THE ESSENCE OF THE QURAN
Sant Vinoba Bhave
SARVA SEVA SANGH PRAKASHAN
Rajghat, Varanasi – 221001 (India)
The Essence of The Quran
By Sant Vinoba Bhave
Total Copies: 16000
Sarva Seva Sangh-Prakashan
Rajghat, Varanasi -221001
Indian Press Colony,
Maldahiya, Varanasi- 221002
Science has made the world smaller. It seeks to bring human beings closer to one another. Will it be proper then for the human society to be divided into sects and for each sect to consider itself superior to others and look down upon them? We shall have to understand each other properly and imbibe in ourselves the virtues of one another. This book is a humble attempt in that direction.
I have edited and rearranged the ‘DHAMMAPADA’ with this very object in view and had placed my views on the Gita through the ‘Gita-Pravachan’ (Talks on the Gita) before the public.
For years now I have been continuously engaged in Padayatra (pilgrimage on foot) in the cause of Bhoodan which too has, as its sole purpose, the union of hearts. As a matter of fact, all my activities throughout my life have been motivated by this single objective of uniting hearts. The publication of this book has also been inspired by the same thought. I hope that by the grace of God this mission will succeed.
Maitri Ashram (Assam)
We are glad to present the readers this selection from the Holy Quran on the occasion of the auspicious birthday of Apostle Mohammad.
Acharya Vinoba Bhave has studied the Quran for the last twenty-five years and it was during the last year and a half that the present volume took final shape and form. As stated by Shri Vinoba himself in his Foreword, the object behind its compilation is “to unite the hearts of men.” The Essence of Quran is a valuable addition to the spiritual lore of humanity.
The selections have been made from the original Arabic. The English rendering is adopted from the ‘Glorious Quran’ by Mr. Mohammad Marmaduke Pickthall. References to the respective number of Suras and the Ayats (verses) are shown in the tables included in the end of the book. Vinobaji has grouped these verses under appropriate captions to highlight the Message of the Quran. Originally, he gave these headings in Marathi, his mother-tongue, which have subsequently been translated into English by some of our esteemed friends. But the entire responsibility for the translations is, of course, ours.
We are grateful to the Government of Andhra Pradesh, the holders of the Copyright of the translation of the ‘Glorious Quran’ by Mr. Pickthall, for permitting us to use it for the purpose of these selections. Our thanks are also due to all those friends who have helped us in the publication of this book, particularly to Achyut Deshpande, lovingly addressed by Vinoba as, ‘Mian’, who was specially summoned by the latter to assist him in this work and whose contribution had been most valuable.
A note by Editor, New Age Islam: We are using the translation of AJ Arberry instead of that of Mr. Pickthal selected by the original publishers. We find Arberry’s language more modern and suited the taste of present-day readers.
About the Third Edition
We feel happy to present the third edition of “The Essence of the Quran” in a revised form and supplemented by a detailed index prepared by an eminent Muslim Scholar, which we hope, will be welcomed by the readers.
April 15, 1969. —Publishers
This Fourth Edition
We are glad to present our readers this fourth edition of The Essence of the Quran. Recently Vinobaji has kindly summarized even this ‘Essence of the Quran’. We may call it the essence of the former ‘Essence.’ In this edition, those most important heads have been marked with asterisks.
We hope that this edition would be more useful than the former ones.
January 1, 1978.
We are very thankful to one of our distinguished Muslim friends of international repute for preparing the Index of The Essence of the Quran, which has been included in this edition. He prefers to remain anonymous. He is an authority on Muslim Law, as well as an author and an educationist. He had served on many responsible posts, such as a Vice-Chancellor, an Indian Ambassador, a member of Union Public Service Commission and so on.
This Muslim friend was so impressed by Vinobaji’s book that he offered himself to undertake the indexing of this “excellent work”. Vinobaji gladly accepted this voluntary offer as a token of love. The Index has, no doubt, enhanced the value of the book. We are grateful to this Muslim friend for his labour of love.
THE STORY OF ‘THE ESSENCE OF THE QURAN’
By Achyut Deshpande
When we think of the religious literature that Vinoba has written, selected or translated, it appears that the blessings which are generally invoked at the end of the Bhajan (Prayer-Song) that has been in vogue in rural areas of Maharashtra for the last hundreds of years, have been already bestowed upon him. The psalm means as under —
“O God, grant life-eternal to the communion of those who have surrendered their all to the all Merciful.
May they not be overpowered by the Satan—superstitions and prejudices!
May they be granted supreme bliss!
O God, may the devotees of the Omnipresent and Omniscient,
may the dedicated and the beloved ones,
be spared of even the touch of the wind of ego.”
The devotee further asks. ‘O Compassionate, let Thy benediction be ever showered on them who chant ceaselessly the name of the Lord of the world, the Eternal player enjoying his eternal Play.’”
It was this Divine grace that perhaps helped Vinoba in his love’s labour in making selections from the Quran. It is an interesting story how he took to the study of the Book and how he felt inspired, for the benefit of all and sundry, to bring out in a book form ‘The Essence of the Quran.’
It so happened that a Muslim boy joined Vinobaji’s Ashram with an object to lead a dedicated life. After some time, he felt a desire to study the Quran and requested Vinoba to give lessons to him. Vinoba had read the Quran in English, but this request made him study the Book closely. He read its translations in various languages, and learnt its recitation with the help of books on its pronunciation so correctly that not only the village Mullaji who had given him first lessons in the Quran, but several others too, were surprised at the perfection he had achieved. When Mahatmaji came to know of Vinoba’s study of the Quran, he was much pleased and said: “Some one of us had to do it; it is a pleasure that Vinoba is doing it.” These blessings from Gandhiji further encouraged Vinoba in doing it.” These blessings from Gandhiji further encouraged Vinoba and he continued the study with increasing zeal. In those days, the Arab countries used to broadcast recitations from the Holy Book which Vinoba was hearing daily with such rapt attention that today he is able to recite verses from the Quran faultlessly like any learned Maulvi/Hafiz. His study continued and in course of time, he learnt not only the meaning of the verses, but also the origin of words, composition and grammar. It went on during the periods of his imprisonments.
Vinoba reads the Quran with such devotion that many times, tears fall down his cheeks. This reminds one of the ‘devotees’ referred to in the book. Whenever he reads the chapters of the Book revealed at Mecca,[i] he goes into ecstasy. Once when he narrated this experience to Badshah Khan —Abdul Gaffar Khan — the man of God, he disclosed that he, too, had similar experiences. In those days Maulana Abul Kalam Azad used to come to Wardha to see Gandhiji. Once, Mahatmaji asked Vinoba to recite from the Quran in his presence. When he heard he was surprised at Vinoba’s pronunciations and was much pleased to know that Vinoba had put in strenuous efforts to achieve such perfection. The Maulana was an Arabic scholar and had made a deep study of the Quran; as such Vinoba earnestly desired that the Maulana completed his unfinished work of translation of the Holy Book. But it ever remained an unrealized wish, for Maulana could not get the necessary peace of mind and time for such a work, preoccupied as he was with other activities. We could get from him only ‘Ghubbare Khater’ and ‘India Wins Freedom,’ but posterity was not fortunate to have from him his valuable translation of the Quran. It remained unfinished till the end of his life.
Vinoba is so well versed in Quran that he can reply to any question or clear any doubt, or elucidate any important topic or subject dealt within the Holy Book. He has simply to turn a page here or there. That is why while editing the ‘Essence of the Quran’ he could grasp the subject in its entirety, take out appropriate selections and make a comprehensive subject-wise arrangement. For years this selective study remained almost a passion with him except for a brief period during the Bhoodan Movement. But the broken thread was taken up again when he had come to Ajmer to attend the annual Sarvodaya Conference. His determination this time was to make a compilation of selected portions from it. After a continuous labour of a year and a half the ‘Essence of the Quran’ could take the present form. As a matter of fact, an attempt at this had been going on for the last 25 years, and when one looks at the analytical study that he has done during the various periods, one wonders at the depth of imagination that is his. Maulana Masoodi, the erudite leader of Kashmir aptly remarked once that even if a committee of experts were formed to do this sort of work on the Quran that Vinoba has done, it would take them years.
The arrangement of the book
Vinoba has selected 1065 verses under 90 chapters, 30 sections and 9 parts. These constitute one sixth of the whole Quran, which contains 6666 verses in all. It is noteworthy how he marked the verses and arranged them subject-wise under different heads. Having done this, he thought of a suitable title for the book now known as the ‘Essence of the Quran.’ In a letter to Ahad Fatmi, the editor of the ‘Bhoodan Tehrik’ he writes, “This book will be helpful in presenting before the world the essential spiritual teachings of the Quran.”
The sequence of chapters in this book corresponds to the first five verses of the second chapter of the Quran. For easy reference Vinoba has in his own way, compiled a Sanskrit verse which reads:
आरम्भे तदनुध्यानम् भक्त्या भक्तैर्निषेवितम् ।
धर्मनीति मनुष्याणाम प्रेषितैर्गूढशोधनम् ।।
“In the beginning, O God, I adore Thee alone, Whom, with all devotion, the devotees serve, Who showeth the path of spirituality and morality to mankind and who enableth the seers and Apostles to explore His mysteries.”
This book could be published like the ‘Dhammapada’ which Vinoba has rearranged and edited. But there were difficulties. Who will read the original in Arabic and the edited notes in Marathi? Who will translate it from Arabic to Marathi? Vinoba could do it, but he had hardly any time to spare. Once, when he was requested by his close associates to give his interpretations of the Rgveda which he had been studying for the last 36 years, he replied in his characteristic way: “Take upon yourself to get me ‘Gram-Swaraj’ – in India and get from me the book of your choice on.” All efforts at getting from him Marathi translation of the ‘Essence of the Quran’ having failed, it was decided that the English version of the Quran by M. Pickthall be considered authoritative in that language and the rendering in English of the original matter in Marathi by Vinoba be undertaken by experts in English and Marathi. Help was extended by friends and the ‘Essence of the Quran’ took a book form. Rendering in Urdu was also done in the same way and all of these have now become the basis for translations into other languages.
Lectures on the Quran
The discussions that took place at times with his associates during the days Vinoba was making the selections, could have served as useful explanations of the ‘Essence’ had notes been kept by someone. But how could that be possible when persons competent to do it were not allowed to stay longer with him and were allotted some work or other by him. It goes against the spirit of non-accumulation, he says to let workers gather round him when they could be better employed to do useful work of serving humanity in different fields of work elsewhere. Suggestions from friends came requesting him to write a suitable preface to the ‘Essence of the Quran,’ but he could give the bare 17 lines merely stating that the object behind the book is “the union of hearts.”
We have plenty of material, indeed, in his speeches in which he has quoted verses from the Quran and given his interpretations. His translation of two chapters of the Quran in Marathi is well-known. He has often spoken elaborately during his Bhoodan March on “We are not two, but three, and the third is very great.” In ‘Bhoodan-Ganga,’ one comes across the exhaustive exposition of his many references from the Quran. In his book entitled ‘Rama-nama: a study’ he has given an elaborate interpretation of “the Shirk” condemned in the Quran. One gets a clear view of his broad vision and synthetic approach from one of his lectures at Indore when the theme of his talk was: ‘Do not bow to the sun, but to the Maker of the sun.’ In several meetings he has referred to Ilmulyakeen and Ainulyakeen (True Knowledge and True Revelation) and reference to the verse meaning ‘your work is to spread the message and mine is to take account’ has not been less frequent. His lecture ‘Remind one another of truth, patience and mercy’ is very famous. Several of his speeches in Kashmir are based on the Quran, but those which draw out attention specially are: ‘Teachings of the Quran’, ‘Principles of Religion’, Whom does God help?’ and the ‘Recitation of the Quran.’ He touches the very core of religious books and gives interpretations which, though unorthodox and novel, bring out their true meaning.
Some chapters in the ‘Essence’
Vinoba has selected several verses dealing with the subject of ‘Life after Death’. There are many who believe that Heaven and Hell are only terms for putting the children or unsophisticated people on the right path. But Vinoba believes them to be facts, as real as our life on this planet. This is why he included this subject in his book. He has made a lucid commentary on it in his ‘Geetai Chintanika’, his unique notes on the Gita. The belief is expressed in the Quran that ‘heaven’ and ‘hell’ are states of being after death. Vinoba shares this belief, but if someone suggests that we can make heaven or hell of our life here, Vinoba does not dispute it. Even otherwise, there can be conditions on this earth similar to those in heaven and hell. But he entertains no doubt that these express the condition after death.
Vinoba has given a prominent place to five great vows in his ‘Essence’. Himself being an advocate of sharing life together throughout the world he has naturally given an important place to the subject of ‘Charity’ and has taken several extracts from the Quran on the point. The Holy Book prohibits ‘interest’ and all important verses referring to it have found due place in the book. Vinoba himself is against ‘interest’ in all its forms, but believes that to put this principle into practice, it is necessary to change the social structure. The society which Vinoba endeavours to establish through Gramdan will be so constituted that there will be no place for ‘interest’ in it. Some people advance various arguments compromising Quran’s stand on that issue, but the Quran has declared all forms of interest, as irreligious.
Peace and Refuge in God
It so happens sometimes, that only a portion of the verse relevant to the subject has to be selected and not the whole of it. Some orthodox Muslims, however, do not relish it. When this was brought to the notice of Vinoba, he said, “Look here, Islam means ‘Peace and Refuge in God.’ Whoever possesses this, is a Muslim.” This is the touchstone. How endearing this Tableegh (Spreading the Word of God) Is! In today’s world, to strive for peace should be the life-mission of all men and women and Vinoba feels that seeking refuge in God and His mercy is the royal road to peace. It is the experiences in his life, he would say, that make him earnestly feel it.
It is impossible to give a complete list of the books that Vinoba has read on the Quran because we were not able to get any information from him on this regard. The books that he has returned after reading to their respective owners also cannot be known: we can find out only those which were issued to him from the Ashram library. We are, however, in a position to tell the readers about those books only, which were referred at the time of finalising this selection from the Quran. They are as follows:
Reference Book—English—‘Concordance of Quran’ published by Christian Mission, Benaras.
Reference Book—Urdu—‘Lagatul Quran’ published by Nadvatul Mussannafeen, Jama Masjid, Delhi.
English translations and Explanations:
(1)Palmer, (2) M. Pickthall, (3) Yusul Ali, and (4) Maulvi Sher Ali.
Urdu translations and Explanations:
1—‘Quran Majeed’— Hazrat Shaikhul Hind Maulana Mohommad Hasan and Hazrat Maulana Shabeer Ahmad Osmani (Devabandi)
2—‘Quranul Hakeen’— Shah Rafiuddin Saheb Dehalvi and Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi
3—‘Tafseeri Sageeri’— Hazarat Mirza Basheeruddin Ahmad Saheb, Imam Jameete Ahmadia
4—‘Hamail Shareef’— Shamasululema Maulvi Hafiz Nazeer Ahmad Khan Saheb.
[i] An important place of pilgrimage for Muslims
Part I. The Book Introduced
II. The glory of the Book
(2) The light of the Book
(3) Nature of the Book
(4) The prescribed way of (the recital of) the Book
Part II. God
III. Oneness of God
(5) Unity of God
(6) Negation of Polytheism
IV. God as Gnosis
(7) God is Light
(8) The Omniscient
V. Merciful God
(9) The Merciful
(10) Gifts of God
VI. The Creator
(11) Creator of the Universe
(12) Beauty manifest in God’s Creation
(13) Signs of God
VII. The Omnipotent
(14) The Powerful
(15) Master of Supreme Will
(16) Inexpressibly Great
VIII. Remembrance of God
(17) Rosary Remembrance
Part III. Devotion
(20) An Exhortation for prayer
(21) Worship of God by the Whole creation
(23) Sacrifice and Dedication
(24) Test and Assurance
XI. Company of the Righteous
(26) Company of the Righteous
(27) The cognition of Manifested existence as Transient
Part IV. The Devotee and the Unbeliever
XIV. Characteristics of the Devotee
(29) Aspects of the Devotee
(30) One who offers incessant prayers
(31) Man of Conviction
(34) Blessings to the Devotee
XV. Characteristics of the unbelievers
(36) Contrary Minds
(37) Futile activities of the infidel
(38) The Path of perdition
Part V. Religious Faith
XVI. Religious Faith
(39) Religious Principles
(40) Religious Tolerance
(41) Rites and Rituals
Part VI. Moral Disciplines
(42) Discrimination between the real and the unreal
XVIII. Purification of the Speech
(43) The Truthful
(44) Graceful Speech
(47) Mercy better than justice
(48) Creed of Non-violence
(49) Sense of Togetherness
(50) Non-cooperation with evil
(51) Inescapable resistance
XX. Control over the Plate
(52) Abstemious ways
XXII. An honest Livelihood
(55) The non-acquisitive way
XXIII. Ethical teaching
(57) Power of goodness
(58) Moral Advice
XXIV. Good Conduct
(59) Good Conduct
Part VII. Man and his Nature
(60) Man’s Uniqueness
(61) Weakness of Man
(62) Proclivity to evil
(64) The Believer and the Unbeliever
Part VIII. The Apostle
XXVI. The Apostle
(65) Apostles for the good of all
(66) Apostles are human being
(67) Their Uniqueness
(68) Gain from the stories of the apostles
(72) Jesus Christ
(73) Prophets not specified
XXVII. Prophet Mohammad
(74) The revelation of Mohammad
(75) God’s guidance to Mohammad
(76) Testament through Mohammad
(77) Wealth of virtues
(78) Apostolical Mission
(79) Ask for God’s blessing for His prophet
Part IX. Initiation in the Mysteries
XXVIII. Philosophy: The World, The Individual and the Inner Sanctuary of the Soul
(81) The Sentient Being
(82) The Inner Ruler
XXIX. Law of Causation
(83) Fundamental belief in law of causation
(84) Law of Cause and Effect inescapable
(85) The effect of action does not cease even after death
XXX. Life after death
(86) Resurrection is inevitable
(87) The Last Day
(88) Heaven, Hell, etc
(89) Prayer for the peace of the soul
(90) God’s Grace
ESSENCE OF THE QURAN
بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ .1
2. الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ
3. الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
4. مَالِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ
5. إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ
6. اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ
7. صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ غَيْرِ الْمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا الضَّالِّينَ
· *In Praise of God
|1|In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate
|2|Praise belongs to God, the Lord of all Being,
|3|the All-merciful, the All-compassionate,
|4|the Master of the Day of Doom.
|5|Thee only we serve; to Thee alone we pray for succour.
|6|Guide us in the straight path,
|7|the path of those whom Thou hast blessed, not of those against whom Thou art wrathful, nor of those who are astray.
II. THE GLORY OF THE BOOK
2. The Light of the Book
*2. The Book meant for the Faithful
1|Alif Lam Mim
|2|That is the Book, wherein is no doubt, a guidance to the god-fearing
|3|who believe in the Unseen, and perform the prayer, and expend of that We have provided them;
|4|who believe in what has been sent down to thee and what has been sent down before thee, and have faith in the Hereafter;
|5|those are upon guidance from their Lord, those are the ones who prosper.
*3. Revelation- Basic and Allegorical
1. It is He who sent down upon thee the Book, wherein are verses clear that are the Essence of the Book, and others ambiguous. As for those in whose hearts is swerving, they follow the ambiguous part, desiring dissension, and desiring its interpretation; and none knows its interpretation, save only God. And those firmly rooted in knowledge say, 'We believe in it; all is from our Lord'; yet none remembers, but men possessed of minds.
*4. Understand The Essence of Teaching
Who give ear to the Word and follow the fairest of it. Those are they whom God has guided; those -- they are men possessed of minds.
5. Open Admonishment
1. No indeed; it is a Reminder
2. (and whoso wills, shall remember it)
6. The Scripture Be proclaimed to Mankind And not Hidden
1. 'You shall make it clear unto the people, and not conceal it.'
3. Nature of the Book
*7. The Book in The Mother Tongue
1. If We had made it a barbarous Koran, they would have said, 'Why are its signs not distinguished? What, barbarous and Arabic?' Say: 'To the believers it is a guidance, and a healing; but those who believe not, in their ears is a heaviness, and to them it is a blindness; those -- they are called from a far place.'
8. Simple Is The Word of God
1. Now We have made the Koran easy for Remembrance. Is there any that will remember?
9. It is a Revelation, Not just Poetry
1. No! I swear by that you see
2. and by that you do not see,
3. it is the speech of a noble Messenger.
4. It is not the speech of a poet (little do you believe)
5. nor the speech of a soothsayer (little do you remember).
6. A sending down from the Lord of all Being.
10. It Brings Solace to The Heart
1. God has sent down the fairest discourse as a Book, consimilar in its oft-repeated, whereat shiver the skins of those who fear their Lord; then their skins and their hearts soften to the remembrance of God. That is God's guidance, whereby. He guides whomsoever He will; and whomsoever God leads astray, no guide has he.
11.The Off –repeated Seven(verses)i.e. Al Fatiha
1.We shall strip away all rancour that is in their breasts; as brothers they shall be upon couches set face to face;
The Prescribed Way Of (The Recital Of) The Book
12.Be Purified (before you Touch The Book)
2.none but the purified shall touch,
When thou recitest the Koran, seek refuge in God from the accursed Satan;