By Rashid Samnakay, New Age Islam
23 January 2017
Most Holy Scriptures are believed by their followers to be the verbatim utterances of the Supreme Being- the God; annunciating ‘Truth’ by dictating it to His messengers. For Muslims, that being Allah, and the scripture Quran is the Kalaamullah- Logos, the word of God, and generally contended as being holy. However some verses of the Book itself, as understood from translations and comments, does not support this contention. Couple of the verses are given here as examples:
42:51-“Man (including woman!) is not worthy that God should speak with them except by inspiration or from behind a screen or through a Messenger…”
It is argued therefore, that since all the Messengers were ‘Bashar’- human person, a well-established fact in the Book; hence even the Messengers of God as human beings were not given the honour of spoken to directly by Him.
Referring to itself, the Book the Quran declares that it is the word of Messenger, as ‘inspired’ by the Creator, to propagate the message:
69:40-“For sure it is the word of an honoured Apostle”. And so, mankind in turn received the message through the Apostles.
The Arabic language of the time as used by the Messenger Muhammad is the language that the desert dwellers used so that the message imparted by him could be understood by them clearly:
13:4- “And We sent no messenger but with the language of his people, so that he might explain to them clearly. …” That seems to be a logical statement in this regard.
Since the message is reputed to be for mankind as a whole and mankind speaks many different languages, it is logical that the messengers should be from amongst the audience too and speak the language of the people to whom the message is given.
It is therefore argued that, since the message is the same, propagated to humanity as a whole, then, if Quran’s Arabic was God’s language, it would have been the universal language and used by all previous Messengers. Clearly, that was never the case.
One aspect of the language of Quran that is intriguing is that the Creator though did not speak directly to His creation the messengers, yet strangely would take ‘oath’ after oath on His created objects in the universe to emphasise His statement. Objects such as the sun, the moon, the stars, the morning, the morning star, the night, the day, the skies the earth, the fig, the olive, the mountain of Tur, the city of peace and other functionalities of the universe like rain and its life giving benefits.
It is said that even today it is the custom of the desert Arabs, during normal conversation to utter oaths on any object that is considered important at the time, to put emphasis on the statement being made. On reflection this is not as strange as it may seem since many other people converse in the same style that appear idiosyncratic: wallaah, qasam-say, by god, I swear on my mother’s head and so on.
Messenger Muhammad has used God’s created object in his language to swear upon to emphasise that he was from amongst them and spoke their folksy language. The spoken words therefore of the Book are those of a ‘Bashar’, an Arab human messenger and not those of God.
The infatuation with Arabic language being God’s, has led Muslims to believe that everything of Arabs and Arabia is therefore holy and godly. No different to the belief that if one is God’s son then he must also be god! Hence the clamour to go to Hajj in Arabia as the culmination of one’s religious achievement!
The essence of the proposition made here is:
· The medium of communication, Arabic has no significance and is not holy.
· The Book itself is not holy and therefore not an object of reverence.
· The associated personality, the messenger is honoured but not holy and not reverential and worshipful.
This then sets the tone for “laa” - there is nothing what so ever else in the Logos of laa Ilaaha. This is the message of the Book and eliminates all icons and cults, that is, idols for reverence which then become the object of worship. The worship, a human act that is exclusively reserved and dedicated in service for the Universal Creator; whatever is ones concept of the creator, he, she or it. The ‘He’ with which that being is referred to in the Book, in common parlance indicates the masculine, the Powerful as in all languages.
The Book seems to solve this conundrum by saying that human imagination and vision cannot comprehend His form, the nature and Kalam, it is infinite 31-27 etc. So, mankind is free to choose whatever form for him but not to “associate” any other ‘he, she or it’ sharing His power.
The above dot points are the seminal ingredients which when negated generate the basis for tangibles, visible and conceived objects placed in the niches and on altars for mankind to worship. To quote an Urdu poet –Meher who expressed his dismay in a lengthy poem: The Lament of Quran, at what Muslims have done to a mere Book the Quran, and expressed it beginning with the first couplet:
طاقوں میں سجایا جاتا ہوں، آنکھوں سے لگایا جاتا ہوں
تعویز بنایا جاتا ہوں، دھو دھو کے پلایا جاتا ہوں
As decorations I’m placed in the niches, kissed and caressed with eyes,
Written as protective charms, I’m dissolved and made to swallow (as cure)!
Such sentiments have been expressed by many more poets and thinkers who are dismayed and even shocked at how many objects Muslims hold as reverential and worthy of worship, negating the principle of laa - but then hypocritically condemning others for having idols!
Reverence and worship is not limited to bowing, prostrating and rubbing one’s forehead on prayer rug or humming chants, ringing bells and blowing horns, but the effect it has on one’s mental attitude to those things. The submission to the revered tangibles, visible and conceived, because it is believed they possess some sort of “power”, divine, military or material over the worshiper; is what “associating” or “shirk” in the Apostle’s language means.
In daily life when one comes across or close to a high ranking official, dignitary, national international leader or rich business tycoon; there is generated an awe and sense of expectation that this closeness with the ‘lesser god’ will result in some benefits. And if that dignitary happens to be a revered religious personality, the heaven is the limit.
This ignorance of worshiper results in the loss of human dignity that the laa- of the scripture came to eliminate. Nothing else in human life matters and so has no place on its intellectual altar except the one infinite force, he, she, it or god, that created the complex entity, the universe whether with a Big Bang or just a whimper.
Inherent in this laa is the benefit that humanity is equal and worthy of dignity under one master, whatever his form. Those in positions of wielding any power on earth, if they were to grasp this simple theology, philosophy, wisdom or knowledge, would see the permanent benefit accruing to them as they would not need to wear the protective armor and hire armed body guards, engage soothsayers and tie amulets against bullets! Ms. Bhutto of Pakistan had visibly dozens of these tied on both arms and yet was killed by a single bullet, supposedly riding in an armour-plated car!
A Japanese friend passed this pearl of wisdom as an example of humility of the true leader:
Tao Te Ching- The text of the Taoist Scripture,
How did the great rivers and seas get their kingship over the hundred Lesser streams?
Through the merit of being lower than they:
That was how they got their Kingship!
Therefore the sage, in order to be above the people,
Must speak as if he were lower than they.
In order to guide them he must put himself behind them.
Then when he is above, the people will have no burden,
When he is ahead, they will feel no hurt.
Humility, in the language of a similar Apostle, it seems is the hallmark of the learned and knowledgeable people 35-28!
A regular contributor to New Age Islam, Rashid Samnakay is a (Retd.) Engineer
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