Should the Quran be Taken Literally?
Political correctness, like a narcotic, renders victims mindless and biased in the ability to see the obvious. In an attempt to evade the teachings of the Bible, theological liberals have long insisted that Bible statements are not to be taken literally. We have been told that we must not be “a literalist” when it comes to Bible interpretation and, when we read the Bible, we must not take it literally. Sadly, many Americans have been duped by over a century of propaganda perpetrated by higher critics who seek to undermine confidence in the inspiration of the Bible. Nevertheless, the evidence is decisive: the Bible possesses the attributes of inspiration that prove its divine origin.1 And its meanings, as originally intended by God, can be understood.
To suggest that the Bible is not to be taken literally is nonsensical. True, the Bible contains much figurative language, i.e., it includes figures of speech (e.g., simile, metaphor, hyperbole, metonymy, synecdoche, etc.)—just like our own English language (e.g., “quit cold turkey,” “stretch my legs,” “died laughing”). But figurative language still communicates meaning that can be comprehended. Do those who allege that the Bible is not to be literalized want us to interpret their allegation literally? Of course. Even if a few metaphors are “thrown” into the discussion, can we “grasp” what is being communicated? Yes, even as that question can be understood, though it contains two figurative expressions. Likewise the Bible may also be understood. It communicates literal truth. Any diligent student can ascertain the original intent of the divinely guided writers.
Though its divine origin has been decisively disputed,2 the same may be said of the Quran. It was written with a view to being understood. The host of passages that advocate violent jihad are unquestionably conveyed in contexts that demonstrate their literality. No figurative language alters the very plain meanings evident in the admonitions pertaining to physical warfare. For example, Surah 3 alludes to two literal battles fought by Muslim armies—the battle of Badr and the battle of Uhud. Consider Surah 47 in Mohammed Pickthall’s celebrated Muslim translation—
Now when ye meet in battle those who disbelieve, then it is smiting of the necks…. And those who are slain in the way of Allah, He rendereth not their actions vain. He will guide them and improve their state, and bring them in unto the Garden [Paradise—DM] which He hath made known to them (Surah 47:4-6, emp. added).3
No Muslim would deny that “those who disbelieve,” “actions,” and “Garden” (i.e., Paradise) are literal. Likewise, no true Quran-made Muslim would deny that “battle,” “slain,” and “smiting of the necks” are literal as well. This Surah is calling for Muslims to engage in literal violent warfare with unbelievers (i.e., those who do not accept Islam) by severing their heads. The sooner the politically correct, multicultural mindset faces reality, the sooner the threat posed by terrorists can be addressed in a meaningful manner.
1 Kyle Butt (2007), Behold! The Word of God (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press); Jackson, Wayne (1982), “The Holy Scriptures—Verbally Inspired,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/rr/reprints/holyscri.pdf.
2 See Dave Miller (2005), The Quran Unveiled (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
3 Mohammed Pickthall (no date), The Meaning of the Glorious Koran (New York: Mentor).