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Mahirul Qadri Laments the Loneliness of the Qur’an
He was a good man, Mahirul Qadri. He feared and loved God in Heaven and dedicated his life to serving and helping God’s creation right here on earth. May Allah give him a place of honor in Paradise!
He was a scholar of Islam and a poet who used his knowledge and his power of expression to sing the glory of Allah and to highlight the beautiful message of Islam and the Qur’an.
One of his most powerful poems was what he called Qur’an ki Faryaad – or Complaint of the Qur’an – which is my quick translation of course.
I read and heard it as a child and its words and ideas so seared my mind that I never lost its memory. Then more recently I asked a friend of mine – a good and God-fearing man – to find a copy of it for me, which he most kindly and graciously did.
Here is a rough rendering in my own very flawed and limited English of some the key ideas of this most beautiful poem in the most beautiful Urdu language:
Now they put me on the shelf,
And now they place me on their eyes.
Now they turn me into a talisman,
And now they wash my script
And drink the water as a potion.
The way some people teach their parrots
To utter some empty words,
That is the way they teach me these days,
That is the way I am learned.
When disputes break out,
And when arguments heat up,
And when it is time for taking oaths,
That is when they need me most,
And that is when they reach for me.
Hearts have lost their fire,
And tears turned to vapor,
And yet my chanting never stops
Whenever people have a chance to gather.
What festivity can there ever be without me?
Or what celebration where I am not an honored guest?
And yet how sad and lonely is my life,
And how little known or understood is my pain!
That is my rough – very rough – translation of some parts of Mahir Saheb’s poem on the plight of the Qur’an, as they would say in India. But I don’t think the late poet would have understood the idea of entire generations of Muslims transliterating the Qur’an in a foreign language such as English or Tamil and then pretending to read it in its original Arabic text.
That would have been too much of an outrage for him.
That is why we have to hold these national, regional and local Qur’an literacy camps to teach Muslims how to read the Qur’an using the original Arabic language and script. It seems to me that is where we have to start.
For Muslims of All Stripes, a Personal Checklist
We don’t have any hard data, but it is my guess that in today’s world not too many Muslims read the Qur’an with any regularity or sustained commitment. I am not even sure that reading the Qur’an regularly on a daily basis is a priority among Muslims any more.
If this is true, it would mean that Muslims are by and large physically cut off from the Qur’an. That alone is enough for Muslims to incur all kinds of divine wrath and punishment on themselves and their communities and societies.
I also suspect that still fewer people among us know how to read the Qur’an correctly and with proper and accurate pronunciation of the sounds and the letters. It is anybody’s guess what the divine punishment would be for distorting the words, sound and meaning of Allah’s word.
But maybe we can all do something practical to remedy this situation. Let every one of us take personal stock of what we are doing with regard to the Qur’an and then start to set the situation right.
Here is a personal checklist for Muslims of all stripes, regardless of where they may be living and what Muslim or Islamic organizations they may be a part of or affiliated to, and irrespective of their ‘Aqeedha or Madh-hab or something else.
Let each one of us ask and answer the following questions for himself or herself and then depending on the answer start turning to the Qur’an a bit more than we may have been doing till now:
a) Do I, or do I not, know how to read the Qur’an in the original Arabic text?
b) How correctly do I read the Qur’an when I read it?
c) How proper and accurate is my pronunciation and enunciation of the sounds and syllables of the Qur’an?
d) What is the degree and level of my ease and fluency in reading the Qur’an?
e) How frequently do I read the Qur’an – is it every day, week, month or what?
f) What is the amount of time I spend in reading the Qur’an – five minutes, 10 minutes, or more, or less?
g) How much text do I read every time I read the Qur’an – 10 Aayats, more, less, or what?
h) How much of what I read of the Qur’an am I able to understand?
i) How much time and effort do I spend in looking up the meaning of what I read?
j) How much do I reflect upon the significance and implications of what I read?
k) How seriously do I ever think about the practical application of what I read?
l) How seriously do I reflect on ways to implement the teachings of the Qur’an in my own personal life and in my community and society?
m) What daily or weekly or monthly efforts do I make to invite others to read the Qur’an?
n) In general, what steps have I taken to take the Qur’an to every home and heart that needs it?
If every one of us takes stock of our own personal situation in the light of the above questions and takes immediate steps to read, understand and practice the Qur’an more, we will be able turn the clock back on the decline and decay of Muslim life, communities and societies everywhere.
To be able to do that successfully, Muslims will have to move away from their tendency to listen to speeches for long hours and, instead, pick up a copy of the Qur’an or the Reader and start reading.
That means Muslims will have to re-discover, re-learn, re-absorb and re-integrate in their own personal, family and social lives the culture of reading that the Qur’an came to teach the entire world.
And that also means that Muslim families, communities and societies everywhere will have to be transformed, redirected, reshaped and re-energized in a way that will make learning, reading and education their dominant values, guiding principles and distinguishing features and characteristics.
Muslims: Masses and Leaders
It is a millennium and a half – 1400 years plus – since the Qur’an arrived in our midst bearing the clarion and unmistakable message of universal human and animal rights. Fourteen long centuries have rolled by since then.
The Muslim nation or people – or Ummah, as the Qur’an refers to the timeless and space-independent agglomerate of believers in one God, in the Day of Judgment and in Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam – has become somewhat decrepit by old age.
Its back is bent a bit. Its bones creak; its joints ache; and its feet shuffle and drag awkwardly. Its vision has become a bit blurred and its memory is not what it used to be. What old age could not break has been beaten out of it by all kinds of tyrants and despots – Muslim as well as non-Muslim – over its long, checkered and challenging history.
Over time, Muslim masses have acquired a sense of helplessness, laziness and inadequacy that the Qur’an came to set humanity free from. And Muslim leaders have become increasingly self-centered, narrow-minded and alienated from the lofty sense of purpose, mission and service that the Qur’an instilled so successfully in the earlier generations of its believers and adherents.
The result is that neither the leaders nor the masses in Muslim communities and societies want to connect with the Qur’an and build the kind of close and personal relationship with it that is the key to success and happiness for humanity both in this world and in the next world.
Often, what Muslim leaders want to do is to give long but empty speeches.
No one asks what the speech was about or what its true focus was. Or what the true motivation was behind the speech. Why did the speaker give the speech he did and in the manner in which he did it? What did he want to accomplish?
What precise outcomes did he have in mind – for himself as well as for the people he was addressing? For the society as a whole and for the world at large?
Killing the Goose that Laid the Golden Eggs
I ask these questions of and about those who give the Jum’ah Khutbahs – in America, in Europe and in all other parts of the world. And I cry blood. And my heart shatters into a thousand bits and pieces.
And I ask: How could a people, a nation – an Ummah – to whom God himself gave the amazing gift of Jum’ah Khutbah as a means of eternal blessings and as a matchless instrument of perpetual renewal and regeneration, how could a people like that so effectively and thoroughly ruin and kill it?
I wonder: How could a people be so foolish and so naïve that they would give no thought to the consequences of killing the goose that laid the golden egg – the Jum’ah Khutbah that guaranteed them success and joy in this world as well as in the next world?
Shaitan did not need to do anything else, if his goal was to take all blessings away from the life of the Muslim Ummah and keep humanity consigned to the darkest pit of ignorance and bondage. All he needed to do was take the torchlight of the Jum’ah Khutbah out of the hands of the Muslims and turn it into an empty and meaningless ritual.
And he did. Shaitan could easily see how humanity’s night will then be long and dark.
As for the Muslim masses, who ever asked them to read – except the Qur’an that is? Who ever told them that their salvation lay in education and in knowledge – except Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, of course?
Who ever suggested to the Muslim masses that Allah wants them to write their destiny with their own hands – except Allah himself?
So, the lazy, tired, cynical and yet Islam-loving and in their own way God-fearing Muslim masses like nothing better than to sit around and listen to long and meandering speeches by their leaders – both secular and so-called religious – often without meaning or purpose.
They think so far as they are concerned that is the be-all and end-all of Islam. For generations they had been taught that if they loved Islam, that is what they should do: listen to their leaders hold forth.
Wa hum yahsaboona annahum yuhsinoona sun’aa.
Paraphrase: And they think they are doing something great and wonderful.