A bon mot from G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy (which I’ve been listening to, since it’s conveniently available in MP3 format) concerning scriptural interpretation and rationalism:
"Everywhere we see that men do not go mad by dreaming. Critics are much madder than poets. […] Though Saint John the Evangelist saw many strange monsters in his vision, he saw no creature so wild as one of his own commentators."
Many Muslims would take this observation as a witty vindication of the kneejerk literalism that prevails in so many corners of the Ummah, but who really lacks imagination and faith? The literalist who mechanically takes all at face value–in the process often spreading their aqida between various hermetically sealed boxes in the back of their minds–or the "rationalist" who interprets some challenging traditional beliefs figuratively and perhaps gets some things dead wrong but who, unlike some of his "traditional" critics, manages to have a reasonably integrated vision of his deen and the world?I should note that I aspire to be somewhere in the middle, heeding and benefitting from the inherited wisdom of our forebears and contemporary traditional scholars while also being open to the possibility that they, being human and thus fallible, may have erred on some matters.