By Dr. Muhammad Mumtaz Ali
What is the Qur’ān? A sacred book or a religious book or the book of Muslims. What is the truth and reality of the Qur’ān? There are some stereotypes which people in general come across. Why is the Qur’ān the guidance for mankind? Let us ask the Qur’ān itself what it is and why it is guidance for us? Why does humanity need the Qur’ān? Is the Qur’ān containing in it the guidance for mankind? A few points are made clear in the Qur’ān. First, the Qur’ān is from our Creator Allah the Exalted:
[O Muhammad], you are receiving the Qur’ān from the Most Wise, the All-Knowing [Allah] [27: 6].
This is the Book of Allah, there is no doubt in it; it is a guidance [1: 2].
Say: “Surely Allah’s guidance is the true guidance” [2: 120].
He has revealed this Book to you, setting forth the Truth and confirming the earlier Books, and He revealed the Torah and the Gospel before that for the guidance of mankind; and He has also revealed the Criterion [to distinguish the Truth from falsehood] [3: 3-4].
The Qur’ān is the source of guidance for mankind which explains the Truth and Reality of our life and grants us the Straight Way of Life so that we can live a good life. If we do not seek guidance from the Qur’ān, what would be the implications for our life, society, country, family, and for the developmental process of our beloved country?
Generally, we do not have time to think about all the above questions regarding the Qur’ān. The Qur’ān makes it clear that if we ignore it, we would not be able to know what is the Truth and Reality of our life. If we do not know the Truth and Reality of life, how can we make our life a good and successful life? So, to know the Truth and Reality of our life is our basic need.
These are the ayaat of a Book [Qur’ān] that clearly expounds the Truth [about our life] [12: 1]; Surely, We have brought them a Book which We expounded with knowledge; a guidance and a mercy to those who understand it [believe in it] [7: 52]; He sent down…the Book embodying the Truth [2: 213]; …that indeed is the Truth from your Lord [2: 149].
One can say yes, we must know the truth and reality of life and the world but how to know is another basic need of our existence as cognitive human beings. It is made clear in the Qur’ān that despite our powerful faculties of reason and sense perception we cannot know the truth and reality of life and the world by our own self. Therefore, we need guidance from our Creator. The philosophers, thinkers, great men of learning and wisdom, the founders of religions, none can help us to know the Truth and Reality of our life:
Say: “None in the heavens and on earth has knowledge of the Unseen save Allah [27: 65].
…No one can inform you of the truth save the All-Aware [35: 14].
Does he have any knowledge of the world beyond the ken of sense-perception, and therefore, clearly sees [the Truth]? [53: 35].
He is the Knower of the Unseen, and He does not disclose His Unseen to anyone other than to a Messenger whom He chooses [for the bestowal of any part of the knowledge of the Unseen], where after He appoints guards who go before him and behind him, so that He may know that they have delivered the messages of their Lord [72: 26-28].
Furthermore, what is the role of the Qur’ān in our life is also explained in the Qur’ān. I noted the Qur’ān takes us out of the darkness of ignorance, speculation, conjecture, false ideas, ideologies, crisis, chaos, of the worldly life and brings us into the light of truth, peace, prosperity, harmony, and humanity wherein we respect everyone:
This is a Book which We have revealed to you that you may bring forth mankind from every kind of darkness into light, and direct them, with the leave of their Lord, to the Right Way of the Mighty, the Innately Praiseworthy, [to the Way of] Allah to Whom belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth [12: 1-2].
I realise that to know the truth of the Qur’ān, one needs to understand it. If we read the Qur’ān, we realise that we cannot make our life good and successful without understanding the Truth and Reality of life. So, we need to read the Qur’ān and understand its content. I want to share my personal experience that when I read the Qur’ān, I found so many unique statements and claims in the Qur’ān that are directly related to me and my society. The most attractive and interesting statement of the Qur’ān that is directly related to me. After reading and understanding that statement, I realise that the Qur’ān talks about me. It is me who is mentioned in the Qur’ān. The Qur’ān is for me:
We have bestowed upon you a Book that mentions you. Do you not understand? [21: 10]
I have read so many books, I did not find any other book that says that, that book talks about me. A book which talks about me must be an important book for me. Its message and discourse centred on me and billions of people like me. It talks about my beginning and end, about my nature as a human being.
I also noted many other statements in the Qur’ān which are directed towards me. Its discourse is replete with signs which draw my attention to investigate my own environment, which point to the Truth and Reality of my life and the world I live in.
I further comprehended that the Qur’ān concerns itself with elucidating the difference between right and wrong, true and false, good and bad. There is nothing enigmatic or complicated in the Qur’ān that is incomprehensible to our understanding. We can understand if we reflect and ponder over its claims that whatever is mentioned in the Qur’ān is Truth.
The Qur’ān claims that most of people due to prejudice and preconceived ideas do not understand the truth which is pointed out in the Qur’ān: “The truth is that most of them do not truly understand the truth [2: 100] of life and the world as revealed in the Qur’ān even though the truth is explained clearly.
I also noted that the Qur’ān is a Book which contains in it statements which are full of over-flowing wisdom [10: 1]. Hence, I felt I must engage myself with the discourse of the Qur’ān.
Within the last three years we have observed the wave of Covid-19 pandemic which resulted in the deaths of millions of people and created an unprecedented economic crisis throughout the world from which all people of the world are still suffering. During the period of Covid-19 we all were forced naturally to think how to help each other. I feel, we all have feelings of kindness; hence, we came forward to help each other. We helped other people so that they can live a happy life.
What is a happy life? How can it be achieved? Comfort and success in life is the goal of every one of us. We are told by great men of learning and wisdom there are many ways for success in life. Many people have suggested multiple ways. One can ask here a simple question: which way is authentic and guarantees comfort and success? I found the Qur’ān presents based on evidence and historical facts the correct answer to the Question and ask people to ponder over the answer before acceptance:
Verily this Qur’ān guides to the Way that is the Straight-Most. To those who [understand it] believe in it, and do righteous work, it gives the good news that a great reward awaits them, and warns those who do not believe in the Hereafter [the reality of the next world] that We have prepared for them a grievous chastisement [17: 9-10].
In early 2020 I became the victim of a financial scam. I lost all my money. I was feeling restless and spent a few days and nights without sleep. Then I turned to the Qur’ān for guidance to get peace of mind. Here, I saw the role of the Qur’ān and its relation with me. I realised that the Qur’ān is not only relevant for me but also with all of us. When I read the Qur’ān, I found in it so many statements which I felt are related to all of us. If we ask the Qur’ān about the truth and reality of the Qur’ān. It says:
The Qur’ān was sent down as a guidance [by the Creator of entire universe] to the people with clear signs of the true guidance, and as the Criterion [to distinguish between right and wrong] [2: 185].
I did not find in the Qur’ān a single statement which says that it is the sacred book, a book of a single community, or it is a religious book or it is a book for Muslims alone. Instead, I found in it many statements which clearly say that this book is for humanity.
He has revealed this Book… setting forth the truth …for the guidance of mankind [3: 3-4].… and He has also revealed the Criterion [to distinguish truth from falsehood] [3:4].
I realise that if we confine the Qur’ān to the Muslims alone, this is mere ignorance. The Qur’ān invites every thinking being to read it and think critically about what is the Message of the Qur’ān to the entire mankind. The Qur’ān says that it reveals to us what is the Truth and Reality of life and the world. In other words, the Qur’ān explains to us the purpose of our life and ways to make our life a good one and successful life.
I went through with some experience during the reading and understanding of the Qur’ān that it discourages its readers from dogmatic and superstitious understanding. It stops people from blind following, imitation, assimilation, doubt, guess work, speculation, conjecture, untrue faith, unauthentic belief, prejudice, biased attitude, reaction, emotionalism, hate and enmity. Rather, it encourages seeking knowledge, critical and comparative approach, critical and creative thinking, comparison and analysis, rational and scientific thinking. Look at the following statements:
When it is said to them, “Follow the Commands that Allah has sent down,” they reply, “We will follow only what we found our forefathers practising. Well, will they go on following their forefathers even though they did not use common sense and did not find the right way?” [2: 170].
When they are asked: ‘Come to what Allah has revealed, and come to the Messenger,’ they reply: ‘The way of our forefathers suffices us.’ [Will they continue to follow their forefathers] even though their forefathers might have known nothing, and might have been on the wrong way? [5:104].
When people are asked to follow the truth, they say:
Nay! but they say, “We found our forefathers on a way and we are only walking in their footsteps.” [43:22].
The mental condition of those who rejected the way of Allah may be likened to that of the cattle whom the shepherd calls but they hear nothing except the sound of shouts and cries. They are deaf, they are dumb, they are blind; therefore, they do not understand anything [2:171].
The Qur’ān repeatedly reminded us to use our faculty of reason and think, reflect, ponder over the claims of the Qur’ān, and observe the happenings around us:
Have they never observed how Allah creates for the first time and then repeats it? Indeed [to repeat the creation of a thing] is even easier for Allah [than creating it for the first time [29: 19].
Have they not travelled through the earth that they may observe what was the end of their predecessors who were far mightier and tilled the land and built upon it more than these have over built? And Allah’s Messengers came to them with Clear Signs. It was not Allah Who wronged them, but it is they who wronged themselves. Evil was the end of those evil-doers, for they gave the lie to Allah’s Signs and scoffed at them [30: 9-10].
There are many more reasons mentioned in the Qur’ān which compel us to be rational and scientific and accept the guidance of the Qur’ān for our own good. Currently, we are observing in our society several people, highly educated and less educated both demonstrating unscientific thinking and behaviour and blindly following many things which do not fulfil the rational and scientific criteria. Hence, there is a need to share with our brothers and sisters in humanity what is good and appropriate for us.
[Professor Dr Muhammad Mumtaz Ali is teaching at Department of Usuluddin and Comparative Religion, Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences, International Islamic University Malaysia.]