By Mozaffar Partowmah
Praised be the name of Allah Who created all that exists in the heavens and on the earth, Who made mankind superior to all His creatures by teaching him to choose between two ways, namely the acceptance or the rejection of guidance, which He revealed to His Messengers, Whoever grasps and follows His command will reach salvation sure without doubt and those unfortunate ones who choose knowingly to reject Him or associate partners with Him will taste the bitter fruits of their choice.
May the peace and clemency of Allah be showered upon His Messengers who devoted their entire lives to His noble cause and especially upon Muhammad, peace be upon him, whose living example became a pattern for all believers in Allah to follow and whose message from Allah is preserved and protected by His favour for all ages and for all generations.
The Qur’an has been the source of guidance for many past generations and it will be the prime source of inspiration for many individuals and many Islamic organisations to come, In a changing world such as ours, every Muslim must keep his contact with the Qur’an, read it regularly, apply its teachings in his daily life, and commit its beautiful verses to memory through practice and application.
In communities where people have deviated in their practice of Islam because of decadence it is not easy for individuals to pay due attention to the Qur’an; nor is it an easy matter for organisations to obtain original works and writings on this Holy Book. “Modern Man” is being pushed around by “Modern Civilisation”. Luxury living and following the fashions of the day to the point of worship, have contaminated even the best of minds. Years may pass of a man’s life before he can get a chance to realise how deeply he has fallen into slumber and ignorance. In fact, such an occasion may never be felt by many. God, of course, knows best who should obtain such moments of realisation and who should not. For those who are fortunate enough to be given the chance, God has a variety of ways to “turn them back” to His Straight Path. It is true that everything is easy and simple for God, and for those who get the favour of admonition, the ways in which they receive the inspiration are very simple, Many realise their ignorance when reading a book, some realise it when participating in a get-together with other Muslims, many times the death of a dear person becomes the turning point, and no less frequently the birth of a child in the, family and the responsibility of his upbringing makes parents realise how little they know of the teachings of Islam.
Mine was of the last category. Before my son was born, I must admit that I was just another student among all those who seek after modern knowledge and technology. I left the country in which I was born, not to approach God’s way, but merely to obtain a better and more ‘progressive’ status by obtaining a degree from a famous University in one of the so-called advanced countries. The burning desire for prestige and pleasure which had been implanted in my heart from the very beginnings of my school days had directed me towards indulging in most of the activities prerequisite for my future rank as an ‘enlightened modern intellectual’. It is not my purpose to present an autobiography in this short paper, but unfortunately the number of those men and women who stay in the state I was in is not small, and there are many who even forget how to pray and behave like a Muslim under the alien systems which have penetrated their lives so deeply. Once some of these young men and women come to be ‘reborn’ as Muslims, their complete transformation becomes hard work and almost a burden to them. Some may give up and pursue their life of ease and ignorance. This is when the duty incumbent on all Muslims becomes essential, to enjoin right and to forbid wrong, getting all united under one single banner of faith and extending help to those who are in need of help so that in an atmosphere of brotherhood, equality and deep concern, every- one may come to understand the words of God with an open heart. No organisation can fulfil this need unless it is deeply involved in the practice of the teaching of Islam and deep understanding of its concepts. This comes about by deep research into the Qur’an and the Traditions of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him.
The following are some of the most practical ways to fulfil the needs of understanding while at the same time recognising the pressure on modern individuals and communities, as well as on the organisations which strive to perfect their knowledge of truth. Individuals who are not ‘reborn’ Muslims often complain that with their involvement in scholastic problems, for the sake of which they have come to this country, they cannot find time to read the Qur’an or to participate in certain Islamic activities. Yet everyone spends in the order of at least one or two hours daily going to school or college from their home and returning. It is quite possible to take ten to fifteen minutes every morning to read only two or three verses, repeat them until you can remember them correctly and in order, and try to remember them on your way to classes and back. By frequent repetition as often as your time of walking or riding a bus or driving your car permits, you can memorise the verses and thoroughly understand them. To avoid any loss in vigour or interest, one need not read verses in their formal succession. Rather, one could choose verses that come to the attention momentarily, memorise them and later connect the adjoining sections together.
For example, supposeLailatu-l Qadr is approaching. It would be opportune if one reviews Surah 97 and commit it to memory. When the season of pilgrimage comes, one could memorise a few of the verses relating to the pilgrimage. When one is scheduled to give a Friday khutbah on Jihad (or any other topic), one could prepare the appropriate verses which are related to that particular topic, and when one meets a ‘hypocrite’ one could study verses describing them. In this way, which I have tested and which proved successful in my case, one could gradually digest and understand the Qur’an and relate its content to one’s daily life.
For those who do not know how to read the Qur’an there is a practical way of learning. Some educational institutions do offer courses in Arabic. One should not hesitate to take such courses and benefit from them. Most of them are extremely useful for beginners, as well as for those who already know some Arabic. The universities which do not offer such courses should be requested by as many students on their campuses as possible to put such courses in their curricula or place the appropriate material in their Language Laboratories. The modern techniques of teaching languages which are utilised can make these Arabic courses enjoyable and very helpful.
Modern life requires a degree of concern and respect for time. It would be wise if one could arrange one’s schedule so that one can have a day or a night off per week for oneself. This is certainly most practical. In this night one can meet fellow Muslims and benefit from their experiences and share one’s findings with them. The Friday Prayer certainly must not be neglected. likewise, vacations and other off- school days can be used for further contact with other Muslims or general reviews of the Qur’an and Hadith or other sources of Islamic information or both. Those students who have an assistantship of one sort or another, and those employed can use their vacation rights as well.
Although every soul will bear the burden of his or her own deeds and no-one will be held responsible for the shortcomings of another, organisation and brotherhood in Islam are very important concepts. Important services that organisations should offer to their members are not just holding Eid celebrations or social gatherings which may be useful for their own part, but also to create an atmosphere of brotherly love and concern through regenerating the practices of Islam throughout their meetings. They should request schools and institutions of higher learning to include Arabic, History of Islam, and Muslim culture and civilisation in their curricula and if such attempts prove unfruitful they must offer Arabic courses of their own, so the non-Arabs can benefit. It has been suggested that these Muslim organisations should pay some attention to the physical fitness and the health of their members promoting physical activities and recreation parallel to the spiritual help.
Finally, the most important engagement in which individuals as well as organisations can take part is research into the Qur’an in order to uncover answers to problems that may arise everyday. The following may help us under- stand why such an engagement is most important and will bear most fruitful results:
There are many traditions about the fact that the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, used to review the Qur’an every year during the month of Ramadan. It has become a useful habit for all Muslims to review the Qur’an at least once in the month of Ramadan, and in fact, to facilitate this review the Qur’an was divided into thirty parts (ajzaa’, sing, iuz’).
In the history of Islam no movement has been successful without original scholarly writing directly based on the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. The common schools of jurisprudence in Islam are the most noteworthy examples.
Many organisers, after reaching a certain level of understanding, become involved in the preaching and organising and tend to forget about their own self-improvement, while there is no limit to self-improvement. In order to understand the Qur’an and remember its Divine teachings it must be read with utmost attention and emphasis and not only for the sake of its beauty or its music or as some people may tend to say, for the sake of its blessing, since if it is not understood fully it will not shower blessing in the highest degree.
Although we have been trained to read with pen and paper in front of us, most of us have not used this skill in our reading of the Qur’an.
The study of the Qur’an must be an important part of our daily lives as individuals and of our collective life as a community for in the Qur’an we find solace for our troubled hearts, guidance for and warnings against our erring ways and good news of Allah’s promise.
This article is part of the introduction to a lengthy paper which contained a detailed plan for the study of the Qur’an and presented to one of the meetings of the Muslim Students Association of the USA and Canada.