- “Will they not, then, ponder over this Qur’an? - or are their hearts sealed”? (Al-Qur’an 47: 24).
- “The petal of a flower may pierce through the heart of a rock – but the Noble Word has no effect on the ignorant.” – Muhammad Iqbal, bale jibrail, preamble
By Muhammad Yunus, New Age Islam
Co-author (Jointly with Ashfaque Ullah Syed), Essential Message of Islam, Amana Publications, USA, 2009
This is not to suggest, let alone advocate any direct incorporation of the injunctions of the Qur’an in statecraft, or to politicise the Qur’an in any manner, as that will enable political bodies of diverse orientations to legitimize their respective ideologies and aspirations by interpreting the Qur’an expediently or by venerating their own ideologies on the strength of the Qur’an. The object of this exercise is to inspire the believers to study this eternal book of guidance as it should be studied (2:121), seeking the best meaning in it (39:18/55). This is a pressing need of the day in order to deliver the hearts and minds of the Muslim umma from the domination of historically evolved theological discourses – which though glorious for their era, stand out this day as restrictive, divisive, exclusive, intellectually foreclosing and atavistic.
On the Day of Reckoning, each individual person will be handed the record of his/her deeds (17:71, 84:7-11, 99:6/7), to be benchmarked against the divine guidance/imperatives as perfected in the Qur’an (5:3). Therefore, it is imperative for each person who believes in the divinity of the Qur’an to seek its guidance as he/she solicits in each cycle of the daily prayer by pleading to God – ‘ihdinas sirat al mustaqim.’
As for those opinionated readers and self-acclaimed intellectuals – Muslims and non-Muslims alike, sceptical of the very notion of sourcing a fourteen centuries old book – divine or otherwise for guidance, the following quotation from Kenneth Cragg, a distinguished contemporary scholar of Islamic and Christian studies should suffice to evoke interest .
“What happens in the Qur’an is deeply related to the travail of our time, and we need the Qur’anic word in the face of it. This would be true, of course, if only for the reason that multitudes of mankind, to be guided or persuaded about modernity at all, will need to be guided and persuaded Qur’anically.....Even where secularism has gone far among them or irreligion presses, their judgments and their sanity, their priorities and their ideals, will always be in large measure within the mind of the Qur’an.”
The aloofness of the educated Muslims from the Qur’an
It is no secret that the young students, fashionable and educated youth, housewives, academicians, professionals of all categories, and the intellectual elite among the Muslims have virtually no time, nor any curiosity to probe the fundamentals of their religion. As its Arab audience turned away from the Qur’an in dread - like frightened donkeys fleeing a lion (74:49-51), the Muslims, by and large, turn away from it in awe and reverence or apathy if not antipathy. Some of them do read, recite and even memorize the Qur’an – partly or even wholly, to please God, to experience the transcendent, and to seek peace and solace. However, they seldom make any effort to study it to comprehend its message. They do not read it as it should be read to their own loss (2:121). Consciously or subconsciously they go by the tradition that “one who discusses about the Book of God, (the Qur'an) makes a mistake, even if he is correct .
The Qur’an brought about the greatest social, political and intellectual revolution in human history.
The advent of the Qur’an – the divine speech descending upon humanity in the seventh century Arabia, created a sudden turbulence in human history, the ripple of which was soon to sweep the world. Within less than a hundred years of its inauguration, its dynamic spirit and liberating paradigms led to the establishment of the greatest civilization of the era that spanned almost the entire expanse of the political map of the era from East to West (Spain to China) and saw remarkable advancement in diverse fields of knowledge. Its veneration of hikmah (universal wisdom) inspired its scholars to preserve the works of Greco-Roman philosophers through a massive translation drive leading to the flowering of Islamic philosophical heritage (e.g works left by al-Ghazali, Ibn Rush, Ibn ‘Arabi, Rumi, Sa‘di, for example). Its emphasis on universal knowledge (‘ilm) led to a phenomenal advancement in practically all fields of universal sciences - mathematics, physics, chemistry, botany, astronomy, medicine, metallurgy, and manufacturing technology (paper, textile etc.). Its patronization of scholars attracted the intellectually gifted regardless of religion to its centre (Baghdad) and many to its fold from the farthest regions of the then world. Its respect and tolerance of non-Muslims, liberating social paradigms and exemption from restrictive taboos, theological speculations and scholasticism won innumerable coverts, constantly feeding the faith with fresh blood and intellect. Its exhortations to use reason (‘aql), to cogitate and think rationally (fiqh) and emphasis on justice led to phenomenal advancements in the field of jurisprudence. Its empowerment of women found them pursuing the highest levels of knowledge and rising to the position of jurists and scholars who taught mixed batches of students and bestowed academic credentials on them regardless of gender. These achievements in diverse fields found their way into Europe by way of translation of their works, first into Latin, and later into European languages, and served as the taproot of post Renaissance advancement in Europe.
The foregoing is no window dressing, nor mere tall talk. Some of the outstanding scholars of the Christian West acknowledge the extraordinary contributions of Islam to humanity by praising in superlatives the faith or its founder, Muhammad (Pbuh) – whom they however decline to acknowledge as God’s Messenger:
Michael Harts ranked Prophet Muhammad as No. 1 among 100 great men of history. .
Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), in one of his famous lectures on heroes among the Prophets declares: “A poor shepherd people, roaming unnoticed in its deserts since the creation of the world: a Hero-Prophet was sent down to them with a word they could believe ... as if a spark had fallen, one spark, on a world of what seemed black unnoticeable sand; but lo, the sand proves explosive powder, blazes heaven-high from Delhi to Grenada! I said, the Great Man was always as lightning out of Heaven; the rest of men waited for him like fuel, and then they too would flame.” 
Alphonse de LaMartaine (1790-1869) while recounting the remarkable rise of Arabs declares: “As regards all the standards by which human greatness may be measured, we may well ask IS THE RE ANY MAN GREATER THAN HE (Mohammed)?” .
Robert Briffault (1867-1948) states: “Science is the most momentous contribution of Arab [Muslim] civilization to the modern world; but its fruits were slow in ripening. Not until long after Moorish Islamic] culture had sunk back into darkness did the giant to which it had given birth, rise to its might” .
Jonathan Bloom and Sheila Blair (the husband wife team, jointly appointed to the Norma Jean Calderwood University Professorship in Islamic and Asian Art), declare: “Islam, which is only half a dozen centuries younger than Christianity, created a long and brilliant civilization, which is responsible for much of the way we are today. … When a few medieval monks were desperately trying to preserve what little they knew of Greco-Roman civilization, academies and universities flourished in the splendid cities of the Muslim lands” .
Count Leon Ostrorog declares: “The Eastern thinkers of the ninth century laid down on the basis of their theology, the principle of the Rights of Man, ....of which the humane and chivalrous prescriptions would have put to blush certain belligerents in the Great War; expounded a doctrine of toleration of non-Muslim creeds so liberal that our West had to wait a thousand years before seeing equivalent principles adopted.” 
The pre-eminence of the quoted scholars and the diversity of their backgrounds and regions sufficiently demonstrate the positively remarkable, rather, benevolently revolutionary role of Islam on world history. This raises the obvious question: what was it in Islam that fuelled its prodigal role. The answer is obvious. Islam drew its moral code and inspiration singularly from the Qur’an, whose sole mission was to guide humanity – “to bring it out of darkness (of jahiliyyah/ignorance) into light (of enlightenment)” (2:257, 14:1, 57:9) under the ambit of pure monotheism. Thus there can be no doubt that it is the revolutionary tenets of the Qur’an – its moral imperatives and liberating spirit, its universalism and pluralism, its call to human intellect that fed its uniquely and remarkably positive role in history.
The grievous fallout of the detachment of the Muslims from the Qur’an
As the Islamic civilization was taking long strides of advancement, its orthodox theologians and ulema were striving unceasingly to freeze it at their era, in direct contradiction to the letter and spirit of the Qur’an. Thus, they set aside the guidance of the Qur’an and venerated theological discourses –notably the Hadith and the classical Islamic law as the necessary and sufficient vehicles for understanding and implementing the Qur’anic message. These were the ahl al Hadith - the orthodoxy. They advocated that all that had to be learnt had already been learnt during the Prophet’s time, and was contained in the Qur’an and the Prophet’s normative ways (Sunnah), and the posterity was expected to simply imitate them . This resulted in stagnancy of knowledge, abhorrence against any scientific advancement, and division of universal knowledge into Islamic and European categories  – the former foreclosed for all time and the latter growing exponentially. Their retrogressive views were opposed by the rationalist theologians of the era – the ahl al kalam, who advocated pursuit of knowledge in all fields, and promoted material prosperity within the framework of the Qur'an. However, the orthodoxy prevailed and intellectual activity in Islam came to a virtual halt. This happened around the end of the fourth century of Islam, marked the beginning of the decline of Islamic civilization, and set this faith and its followers on a path of decline.
Following continued decline for almost a millennium through to the present era, punctuated by occasional upsurge in broad historical timeframe, the Muslims have fallen into the lowest depths of a pit of failure. Any comparative assessment of the deprivations, sufferings and injustices faced by the diverse confessional communities at this juncture of history will single out the Muslims as the most deprived, devastated and uprooted community, and the biggest victims of human rights violations. From domestic violence against their own womenfolk to internecine conflicts, sectarian violence, terrorism, just and unjust wars, forced confinement in war zones and collective punishment in the name of sanctions, to the psychological trauma of Islamophobia and trivialization and marginalization in the pre-dominantly non-Muslim countries, the Muslims have the greatest share of sufferings and humiliation in the present day world. Likewise, any comparative analysis of achievements in the diverse lawful pursuits and arenas of life (professional fields, academy, bureaucracy, sports, art and culture for example) will find the Muslims as the poorest and obscurest performer.
Thus, in broad historical perspective it was the revolutionary social and intellectual paradigms of the Qur’an that took the Muslims to the zenith of their civilization in less than a hundred years of its advent and enabled them to lead the world for the next four to five hundred years, and it was their gradual detachment from the Qur’an that led to their stagnation, decay and downfall in the ensuing centuries.
Thus, the cost of detachment from the Qur’an has been extremely high and the Muslims continue to bear it, as their detachment is only exacerbating with time. This essay is just a reminder and warning and a challenge to the Muslim intellect.
1. Kenneth Cragg, The Event of the Qur’an, Oneworld Publications, Rockport, USA 1974, p. 22/23.
2. Sanan Abu Daud, Urdu translation by Wahiduz Zaman, Vol.3, Acc. 253, p. 118.
3. Michael H. Hart, The 100. A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History, Hart Publishing Company Inc New York, USA 1978, p. 33.
6. Making of Humanity, p. 202, Extracted from Muhammad Iqbal’s Reconstruction of Islamic thoughts, 6th reprint, New Delhi 1998, p. 130.
7. Jonathan Bloom and Sheila Blair, Islam, Empire of Faith, BBC Series, UK 2001, p. 11.
8. Asaf A.A. Fyzee, Outlines of Mohammedan Law, 5th Edition, New Delhi 2005, p. 53/54.
9. Abul Kalam Azad, Tarjuman al-Qur’an, 1931; reprint New Delhi 1989, Vol.1. p. 42,43.
10. Jamal Afghani, extracted from John L.Esposito’s, Islam in Transition, New York 1982, p. 18.
Muhammad Yunus, a Chemical Engineering graduate from Indian Institute of Technology, and a retired corporate executive has been engaged in an in-depth study of the Qur’an since early 90’s, focusing on its core message. He has co-authored the referred exegetic work, which received the approval of al-Azhar al-Sharif, Cairo in 2002, and following restructuring and refinement was endorsed and authenticated by Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl of UCLA, and published by Amana Publications, Maryland, USA, 2009.
Your closure report
accepted. I pray to Allah that these ideas do not haunt you till you mount your
pyre (a word which I seem to know for you), and you continue to enjoy the best
of ‘ghoos’ in this mother’s land (this last portion added because today was my
day of ‘ghoos giving’ in the land registry office to buy a piece of this venerated
to write short, let me say I liked the write-up. I actually liked it in general
with some comments that I have to make. I liked the comments of other
commentators, especially that of Mr. Naseer Ahmed. In Mr. Ahmed's writing I
found the reference of no miracle power of Prophet Muhammed (Peace be upon him)
somewhat insufficiently discussed and would have liked to know more about the
beliefs of many Muslims about 'the division of Moon' miracle, flight to
liked the point “expect nasty things to happen you in life for your mistakes
or even as a random or chance phenomenon. Do not then ask "why did this
happen to me? What wrong did I do". It had happened according to the laws
of God which are designed for the benefit of mankind and you just got into the
wrong way with these laws and hurt yourself. Patience under trying conditions
is the litmus test of your faith in God and God appreciates and rewards both
patience and gratitude".
in the original write-up, I appreciate that all those writers’ comments have
been put up and I think, this should be done on more regular basis, something
like remembering and then reminding the world on daily basis and not shying
away from getting repetitious. However as a concluding remarks of it "and it was their
gradual detachment from the Qur’an that led to their stagnation, decay and
downfall in the ensuing centuries", I sense a feeling of loss and sadness,
which shouldn’t have been there.
the author sees the glass as half empty, I still see the glass half full. Islam
has been the way of life of millions and millions of people for well over
thousand years and most likely it is going to be this way for another thousand
years or till the world falls apart (by nuclear or biological or climatic
reason). I have time and again maintained that we need to identify what exactly
are those parameters which determine whether Muslims are on Islam or not?
Muslims do not need political power to be on Islam. 52 countries and area
coverage from this end to that end and followers strength of second most
populous religious group is not what I am talking about. It is also not about
scientific discoveries and noble prizes or patents they can claim of that
defines the glow of Islam’s success. It is about how much comfortable life
could be with Islam. People die and you know that his/her day was fixed for that
and he/she has gone where he/she was supposed to go one or the other day. You
feel it normal and you do not kill yourself for that.
are not supposed to get desperate for things not happening to them as they
expected. Not being able to give birth, or not getting married or failing in
exams or being unsuccessful in business is not what should sadden a Muslim. It
is all predestined. Of course with wisdom and effort things could have been
different but wisdom and effort too comes predestined to the chosen ones. The
chosen one not always chose the destiny; sometimes destiny too chooses the
chosen one. It is both ways. Predestination is an important concept with
Muslims but used only to give heart to those who have suffered some losses in
the worldly sense of things.
rate of failure of marriages, the rate of suicide, the rate of criminality, the
measure of uncleanliness is what should be the parameter to determine how well
or worse Muslims are doing or by not properly being on Islam. Domestic
violence, cheating and corruption, litigations, the rates of their occurrence
could be determinants to say about the usability of Islam. And to be fair,
Muslims aren’t doing that bad. Some will say, they aren’t doing that bad,
because they have found oil, some will say they are indeed doing bad showcasing
Jahil Talibans or other Jahils or may point out one in millions who chooses to
take to terrorism even after having an option otherwise and coming from well
off background and academics.
they do not have democracy, as said by Mr. Ghulam Mohiyuddin Sir, “separation of
church and state, freedom of speech, tolerance and respect for the religions of
others, socialism, conflict resolution strategies, the evolution theory,
abolition of cruel and unusual punishments etc”, none of that is on the
basis of Islam and Quran but on traditions they either had or the traditions
they never had.
me single out ‘tolerance and respect for the religions of others’, because
Quran has explicitly said otherwise of what is being practiced by some
community within Muslims but by and large Muslims have been able to live
amicably in India and US and in other countries with communities other than
Muslims, and this is an example that they are living peacefully with others. It
is only amongst them that they fight as displayed by countries like Pakistan. But Pakistan
has too much of non-Muslim psyche, to be called temperamentally Muslim. If you
interact with ordinary people from Middle East, they are rather simple and very
non-violent. Same non-Muslim psyche is displayed in Indian Muslims as well
where they do not fight among themselves as they would have had, had India been
Muslim majority country. In India their controlled infighting might be
attributed to the presence of Non-Muslims seen as looking for every opportunity
to let Muslims fight among themselves, but the real reason is that in India
there still is very less penetration of radical Wahabism compared to Pakistan
and people can still get away with grave worshipping along with their
Non-Muslim co-citizens. In Pakistan, the same grave-worshipping kinds are now
face to face with radicals Wahabists.
grave worshippers are of opinion that ever since Saud family took over, some
200 years back, the problem of institutionalized ritualism and aggression
surfaced. Same thing happened somewhat in the times of Aurangzeb but since his
legacy could not continue as it did in Saudi Arabia for Sauds, things did not
take that explosive shape. The problem compounded when Saud got hold of riches
underneath their sand. And perhaps the problem will compound a third degree if
all that riches is used to radicalize the population of South Asians. Pakistan
is already half way done, and India has already opened up to the idea of
violent Islam. What could not happen even by Aurangzeb sitting within India,
Sauds would be able to export from outside with the help of developed
aviations, trade and commerce and expatriates working for them.
fact it is yet to be seen how the inception of internet going to challenge or
help Islam in spreading the Jihadi literature or curbing it by increasing more
awareness about essence of Islam.
world waits to see the outcome of this miracle. Will it increase nudity and
shamelessness or will it increase the knowledge of Islam in the world is that
something which time would tell. But most likely it will increase both and
future generations will be exposed to both these and will make their choice
depending on their predestined state of mind and their own choice of their
As for Mr.
Muhammad Yunus Sir’s assertion : “the orthodoxy prevailed and intellectual
activity in Islam came to a virtual halt. This happened around the end of the
fourth century of Islam, marked (marking) the beginning of the decline of
Islamic civilization, and set this faith and its followers on a path of
decline”, the moot point is what exactly Muslims intellectuals are doing now to
revive and reconstruct the progressive Islamic thoughts. More importantly what do they
feel about how they are positioned? Are they confident of being able to do
their job or have they already lost the battle?
have a reason to believe that situation will improve even when suicide bombings
too will increase. The reason is that Muslims who got stuck up those many
centuries ago received success from their earlier generation and they were
complacent and lethargic. Intellectual lethargy is what I am coming to. They
knew the magic formula of success and they just did not want to play with that
anymore. And it is quite normal thing to do. When you get good grades, when you
keep winning, why would you like to change time-table or winning combination?
But what they didn’t know was that this magic works well for first timers. It
works well for those who are ready to experiment. It works well till it doesn’t
work anymore for them. Finally, they were predestined to slip into complacency
because they felt they knew too much of their time. While they chose to freeze
their knowledge and tune up their arrogance, they didn’t realize that destiny
too was choosing them and their oncoming generations for a severe test- the
test of reaction on being mocked.
from where Muslims are, if Muslims are destined to see more and more of them
getting drawn into terrorism and conspiracy theories, no one can stop them from
getting more into bad shape. But if a Muslim choses his/her destiny to not get
embroiled in mudslinging/ war-mongering, then nobody, not even destiny can
force them to nurse pessimism. Remember, Khudi ko kar buland itna…?
Khudi doesn’t get buland after repeated efforts as Taqdeer prevails over it,
even then why should one cry over it. What is the response that Islam teaches
for such a situation? At worse, be stoic and keep patience, at best, be happy
that the drama of this world is at its closure and we are soon to crawl (or
fly) to our meet our Lord. Islam has at least survived enough to teach what
reaction should be in such a case.
before things ends, Muslims must give a try to change the world. They should be
the change that they wanted to see in the world. Throw away both the manhoos
baby and the bath water, throw away everything but not before making radical
changes in your personal life style where one feels to be meeting the criteria
of Islam. In due course one would find others too who are doing similar thing
and are on same path. One andha and one kodhi, and they will then make up a
nice Jodi. But the underlying idea is to never fear of getting isolated as long
as one fears God and pays the people who work for them before their sweats
dries. Jiska koi nahin uska to Kuda hai yaaron. Open up your own Fatwa factory
but for yourself only if you are knowledgeable enough, and if you are not, then
deny of even any knowledge of any Fatwa from anyone.
@Sadaf. Please read my just
posted comment to Asif Merchant. You seem to be barking at the wrong tree as I
have been barking for a long time. May I suggest that you read my following article,
which may allay your frustration at the militant religiosity of fellow Muslims
who are least bothered about what the Qur’an says. They, like the pre-Islamic Arabs,
turn away from it like frightened donkeys fleeing a lion (74:49-51) and have
turned Naikis and Ladinis....
The Muslims’ ignorance /disregard of the
Qur’anic guidance and its Colossal and Recurring Cost.
Excellent article by Mohammad Yunus Sb. He has rightly concluded, "This essay is just a reminder and warning and a challenge to the Muslim intellect".
He is absolutely logical and sounds practical in his assessment and analysis of the topic, but most of the time I am in abysmal dismay when I see people blaming ULEMA for every action, deviation, stagnation, etc.
Why don't we respect individualism and inculcate a habit of developing religious understanding and provide motivation among our near and dear ones? We must take over this challenging task.