We all yearn for a mirror that describes us, tells us who we are, who we want to be. In our friends, we look for people who reflect our qualities, mirror our aspirations. Each day is a quest to define ourselves, our strengths, our weaknesses. “Mirror, mirror on the wall, where do I stand among them all?” How often have we failed to get a satisfactory answer, getting put off by the criticisms of our jealous adversaries, or losing track in the flowery mist of undue flattery….
But there is a mirror, powerful, incisive, and most truthful; fearless enough to say it like it is: the Holy Qur’an.
Somewhere during the course of studying this Book – also called Al Furqan: the touchstone – the reader is startled by a description of a character or a group of characters which fits him remarkably well. It is as if he is facing a crystal-clear mirror, which reflects to him even his innermost core. It is only then, that he realizes the real significance of this verse: “We have revealed unto you a Book in which there is a mention (reminder) of you. Will you not then understand?” (21:10)
When Ahnaf Bin Qais came across this verse, he decided to search for himself a description that spoke of him. He went on screening verse after verse till he came across this:
“And there are others who have acknowledged their wrongdoings, they have mixed a deed that was righteous with another that was evil. Perhaps Allah will turn unto them in forgiveness. Surely, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” [9:102]
“Indeed!” said Ahnaf. “I belong to such a group.”
Among other things, the Holy Qur’an talks of individuals, groups of people, races and nations of the past. The purpose is noteworthy: the Qur’an is not engaging in futile reminiscences or fable-telling. Through these historical depictions, the Qur’an is holding up a mirror for each of us, if only we care to heed. The people spoken of have ceased to exist, but the characters they represent live to this day. The high and mighty Pharaoh may be dead for all practical purposes but Allah had made a promise:
“This day shall we save you in body, that you may be a sign to those who come after you.” [10:92]
Three thousand three hundred years later, the mummified body of Ramesses II is still viewed by hundreds of public visitors to the Egyptian Museum at Cairo. Yet today, there are living ‘Pharaohs personified’ insolently walking tall on the face of the earth. Except for the names and places, there are little differences. They are a law unto themselves. Their decisions are binding and undisputable. Persecution, exploitation and oppression is their business. They attack civilian habitations in the name of human rights with icy impunity! To the relentless domination of all such tyrannical powers, the Holy Qur’an says: Halt! and ponder over the fate of the mighty Pharaoh, your predecessor, before you too meet a similar horrific end. Do not think even for a minute that these vast material resources will stop you from ending up as a colossal tragedy, for future generations to look at and take caution.
Do you not see in the rich and famous billionaire capitalist of the 21st century, the Qaroon of the period of Moses, who refused to acknowledge his Lord’s extraordinary favours on him? Engaged in multiplying his riches at the cost of the poor; unwilling to part with even a small portion of his enormous fortune to those who are deprived of even the basic amenities of life. He utters exactly the same words so brazenly said by Qaroon thousands of years ago, “This has been given to me because of a certain knowledge (capability) which I have” [28:78].
It is amazing and unnerving how the Qur’an records his speech, inviting the ‘filthy rich’ of today to take a look at his unceremonious and ignominious end.
The parade of the characters goes on, one after another, in different contexts. We can identify some of them immediately, while others are not so obvious. The Qur’anic story of Yusuf (Joseph) and Zulekha is being enacted everywhere in the world today. There is this temptress in every frame of life, inviting the young and vulnerable to lose themselves in an abyss of unrestrained lust and desires. But the powerful morality of Yusuf is an ever-living inspiration for those who seek to be upright.
Call them by any name. The Holy Qur’an has presented timeless characters not specific to any particular period or land, but by no means fictitious or imaginary either. The Qur’an uses them to present various dimensions of human shortcomings and failures prevalent in every age. Qaroon, for instance, symbolises insatiable human greed and undesirable concentration of wealth by individuals. He also represents the uncharitable and self-centred face of society, whose acts of despotism ultimately result in class-conflicts. Pharaoh is an apt depiction of corrupt and perverted monopoly of power. All such people disturb the divine scheme of balance and order prevailing in the universe leading to anarchy. The Holy Qur’an goes on further to tell you the fate of all such historical characters, openly warning their followers of the fate that awaits them, irrespective of time and place.
A lot of people wonder how an ancient book revealed some 1500 years ago, would answer complex situations arising in today’s modern societies. This question arises only if you overlook the fact that the Creator in His infinite Wisdom knows what people in every age would need. We get a very vivid illustration if we look at the following verse, which so aptly describes the spirit of modern show-business, which was beyond any body’s imagination at the time of revelation of this Book. The Holy Qur’an says:
“But there are, among men, those who purchase idle tales, without knowledge (or meaning), to mislead people from the Path of Allah.” [31:6]
Those who understand Arabic can appreciate how accurately this verse encompasses the entire showbiz and entertainment world. There cannot be a more appropriate term than Lahwal Hadees – indicating gossip, play, vain, useless verbal pyrotechniques, to describe the T.V soaps, vulgar movies, online chatting et al, none of which can lead anyone closer to God or any eternal truths.
The Holy Qur’an is also the only book in the world that amazingly answers any of your confusions or problems. You just open the book; and lo…there is the answer! Innumerable people have experienced this phenomenon at some point in their life; and you too can, provided you take along with you purity of intention and sincerity of faith in the fact that Allah does guide those who trust Him. Sometimes someone else shows this mirror to you, as it happened with Hasan, the Holy Prophet’s grandson. His maidservant once spilt water over him accidentally and sensing that Hasan was about to scold her, she promptly came up with an absolute winner from the Qur’an: “Those who spend (in charity) whether in prosperity or in adversity; who restrain anger, and pardon all; for Allah loves those who do good.” [3:133]
Hearing these verses, Hasan smiled; not only did he forgive her, he was so pleased that he set her free.
In the ongoing procession of humanity, new faces will replace the old ones with the passage of time. But this holy mirror called the Qur’an will remain clear and unfazed, ever willing to reflect our ‘true colours’ if only we dare to face facts with a determination to mend our wrongs.
But when will we?