By Dr. Israr Ahmad
The pathetic and disastrous condition of the Muslim Ummah throughout the world is due to its abandoning of the Holy Quran. The constant attitude of indifference, along with our hypocritical lip-service, is tantamount to ridiculing the last of Allah’s (swt) revelations. Instead, we must clearly understand our responsibilities towards the Holy Quran and try our very best to fulfill them. We can neither expect any improvement in our worldly state of affairs, nor hope for salvation in the Hereafter, unless we carry out all the obligations that we owe to the Quran.
The five demands that the Quran makes on every Muslim are as follows:
- A Muslim is required to believe in the Quran.
- He is required to read it.
- He is required to understand it.
- He is required to act upon its teachings.
- He is required to convey its teachings to others.
Our First Obligation
The first obligation is to have faith (Iman) in the Divine origin of the Quran. Iman has two phases: verbal profession (Iqrar Bil-Lisan), and heart-felt conviction (Tasdeeq Bil-Qalb). To have faith in the Quran means that we should verbally profess that the Quran is the Word of Almighty Allah (swt) that was revealed by Him through His angel Jibrael (as) to the last of His messengers, Prophet Muhammad (sa). This is a legal requirement for the acceptance of a person as a member of the Muslim society.
Having done that, however, we also need to develop a deeply felt certitude in the Quran. It is only when we have real conviction in this verbal declaration, that our hearts and minds would come under its spell, leading us towards genuine devotion and veneration of the Holy Book. Unfortunately, there is a woeful lack of staunch faith in the Divine origin of the Quran among the Muslims of today. This lack of faith is the reason why we neither find any reverence for the Quran in our hearts, nor feel inclined to study it, nor evince any interest in pondering over its meanings, nor ever think of seeking its guidance in conducting our lives.
It might be asked as to how we can acquire true faith. The answer is that the source of Iman is the Holy Quran itself. If the Book is studied and its meanings are pondered upon in an authentic quest for truth, all the veils of darkness shall be lifted from our heart, and the inner self – the soul – will get illuminated by the light of true faith. Note that faith is not something that can be planted in us from the outside. It is an embodiment of fundamental truths that already exist inside us; the practice of pondering over the Ayahs of the Quran serves to bring them to the surface of our consciousness.
Our Second Obligation
The second obligation is slow and thoughtful reading of the Holy Quran with correct pronunciation, generally described as Tilawat, Tarteel, and Tajweed.Note that Tilawat is not only an important form of worship, but it is also an effective method of continually refreshing our faith. The Quran is not a book to be read once; it is a book that needs to be read again and again. We must read it carefully, reflecting on its messages, constantly seeking guidance for our lives. Just as our material body is in constant need of food for its sustenance, our spiritual soul or Rooh is also in perpetual need for its nourishment. And just as the food for our bodies is derived from the earth, the diet for our souls is obtained from the Word of God, the Holy Quran itself.
Moreover, a regular and constant programme of reciting the Holy Quran is also needed because it is a means of refreshing and reviving our faith, and a weapon for surmounting the obstacles in the path of Almighty Allah (swt). The ideal way in which the Holy Book should be recited is that one should stand in the post-midnight prayer before his Lord (swt) and recite its Ayahs in a slow and patient manner, pausing at proper places so as to enable one´s heart to imbibe its influence.
Our Third Obligation
The third obligationis to understand and comprehend the Holy Quran. The Quran has been revealed so that it may be understood and pondered upon. Of course, there are numerous levels and grades of comprehension, accessible to different persons according to their respective planes of intellect and consciousness.
The first stage in the comprehension of the Holy Quran is called Tazakkur, a term which alludes to the fact that the teachings of the Quran are not at all foreign or alien to the human Fitrah. Instead, they represent the eternal truths dormant in the human soul itself, and the reading or listening of the Holy Quran only facilitates the recalling of these forgotten verities. The Holy Quran has been rendered very easy by Almighty Allah (swt) for the purpose of gaining this level of guidance. It does not matter if a person´s intelligence is limited, or his knowledge of logic and philosophy is poor, or if he has no fine sense of language and literature. In spite of these drawbacks, he can still understand the basic message and practical guidance of the Holy Quran, provided he has an untainted nature not perverted by any crookedness.
The knowledge of Arabic language is, however, indispensable for this purpose. Muslims, who are not only educated but who have obtained advanced degrees in arts and sciences, would have no excuse before Almighty Allah (swt) on the Day of Judgement, if they failed to learn so much Arabic as would have enabled them to understand His Book. Learning basic Arabic is a duty that every educated Muslim owes to the Holy Quran.
The second stage in the comprehension of the Holy Quran is far from easy. Tadabbur is described as a penetrating study, an intense reflection, as thorough deliberation of the Holy Quran as possible. It involves diving deep into the bottomless ocean of its wisdom. This kind of understanding is impossible, unless one is to devote his entire life, all his talents, and all his energies for the sole purpose of comprehending the Quran. Obviously, not everyone is capable of such a high level of devotion and effort to acquire such insight and comprehension. But there must be a number of persons, at all times, who are engaged in this enterprise.
Such scholars cannot be produced unless we have a network of universities throughout the Muslim world, which concentrate on Quranic research by making it the focus of all their intellectual activity. Such scholars would need to have a thorough knowledge of the Arabic language and its grammar and a refined literary taste to appreciate the beauty and force of its expression. They must acquire a good grounding in the language in which the Quran was revealed by a critical study of the works of the pre-Islamic poets and orators. They must be able to appreciate the terms and modes of expression evolved by the Quran itself, along with an understanding of the coherence in the Quran. A good knowledge of tradition and old scriptures is also necessary for the comprehension of the Quran. Along with this classical knowledge, the scholars must also have an understanding of the fundamentals of modern physical and social sciences. This would widen their intellectual horizon and enable them to present the eternal Quranic truths in the contemporary idiom.
Our Fourth Obligation
The fourth obligationis to act upon the teachings of the Holy Quran. The Quran is the ‘guidance for mankind’. The purpose for which this Book has been revealed will be fully realized only when people act upon its teachings and make it the guide for them in every sphere of their lives. If we disregard the injunctions of the Quran, then the reading and understanding of the Holy Book, instead of doing us any good, will only make us guiltier before Almighty Allah (swt).
At an individual level, it is imperative for every Muslim to mould his or her life according to the teachings of the Quran. The best way to benefit from the study of the Holy Quran is to go on changing our lifestyles and mending our ways in accordance with its teachings.
At the collective level of the community, it is equally imperative for us to try and establish the system of social justice as given by the Holy Quran. The Muslims are, as a whole, responsible for establishing the Sovereignty of Almighty Allah (swt) in the public as well as the private sphere, and each of us is obligated to try his utmost in this path. The struggle for the establishment of such a just and equitable order in accordance with the teachings of the Quran is the bounding duty of its followers.
Our Fifth Obligation
The fifth obligation is to propagate the message of the Holy Quran to every nook and corner of the world. This was originally the responsibility of Prophet Muhammad (sa), who fulfilled his own obligation by conveying the Divine message to the Ummah; since Prophethood has been concluded with the advent of Prophet Muhammad (sa), who is the last of the Divine Messengers, it is now the duty of the Muslims to deliver that message to all humanity. Unfortunately, the proclamation of the Divine message to the whole world appears like a far-fetched and fantastic idea, because, at the moment, the Muslims themselves are ignorant of the teachings of the Holy Quran.
Therefore, a powerful intellectual and academic movement – back to the Quran – is needed in order to propagate and disseminate the knowledge and wisdom of the Holy Quran, both on a general scale for the benefit of our masses and on the highest level of scholarship in order to convert the educated and intelligent elite of the Muslim society.