Mr Jochen Katz has given links to Muslim responses to his criticism on the law of inheritance of the Qur’an, on the same page on which his criticism can be seen. Below these links, Mr. Katz has given a general comment for all these Muslim responses, which, incidentally, include my response to his criticism as well. As a response to these responses, he writes:
My response: All those above Muslim reactions either follow some school of Muslim jurisprudence and explain what should done in the problem cases, or they propose own methods which have nothing to do with Islamic reality. But they only explain what is to be done when the Qur’an does not distribute all the estate or more than is available. But in doing so they import data from the outside (hadith, personal opinions, …) and the issue of our discussion is whether the Qur’an is sufficient and consistent in itself. The conclusion is that the Qur’an is not logically consistent. In particular, the rule that one party (usually the spouse) is given their share first and then the remainder is distributed according to the given shares, is not found in the Qur’an but imported from the outside. And it is NOT the way the four schools of fiqh are doing it. Furthermore, [it] does not solve all the problems either. It is not possible to obey the laws as given. None of of the responders solves the problem that shares adding up to more than the available estate is a logical internal contradiction in the Qur’an. None of the proposed solution methods of real life can be derived from the text of the Qur’an. The Qur’an contradiction remains. Human rules are necessary to overrule the word that is claimed and believed to be divine.
As is clear from one of his previous writings to me, Mr. Katz’s statement: “All those above Muslim reactions either follow some school of Muslim jurisprudence and explain what should [be] done in the problem cases” do not apply to my response. In his earlier comment to me, Mr. Katz wrote:
I am amazed to find that you do propose a lot of “methods” which have no resemblance of what any of the Sunni or the Shia legists do. You make up your own idiosyncratic methods.
It seems, therefore, that apparently his comment on my article is: “or they propose own methods which have nothing to do with Islamic reality“.
I really do not know what Mr. Katz implies by “Islamic Reality” — probably as long as the interpretation is incorrect, it would be acceptable to Mr. Katz and would be coherent with what he terms as “Islamic Reality”. However, to be honest, I did not expect such a lay-man’s response from Mr. Katz on my article. Even in his previous letter to me, he had mentioned my proposing ‘a lot of methods’, to which I had replied:
I request you to please have a look at my article again. I have not proposed any methods in my article. I have only elaborated my understanding of the text of the Qur’an. In this elaboration, I have also tried to explain the linguistic and logical basis for my interpretation. I never claimed in my article that my point of view is held by any Shia or Sunni scholar. I have given my understanding of the concerned verses and I have also given reasons for my interpretation. I really think it would have been more befitting for you to point out what was [and is] wrong with my interpretation, rather than see if such an interpretation is held by any one else. In your article on the Law of Inheritance, you criticized the Qur’an. I, therefore, looked at the concerned verses of the Qur’an and presented my analysis of these verses. I very honestly felt that my interpretation of these verses would remove all your objections against these verses. But now it seems that your objection is not really against the Qur’an, but against the generally held Shia and/or Sunni interpretation of these verses. I must admit that I am not interested in defending either of these views. My article is to present a rebuttal to a criticism against the Qur’an, not to defend the interpretation of the Muslim Scholars.
You call my methods “idiosyncratic”. I do acknowledge that to some extent, my interpretation is different from others, but please do let me know which of my methods is “idiosyncratic”.
Unfortunately, Mr. Katz never responded to my request of “pointing-out what was wrong with my interpretation”. Instead, holding firm to the “Truth” — that shall set him free (?) — he has continually refrained from taking my explanation with any seriousness and yet has persisted with passing such remarks as: “they propose own methods which have nothing to do with Islamic reality“.
I would, therefore, once again like to request Mr. Katz to give close consideration to my explanation. The Qur’an is in the Arabic language. Its acceptable interpretation is only the one which is linguistically acceptable. No interpretation which is not in accordance with the Arabic language and the universal principles of understanding language can be accepted. In my article, I had extensively explained the linguistic basis of my explanation (in a number of footnotes). If my explanation is not linguistically correct, then Mr. Katz should at least guide me to the mistakes in it. I shall be deeply gratified to Mr. Katz for helping me out of my mistakes. However, his avoidance in pointing out the mistakes in my response and yet his persistence in making such lay-man remarks on my interpretation can only be perceived as an indication that either he has not understood my response or that he cannot point out any linguistic mistakes in the interpretation and still is averse in accepting it.
Mr. Katz writes: “In particular, the rule that one party (usually the spouse) is given their share first and then the remainder is distributed according to the given shares, is not found in the Qur’an but imported from the outside. And it is NOT the way the four schools of fiqh are doing it“.
Though this may not be a comment on my response, yet I have given an interpretation (please note that my explanation is not a SOLUTION to the problem but an INTERPRETATION of the words of the Qur’an) of the verses that results in a somewhat similar distribution. If my interpretation is correct, then such (first and second) distribution IS mentioned in the Qur’an. If Mr. Katz still thinks that it is not mentioned in the Qur’an, he should point-out the mistake in my interpretation of the Qur’anic verses. As far as the fact that “It is NOT the way the four schools of fiqh are doing it” is concerned, the matter has already been discussed with Mr. Katz in our exchange of comments. If the four schools of fiqh are not doing it, Mr. Katz should then criticize these four schools of fiqh and not the Qur’an. The case, then is one of human error of understanding. Not of a mistake in the Qur’an.
Mr. Katz writes: “None of of the responders solves the problem that shares adding up to more than the available estate is a logical internal contradiction in the Qur’an“.
This, unfortunately, is NOT the “Truth”. I have shown in my response that if correctly interpreted, the shares stipulated in the Qur’an, can, in no case, exceed ‘one’ (the whole) or the ‘available estate’.
Mr. Katz writes: “But they [the responses] only explain what is to be done when the Qur’an does not distribute all the estate or more than is available“.
As stated earlier, I have shown in my response that the stipulated shares in the Qur’an can, in no case exceed ‘one’ or the ‘more than is available’. Therefore, Mr. Katz’s words “… or more than is available” do not apply to my response. As far as the fact that in certain cases, the Qur’an does not distribute the whole property of the deceased, I do not think this could be termed as a contradiction or a “logical inconsistency”. If the legislature of a country passes a law that “after the death of a person, half of his/her property must be given to his/her wife/husband”, what would be “logically inconsistent” about this law? Any reasonable person would easily understand that in the case of the remaining half, the law gives the person a right to bequest in favor of anyone. Where does the “logical inconsistency” come in from? Especially, if the law also stipulates that a person can be made an inheritor by the deceased (as is the case of the law of inheritance of the Qur’an).
Mr. Katz writes: “But in doing so they import data from the outside (hadith, personal opinions, …)“.
In the example in the preceding paragraph [of the state legislation regarding only half of the deceased’s property]Â I have shown that no data needs to be “imported” from the “outside” to understand the legislation. However, that is the case only if the interpreters have any common sense. Nevertheless, in the case of the state legislation, if a person does not leave a bequest for the remaining half of his property, and a competent court of law awards it to one of the relatives of the deceased, even then no one can say that there is a ‘logical inconsistency’ in the state legislation.
Mr. Katz writes: “the issue of our discussion is whether the Qur’an is sufficient and consistent in itself“.
I have shown in my response that in case of the law of inheritance, the Qur’an is both sufficient as well as consistent in itself. Mr. Katz should take a look at my response once again.
At the end of his comment Mr. Katz writes: “The Qur’an contradiction remains“.
In the life of this world, man has been given a chance to ignore the “Truth”. Turn away from it. Even laugh at it. The day is not very far off, when this chance shall be taken away from man. He shall then have no option but to accept the “Truth”. However, acceptance on that day shall not benefit any one. The “Truth” shall set us free, only if we accept it now, when we also have a chance of turning away from it.
I request Mr. Katz to point-out the mistakes, if there are any, in my interpretation of the related Qur’anic verses. I would be greatly indebted to him if he can do that. For that would open the door of the “Truth” for me and shall set me free.
Till then, according to my interpretation and understanding, there is absolutely no contradiction in the law of inheritance of the Qur’an.
© Copyright January 2000. All Rights Reserved with the Author