“As often as we approach the Quran, it always proves repulsive anew; gradually, however, it attracts, it astonishes, and, in the end forces admiration.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
For the Western Islamophobe and for the Islamomaniac Islamist, the Quran is a book of do’s and dont’s. No wonder they want to fight out each other with a sword and sometimes with hate filled speech.
But, for a mystic like me, the Quran is a book of love, my daily meditation, my hope, my ambition, the rhythm of my heart and software of my mind.
It is a book that has convinced me of the validity of a Hadith that in itself was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, as it is called Hadith Qudsi: “I am as My servant expects or conceives Me to be!” This is mentioned in at least four of the most popular original books of Hadith. What a poignant expression of Monotheism and a direct relationship between the seeker and the Sought. My understanding is not constrained by the imagination or words of any other human. My teachers are my guides, but my understanding of my relationship with my Creator, Who loves me more than a mother and a father combined, is pure and unadulterated, not marred by any other human’s imaginations.
My journey, towards the Most Merciful and the Most Gracious truly started when I wrote an article about a decade ago, and read the Quran cover to cover, while thinking only about love and compassion: Two Hundred Verses about Compassionate Living in the Quran.
How can an Islamophobe and and an Islamist read only a list of do’s and don’ts in a book of some 6000 verses and a mystic see nothing but love and compassion? Could it be that for the former it is one verse at a time, he or she is looking at one tree at a time, divorced from the jungle, the environment, the ecosystem?
Individual verses of the Qur’an can only be understood in relationship with the entirety of the book’s message of mercy and love. Just as studying the heart outside of the human body would give you an incomplete picture as to the purpose of the organ, a verse of the Quran, cherry-picked and studied separately from the historical context and overall message of revelation, would give you an incomplete interpretation.
When I was young, I thought in prose and now that I have crossed age of sixty, I still do not understand verses of many of the Urdu poets, but, I think in poetry. When, in the prose mode, I learnt, the Quran from many teachers, including the non-Muslims: In the wake of Paris tragedy: A book review: An apology for Mohammed and the Koran and The Quran Applauded as a Landmark Contribution to ‘Words of Justice’ by Harvard.
Now, thinking in the poetry mode, I found, Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, a Persian poet from the 13th century, who is the best selling poet in USA these days. He wrote 3,000 love songs to his mentor Shams of Tabriz, the prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, and God. His monumental Mathnawi has been called the Quran in the Persian language. According to William C. Chittick, Professor of Asian and Asian American Studies at Stony Brook University, as he highlights love in both the Mathnawi and the Quran, “This is not because it bears any outward resemblance to the Divine Word, but rather because Rumi was able to capture in a non-technical, everyday language, understandable to any Persian speaker, what he himself calls, ‘the roots of the roots of the roots of the religion’ – which is an apt description of the Quran itself, the foundation of every thing Islamic.” A beautiful one line summary by Rumi of the love in the Quran, an epitome of love, compassion and justice.
When in the prose mode, I read: A British Convert to Islam: ‘I found Qur’an mother of all philosophies’ and wrote: What Did the Polymath Sir Zafrullah Khan Say About the Quran.
Now, in the mystic and poetry mode, I am reading, the book that I reviewed already without having completely read it yet, a few weeks ago: Book Review: Secrets of Divine Love — A Spiritual Journey into the Heart of Islam.
Now, I am reading the third chapter of the above book, which is about the holy Quran, where in I found the above quote of Rumi that I am using as my title here.
I believe, that when I start studying the Quran from teachers of all sects and denominations and all different bends of mind with different strengths and pick up good ideas from all, without prejudice, as the best of the prophets, Muhammad, advised, “A word of wisdom is lost heritage of a believer, he or she takes it wherever he or she finds it,” then I truly will have a perfect recipe to overcome sectarianism, and restore the Muslims to the universal brotherhood and sisterhood that was the grand vision of our Prophet.
- The Study Quran: A New Translation and Commentary. Syed Hossein Nasr, Editor-in-Chief. HarperOne: An Inprint of Harper Collins Publishers. 2015. Page 1744.
- The Study Quran: A New Translation and Commentary. Syed Hossein Nasr, Editor-in-Chief. HarperOne: An Inprint of Harper Collins Publishers. 2015. Page 1745.