Fallacies (المغالطات)

Some Exegetical Fallacies:Part 1

Some Exegetical Fallacies_part 1


[1] The False Cause Fallacy:

Many argue that just because the Qur’an allows something, this permission or allowance is a direct cause of something morally objectionable. Thus, they question the very text of the Qur’an and its applicability.


P1.The Qur’an grants permission x,

P2. But x causes y which is some morally objectionable act.


C1.Therefore, x must be the cause of y, where y is some morally objectionable act and so must be rejected.

Example: The Qur’an grants legal permission (though not a mandatory injunction) for the husband, as a last resort, to apply force or physical chastisement against an excessively recalcitrant spouse (Q.4:34). This permission leads to domestic abuse, therefore x is actually a cause of domestic abuse and so must be rejected.


Equation of domestic abuse with a mere permission from Scripture is fallacious. The fallacy is in thinking that just because something is strictly permitted, it must be a cause for something morally objectionable. This kind of reasoning actually is self-defeating because many morally objectionable actions stem from permissible social transactions, e.g. from trade there is the possibility of fraud; we do not say that trade therefore is a direct cause of fraud and hence should be outlawed. The point is that there are other factors to consider (e.g. historical antecedents of the abuser, the psychological conditions of both assailant and victim, social, etc.).

[2] The Superior Knowledge Fallacy:

            Many argue that the Qur’an has problematic passages and so take a revisionist-emendation-gloss manoeuvre where the passage in question is not left to ‘speak on its own terms’ but is ‘spoken for’ by an exegete who either lacks sufficient evidence of the passage itself or finds difficulty in accepting literally what is presented in that passage.


P3.The Qur’an states x,

P4. But I find x objectionable.


C2.Therefore, it must be that x is something morally objectionable and not what the Qur’an actually intended.

Example: Cutting the hands of the thief (Q.5:39), headscarf/veiling (Q.33:59 – depending on interpretation), and alleged primacy for male gratification (Q.33:51) are among other verses problematic and somewhat obsolete. Therefore, it cannot be that this is the real and literal intent of the Qur’an but some other intent because they are objectionable.


            Thinking that the Qur’anic text cannot state something on its own terms and thus needs an exegete to ‘save it’ from making ‘moral blunders’ is an indictment on the sacred text. The fallacy lies in thinking that the Qur’an is stating something objectionable if taken on its literal or ostensive lexical meaning and so needs an interpretative or emended reading, which is then considered the correct or ‘intended’ meaning.

Continued in part 2…


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