“… For only then we truly live. Otherwise we only pretend to live….”
IT happened at an international inter-faith conference. The organizers decided to end the conference with readings from the scriptures of major religions, done by followers of other religions. An Arab Christian turned out to be a very good reciter of the Qur’an, as he read few verses from the Holy Book.
Every one seemed to be moved by his heart-rending reading, including the reciter himself. Later, a prominent Indian Muslim thinker and writer, Maulana Waheeduddin Khan, who narrated this story, asked him: “Do you think Qur’an is the Word of God?” In a moment of truth, he said: “Yes.” But, then, he had second thoughts, so he added: “But only for the Arabs.”
The Qur’an has arguably been the only Book that kept moving millions to the message of Allah all through the ages and all across the world. Its Words stirred up souls of many people who might not know even a word of the Arabic language.
Famous Egyptian reciter Qari Abdul Basit reportedly once accompanied then President Gamal Abdul Nasser to a meeting with the Soviet leaders. During a break in the meeting, Nasser asked him to recite the Qur’an before the top Soviet leaders. When he finished the recitation, Qari Abdul Basit saw at least four of them shedding tears.
“We don’t know what it was,” they later explained. But there was some thing touching in those Words!
Ironically at that time Qur’an was the forbidden tree for the Muslims in the Soviet Union. Reading, teaching, or even possessing a copy of the Qur’an resulted in the most severe punishments. The KGB was always on the lookout. Its agents could enter any house, any time, if they suspected anyone inside of reading Qur’an or offering prayers. Religious leaders were drafted for compulsory labor. Mosques and Islamic schools were closed down and turned into cinema houses, factories and offices. One could not find a copy of the Qur’an anywhere.
The ruthless state machinery did everything within its power to extinguish the flame of Qur’an in the empire. Yet during those 70 dark years, Muslims kept the flame burning. They developed elaborate camouflage mechanisms, at tremendous risks, to teach Qur’an to their children. Little children had to stay away from their parents for months at a time as they retired to secret hujras (rooms) where they memorized Qur’an and received religious instructions without ever having looked at a printed page. Their stories remain a neglected but extremely bright part of our recent history.
What kind of book can command such devotion and sacrifices? Only the Book that begins by asserting: “This is the Book; in it is guidance sure, without doubt, to those who fear Allah.” (Qur’an, 2:2)
And then each and every line of it attests to that assertion. It declares: “The Most Gracious! It is He Who has taught the Qur’an.” (Qur’an, 55:1-2)
It challenges: “Say If the whole of mankind and Jinn were to gather together to produce the like of this Qur’an, they could not produce the like thereof, even if they backed up each other with help and support.” (Qur’an, 17:88)
It says: “Verily it is We Who revealed the Remembrance and verily We are its guardians.” (Qur’an, 15:9)
Qur’an is the first document in the Arabic language. There is no other language of the world that has withstood a time span of 1400 years. Over the centuries, rivers change courses, civilizations rise and fall, and languages become extinct making way for the new ones. Consider the expression “faeder ure on heofonum” in a Bible of 900 CE (Matthew, 6)
The writing from that time cannot be read by an English-knowing person today. But anyone having the knowledge of Arabic can read the Qur’an and understand its message. As did all the people in the intervening centuries!
Prominent scholar Dr. Hamidullah tells of an effort in Germany by the Christian scholars to gather all the Greek manuscripts of Bible as the original Bible in Aramaic is extinct.
They gathered all manuscripts in the world and after having examined all of them, reported: “Some 200,000 contradictory narrations have been found… of these one-eighth are of an important nature.” Following the publicaton of the report, an Institute for Qur’anic Research was established too in Munich with the similar goal of examining the Book as it was done in case of the Bible.
A gigantic research project was started that continued for three generations. By 1933 CE, 43,000 photocopies of Qur’anic manuscripts were collected. A report published shortly before World War II that showed the results of the examination of these manuscripts. While some minor mistakes of calligraphy were found, not a single discrepancy in the text could be discovered!
Of course the love, devotion and care that Muslim showed toward the Qur’an, and that became the immediate cause of its miraculous preservation, was inspired by the Prophet Muhammad (pace be upon him). On one occasion he asked the companions in Suffa: Which of you would like to go out every morning to Buthan or Al-Aqiq (two markets near Madinah) and bring two large she-camels without being guilty of sin or without severing the ties of kinship? Camels were the valuable commodity of the time, she-camels even more so. As they showed their interest, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upo him) explained: “To teach or recite two verses of the Qur’an is better than getting two she-camels. And three verses are better than three she-camels.” (Muslim).
And so, for centuries this ummah displayed an unprecedented love and devotion for the Book of Allah Almighty. It began the education of its children by teaching them how to read Qur’an. It began its day by reciting from the Qur’an, which was divided into seven parts, each called a manzil, so it could be read completely every week. It was divided into 30 parts, each called a juz, so it could be read completely every month. Qur’an is the most read and memorized book in the world!
Today, though, we see a change. Thanks to the twin scourges of a colonial education system and the television, today we find millions of Muslim children for whom learning to read the Qur’an is not part of their education. We find millions of Muslim homes where Qur’an is read only on special occasions, when someone dies, for example. This despite the fact that in most parts of the world today, unlike the Soviet Union of yesterday, reading the Qur’an is no longer a high risk proposition.
How unfortunate is the person who dies of thirst while holding the refreshing glass of water in his hands! How unfortunate is the person who dies of disease while holding the perfect medicine in his hands!
We must read it, understand it, and put it into practice. But we must also remember that reading with full deference and proper etiquettes is a pre-requisite for understanding the Qur’an, just as understanding its message is a pre-requisite for practicing it. Our goal must be to live by the Qur’an. For only then we truly live. Otherwise we only pretend to live.
n Courtesy: ummah.com