Conversations with Professor Mehmet S. Aydın
Professor Aydın began his talk by stating that after he got the invitation from KURAMER he was a bit worried that there might be an expectation from him to speak on Qur’an based issues. He then added that he will mention issues regarding mostly Muslim world in the rest of his talk, and it will be more of chitchat about these issues.
Professor Aydın mentioned some crucial issues in the context of his own experiences during his services as an academic and politician by embodying these with sharing his memories. He stressed the idea that Directorate of Religious Affairs needs to be either excluded from the politics or seen above it. He stated that especially during the period of his ministry service he dealt with many negative and partisan judgments emerged both inside and outside of the institution. According to him, Directorate of Religious Affairs belongs to everyone and in virtue of the attempts to embedding this attitude; politicians had good results, primarily, starting from the period of his own ministry.
He led his speech to KURAMER and its works and stated that the aim of KURAMER to be in touch with Islamic world, as its own vision, has excited him. Beyond that, he mentioned that whether we like it or not we are in a position to face the West and he stressed the significance of being informed about Qur’an studies in the West. For, the sum of these systematic researches would influence the society and even the politics. In a similar vein, he said that since KURAMER is aiming at providing a background knowledge regarding the revelation of Qur’an, the first phase of these studies will face the same difficulties. Professor Aydın mentioned some of these difficulties in his talk.
Professor Aydın stated that although he has been attempting to understand Qur’an all throughout his life, he has been subjected to various misunderstandings especially in the academic world. His complaint was as follows: “When I go online, I see on the internet that the following sentence is attributed to me, ‘I do not believe twenty-five per cent of Qur’an’. My response to this is that “Do not bother yourselves, even if I do not believe even per cent of it, that is sufficient for blasphemy”. However, I did not say anything like this sentence. I was going to speak before two friends, one of whom was a theologian, in a TV programme. During those days, “Meaningism” was popular, and there was an insistence and propaganda to make people read “Meaning of Qur’an”. In this regard, I said that “if the reader reads the Qur’an without any help by himself or herself, then he/she might miss the twenty-five per cent of the meaning of Qur’an and then, May God protect, this would lead to drawbacks in terms of religious issues. I think that this percentage should be increased.”
Professor Aydın resumed his speech by stressing snide Qur’an agenda in the west. For him, this is an issue that needs to be tackled urgently with maximum effort. Do you know which verse is the most referred verse in the West? It is the popular sentence attributed to Hh. Aisha: “I see that your God rushes to satisfy your desires.” There are some people who derive some shady results from this sentence. They say that “See! Even Hh. Aisha doubts about the authenticity of the verse”. These are the main concerns nowadays. For, 25 millions of Muslims are living in the West. There are almost 25-30 verses, which are manipulated by polytheists either due to their bad faith or since they like to understand it that way when they write about these. So, we should not say “oh you giaour, how can you understand it that way”. For, all in all, understanding is one of the most difficult things in this world. If we do not find the wider context of the verses concerning poll tax (jizya), ‘kill them after the forbidden months as soon as you see them’ etc., then there is not much to say about these. Muhammed Esed – May God bless him – achieved this. His Qur’an tafsir was the best. For example, about the verse concerning the forbidden months, he stated that “There is a background of this verse. There was an on-going war, which was stopped due to the forbidden months. Moreover, they broke their promise.” So, he provided us with the back ground knowledge. In this regard, this supports us in understanding the meaning of the verse easily. For this reason, May God bless him, scholar Faz’ul Rahman used to tell us occasionally “You take a verse, and then try to derive a life-style, which is huge, from it.” First, of all, a verse is meaningful in a context. Namely, “how a verse entered into the lively context, what kind of things invited it, and how it transformed that context”. Without understanding that, one is not enabled to comprehend that verse.
During the last part of his talk, Professor Aydın signified the ideas that we cannot ignore the works by orientalists and their contribution and that it is essential to address the issues by viewing knowledge as a significant human production through the lenses of their own socio-historical circumstances. He also mentioned that it is inconvenient to occupy academic posts without scholarly competence. He provided us with some examples from his own academic experience: “to me, there are some who misunderstand Qur’an or the religion of Islam on bona fide basis. Secondly, there is this second group who attempt to misguide intentionally. And thirdly, there are the controversial issues surrounding the above-mentioned verses. All these issues need to be explained in detail and precision. We need to conceive each period in its own terms. After all, as blessed as it can be, knowledge is a humane production. We need to ask ourselves: which circumstances worked on the producer of that knowledge or that tafsir and such a semantic world came into existence? For, after all, we all live in a semantic world. Thereby, we all are limited in our conceptions, even the glossators or narrators.
In one of my lectures, I told that “Gazali is wrong in saying this. If you consider his evaluation of Farabi, and take into account the books, then it is not really proper.” One of my bright students told me: “Professor, please vow not to do it again” and I replied that “Gazali is very precious to me, for, his work and efforts are enormous, however, please let me have the authority to tell this, as a person who spent thirty years in doing philosophy. Moreover, Gazali says, he wrote Maqsad and Tehafüt after one year of study. I can acknowledge that he is ten times smarter than me, but I have been working in this subject for thirty years. So, please let us accept that I can know one point better than him.” My student was still saying “please, vow not to do it again, professor, please.”
Before the Q&A session, Professor Aydın reiterated the necessity to have institutional collaboration and provided us with information about the institutions working on Qur’an abroad.
ABOUT THE SPEAKER
Prof. Dr. Mehmet S. Aydın
Mehmet S. Aydın, 1943 yılında Elazığ’da doğdu. 1966 yılında Ankara İlahiyat Fakültesinden mezun oldu. 1967 yılında Felsefe alanında öğrenim almak İngiltere’ye gitti. 1984 yılında profesör olarak Dokuz Eylül Üniversitesi İlahiyat Fakültesine atandı. 2002 yılında yapılan genel seçimlerde İzmir milletvekili olarak parlamentoya girdi. Eserleri; Din Felsefesi, Âlemden Allah’a, İslam Felsefesi Yazıları, Islam en Dialog, İslam’ın Evrenselliği.