From Issue: 998 [Read full issue]

God Knows Best

It has become common in the modern age to use the authority of the Author (God) to justify the despotism of the reader. In effect, by claiming that the only relevant consideration is the Will of the Author, the reader is able to displace the Author and set himself as the sole voice of authority. In essence, the reader becomes God. The displacement of God's authority with that of the reader is an act of despotism, and a corruption of the logic of Islamic law. Islamic law is founded on the logic of a Principal Who guides through instructions. Those instructions are issued to the agents who have inherited the earth and who are bound to the Principal by a covenant. The point of the covenant is not to live according to the instructions, but to attempt to do so. Searching the instructions is a core value in itself - regardless of the results, searching the instructions is a moral virtue. This is not because the instructions are pointless, but because the instructions must remain vibrant, dynamic, open, and relevant. It is impossible for a human being to represent God's Truth - a human being can only represent his or her own efforts in search of this truth. The ultimate and unwavering value in the relationship between human beings and God is summarized in the Islamic statement, "And, God knows best."

Deferring to God and honouring the text (instructions), requires a human being to exercise self-restraint in speaking for God and the text. But discharging the obligations of human agency mandates that the reader (agent) take his or her role very seriously by aggressively and vigorously investigating both God and God's instructions. "God knows best" is not an invitation to intellectual complacency and smugness, but, as the Quran states, to realize that "over every knowledgeable person is a One more knowledgeable." [Quran 12:76] Submission to God is at the core of the Islamic creed, but it does not mean blind submission to those who claim to represent God's law, and it does not mean submitting to the contentment and comfort of arrogant self-reference. Submission to God means the will and act of engaging the intellect and body in the pursuit of God, but also the humility of knowing that no intellect or body can ever fully represent God. The Quran sums up this point by reminding the Prophet that even he has not been sent to control or dominate people, but to admonish and teach. [Quran 88:21-22]

Compiled From:
"Speaking in God's Name: Islamic Law, Authority and Women" - Khaled Abou El Fadl