By Sadia Dehlvi
Ramzan is the month when God sent down the Quran, a month of blessings and intensive worship for Muslims. Like others devoted to the faith, I make the effort to read the entire Quran at least once during this sacred month. What I love about the Holy Book is that it constantly invites intelligent faith and reflection. More than 500 verses resonate with descriptions of nature as signs of God, worthy of contemplation, urging environment consciousness, and exhorting us “not to destroy the natural balance”. Allah commands us to observe the bees and the ants so we can learn from even the tiniest of His creation.
Sadly, I find many people nurture negative stereotype perceptions of the Muslim scripture. Surely, the problems lie on the side of the reader, not the book. Those who are hostile, rarely bother to read the Quran or understand it in its entirety. They quote phrases out of their frame of reference, adding to the spread of Islamophobia. Their bias prevents them from seeing the wisdom, beauty and majesty of the sacred text. In order for the Quran to guide and reveal its actual meanings, it must be approached with a high degree of humility for it clearly says, “Guidance comes from God.” The Quran speaks little to the reader who comes to it with arrogance and biases.
The Quran declares itself as the last link in a chain of revelations going back to the very origin of man. It renews the message of the Torah and the Gospels, so one-third of the Holy Book consists of stories of Abraham, Moses, Noah, Mary, Jesus and other prophets of all three Abrahamic faiths. It addresses nations, communities, families, individuals and humanity as a whole, teaching the path to inner and outer perfection.
All over the world Muslims read the same Holy Book. Only one Quran exists as preserved through the past 1,400 years, from the time of its revelation to Prophet Mohammad.
The revelations to Prophet Mohammad began in the year 610 AD and were completed over a period of 23 years. The Quran is an extraordinarily powerful text divided into 114 surah (chapters) of unequal length that contain a little over 6,000 verses, each called an ayat (sign). The Quran means “the recital”, and is essentially meant to be read, recited and heard in Arabic. It can never be the same in any other language. It has to be felt in the heart rather than interpreted. While reciting the Quran, the music and the rhythm of the words linger in the ears and on the tongue.
Muslims are required to translate the meaning of the book into prayer, righteous intent and behaviour, without which God remains an abstract idea. Prophet Mohammad provided detailed interpretations of the message, after which countless sages, scholars, theologians and jurists have, through the centuries, interpreted the Quran, keeping in mind the requirement of the time. Mohammad’s words, “The difference of opinion amongst scholars is a blessing,” establishes that Islam requires unity of form but encourages diversity of creative religious expression.
Like God is infinite, the Quran 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. The Quran describes itself as a book of wisdom and guidance for the pious. With its all-inclusive vision, it aims to build a global community of the highest moral and ethical behaviour by purging our hearts of spiritual maladies.
The Quran is not an intellectual or political document but a call to recognise the Lord and submit to Him. Addressing both men and women, it declares humans as mere stewards of God’s creation, expected to fulfil their Adamic potential on the Earth. It promises paradise to the faithful, an eternal abode of peace with gardens watered by running streams.
— Sadia Dehlvi is a Delhi-based writer and author of Sufism: The Heart of Islam. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org