By Sadia Dehlvi
Jun 16, 2016
The month of Ramzan is for reflection, prayer and fasting. It is the time when most Muslims read the Quran as a way of reminding themselves of God’s message. During Ramzan, special Taraweeh, extensive night prayers are held during which the whole Quran is recited over some days or a month.
The Quran describes itself as the final book amongst a chain of revelations going back to the very origin of man. It renews the message of the Torah and the Bible. Prophet Muhammad began to receive the Quran revelations in the year 610 CE that continued over a period of 23 years. The Quran is divided into 114 Surahs, chapters of unequal length that contain over six thousand verses. Each verse is called an “Ayat”, literally meaning “sign”. Every chapter except for Surah Tawbah, begin with “Bismillah hir Rahman ir Rahim (In the name of the merciful and compassionate)”, primary attributes of Allah.
The Quran means, “the Recital”. A message to be read, recited, heard and absorbed in the heart. Amongst other names, it further describes itself as the “criterion”, “teaching”, a “grace” and a “noble message”.
The Quran was revealed in the Arabic language and is simply not the Quran in any other language. That is why a translation without the original Arabic is treated as just a book. The Arabic Quran is revered and usually kept apart from other books in Muslim homes. The Quran is believed to be the miracle of Prophet Muhammad as it is still with us. It continues to guide people to the truth.
The Quran addresses all of humanity, touching on subjects as diverse as the world. It calls upon people to work together in establishing communities and cultures where morality is nurtured. It tells the stories of the prophets and reminds us to follow their ethical and righteous ways. It does not expect us to detach ourselves completely from the world, but to engage with people with a standard of moral excellence and develop a spiritual awareness.
The Arabs were a people of oral traditions who excelled in poetry, but the Quran is the first book in the Arabic language. Based upon mathematical equations, Arabic is believed to be the oldest and most precise of the Semitic languages. There is no room for error in Arabic grammar. Arabic language is based upon a three-letter root, which lends itself to multiple related concepts. The Quran, like God, is infinite, is Nur (light) and it is not possible for most mortals to have complete knowledge of the holy book, because then they would need to have complete knowledge of God.
An intense reading of the Quran moves beyond its literal meanings. Each verse has an inner meaning and the historical dimensions of revelations. Contemplating on the hidden spiritual dimensions of the Quran began at the time of the Prophet and his companions. This has been an ongoing effort by Sufis and scholars for the last 1,400 years. It must be remembered that the Quran is a spiritual treatise and not a political document.
Sadia Dehlvi is a Delhi-based writer and author of Sufism: The Heart of Islam.