The grammar and verbiage in the Quran indicate to me that the warnings of misuse mostly pertain to Torah, Gospels and other “signs” sent to human beings during the era of the various Prophets. I observe that such misuse is still continuing in current era and in the very same manner it was misused in other times. I would like to share with you these notes which are from surah Al Baqarah:
The very first verse of Al Baqarah talks about how this book (the Quran) benefits the “muttakeen”, those who are contemplative, assiduous and steadfast in their religious supplications and good deeds. Subsequent verses explain the nature of al-muttakeen in details. In many parts of surah Al Baqarah and the rest of Quran it is required of the reader to reason out the rationales conveyed in the verses and not to accept them blindly. In various verses, such as the following ones I have highlighted, the reader is warned of those who are illiterate and pretend to know the meaning of scriptures. The reader is also warned against those who understand the verses and yet coerse the meaning of the scriptures while spreading their dubious interpretations. Such digressions from the “original” meaning can also happen during translations. So my interpretations, which are primarily based off of English, Turkish and Urdu translations should be taken with serious skepticism and I hope that my opinions about such verses are not misleading to anyone in any way.
From verse 2:8 to 2:12 we get to know of a group of people who lie about being “believers” and secretly do corrupt things. Here I interpret the verses to indicate that such people would praise Allah and perform all the usual behaviors of a muslim such as praying and reciting the Quran but would secretly do corrupt deeds and take undue advantage of appearing to be “good muslims”. Verse 2:12 indicates that such people are delusional about being good and are unaware of the harm they produce. Might we happen to be such persons?
In verses 2:13 and 2:14 it seems that these people may in fact be aware of their deviousness and such people premeditatively deceive others by appearing to have an Islamic outlook in the public while their private life is contrary to their public appearance.
Such hypocritical people can naturally exist in any part of the world and in any era. They can even misuse trust via other means, not only through their pious outlook.
A side note, verse 2:40 explains that fear is an act of worship and only Allah is to be feared. One need not fear that which is not worship worthy. So fear mongers and preachers who claim that all those who do not follow their interpretation of Quran, or any other text, will be harmed, must not be feared.
Verses 2:41 to 2:44 gives a warning against hypocrisy and “selling the signs of Allah for a petty price”. Specially, 2:44 talks about preaching the scriptures while not following the lessons being preached. This is an allusion to how the Quran and any other canon of knowledge can be misused.
2:59 talks about people who receive scriptures but willfully modify what they have received and pass on the fudged scriptures. This kind of misdirection can happen in any era among people of any faith and not only with scriptures but also with any kind of report or accounts.
2:75 is similar to 2:59.
2:76 is similar to 2:14.
2:78 indicates that scriptures cannot benefit illiterate people who assume a particular meaning of the verses and who cannot verify the meaning of a verse for themselves due to their illiteracy. I think this is a very important verse that needs special emphasis because I have met too many people who use verses from scriptures as incantations and claim that merely uttering the sounds without understanding what the text means, can produce various magical benefits. To me, such a claim is purely imbecilic and superstitious.
2:79 warns about those who compose a piece of writing and claim that their composition is scriptural in order to make pecuniary gains. I think this problem can also arise during translations of a scripture where an author tries to market their version with novel spins to ancient texts. The novelties, naturally, cannot be verified by those who can only rely on the translation and have no capacity to read the text in its original form. I have found translations of Quran in Android App Store which have received very poor reviews by bilingual subscribers because the translations were overtly insidious and high ratings for the same app from people who thought the mere act of uploading a version of Quran in an app store was very worthwhile.
2:100 and 2:101 talk about how, on every occasion when a group of people accepts a covenant with God, a portion of them renege. This to me indicates that any one of us could be such a person who has reneged willfully or is unaware of having done so. It is therefore, crucial to continuously reexamine our own position and recognize which scriptures we truly abide by, if any. Are we the ones who have mangled the scriptures and have unwittingly prodded generations of humans to shun those precepts that we maligned?
2:106 is an optimistic verse that talks about how a person’s inability to remember a verse isn’t necessarily a detriment to that person and a person may receive a piece of knowledge, equally worthy or one that is somehow better. It also talks about the concept of “abrogation” and indicates that a new piece of knowledge brought forth by Allah does not necessarily nullify the significance of a piece of knowledge given by Allah at an earlier juncture. So this verse gives me hope that a mangled scripture may be recovered and its misuse may be prevented.
2:146 indicates that amongst those who are aware of the scriptures, some will conceal it even though they know of its veracity. In my opinion, willfully not sharing an important piece of knowledge that can benefit the public is a form of abuse. This is not only in the context of scriptures but also in the context of other knowledge. As an example, for decades, it was not reviled by the tobacco industry that smoking was injurious to health even though they had investigated and found evidence of the harmful effects of smoking. Here is a report by WHO and one by EU about how tobacco industry conceals vital knowledge about smoking. I juxtapose materialistic knowledge about health with “spiritual” knowledge about morals as an example for how willful or unwitting misuse and abuse can be committed by us in a variety of domains. Also, I struggled to make a distinction between materialistic and spiritual knowledge because according to me they are not distinct and are merely “knowledge”.
2:164 is one that gives me hope and I include it here in this discussion about Quran’s misuse because it talks about how every portion of the universe is a sign. So even if an important piece of any scripture were manipulated or concealed, there is always the hope to gain that vital knowledge from the compendium known as “the universe”. This is why, any form of inquiry about the nature of the universe is not against any religious sentiment but rather, perfectly inline with core religious precepts that demand of a human being to be investigative.
2:174 is a typical “hell fire” related warning about misusing and abusing Allah’s Book. It is not known to me whether this Book is only the Quran or an anthology of Quran, Torah, etc or whether this Book happens to be the entire universe.
Another side note, 2:177 is an unambiguous definition of righteousness which can be found in any other scripture. Oddly, those who would like to bash a scripture for containing ambiguity or for containing verses that allude to killing people or to battling against oppressors, never divert their attention to such unambiguous lines. Also, those who would like to take verses from the Quran as a dictum to violently aggress against other people don’t concentrate on such verses either. I feel, these aggressors are abusing the Quran.
2:204 and 2:205 talk about a person who is very appeasing, with soothing speech and is seemingly pious as he alludes to Allah as a witness of his thoughts and actions. Yet, such a person can be corrupt. The Quran warns of people who can swear by the Quran and by Allah for their seemingly righteous acts. I don’t think such a verse should make us cynical and untrusting of people who seem good. I think it is a fair warning about hypocrisy and the ease with which persons of authority or rank such as imams and priests can abuse trust. Of course, such abuse can be committed by anyone. I am reminded of a Sanskrit idiom, “Ati vinayam dhurtaha lakshanam” which means “Excessively pleasant demeanor is a trait of a fiend.”
2:213 says, “and none differed over scriptures except for those who received it, out of hatred for one another”. The Quran warns about those who have, do and will use scriptures, like the Quran, as an excuse to aggress against each other. They have, do and will weaponize scriptures. The very people who have access to any particular text are obviously going to be the foremost ones to argue over it or do things worse than verbal argumentation concerning those texts.
2:242 emphasizes the necessity to understand a precept and it also indicates that Allah’s way of promoting such understanding among deserving people is via allegorical verses. All of the “aayat” are for the sake of understanding deeply, in a contemplative manner, and not for merely uttering sounds in an unknown language without any form of understanding.
The above verses were just the ones I found within Al Baqarah about the misuse and abuse of scriptures. Many more of such verses can be found in the rest of Quran. Going through all of them would turn into a major project work that I have yet to take up.