Muslims believe that al-Qur’an is the final Divine Book that was revealed to the last prophet Muhammad (peace be upon Him) and through which God has consummated His blessings to mankind [al-Maida: 5]. According to this same Divine Book of revelation, al-Qur’an is our “Huda” or guidance. Although the Book was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (p), its message is universal and is included in the heritage of all previous divine revelations [al-An’am: 92]. It is very important for us to understand the connection between the rise and fall of different societies on one hand and Sunnatullah, the Laws of God, on the other [al-Isra: 77].
It is the lack of a close and adequate affinity that should exist between al-Qur’an and our lives is the factor primarily responsible for ongoing miseries in our individual and collective lives. Most of us have developed our contact with Islam through our Muslim families. Many of us have been blessed to have the opportunity to learn to recite the Qur’an from our childhood. For those who do not know Arabic, our interaction with Qur’an is limited to recitation only. Our extent of Qur’anic knowledge is limited to what we have gathered from our parents at home and speeches and sermons of religious scholars. However, we should no assume that knowledge of Arabic itself makes any one a big scholar.
Indeed, the stepping stone toward our ignorance is our attitude that we already know and understand whatever there is to know and that we already understand the Qur’an. Contrary to this attitude of the ignorant, truly learned people discover how much they do not know as their knowledge progresses. That encourages them to learn even more. Those among Muslims who are at the opposite end feel that they have already completed their journey of knowledge and understanding. They have already completed (recitation of) Qur’an in their childhood. Indeed, many of them had completed (khatam-e-Qur’an) many times in their lives. Therefore, the suggestion of new learning is quite offensive to them!
We the educated do not feel in a similar way in any other area of life. We all know that it requires persistent and sustained effort to learn something well. Our knowledge and understanding about Islam and Qur’an is virtually inherited through our family and cultural backgrounds. Consider this conversation between two quarrelling person. Being agitated and offended, one of those two persons retorted to the other: “Do you think I don’t know that? My house is adjacent to the well-known Preacher so-and-so.”
It is difficult for us to admit that our study of Islam and Qur’an is very limited. Although translations of Qur’an is available virtually in any language these days, most of us have never tried to undertake a systematic study. Those of us who studied did not distinguish between knowing and grasping. Most of us know how many times we have to pray and how many components (rak’aat) in each prayer; however, it may not be very clear to us as to why God has enjoined prayer and fasting. Those who know and understand they may not have thought about the larger issues. Why the very first mission of Moses (p) was to face Pharaoh with the demand that the Children of Israel must be freed from their bondage [al-A’raf: 105]? What is the importance of freedom and independence in Islam? Why God has singled out one sin, shirk (attributing partnership to God), which would not be forgiven by God if a person dies without repenting for that sin [an-Nisaa: 116]? How many of us understand what is shirk? How Qur’an has dealt with he issue of shirk and how can we keep ourselves free from this sin in our contemporary time?
Is our current life free of shirk? Why al-Qur’an states that, not a disbeliever or a polytheist or a wicked person but, a hypocrite will be assigned the lowest pit of Hell [an-Nis’aa: 145]? Who are the hypocrites (Munafiqoon)? Are we free from hypocrisy? Has the Qur’an that brought forth a historical revolution in Arabia under the leadership of the Prophet Muhammad (p) and with the sacrifice of his companions become outdated? These are not merely theoretical issues. If there is any solution to our problems at the personal and collective level as well as national and international level, and furthermore, if we do believe and accept Qur’an as a source of divine guidance, we have to build a new bridge between Qur’an and our lives.
[*The author is a former editor of NABIC Newsletter and a faculty at Upper Iowa University. E-mail address: email@example.com]