Taking a verse in context is referred to in Islam as the occasion of revelation. I like that phrase...and it might work well with the Bible since it is put together in...for the most part....chronological order. But the Koran is not arranged in any particular chronological order...which makes discerning the occasion of revelation....or the context of a verse..... a bit trickier. An article I read about discerning the truth in the Quran says the following
(1) The Quran is not classified subject-wise. Verses on various topics appear in dispersed places in the Quran and no order can be ascertained from the sequence of its text. The first verses revealed in the Quran was in chapter (surah) 96.
Okay...so the Quran is not arranged topically....
The structure of the Quran makes it necessary to approach it using the dialectic "both and" methodology of reasoning.
This means that to investigate a certain issue, the verses pertaining to the issue should be gathered together. The verses are then analyzed comprehensively while paying attention to the historical context (in Islamic terminology called the "occasion of revelation") of each verse. The truth is considered to be found in all the relevant verses, because if the Quran is divine as the vast majority of Muslims believe, it should be free from real contradictions and inconsistencies.
Yeah' well...so should the Bible, but we know how that goes. There are inconsistencies and contradictions in the Bible (and the Quran too...whether the author of this article wants to admit it or not) Christians have come up with all kinds of ways to reconcile the vast inconsistencies in the Bible. There is the dispensational view...the Old Testament/New Testament....the different covenants. The methods used to explain vary with one's outlook.
They have all found their inerrancy comfort zones and from their particular vantage points they explain the inconsistencies. Do Muslims do the same thing?
Apparent contradictions are not only reconciled and transcended but are thoroughly investigated because they actually reflect deep meanings and paradigms. (This is akin, for example, to the process of understanding the Chinese idiom, "a man is stronger than iron and weaker than a fly." Although the wise saying is superficially self-contradictory, it reveals a deep fact about humans who, in some situations, are very strong. Yet, in other contexts, these same people are very weak.
A koan! I wrote about those a while back....
If the reductionist approach to the Quran is valid, then all ideas, from violence to absolute pacifism, can be justified and rationalized using the Quran. For the Quran does not only contain verses about war, it is also replete with verses about forgiveness and countering evil with good.
Couldn't the same thing be said about the Bible? Read the article...which is not very long...if you want a more thorough explanation of this reductionist approach. The article closes with
The worst thing to do with the Quran is to approach it seeking confirmation for what one already believes in and turning a blind eye to any evidence that is inconsistent with his/her pre-conceived attitudes and biases. Anyone can find in the Quran whatever he/she wants to prove. Anyone can do the same thing with the Bible. The challenge, however, is to make a judgment only after a thorough and exhaustive investigation of all available Quranic evidence.
More to come.....hopefully I can stay on track long enough to tackle two of the concepts associated with the Muslim religion.....kill the infidel and jihad.....