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Naina Fahima Hussain


Religion 211-Q
Dr. Florian Pohl
Oxford College of Emory University
3rd of December 2013

Christianity and Islam are religions in which scripture plays a crucial role in determining the core
values of the religion. Considering the issue of modernity, how should the content within scriptures
be interpreted into modern day perspective and way of life?
Religion is an abstract concept which can be roughly defined as a means of human practice and
belief in the existence of superior power such as God.
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From our study of religion, it can be said that all
religions are made up of various sacred components such as prophets and deities, holy sites and objects,
and lastly, holy practices and moralities. Among these components are holy texts which are sometimes
referred to, as scriptures. The Torah, Bible and Quran are the holy texts of Judaism, Christianity and
Islam consecutively. Apart from the central texts, there is the presence of a few other texts such as the
Talmud, Old Testament & New Testament and the Hadith in the Abrahamic religions which believers
use in addition to the holy scriptures to acquire the core values of the religion. In the Abrahamic religions
studied, sacred texts bear high importance in establishing the basic principles of the religion and are the
basis of conveying the message of God to believer. However, through years, the development of societys
behavior and knowledge through years have made it difficult to fully understand and interpret the content
within the scriptures in terms of modern day values.
The scriptures for Christianity and Islam were primarily written and acquired several centuries
ago. The world has changed and developed to a great extent since the period of time the texts were written
during. The way people think have also been modified since then. As a result, many of the content in the

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Cunningham, Lawrence S. Kelsay, John; The Sacred Question: An invitation to the Study of Religions
(Sixth Edition), Page 12 The Search for a definition of Religion

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scriptures do not correlate with the way people think in present day and thus creates conflict in properly
understanding the texts in its entirety. It occurs mainly due to the fact that in the Abrahamic religions,
scriptures are the ultimate source of authority. Meanwhile, not all of the texts were gathered by a single
person but was gathered from various sources and collectively put together to form one entire book and
therefore indicates that there are possibilities of misinterpretation in the text that is presented to believers
and readers in present day.
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As mentioned previously, there are other texts which believers follow other
than the main scriptures, such as the Hadith in Islam, which base the rules upon the actions taken by the
Prophet,Muhammad. However, most of the Hadith is based upon stories of Prophet Muhammads life
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and as a result, there exists an uncertainty of the authenticity of the stories in the Hadith. Likewise, similar
scenarios can be seen within the biblical stories in both, Judaism and Christianity.
The first intriguing theme in the Abrahamic scriptures is the theme of women. During ancient
times, it was evident in history that the world was very male dominant. Since the scriptures were written
during a time when those circumstances prevailed, it is probably why the texts reflect male dominant
societies. One example can be seen in the Bible: Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands as you do to
the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ, is the head of the church,
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If we analyze
this text literally, it would mean that all female practitioners of Christianity and Judaism would have to
follow as their husbands commanded which could be very much the case in ancient times. However,
with the underlying presence of modernity that has taken place throughout centuries, the fact that women
are inferior to men, is gradually starting to prove false. The reason behind this is because the world has
changed a lot along the way. During the times in which the Bible was written, it was almost impossible
for a single woman to support herself (for example, during the 19th century, women were considered

2
Oxtoby, Williard G., Hussain, Amir; World Religions: Western Traditions, Page 107; Oxford University
Press, 2011, Canada
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Religion Facts, The Hadith, http://www.religionfacts.com/islam/texts/hadith.htm, Est. 2004, Date
Accessed: 12th December 2013
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Bible Gateway; Ephesians 5:22-33 (New International Version);
http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ephesians+5%3A22-33&version=NIV; Date Accessed:
12th December 2013

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second class citizens)
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. As a result, it is understandable that men were in charge of the household, which
would include their wife and children. However, in present day, as culture around the globe has changed,
it is now possible for any woman to find a job and pursue a career, in which way she would be able to
support herself and even her family if she wanted to, on her own. Therefore, one could say that modernity
is a result of social change. Even though most countries and societies have undergone social change,
many still choose to disregard the developments. Similar outlooks on the theme of women and equality
can be seen in the Quran and other Biblical texts such as: The male shall have the equal of the portion
of two females.
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This verse in the Quran follows the same circumstances when discussing the topic of
inheritance as that of the Bible where the prevailing circumstances during the time in which it was
acquired did not allow women to work. As a result, it would make sense for the men to receive a greater
portion of the inheritance than women as they would need to support their own household. In present day
circumstances, I feel that it would be unfair for women to receive a smaller portion of the inheritance
because society has made them able to find work and support themselves if not her whole family.
However, this is something that I still see in my country, even in well educated households like in my
own family, where men are still given double the portion of the inheritance as compared to the female
members of the family.
The accounts of creation represented in the Biblical stories and the Quran can also lead to
misinterpretation. Modernity has caused several amendments to be made to this world, which have
allowed us as humans to understand several concepts of this world through methods of science and
technology. Advanced technology creates conflict in finding a parallel between the biblical and Quranic
myths and what has been discovered through scientific research. In Genesis 2, it is mentioned: The Lord

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Scoggins, MD; The History of Women in Society; Hubpages;
http://mdscoggins.hubpages.com/hub/The-History-of-Women-in-Society; 9th December 2013
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The Holy Quran; Verse 4:11- English Translation- Surat i-Nisaa;
http://corpus.quran.com/translation.jsp?chapter=4&verse=11; Date Accessed: 12th December 2013

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God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man
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This is probably the beginning of the notion where many believers seek to believe that men are superior to
women due to the reason that the presence of a woman on earth is a result of the man (at least according
to the Bible). However, if we are to relate this verse to scientific information, it is not possible because it
is only a woman who can give birth to a childthus this verse remains unanswered. Therefore, in such a
context it is challenging to question the creation of humans on earth with the presence of scientific
information because then the insider of the religion has to question the Bible and as a result has to choose
between believing either what is presented to them through the Bible or interpret it as their own in terms
of what they know of the creation of the world and what they know from scientific knowledge.
Due to the presence of modernity in the current world, it is hard to justify many aspects of the
scriptures in the Abrahamic religions since religious scriptures were written several centuries ago. The
fundamental problem with the modernity and the interpretation of the scriptures is that there is no
authority to justify which verses and which portions of the scriptures should and should not be interpreted
into present day values at the end of the day, you are your own authority when deciding what you
choose to interpret the verses of the Quran as (which is also another roadblock to the interpretation of the
scriptures). This means that one can choose to interpret the entirety of the particular scripture they are
looking at and still manage to remain religious but, in the process many of the values of the religion itself
tends to disappear due to the wrong interpretation as there is no limit or barrier to the extent to which the
scriptures can be clarified to fit the values of modern era. Yet, Christians and Muslim believe in a verse:
Scripture interprets scripture
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where, the scripture such as the Quran and the Bible are supposed to
explain what is said in verses within what is provided in the scriptures. However, in some cases, like in
the case of the Quran, where it sometimes is difficult to interpret scripture (due to the fact that many

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The Holy Bible: Genesis 2:22; http://biblehub.com/genesis/2-22.htm; Date Accessed: 10th December
2013
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Biblical Hermeneutics: What does it mean that Scripture interprets Scripture?; (Discussion Thread);
http://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/79/what-does-it-mean-that-scripture-interprets-
scripture; Date Accessed 14th December 2013

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believers lack understanding of Arabic), one is to seek the help of the Hadith, Sahabas (companions of
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)), and Tabiuns (who help in the development of Islamic thought and
philosophy).
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In conclusion, the interpretation of scriptures based on modernity can be a complicated
issue as there exists no limits of interpretations. The excessive interpretations of scripture can lead to the
belief of something that the religion does not agree upon and therefore, it would be better to not be a
believer of the religion than to practice contrasting values which the scriptures do not represent. Due to
the complications arising with modernity and religious scriptures, it is understandable as to why a large
population of people are moving away from religion or adapting to new religious movements. This is also
perhaps why there are different sects and divisions between religions such as Protestantism in
Christianity, Shiis in Islam and several new religious movements that have been introduced to following
a certain religion but incorporate their own values and values from other religions such as the Bahai
faith.

Word Count: 1557


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Patheos- Holding the conversation on Faith: How to Muslims interpret the
Quran?http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionqanda/2013/06/how-do-muslims-interpret-the-quran/;
Date Accessed: 14th December 2013

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Bibliography:
1. Bible Gateway; Ephesians 5:22-33 (New International Version);
http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ephesians+5%3A22-33&version=NIV; Date
Accessed: 12th December 2013
2. Biblical Hermeneutics: What does it mean that Scripture interprets Scripture?; (Discussion Thread);
http://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/79/what-does-it-mean-that-scripture-interprets-
scripture; Date Accessed 14th December 2013
3. Cunningham, Lawrence S. Kelsay, John; The Sacred Question: An invitation to the Study of
Religions (Sixth Edition), Page 12 The Search for a definition of Religion
4. The Holy Bible: Genesis 2:22; http://biblehub.com/genesis/2-22.htm; Date Accessed: 10th
December 2013
5. The Holy Quran; Verse 4:11- English Translation- Surat i-Nisaa;
http://corpus.quran.com/translation.jsp?chapter=4&verse=11; Date Accessed: 12th December 2013
6. Oxtoby, Williard G., Hussain, Amir; World Religions: Western Traditions, Page 107; Oxford
University Press, 2011, Canada
7. Patheos- Holding the conversation on Faith: How to Muslims interpret the
Quran?http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionqanda/2013/06/how-do-muslims-interpret-the-
quran/; Date Accessed: 14th December 2013
8. Religion Facts, The Hadith, http://www.religionfacts.com/islam/texts/hadith.htm, Est. 2004, Date
Accessed: 12th December 2013
9. Scoggins, MD; The History of Women in Society; Hubpages;
http://mdscoggins.hubpages.com/hub/The-History-of-Women-in-Society; 9th December 2013