Thursday, August 1, 2013

Quran- The Quranic Perspective (with Monty Python on the side)




This is an interesting comedy sketch by Monty Python on religion. But looking at the world the way it is right now, and what Islam has become in many countries, I think there is some truth here. We forget, or we conveniently forget. We ignore the Quran at our own peril. We somehow prefer to listen to some unsubstantiated sources as guidance and follow opinions of others uncritically. Despite the fact that Allah has already reminded us clearly in Surah Az-Zumar that the Quran is the best of all hadis (..ahsan alhadeeth..). In fact I find it non coincidental that Allah has chosen to use the word hadeeth to refer to the Quran in this particular instance. There is no mention of the second best or even the third best. Just the best of all, i.e. the Quran.
Allah has sent down the best statement (ahsanal hadeeth): a consistent Book wherein is reiteration. The skins shiver therefrom of those who fear their Lord; then their skins and their hearts relax at the remembrance of Allah . That is the guidance of Allah by which He guides whom He wills. And one whom Allah leaves astray - for him there is no guide.
39:23 (Sahih International)

So it does beg the question of why do we still refer to other sources over the Quran, and at times, we take this other source as a more authoritative guide. My simple mind seems to think that there could only be 3 possible reasons for this:
1)     The Quran is not complete and there are omissions, and therefore we need a supplement.
2)     The Quran is not easily readable and so we need commentary to help understand it
3)     Some aspects of the Quran are no longer applicable in this day and age and therefore are abrogated (dimansuhkan).

The above are reasons that I have heard throughout my life growing up. The first reason given, i.e. “The Quran is not complete and there are omissions therefore we need a supplement” is actually a very common misconception. This is a myth. Allah has said in Surah An-Nahl that the Quran explains clearly everything and then in Surah Al-Anaam that nothing has been left out.

And on the day when We will raise up in every people a witness against them from among themselves, and bring you as a witness against these-- and We have revealed the Book to you explaining clearly everything, and a guidance and mercy and good news for those who submit.
16:89 (Shakir)

And there is no animal that walks upon the earth nor a bird that flies with its two wings but (they are) genera like yourselves; We have not neglected anything in the Book, then to their Lord shall they be gathered
6:38 (Shakir)


Clearly these verses point to the fact that the Quran has not omitted anything and it is complete, and therefore the argument that we need a supplement because the Quran is incomplete is irrelevant and baseless.

Another common reasoning that I have heard is that the Quran is not that straightforward. It is not easy to understand it and you need to be an expert (Arabic speaker, religious scholar etc) to read this book. But if one were to think about it logically, this argument doesn't make sense. Why have a manual on living life as a Muslim if you cannot read it on your own in the first place? On the point that the Quran is not readable to the ordinary Joe (or Ali if you prefer! ), this is what the Quran has to say:

And certainly We have made the Quran easy for remembrance, but is there anyone who will mind?
54:17 (Shakir)

And mind you, Allah has repeated this verse for three more times (54:22, 54:32, 54:40), so there is really no excuse that the Quran is not easy to read. It easy to remember, it is easy to understand. You don't need special skills or ability to be able to read the Quran.

And the final and possibly the most ridiculous argument I have heard is that part of the Quran is abrogated. This is just preposterous. If some verses of the Quran is no longer applicable and you need additional references to change what has been said in the Quran, then you are effectively calling the Quran obsolete…do we believe that ? I don't. But who cares about what I think, after all I don't speak Arabic and I am not a religious scholar. Let’s see what the Quran has to say:

And the Word of your Lord has been fulfilled in truth and in justice. None can change His Words. And He is the All-Hearer, the All-Knower.
6:115 (Muhsin Khan)
Allah has said..”none can change His words”…no one can change or amend the Quran. The Quran has been fulfilled…it is complete…He knows best. How can anyone possibly claim that it is incomplete or obsolete ? What proof does anyone have to make such claims ? Haatu burhanukum inkuntum saadiqeen…show me your proof if you are truthful!

And finally:

These are the verses of Allah which We recite to you in truth. Then in what statement after Allah and His verses will they believe?
45:6 (Sahih International)

And so I ask you, which other sources/references would you hold on to, if not the ‘ahsanal hadeeth’ (i.e. the Quran) ? Think about it……….

4 comments:

  1. interesting topic... has been thinking since i encounter one of ayat in quran which said something like even all the ocean is used as ink, the ocean will be exhausted rather than word of Allah.. which means Al quran has everything that we suppose to know.. so why we need a second source.. But living in this environment somehow making me try to follow the norm, even in my heart i know it wrong but no ball to fight for it. sigh...
    But on the second argument, Al quran is readable, I think is yes but in its true form ... means in Arabic instead of translation. Of course translation give us a pinch of what Allah is saying but the some word or interpretation might lost during translation. Aku gi a few days of basic Arabic and i felt that understanding Arabic is a science by itself. Like what my teacher said, Arabic is like a puzzle that you have to put all together to get the real meaning .. Again .. baca translation pun asyik tertido kan.. sighh

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  2. Melloyz. Same la with me...in the past many things that i was told in school and taught while growing up didnt sound right...somehow many things felt illogical...so i have only recently started reading the Quran to better understand it. A real shocker when i found that many many things we do are not consistent with teh Quran...even the very basic things.

    There are lots of problems with translation. Some are better than others. It certainly does help if you know arabic. but you can always google the concordance of the Quran. It helps you understand word by word.

    I also fall asleep reading the translation. Sometimes it helps reading articles and researches that have already been done by others, and you can simply verify using your copy of the Quran. Unfortunately, many of these books and articles are not easily available in Malaysia! But...with the internet, everything is possible.

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  3. Haha... I wish I can fall asleep reading the translation so that I don't have to wait until 4 am to sleep ! It is almost impossible to fall asleep reading the Quran.

    Yes, knowledge of Arabic is important for many reasons, among which are:

    a) you get to ascertain the exact meaning and sentence instead of relying on the translator's understanding. Often what you get is an interpretation rather than a translation.

    b) translations are often not honestly translated in the sense that reliance is put on outside sources by the scholars when they translate certain words or phrases. And also they like to put words when sometimes it is not there, for example, they put Muhammad when the verse does not mention his name. Another example, the word "prayer" is used too freely to refer to solar, doa , supplication,etc. other examples are words like "siyam" , "Ramadan" and so on. The word "zalikka" which means "that" is translated as "this" in the beginning of surah Al Baqrah and the list is numerous! And this is done by those who are supposed to be experts in Arabic !!!

    c) once you know Arabic or the meaning of the verses in the Quran that you are reading, it ceases to be a mantra or "holy" and it becomes true guidance and lesson. Once you know the meaning of the verses too, you are able to distinguish myth from facts and religion from Addin or The Way enjoined by the Creator.

    d) you are also armed to be cautious of any mullah telling you tales that this verse is good for that and this.

    Anyway, knowledge of Arabic is no guarantee that you will "understand" or submit to the Quran. On some Allah has placed a seal on their hearts due to their own nature and hid ayah is Allah's domain. If knowldege of Arabic was a guarantee to iman then there will be no managing and the whole of Arabia would be Muslims ! Lets also remember that Allah has deliberately dedicated a fiery surah to Abu Lahab who is an expert in Arabic during his time!

    As correctly pointed out in the article above, many have forsaken the Quran (Q:25:30) and have taken the priests and rabbis as gods (6:94). And many follow nothing but what their parents inherited (Q42:22 - 24)

    Peace !

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  4. On arabic translation of the Quran, my belief is that Quran is a mu'jizat in its original language arabic but not in its translated form.

    The reason is some arabic words has so many meaning (maybe up to 50) that the understanding of Quran grows with the reader's knowledge if you read it in its original form of Arabic.

    One simple example, one of the verse used to be translated as "universe is an expanse" is now translated into "universe is expanding" suited to the recent discovery that universe is actually expanding.

    Not to mention if you read the Malay version of the translation, Quran sounds bit more poetic compared to its English counterpart which is more factual and objective.

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