Is the Koran relevant

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In this interview film, YouTuber Hatice Schmidt visits Dr. Mohammad Gharaibeh and speaks with him about the concept of "Sunnah".

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[Music can be heard. You can see the initially blurred image of a train in the station that is focused, then a cut to Hatice Schmidt, who gets on the train and takes a seat inside. Then pictures from the train window of a still dark sky follow. The music becomes quieter and Hatice can be seen on the train. She speaks into the camera.]

Hatice: Hi guys! I recently met with Tim in Frankfurt and talked about who is considered to be believers or unbelievers and when, and whether one can even say it that way.

[During the last few words, pictures of the train journey can be seen again - passing landscape, now with the rising sun. Hatice can now be heard as voiceover. You can see pictures from the train window - the sun on the horizon, trees and houses - and in between Hatice on the train. Then the camera perspective changes to a moving car. You can see a view of a street with houses, then a close-up of a yellow-leafed shrub. Cut to a picture of a tree filmed along the trunk against the sky. Then we see Hatice looking into trees, a herbaceous tree against the background of a building, its yellow crown, and finally Hatice and a man from behind walking down a paved path. Then you can see the path that winds its way along a tree-lined meadow to an oval-shaped high-rise building with a glass facade in the background. Cut to the bank of the Rhine with herbaceous trees on the opposite side.]

Hatice: And because the Sunna is so important and I would like to know more about it, I am on my way to Bonn today, where I will meet Dr. Mohammad Gharaibeh meet. Dr. Mohammad Gharaibeh has a doctorate in Islamic studies whose research deals with the history of ideas in Islam. His main research interests include hadith studies, Islamic historiography and the Wahabi reform movement in Saudi Arabia. He is currently scientific coordinator at the Annemarie Schimmel College at the University of Bonn.

[The music slowly stops, Hatice can be seen in a close-up from the front. She stands in a meadow in front of trees, in the background a river shimmers through the leaves.]

Hatice: For those who do not know now, can you briefly say what the Sunna actually is?

[Cut to a man standing across from Hatice. In the background the river bank and the Rhine. The handwritten name "Dr. Mohammad Gharaibeh" is displayed for a short time on the right of the picture. He speaks very calmly, looking at the invisible opposite, sometimes using his hands to support his words.]

Gharabeih: When Muslims use the term Sunnah, especially in theological context, it usually refers to the way of life of the Prophet Mohammed, about which we are informed from individual reports, the so-called hadiths. And these hadiths have very different contents. In some cases, they reproduce literally or indirectly what the Prophet Mohammed said, mostly also in an interaction with his companions, i.e. also questions and answers, but sometimes also as a request and instruction to act. But they also contain descriptions of the appearance of the prophet, descriptions of his actions, etc. or even if he has simply tacitly accepted certain circumstances. Because that then also has a normative character for the believers. If the prophet saw something and he quietly took note of it, so to speak, then that was ok.

[You can see the questioning Hatice, then Dr. Mohammad Gharabeih - sometimes in close-up. Ships occasionally pass by in the background.]

Hatice: Why is it so important?

Gharabeih: You might have to imagine it this way: If you now get a message from a friend and you don't understand it straight away, you can pick up the phone, pick up the cell phone and ask. It wasn't that easy with the revelation of God, for a given reason. The prophet was not only seen as the conveyer of this message, but also as the first interpreter, or even as the embodiment of the spirit of revelation, to put it this way. That is why the Sunnah of the Prophet, i.e. the Prophet's way of life, was also viewed as a kind of lens or as a prism through which one looked at the revelation in order to better understand the revelation.

Also, a second thing is why the Sunnah is so important is for a relatively pragmatic reason. The religion of Islam itself is one that places a great deal of importance on action. There are guidelines for action, so to speak, for many areas. In the Koran one does not find out in detail how to pray, or what things one may or may not do in the fasting month of Ramadan, etc. And here the Sunna offers a detailed insight into it. That is why the religious scholars have also started to see at least the parts of the prophetic life that are important for theological norms as almost divinely inspired or even part of the revelation. That is why the prophetic Sunnah or the way of life is actually so important and so normative for Muslims as well.

[You can see Hatice.]

Hatice: Regardless of the specific instructions, I keep reading in the comments that you can simply read in the Sunnah what you have to do. Is that correct?

[The camera shows Dr. Mohammad Gharaibeh.]

Gharabeih: The Sunna ... or the Muslim religious scholars also regarded the Sunna as divinely inspired and from then on the Muslims were always very grateful, basically, that they had received specific instructions or at least offers to master their lives. Especially in the modern age, i.e. nowadays, when there are relatively many ways of life, Muslims are very grateful to have something that is quite specific. And that is the Sunnah in many areas. But one has to keep in mind that in most areas in which one could actually use the Sunna, the Muslim scholars saw it as a can and not a must.

[Hatice is pictured.]

Hatice: I met Ömer in Malta and he explained to me that the clear interpretation of the Koran is not that easy. What about the Sunnah?

[You can see Dr. Mohammad Gharaibeh.]

Gharabeih: Perhaps, in order to make it all a little clearer, one could imagine the dimensions of what kind of source corpus one is actually talking about. We have about 10,000-15,000 hadiths that legal scholars have said in the past as being authentically transmitted, that is, which one can say with certainty that they go back to the Prophet. There are also variants of these hadiths, which always have small nuances in terms of content, new extensions of meaning and then we would be at 20,000 - 30,000 hadiths. And the uncertainly transmitted hadiths, which one should certainly also take into account in part, are about three times as much. So we have a source corpus of 70,000 - 90,000 hadiths. Of course, you don't have to know all of them and they are very scattered thematically. The legally relevant or theologically relevant hadiths are actually limited to just under 700-800 hadiths. You can already see from this that what is now really interesting for social life and theology is vanishingly small in total.

If one now wants to search for an answer to a specific question, one is first faced with the challenge of sifting through these hadiths. Thankfully, there are collections that are also sorted thematically, etc., you could easily look them up. However, one still faces the challenge of correctly understanding the prophet's statement. Sometimes it's just a sentence, or maybe just a yes or a no. So you have to examine more closely what this question or the prophet's answer actually refers to. That's not that easy. Then you have to be able to take the hurdle of the Arabic language, which is not so easy because the language of the Prophet is just as complex as the language of the Koran and which is not really understood today. The danger that always exists is simply to fall back on translation, whereby one must be clear: translations are always interpretations. You can't do a translation without interpreting it.

When you have done the whole thing, for which you certainly need many years of training, you are still faced with the challenge of transferring the statements of the prophet, which were just made 1400 years ago, to the present and seeing what that means for me today?

[You see Hatice in close-up, addressing her counterpart.]

Hatice: I have already published a few videos in this series and I always read in the comments that I just have to read the Sunna, because everything is there and there are no possibilities for interpretation. Is that correct?

[Again, Dr. To see Mohammad Garabeih - alternating in a close-up and a little further shot in which his upper body can also be seen.]

Gharabeih: So that's just the way it is, when you are dealing with texts or statements, there are always difficulties in understanding and there are always several ways to interpret something. But it must also be said that some of the prophetic sayings are very detailed. And especially in the area of ​​acts of worship, i.e. ritual prayer, etc., the prophet's sayings are relatively concrete. Which still does not mean that there is no room for interpretation, which basically shows us the daily practice of prayer. In Islam we have the four schools of law and almost every one of them differs at least in detail when it comes to prayer or how it should be done specifically. So even where there are very specific answers, there is also scope for interpretation.

[Hatice can be seen.]

Hatice: Can you say more about that?

[In the picture again Dr. Mohammad Garabeih.]

Gharabeih: If we are confronted with problems today, then there are certainly also some on which the Prophet did not speak. What Muslim scholars did in the past, who also had to struggle with these problems, they also looked at each other again, what did the companions of the prophets do? So there you also looked again, how did the companions of the prophets interpret the Sunna, or also the Koran? Attempts have also been made to draw analogies, i.e. to transfer things and apply them to new situations. But also tries, so to speak, to take into account the general welfare of Muslim society when finding a topic. So even if you take the Koran and the Sunna, with which you get very far, there are always topics that cannot be answered with them. Then you have to look beyond the horizon of the Koran and Sunna and find and search for solutions elsewhere.

[Hatice can be seen.]

Hatice: What does that mean for today?

[You can see Dr. Mohammad Garabeih.]

Gharabeih: Exactly. For Muslims today, the Sunnah is actually still relevant for several reasons. On the one hand, it should have become clear that the derivation of theological and religious norms is something that requires a great deal of expertise. These discussions were actually mostly conducted in circles of scholars. So the normal Muslim has certainly not dealt with it. But there are really among this large mass of sayings that are not legally relevant or not relevant for theological use, just very many that address everyday life, which are primarily identity-creating for the devout Muslim. That means they give stability in life, they tell of concrete events between the prophet and the prophet's companions. So through this dialogue character that the hadith have, the Muslim can identify himself much more strongly with this part of the religion. So the prophet companions had grief, had worries, maybe also fears for the future or something else, had to deal with the loss of relatives and thus went to the prophet and he just reacted to such circumstances and provided assistance. And things like that, these are actually the areas of Sunnah that have played the greatest value in the life of a Muslim in the past. Among them are, for example, sayings like the prophet is supposed to have said, that the better one is not the one who emerges victorious from a conflict, but rather the one who does not allow this conflict to arise in the first place. Or that the act that one commits, that one has to judge it superficially according to the intention, etc. And I think these are things that the Muslim pays more attention to today and does not have these subtle theological discussions in the back of their heads.

[You can now hear piano music, you can see a wide camera shot of the Rhine. Ships pass by in fast motion. Then you see a ship passing by in the autumn sunlight and finally Hatice and Dr. Mohammad Garabeih run along the shore together. Hatice can now be heard off-screen, the music continues in the background. The two can be seen talking in different shots, sometimes Dr. Mohammad Garabeih in close-up, then both standing on a footbridge, Hatice in close-up and finally the two of them walking along an autumn path from a great distance.]

Hatice: After the exciting conversation, I took a walk along the Rhine with Mohammed and then made my way home again. It was an interesting day again and I took a lot of thoughts and impressions with me.

[Finally we see Hatice on the train again and pictures of a passing station filmed from the train window. At the end, Hatice can be seen again in a close-up at the train station - she looks into the camera, smiles and waves. Then you can see the view of the Rhine again with the fade-in of the white handwritten letters (with a heart symbol) "Many thanks to you for watching!"]

Hatice: I am curious what you think about the Sunna and I am pleased that we have experts again who answer our questions about the Sunna in the comments. At this point I would like to thank you for your work so far and also thank you to the Federal Agency for Civic Education. But above all of course to Mohammed. And to you - for taking a look! I hope you guys will be back next week.

additional Information

  • Editing, camera, editing, script, music, sound: Meimberg GmbH

  • Speaker: Hatice Schmidt, Dr. Mohammad Gharaibeh

  • Scientific advice: Saliha Kubilay, Marie Meimberg, Prof. Dr. Armina Omerika

  • Interview partner: Dr. Mohammad Gharaibeh

  • Production: 05/11/2015

  • Playing time: 00:13:36

  • ed. from: Federal Agency for Civic Education



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