The Quran – Polysemous or Duplicitous?

I’d like to address the nonsense that is passed off as reasons for thinking the Quran is a fine book, that it represents a religion of peace, that it’s all for freeing slaves, that it represents liberating feminism (Linda Sarsour) … you know the typical lines.

As an example, I’ll use a recent comment made to excuse Islam and the Quran. I’ll use only the bits relevant to this post, and I’ll paraphrase it to make it readable, and the emphasis will be mine. You can see the full comment and the context here if you wish.

All language is polysemous to one degree on another (which is why words like polysemous exist), not just the language of the Quran.

It doesn’t take great scholarship [to understand the apparent contradiction of taking the peaceful bits literally, but not the nasty bits, which require scholarship]; it just takes commonsense to understand the Quran. The Quran itself mentions the polysemous nature of some verses and how some people will try to extract a dubious interpretation from them.

That isn’t a good quality of the Quran, but the very root of the some of its problems.

If it’s polysemous, then who is to say what the limits are on specific interpretations?

If it’s polysemous, then surely one of the valid interpretations is a literal one. When the Quran tells Muslims to follow the example of Mohammed, and Mohammed beheads some of his enemies, why shouldn’t other Muslims?

ISIS can use that very same principle to claim that those Muslims that tell us, “Islam is a religion of peace and there is no requirement for violent Jihad,” are the ones extracting a dubious interpretation.

[Quran 3:7] He sent down to you this scripture, containing straightforward verses – which constitute the essence of the scripture – as well as multiple-meaning or allegorical verses – Those who harbor doubts in their hearts will pursue the multiple-meaning verses to create confusion, and to extricate a certain meaning. None knows the true meaning thereof except GOD and those well founded in knowledge [how convenient]. They say, ‘We believe in this – all of it comes from our Lord.’ Only those who possess intelligence will take heed.

This, of course, is baloney.

  • He sent down the scripture – An assertion with no proof or evidence
  • Those who harbor doubts in their hearts will pursue the multiple-meaning verses to create confusion – A self contradictory paradoxical piece if ever there was one, because that very passage could be literally true, or might be one of the elements with multiple meaning, such that to take it’s literal meaning as true is to take it incorrectly, so causing confusion, which you should not do. And, of course, it’s then up to each Muslim to decide which are the multiple meaning verses and which are literal, and what the multiple meaning versus actually mean, and … and what a hell of a mess.
  • Only those who possess intelligence will take heed – A popular refrain from idiots who want to pass off confused and meaningless language as wise and pious. A thinly disguised ad hominem used to shame and embarrass dissenters to one’s own interpretation.

One scholar, Edip Yuksel, noted the irony surrounding these types of Quranic verses:

“It is ironic and curious that those who claim that the Quran is difficult to understand do not understand the very verses about the understanding of the Quran. Verses 7:3; 17:46; 41:44; 56:79 are extraordinary works of linguistic art containing both the thesis and its proof simultaneously, since their multiple-meaning language contains a guide to understand the Quran and an excuse for not understanding the Quran. Those who understand the language of these verses experience the fulfillment of a miracle when they witness people unable to understand and glorify their lack of understanding the very verses that condemn those who lack understanding.”

If people have trouble understanding the very verses about the understanding of the Quran, and if such verses are “extraordinary works of linguistic art”, with “multiple-meaning language”, then it’s not surprising the Quran is not understood. But, the real irony is that it is not understood for the nonsense that it is, for this very reason.

Let’s just break it down:

  • Those who understand the language of these verses
  • experience the fulfillment of a miracle when they witness people unable to understand
  • and glorify their lack of understanding the very verses that condemn those who lack understanding

This is a well known marketing trick:

  • Assert those that understand it are intelligent, and those that don’t are stupid.
  • Make sure that you, the promoter of this nonsense, assert you understand it.
  • The gullible among those that don’t understand it will want to claim they do, and will pretend they do, in order to not look stupid.
  • And those that still don’t get it, but don’t want to dishonestly claim they do, won’t speak up, because they will look stupid if they do – or will be lynched by the mob that claim to get it.

The Emperor’s New Clothes!

And, when the marketing magic has done its trick, idiots will convince themselves they get it and will feel part of the in-group, and can laugh at (and kill, in Bangladesh) the sensible people that see right through the fraudulent trick.

This neat little game avoids the need to actually demonstrate that any of the claims are true. Nobody wants to look dumb (or get hacked to death) by challenging them – except from some outrageously brave souls, the atheists (and Christians and other believers, to be fair) living in Islamic countries.

Here’s a another quote from Edip Yuksel along the same lines …

“Your Majesty, this is a magic suit.” Well, the truth of the matter is, there was no suit there at all. But the swindlers, Mo and Co, were very smart, and they said, “Your Majesty, to a wise man this is a beautiful raiment but to a fool it is absolutely invisible.” Naturally, the King not wanting to appear a fool, said: “Isn’t it grand! Isn’t it fine! Look at the cut, the style, the line! The suit of clothes is all together, but all together it’s all together … “

Oh, sorry, that might have been a misquote from Danny Kaye:

Does anyone really truly buy this Quran nonsense?


Moving on to the duplicitous (sorry, polysemous) excusing of slavery …

Hold on … let’s start with what Mohammed DID NOT SAY

“Oh Muslims! Do not take slaves! Release all slaves! Struggle to free slaves wherever you find them!”

No, he didn’t say that. That would have been a very simple and clear rejection of slavery that would have prevented hundreds of years of Muslims taking slaves. What an omission!

When Muslims do harm in the name of Islam, they’re not doing what Islamic scripture requires. For example, ISIS justifies slavery, but the Quran doesn’t:

Well, that would mean jack, if it were true. The Quran doesn’t tell you to drive cars, so car drivers are un-Islamic? Well, at least Saudi has been encouraging women to be Islamic on that score.

But I digress .. the Quran on slavery …

“Righteousness is. . . . to free the slaves. . . .” [Quran 2:177]

“It is not for a human that God would give him the book, the authority, and the prophethood, then he would say to the people: ‘Be servants to me rather than to God!’ . . . .” [Quran 3:79]

“No believer shall kill another believer, unless it is an accident. If one kills a believer by accident, he shall atone by freeing a believing slave. . . .” [Quran 4:92]

Quran 4:92 isn’t interested in non-believers. In fact this is an example of the duplicitous nature of Islam.

Here’s another example: Q 5:32 is often quoted “whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he had slain mankind entirely” – but the rest of the verse and the surrounding versus are left out. “Because of that, We decreed upon the Children of Israel that whoever kills a soul …

This is and other passages around it demonise Jews and Christians and 5:32 is basically a threat: kill Muslims and you’ll regret it. This isn’t the wholesome religion of peace at work but a political war-like religion stating terms for the conquered.

You don’t think that’s right? Well, you’re simply not using the correct interpretation. You do “not understand the very verses about the understanding of the Quran”. See how easy this game is?

Sorry, I digress again … slavery …

“. . . .If you violate an oath, you shall atone by. . . . freeing a slave. . . .” [Quran 5:89]

“Charities shall go to. . . . free the slaves. . . .” [Quran 9:60]

“Those who estrange their wives. . . . shall atone by freeing a slave. . . .” [Quran 58:3]

“He should choose the difficult path. Which one is the difficult path? The freeing of slaves.” [Quran 90:11-13]

Taken as a whole, slavery isn’t condemned but approved of. For example, 23:5-6 “And who guard their modesty – Save from their wives or the (slaves) that their right hands possess.” – There’s no specific demand that Muslims give up slavery.

In fact, freeing slaves [Quran 58:3] is often a punishment for the wayward Muslim, rather than something that’s the right thing to do for the benefit of the slave.

Another digression: I’ve seen this sort of rhetoric before. In an exchange with a Muslim that thought having multiple wives was very liberal I pointed out that a wife can’t have multiple husbands. It was then that the true misogyny came out: “How would she satisfy all her husbands? Who wants to dip their nib into a shared ink well?” Yes, seriously, that was the line of reasoning.

We’re enlightened Muslims, with four wives, and we fuck women; not only literally, up to four of them, but also figuratively, with regard to multiple husbands? See, I do understand the polysemous nature polygamous Islam.

The duplicitous language is used here too, on slavery. A behaviour is passed off as something enlightened, compassionate and modern, but it’s skin deep – the concern here isn’t for the slave but for the virtue of the Muslim that owns the slave. Islam likes to punish – and what could be worse than having to give up a slave? (I know, death for apostasy, blasphemy, homosexuality, adultery, … but another time.)

And as for 4:92 and “a believing slave,” it’s not only fine to keep slaves, but even slaves that are believers. That’s just what ISIS need when the use the Quran’s ‘polysemous nature’ to justify having slaves at all. Non-believer slaves are just fine, by thee way.

ISIS can get slavery straight from from the Quran – with hardly any polysemous understanding at all. They may also have help from the Hadith, where someone else has done the handy work of interpreting the ‘polysemous nature’ of the Quran, but the Quran has all the information they need right there – if only they could understand it, which of course they do.

But Quran 90:11-13 seems to be pretty nice, doesn’t it – until you move on in that Surrah …

“But they who disbelieved in Our signs – those are the companions of the left.”

Yeah, not so charitable after all, is it. A bit of charitable piety to wash down the medicine of hell fire. Can you do your duplicitous nature, sorry, your polysemous nature trick on that for me and tell me which bits have multiple meanings and which are the right meanings?

Love how Muslims and regressives cherry pick the ‘polysemous nature’ of the Quran to take from it just what you want it to mean – oh, yeah, that’s what it’s for. In which case ISIS are just as entitled to do their interpreting.

Of course, as well as all this BS we have to add in the complexity of abrogation, the sequence in which the parts were ‘conveniently’ revealed, blah, blah.

What else did Edip Yuksel say? Something about the thesis and the proof?

“extraordinary works of linguistic art containing both the thesis and its proof simultaneously”

Really? This is about as stupid as stupid gets. This is why: The Liar’s Holy Book.

What’s hilarious about all this is that philosophy has for millennia been trying to parse words to extract meaning, to clarify writing, to express explicit meaning, to reduce confusion.

There are occasions where groups of humans have enjoyed the chaos caused by flowery language with vague and often meaningless content. It’s amazing to watch the Arch Bishop of Cantabury (both present and previous) perform mental gymnastics to salvage goodness out of a holy vile mess. Islam, I have to say, is a master at this, and even cons people that simultaneously declare a love of logic and wisdom. (An honorary mention goes to French postmodernist philosophers and Sokal exposed Social Science departments around the world).

The polysemous nature of the Quran? I think this duplicitous excuser of Islam really means the duplicitous nature of the Quran.

Irony: ‘polysemous’ means ‘duplicitous’ in this context, because in this case it’s not about exploring multiple meanings but about using multiple meanings as part of an agenda to make the words mean exactly what you want them to mean, nothing more, nothing less.


Here’s John Searle, on Derrida:

With Derrida, you can hardly misread him, because he’s so obscure. Every time you say, “He says so and so,” he always says, “You misunderstood me.” But if you try to figure out the correct interpretation, then that’s not so easy. I once said this to Michel Foucault, who was more hostile to Derrida even than I am, and Foucault said that Derrida practiced the method of obscurantisme terroriste (terrorism of obscurantism). We were speaking in French. And I said, “What the hell do you mean by that?” And he said, “He writes so obscurely you can’t tell what he’s saying. That’s the obscurantism part. And then when you criticize him, he can always say, ‘You didn’t understand me; you’re an idiot.’ That’s the terrorism part.” And I like that. So I wrote an article about Derrida. I asked Michel if it was OK if I quoted that passage, and he said yes.

And so we have the terrorism of Quranic obscurantism. Welcome to Islam.

Here’s an exposé of the duplicitous, sorry, polymenous, nature of Islam, as swallowed whole by regressives and scared politicians:


You should follow @JihadistJoe if you want to understand the one true multiple Islam.

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