Auron ka hai Payaam aur, mera Payaam aur hai, / Ishq key dardmand ka tarz-e-kalaam aur hai! (Iqbal)
Here is some of what it takes to communicate with the Qur’an – some of what it takes to be able to read the Qur’an properly and receive 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. Without these things a person may not get far with the Qur’an.
Unless, of course, Allah has already decided to bring this person in anyway and the Qur’an breaks down this person’s arrogance and personal barriers and overwhelms him and drags him bound hand and foot to the mercy of Allah. This the Qur’an does when and how and with whom it pleases.
SOME MORE REQUIREMENTS
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. Without these things a person is more or less brain dead. And life and its challenges and their solutions mean nothing to dazed, bemused and befuddled individuals like that.
Such people live on the margins of space and time and they wander the vistas of life like zombies, getting out of it only the dregs and refuse life throw away from time to time. Qur’an and non-Qur’an, life and death, success and failure, are all the same to such people.
An underlying discomfort with the surrounding darkness of social injustices, moral wrongs and general human degradation and wretchedness. A general aversion to what the Qur’an calls Zulm – all the terrible things people do to people.
And an active and growing knowledge base – 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. Just like the Bedouins and nomads of 7th Century Arabia.
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 other than the ocean itself. 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 a quarter-century of the 24-hour life, times, teachings, sayings and doings of Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam.
Hadith 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 VAST KNOWLEDGE BASE
Sadly, much of the world does not know this. And that includes many of the Muslims. 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 or constricted mind.
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.
Both real and simulated. Both past and present as well as everything that can be projected into the future. That is the kind and extent of knowledge Islam expects Muslims to aim at.
It is knowledge of the Dunya in all its forms and complexities. Just as it is also knowledge of Deen in all its details.
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.
At worst you will be Daal and Mudil – blind leading the leading blind. At best you will be irrelevant to the march of history – weightless and worthless as the Hadith puts it.
Take a good look at the condition of the Muslims around the world today and decide in what state you think they are.
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. Why to them 2 + 2 so frequently seem to add up to all kinds of numbers other than 4.
Thus, in fact, each side may be holding one half of the puzzle. Unless the two pieces of the puzzle are brought together, creation will remain an unsolved mystery and happiness on earth will remain an elusive dream.