Noorun alaa noor, as the Qur’an puts it in original Arabic.
It is in this original Arabic language in which the Qur’an is preserved to this day. And it is in this original Arabic language in which it is read and recited everyday by well over a billion people (1,000,000,000 people) around the world.
There is nothing quite like it in the world. Nothing like the Qur’an I mean. And nothing like the expression of “The People” in the Qur’an.
And there was nothing like it in the world if you were to turn the clock back all the way to the Seventh Century or even to the more recent Seventeenth Century.
That is why I say, if this is not a miracle and a most extraordinary phenomenon, what is?
This miraculous word An-Naas, therefore, stands for People. Not for “Man” or “Mankind.”
It stands for all people: male as well as female, old as well as young.
It stands for humanity as a whole, and not for this or that part or segment of it.
And it is a miracle, in the Qur’an, unlike most miracles you and I know.
Here is what the world needs to understand: If the Qur’an had given humanity and the world no miracle other than this one simple concept of “The People,” it would have been enough.
It took the world over 1400 years to come anywhere close to understanding, accepting and beginning to use that concept, even as the world continues to struggle to this day with the full acceptance, internalizing and embracing of the common humanity of all human beings.
Right at the Outset
What is remarkable about all this is not just the fact that there is an expression like “The People” in the Qur’an. Or the fact that it occurs in the Qur’an hundreds of times. Or even the fact that all this is 1400 years old.
What is remarkable also is the way in which the Qur’an introduces human beings to this most miraculous concept of “The People.” The Qur’an does so right at the very outset – in Passage # 8 of its Chapter # 2.
Thereafter, the Qur’an repeats and reiterates this concept well over 300 times using the three expressions of An-Naas, Al-Ins and Al-Insaan that I have noted above.
What a miracle indeed!
The Miracle of “O, You People!
But what is more remarkable – and what is absolutely revolutionary – than all this is the way in which the Qur’an goes on to address all of humanity directly saying “O, You People!”
The Qur’an does this in Passage # 21 of Chapter # 2.
This direct-address form in which the Qur’an talks to human beings directly in the Second Person, that fills the pages of the Qur’an, is one of the most powerful and enduring social accomplishments and miracles of the Qur’an – and of history.
It is one of history’s greatest social, moral, intellectual, cultural and political revolutions. It sounded the death knell of all forms of religious, political, cultural and social tyranny over the mind of “The People,” as the Qur’an put it, or over the mind of “Man,” as the rest of the world put it.
The essence of Qur’an’s most glorious revolution is this: If God Almighty himself can address you personally without any intermediaries, and if God Almighty himself can talk to you directly, then no human being is too big to address you directly and talk to you personally. All human beings are thus not only created equal, but all human beings, thus, have unfettered access to all other human beings regardless of any difference or disparity they may have in wealth, color, gender, education, power or position.
In fact, it was this miracle of the Qur’an that created a powerful echo, and a most positive and revolutionary effect, at a distant time, in a distant land, in the form of a great social, moral and political revolution among “The People” of the United States of America.
The Miracle of “We the People”
The Qur’an, thus, miraculously addresses humanity as a whole in the Second Person and calls them directly as “O, You People!”
This, mind you, was in the beginning of the 7th Century. And this was by no means a stray or rare occurrence but a consistent pattern of God Almighty addressing and talking to human beings, all human beings, which, to my knowledge, exists only in the Qur’an among the world’s great religious and social texts.
There simply, to the best of my knowledge, is no parallel to this Qur’anic miracle in the world’s literature or thought.
Then, toward the end of the 18th Century – nearly 1200 years later – that call that the Qur’an issued to “You People” found an echo in the Constitution of the United States of America, which began with a direct response to that miraculous divine call of the Qur’an with the words: “We the People.”
I will not here trace the tortuous path of that divine message of “The People” from the sands of Arabia to the shores of America. But suffice it to point out the most obvious and the most visible: Allah said in the Qur’an, “You the People!” (2:21). And the American Qawm – the great American People that is – responded, a thousand years later, through an acknowledgment, in the blessed American Constitution, on the beautiful American soil, of that great divine call of the Qur’an of “You the People!” with their own most amazing and revolutionary expression of “We the People!”
To most people in the world, including most Americans themselves, this revolution in Western thought and language was a mystery: where and how did America stumble upon this most breathtaking, refreshing and revolutionary of concepts and expressions?
But for those with a proper perspective on history, it was far from being a mystery or an accident. It was simply yet another remarkable milestone and manifestation of the continuing unfolding of the miracles of the Qur’an in the world and in human life throughout history.