, by SYED HUSAIN PASHA
Auron ka hai Payaam aur, mera Payaam aur hai, / Ishq key dardmand ka tarz-e-kalaam aur hai! (Iqbal)
Life seems to continually throw you into situations and among people that require answers to all kinds of questions. Often, these are questions that you may have wrestled with at one point or another in your own life. And then Allah guides whom he wants to the kind of answers he pleases. Best answers are found in the Qur’an. But to get to the Qur’an is not given to everyone. No one comes to the Qur’an without a personal invitation – directly from God.
And then the Qur’an is like an ocean. Each gets from it what they want – and what they can. What they have the equipment and the container, and what they are able, to take away from it. So, what you get from the Qur’an is not so much a function of the ocean, but of the container that you bring to it. In that sense, it is all you.
“In that case I will bring a tanker,” said a friend of mine when he first heard me say this during a Qur’an program I was running – called for convenience sake, “Dr. Pasha’s International Qur’an Program.”
What I am trying to say is there are limitations on your part and there are barriers and hurdles you need to cross – to get to the Qur’an and to be able to successfulll interface and communicate with the Qur’an.
It Is All Qur’an
The challenge is not only to locate the answers in the Qur’an, but also to read and understand them right. Everybody reads the same Qur’an, you may think. But do they really? They don’t. Even though the Qur’an is the same changeless, immutable, eternal word of God that it has always been.
Yet the Qur’an is like the one whose immortal speech it is. As for him, who can say in what state of glory he is on any given day. Kulla yaumin huwa fe sha’n, is how the Qur’an puts it.
Implication: Everyday the Qur’an is new, fresh and in a different state of glory even though its permanence is eternal and constant.
That is why not all those who read the Qur’an get the same answers from the Qur’an. It is because they are who they are and they bring to the Qur’an what they do.
That is also because the Qur’an is what it is: God Almighty’s own immortal word in mortal human hands.
When the right interface occurs, right answers emerge in the human domain.
HOW TO COMMUNICATE WITH THE QUR’AN
Here is some of what it takes to be able to read the Qur’an and extract the rights answers from it:
First of all, you should know that the Qur’an is read with your heart and not just with your mind, even though having a sharp and cultivated mind a basic requirement of coming to Islam in the first place.
That means Iman – lots and lots of Iman. No Iman, no Qur’an. This may appear a bit circular, but it is not. People who come to the Qur’an are generally those whose Iman is already in a working condition, or those whose hearts and minds are hardwired for Iman, even though for the time being their Iman may be pointing in the wrong direction and focused on the wrong objects.
Superior human qualities such as true humility and personal integrity and the courage required to submit to the superior logic and evidence of the Qur’an.
An insatiable curiosity about the world; a brain full of all kinds of questions about life; and a general and indomitable hunger for knowledge – for truth.
An underlying discomfort with the surrounding darkness of social injustices, moral wrongs and general human degradation and wretchedness.
And knowledge – Ilm. All kinds of knowledge. Knowledge without limits or borders. And that includes knowledge of all the accumulated common wisdom of the present and the past as well as of all the sciences and historical facts. The more you know, the more you would know what the Qur’an is talking about – provided all the other conditions are met. And yet, it is the amazing miracle of the Qur’an that the simplest heart and the least sophisticated of minds can read and understand it.
HADITH: THE NEXT SET OF ANSWERS
The next place for answers is the Hadith. And in general what is true of the Qur’an is also true of the Hadith.
The big difference is that now you are not going to the ocean directly but visiting every major and minor river and waterway in the world. And if you have done any serious hiking, boating or exploring among woods and rivers, you would know what it is like.
Does that give you a bit of an insight into why there is so much variation in views, opinions and beliefs among Muslims? It is not because they don’t know what they are talking about, but more because of the sheer range, volume or wealth of detailed information that is available to them in the Hadith literature.
The easy thing about these smaller bodies of water is that there is always one next door to you. The challenge you face is that there are often so many of them and you need to pick your way carefully among them. What do you expect?
Hadith is after all the living, verbatim, eye-witness, real-time record of the 24-hour life, times, teachings, sayings and doings of Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam. It is the most complete, thorough, authentic, direct and immediate documentation of the life, times and culture of an individual or people that there is on the face of this earth.
Thus, while the richness of the Hadith gives you everything you want, its vastness makes you tread as carefully as you possibly can.
A STRONG KNOWLEDGE BASE
Sadly, much of the world does not know this. But Islam is really for those who can think. And it is for those who care about knowledge.
Thus, neither the Qur’an nor the Hadith are truly and fully accessible to those with a narrow, small, deficient or shrinking knowledge base.
Thus, when you are a Muslim, you either already have a broad and strong knowledge base. Or you have dedicated yourself to a lifetime of tireless searching for knowledge – and truth and reality.
And this includes all the hard sciences; all the soft sciences; all the social sciences; all the humanities; all the literatures and languages; all the philosophies and ideologies; all the religions and folklore; and all else.
Deficiencies in these knowledge areas will show up as problems in your understanding of the Qur’an and Hadith on the one hand and in your understanding of the world of Allah on the other hand.
A MESSY WORLD
The result will be a perfectly messed up world. That is why till the “pure” understanding of the Qur’an and Hadith is combined with an equally rigorous understanding of the world of Allah, you have neither full knowledge nor understanding of Islam or the world. That is why those Muslims who think they understand the word of God, without a clear and fuller understanding of how God’s world (with the letter “l”) works, have only a superficial and limited understanding of Islam.
That is also why those non-Muslims who think they can unravel the mysteries of God’s creation without recourse to God’s word and the explanation and practical application of that word provided by God’s Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, so often misunderstand and misrepresent the world.
Thus, in fact, each side may be holding one half of the puzzle. Unless the two pieces are brought together, creation will remain an unsolved mystery and happiness on earth will remain an elusive dream.