on the social background, as those Muslims who live in the non-Islamic world are usually influenced by the common beliefs of the European or American society.
The factors that are mentioned above are significant not only for discussions of the religious system but also for such area of knowledge as ethics. According to the Surah 17 of Qur’an, one of the moral commandments prohibits to kill someone unjustly, literally, do not take someone’s life without a just cause (The Holy Qur’an 17:33). Obviously, an important ethical dilemma reveals from this commandment. There is a fact that certainly causes disagreement among experts. Every certain accident of this kind can be analyzed under the rule of emotion or reason. As long as there is no clear interpretation of what the “just cause” is, every expert has his or her own viewpoint on this ethical dilemma. Both religious beliefs based on an interpretation of the Qur’an, and personal reasons of every expert, based on emotions, reasoning abilities and experience are crucial in such cases. In addition, those people who have no experience in solving the ethical problems of this kind may rely on the personal knowledge of those who are believed to be an authority. Therefore, even personal knowledge can be shared among many people.
As a conclusion, it is necessary to emphasize that the main reason for disagreements between the experts is that there are objective facts which are still open to interpretation. The examples taken from the Muslim society and its culture show that Qur’an, although being the major rule for all the people, may reveal discussions in the process of interpretation. The ways of knowing that are used for the interpretation of such areas of knowledge as religious systems and ethics are insufficient in general. Personal experience or the trust for the traditional approach are the tools which remain totally individual and have no reason to be considered as the only correct position. The access to the same facts leads to disagreement between experts in a certain discipline, as a result.