The Miracle of “You the People!”
(Bringing Islam to the World One Concept at a Time!
Taking the Qur’an to Every Home and Heart that Needs It --
And which One Does Not?)
Among its countless miracles, the Qur’an contains one miracle that should be visible to even the most naked of eyes: It is the miracle of “O, People!”
Or, if you want to put it differently, the miracle of “You the People!”
Or simply, “You People!”
Not man. Not mankind. But “People: The People.”
There is nothing like it in the world. Not to my knowledge. And to the best of my knowledge, there never was.
A concept called “The People“? As they say: You got to be kidding me!
And that in the beginning of the Seventh Century?
And that in a book coming out the mouth of an Unlettered Man, as the Bible calls him?
And that too, not once or twice, but well over 200 times?
That is right.
The expression “People” occurs in the Qur’an no less than 241 times!
Come on! Give me a break, as they say. How is it possible?
A Miracle from God Almighty
Unless, of course, it is a miracle from God Almighty himself. And that precisely is what it is: a miracle – unlike most other miracles you may have seen or heard of before.
But there is a huge difference: other miracles come and go, but this one is here to stay.
Other miracles are hard to see and nearly impossible to decipher. And they are open to all kinds of interpretations and constructions by all kinds of people.
But this one is different, very different.
It is a miracle that can be seen by all and it does not need a specialist to interpret it for you. All you need to do is go to the Qur’an and count the number of times this miraculous expression occurs in its pages.
And this miracle has been around for no less than 1400 years.
Therefore, all ye miracle hunters and mystery and magic lovers of the world! Stop your search. Here in the Qur’an is what you were looking for.
You need to go no further. And you need to look and search no more. For, the object of your search is here, right in front of your eyes.
In the Qur’an. All you need to do is to open the pages of the Qur’an and see for yourself.
Neither magic nor mystery, it is a miracle all the same. It is a miracle based on fact, centered in reality and subject to the testimony and evidence of your own eyes. It is an event or outcome that challenges you to rise to your highest level of rational thought, careful logic, analytical reasoning and scientific inquiry.
It is an event or outcome that is least likely to happen all by itself. It is an event or outcome that is most improbable.
A Sad Colonial Legacy
But there is a catch. Or a glitch, if you prefer to call it that. And it is of our own making. A “Man-Made” problem if you will.
If you are part of the English speaking people of the world – as most of us are – reading a translation of the Qur’an in English, then you have a sad colonial legacy to deal with first. For, you are likely to run into a problem, a serious one: You may still have to be content with the words “Man” or “Mankind” in places where you should have been able to find the most glorious expression “People.”
That is right.
That is what most English translators of the Qur’an did: both Muslim and non-Muslim. Not the Urdu or Farsi (Persian) or even Tamil translators, but English translators. They translated the unique, glorious and most powerful and blessed Qur’anic concept of “People” as “Man” and “Mankind.”
We all know how until the mid-1980s or so, the English language was still teaming with gendered nouns and pronouns like “Man,” “Mankind” and “He” and “Him” to connote all of humanity.
Poor English language! It couldn’t help itself. That was its character and its nature. That is how it was born, groomed and brought up by the English-speaking people who created and nurtured it.
For, English was a repository, guardian and conveyer of Western thought, religion and philosophy, which were mostly Christian in nature and origin. And the Christian worldview and mode of thought and expression were all heavily male-centric, sorry to say. It was but natural that English language too should be until most recently so completely male-gendered and male-centric.
In the Christian religion – and therefore in Western thought and culture as well as in English language – it was mostly “Man” who did everything, especially anything good or nice or noble.
It was “He” – “Man” – who was the object of all discourse and communication, especially all positive, laudatory and purposeful communication.
It was “He” and “Him” and “His” all the way and with regard to anything and everything good, meaningful or useful.
Where “Woman” was mentioned, it was generally in a secondary role or to simply show how bad she was, including how she was the Instrument of the Devil, Gateway to Hell and the cause of the Original Sin and Fall of Man.
When Western-Christian nations colonized the Muslim societies and Muslims learned the English language, they learned it the way it was: mainly Christian and overwhelmingly male-gendered.
And when Muslims began translating the Qur’an in English, they more or less blindly and unquestioningly followed the Western-Christian culture and thought patterns and language use.
In this, their example was the non-Muslim translators of the Qur’an.
As a result of this colonial legacy that was dominated by Christian thought, expression, culture and worldview, translators of the Qur’an also ended up rendering the concept “People” as “Man” or “Mankind.”
So, wherever the translators found the word An-Naas in the Qur’an, they simply translated it as “Man” or “Mankind,” rather than as “People,” as they should have done.