Second, I must register my respectful disagreement. The Koran indeed can be interpreted. Indeed, Muslims interpret the Koran no less than Jews and Christians interpret the Bible, and those interpretations have changed no less over time. The Koran, like the Bible, has a history. ~Daniel Pipes, FrontPageMag.com
Who would have guessed that Pope Benedict XVI would understand Islamic teaching about the Qur’an better than Daniel Pipes? I would have. As I have mentioned before, Pipes is this weird combination of neocon Islamophile apologist for a completely fictional Islam with the usual intense contempt for actual Islam (which is not because it is a false religion, but because it is “pre-modern” and so gosh-darned religious). To say that a Muslim can interpret the Qur’an the same as a Jew or Christian interprets their Scriptures is to say something completely false. It is not only that the Qur’an is considered by Muslims as the unalterable, eternal, unchanging Word of God, which is one issue related to interpretation, but there is also a long-standing tradition that interpretation is no longer permissible even if it once was.
Muslims are not free to interpret their scripture allegorically, typologically or symbolically–it was quite a while before the use of analogy was considered acceptable by some of the more liberal jurists. Unless Pipes is prepared to argue that the general consensus of scholarship on Islamic intellectual history is flat-out wrong, he must know that for the majority Sunni tradition the door of ijtihad have been closed for a very, very long time and I imagine no one short of the Mujaddid or Mahdi could conceivably re-open it (of course, for most followers of putative Mujaddids or Mahdis, reinterpreting Islam in a happy, liberalising, modernist direction is not a top priority). Besides which, even if some interpretation is possible (though it is obviously still far less than anything Jews or Christians are allowed), this does not mean that all interpretations are permissible. Since Pipes claims to be a scholar and a specialist on Islam, he must either be very bad at his job (always a possibility) or he is trying to deceive his audience into accepting the false hope that Islam can be “reformed.” He cites one 20th century Islamic religious scholar (who, as Lawrence Auster helpfully points out, was executed as an apostate by the Islamic government of Khartoum) as evidence against the overwhelming bulk of the Islamic tradition that contradicts him.