Islamic Perspectives

Qur’an Betrayed

By Dr. Aslam Abdullah

The whole town was abuzz with the news that the best recitor of the Quran from the Middle East was coming to lead the taraweeh prayers. Every one was talking about his voice, the magic of his recitation, the way his reading rises and falls and the way the melody of his recitation mesmerized everyone.

Especially in Ramadan this ritual is played out in Muslim communities around the world.

Although listening to a beautiful recitation of the Quran is captivating, but let us revive the essence of what the month of the Quran is meant to be.

In a population of over 1.5 billion Muslims in the world, some 50 per cent are illiterate. Acquisition of knowledge is one of the obligations upon every Muslim. Nearly 83 per cent are totally ignorant of the book that is the foundation of their faith. Some may read the Arabic text but do not know what they read in their prayers.

The Quran describes itself as a message for people who reflect and think. Muslims all over the world have begun to place emphasis on learning. Muslim families are genuinely concerned to ensure that their children learn biology, mathematics, chemistry, social sciences from the best schools with full honors. But to learn the Quran is not consequential. Where the Quran is being taught it is limited to reading and memorization. To learn and excel in various fields of knowledge is essential but at the same time to learn and excel in the understanding of the Quran cannot be neglected.

A patient cannot memorize and just listen to the doctors prescription and believe that he will be cured. Once a prescription is written, the patient immediately picks up the medicine from a pharmacy and starts using it.

But the divine prescription for curing human ills is neglected in a manner that is unexplainable. To memorize the Quran is an honorable deed that God will bless but to memorize without understanding the Quran would be a serious neglect of our duty towards the Quran.

When a child is raised up in an environment where the Quran is seen as a book to be recited only on certain occasions without the need to understand it, his relation with the Quran will be superficial unless there is some dramatic change in his or her attitude toward the divine book.

The Quran is the most read yet most neglected book in our recent and distant history. Millions of people have memorized parts or the whole of the Quran yet we do not see the practice of the Quran in our societies. If the purpose of this book was to be recited and read without understanding the Quran would not claim to be a guidance for humanity.

(Quran 2:1-5) Alif. Lam. Mim. This is the Book in which there is no doubt, a guidance unto those who ward off (evil). Who believe in the unseen, and establish worship, and spend of that We have bestowed upon them; And who believe in that which is revealed unto thee (Muhammad) and that which was revealed before thee, and are certain of the Hereafter. These depend on guidance from their Lord. These are the successful.

The Quran was meant to be a book of guidance in every aspect of life. The recitation with understanding was recommended primarily to highlight the importance of its message in every day life. Yet very little of the time of the believer is spent in reflecting on its message and using it as a guidance in every aspect of life.

The month of Ramadan gives us a unique opportunity to restore our understanding of the Quran and learn its message. Yet most of the time and in most of the places, the opportunity to further our understanding of the Quran is lost by limiting it to ritual reading.

Modern technology gives us tools to capture the best voice and repeat it at our will. But this is not the only purpose of the revelation. It is meant to be understood, followed and implemented in one's life. As long as this purpose is not served, the Quran will stand betrayed by those who revere it more than anyone else.

Dr. Aslam Abdullah is editor of the Detroit based English weekly, Muslim Observer, director of the Islamic Society of Nevada, Las Vegas.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 December 2009 on page no. 29

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