Auron ka hai Payaam aur, mera Payaam aur hai, / Ishq key dardmand ka tarz-e-kalaam aur hai! (Iqbal)
Have you ever seen or read a book that is from 1400 years ago and that begins with a chapter called “The Opening”?
That begins with content and passages that are anything like the content and passages of the beginning or opening chapter of the Qur’an?
That has as one of its chapters a chapter like the opening chapter of the Qur’an?
A book that has a prayer like the opening chapter of the Qur’an?
A book that is from 1400 years ago, and that addresses people based on their belief and behavior, and not based on their race, region, tribe, occupation, nationality or gender?
A BOOK FROM 1400 YEARS AGO
Have you ever seen or read a book that is from 1400 years ago, and that repeatedly calls itself “A Book”?
That refers to itself as “The” book?
That calls itself “A Blessed Book”?
That calls itself “A Wise Book”?
That calls itself “A Noble Book”?
That refers to itself as “That” book?
I am not talking about its admirers and followers attributing all these honorific names and titles to that book, but that book itself using them to refer to itself on its own.
A book that begins its second chapter by declaring that it is indeed “that” book – Dhaalikal Kitab?
It is that eternal and everlasting book. The book that everyone needs and everyone has been promised and waiting for. It is the book that is guaranteed to guide and help humanity out of its troubles in every age and place.
A book from 1400 years ago that calls itself “The Reading”?
That calls itself “The Writing”?
That claims, without ambiguity, reservation or prevarication, that it is for all “people”?
A book from 1400 years ago that expects, asks and tells everyone to read? That makes literacy a universal requirement for all human beings by commanding everyone everywhere to read.
That strongly and repeatedly urges its readers to reflect upon its contents? And upon the universe and reality around them?
That invites humanity to think and to observe? That makes observation, logic, analysis and understanding the foundation of human belief?
A book from 1400 years ago that actually faults humanity for its poor observation, logic, analysis and reasoning?
That chides people for not reflecting upon its amazing qualities, claims and teachings as if people had padlocks on their hearts?
A book in which God Almighty commands the Prophet, Sallallahu alaihi wa Sallam, to go and tell everyone: “I am the most forgiving, loving and merciful of all”?
A book in which in the same breath God also says go tell my people that my punishment is the most terrible and painful of all?
In which God Almighty says he made everything on earth for you?
In which God Almighty says he made the sky and the planets and the sun and the moon for you?
In which God Almighty says he made night and day to suit your needs?
In which God Almighty tells people he made the rivers and the oceans for their use?
A BOOK CALLED “LIGHT”
Have you ever held in your hand a book that calls itself “The Light”?
A book from 1400 years ago that says that it is a cure for all that ails the human hearts?
A book that calls itself the standard of truth? That refers to itself as the great distinguisher between right and wrong, between truth and falsehood?
A book that claims that it contains no doubt or error?
A book without error? What kind of a book could it be? How likely is such a book, when every other book in the world has error? Even the most important and carefully edited treatises on science do. So much so that what we call science is an endless process of reducing that component of error in human knowledge and understanding.
A CHALLENGE TO SKEPTICS
Have you ever read a book from 1400 years ago that repeatedly challenges the skeptics to produce an imitation like it – all of it?
Or to produce even 10 chapters like it?
Or to produce just one single chapter like it?
And openly says go and call whomsoever you want to help and assist you in that effort?
A book that says repeatedly that it is a direct revelation from God?
A book in which God says that he shall protect and preserve his revelation forever?
A book that fearlessly claims that it is immune to corruption and falsehood from any direction?
A book that pushes the frontiers of inter-faith harmony, peace and coexistence to superhuman limits by claiming that it came to confirm the essential truth of all the divine books revealed to all the prophets of God everywhere in earlier times?
A book that actually lists by name a number of the earlier Biblical prophets whose work and mission it validates and confirms: Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Job, David, Solomon, Jesus and others – May God Almighty bless them all?
THE MALE-FEMALE DYNAMIC
When did you last read a book that asserted 1400 years ago that male-female relations were based on reciprocity of caring, compassion and respect?
A book that, 1400 years ago, described the male-female genders as each other’s garment?
That claimed 1400 years ago that women have rights – just like men have rights?
That proclaimed, 1400 years ago, that women have rights, just like they have obligations and duties?
A book that 1400 years ago gave women parity with men in rewards and obligations?
That, 1400 years ago, gave women the right to own property?
That, 1400 years ago, gave women the right to inheritance?
That, 1400 years ago, gave women the right to seek divorce?
That, 1400 years ago, gave women the right to choose the men they would like to marry?
That, 1400 years ago, made marriage the norm and made divorce permissible and lawful for men as well as for women?
Did you ever read a book that is from 1400 years ago and that contains a chapter called “Divorce”?
And also a chapter called “The People”?
A book, from 1400 years ago, that contains a chapter called “The Women”? And yet has no chapter called “The Men”?
A book that uses Arabia as its backdrop and its launching point and yet has no chapter called “The Arabs”?
Nor a chapter called “The Kings”?
Nor a chapter called “The Nobles”?
Nor a chapter called “The Priests”?
And yet a book – from 1400 years ago – that contains a chapter called “The Pen”?
And another chapter that it calls – in 7th Century Arabia – by the most improbable name of “Shura”?
FREEDOM OF FAITH AND EXPRESSION
That book uses that term Shura to stand for a most amazing and revolutionary concept that means power-sharing and self-governance among all segments of a society – of a people. It is a concept that involves the exchange of input, views and opinions on the part of all people as the basis of all power relations and structures among human beings.
Did you know that that book, thus, 1400 years ago, took all power and privilege – hereditary or otherwise – from the kings and the nobles, and gave it to “The People”?
Nothing like that ever happened in this world before. Not until the time of Milton, Locke, Paine and Jefferson – more than 1000 years later – did “the people” of the world even entertain a possibility like that.
Did you know that this was the book that introduced the world, 1400 year ago, to the ideas of freedom of faith, freedom of conscience, freedom of belief and freedom of expression? That it was this most amazing Al-Qur’an that said clearly in its pages that no faith should ever be forced on any one? That people should be free to choose the beliefs they want?
So, did you ever read a book like that? Did you ever think or suspect that there was indeed a book like that that you could read and in which you could check out some of these things for yourself?
Don’t you think if ever there is a book like that, we all owe it to ourselves to read that book and see what it has to say?