Postmodernism can be very briefly summed up as a refusal to accept anything just because someone— particularly someone in power— told us so. In this view acceptance of truth is a personal affair; if something seems true to us it should only be because we see the truth in it.
Some might argue that the Quran and other sacred scriptures can never be experienced as postmodern because they’ve been used by authorities for centuries to enforce and maintain power. But we can quickly put the boots to that theory when we look back and see how often those inspired by scriptural teachings have overthrown those in power.
One can’t argue that many have accepted the Message because they felt compelled by some external authority, but we need to also recognise that many members of the ummah, particularly new reverts, accepted the Message because it resonated with their own awareness of truth as they’d experienced it. For these, studying the Quran is a postmodern process.
Free to Choose
The many verses in the Quran concerning belief attest to the fact that Allah has left humanity free to choose whether to believe or not; there should be no obligation to believe. Regardless of historical political leaders imposing Islam on unbelieving peoples, the Quran itself insists that real belief is a personal experience— a thing of the heart.
According to the Quran, family relationships are also personal, and although we have specific responsibilities to our family members and they to us, our deen places limits on the demands of our loved ones. Similar limits are now heavily promoted by current Christian and secular psychologists (hence the number of books on “boundaries”) as a means to protecting ourselves and keeping our relationships healthy. This is good news for those who feel imprisoned by unreasonable— and even abusive— family demands.
Allah recognises and honours the human need for family togetherness. When He rescues us, he rescues our families with us— at least those who honour Him.
And [mention] Noah, when he called [to Allah] before [that time], so We responded to him and saved him and his family from the great flood. [Quran, 21:76]
So We responded to him and removed what afflicted him of adversity. And We gave him [back] his family and the like thereof with them as mercy from Us and a reminder for the worshippers [of Allah]. [Quran, 21:84]
He also commands us to honour our parents and provide for the weaker family members, even after our deaths.
At the same time He makes it clear that some family members and even whole families must be left behind once we’ve chosen the straight path of obedience.
Family relationships must never keep us from fulfilling the tasks granted us by Allah. When our Prophet (saws) had an important job to do, he left his family behind for a time. Had anyone demanded that he stay home, they would have contradicted the will of Allah.
And [remember] when you, [O Muhammad], left your family in the morning to post the believers at their stations for the battle [of Uhud] – and Allah is Hearing and Knowing. [Quran, 3:121]
Unfortunately we all know families who make a show of piety but who demand that family members lie and cheat to further the family’s goals, believing that family ties are more important than virtue. Contrary to what many families appear to believe, the family is not to be obeyed at the cost of moral integrity. In Islam, being a family member is not a right; it’s a privilege for those who choose to obey. Obedience to Allah is always paramount.
So We saved him and his family, except for his wife; she was of those who remained [with the evildoers]. [Quran, 7:83]
And Noah called to his Lord and said, ‘My Lord, indeed my son is of my family; and indeed, Your promise is true; and You are the most just of judges!’ He said, ‘O Noah, indeed he is not of your family; indeed, he is [one whose] work was other than righteous, so ask Me not for that about which you have no knowledge. Indeed, I advise you, lest you be among the ignorant.’ [Quran, 11:45,46]
. . . And if not for your family, we would have stoned you [to death]; and you are not to us one respected.’ He said, ‘O my people, is my family more respected for power by you than Allah? . . .’ [Quran, 11, 91,92]
Profound experiences and important new beginnings often begin with a separation from family and a time of solitude, as it did for our Prophet when he first began receiving the Message and for Mary when she was ready to give birth to Prophet Isa (a.s.).
And mention, [O Muhammad], in the Book [the story of] Mary, when she withdrew from her family to a place toward the east. [Quran, 19:16]
In short, our family members are gifts that we and our creator cherish deeply, but they’re never to impose on our relationship with Allah. And you can’t get more postmodern than that.
May your minds be opened and your hearts enriched,
The Quran Academy Team