THE ESSENCE OF THE DIVINE VERSES
(A Systematic Study of the Holy Quran)
Author: DR. JAVED JAMIL
Assisted by DR. IFFAT M. JAVED
Foreword by SAIYID HAMID
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For the followers of Islam, it is not mere belief that the Qur’an is no ordinary work of no ordinary mortal; they are thoroughly convinced that it is a Singular, Supreme and Majestic Work of a Singular, Supreme and Majestic Author, the Creator and the Lord of the universe. The Qur’an itself declares, and does so categorically, that it is for all times to come, for all parts of the world and for all human generations. This, again, is by no means an ordinary declaration. This is indeed an outstanding and extraordinary claim—this is why the Qur’an is regarded as the greatest of all miracles, a “living miracle”, bestowed by God on Muhammad, the Final Prophet of Islam — and this claim has been strengthening with every passing day in the onward march of the world civilisation. In the words of Abdullah Yusuf Ali, the renowned commentator of the Qur’an, “unlike all other writings this is a unique book with a supreme author, an eternal message and a universal relevance.” “Its contents”, continues Ali, “are not confined to a particular theme or style, covering a whole spectrum of issues, which range from specific articles of faith and commandments to general moral teachings, rights and obligations, crime and punishment, personal and public law, and hosts of other private and social concerns.” And the irrefutable truth is that the Qur’an contains much more than what human brains can imagine, ponder or discover.
“A Systematic Study of the Holy Quran” is a humble attempt to understand the message, and the system, propagated by the Qur’an, particularly with its unparalleled relevance in the context of the present and the future world. It classifies the verses in an entirely unique way that will give an idea to the reader about the comprehensiveness of the Book of God and will help in convincing him that this is the Final Document from God that has not to be merely understood and comprehended; it has to be followed in letter and spirit in every walk of life.
The world today, despite its advanced and sophisticated ways of life, is full of chaos at every level. At the individual level, physical, mental and spiritual illnesses are ever on the rise; at the family level, the disintegration of family is fast becoming a norm rather than an exception; and at the social level, the ever rising crime rate, social and economic exploitation, commercialisation of all forms of evil including sex, addiction and crime, and separatist and extremist movements based on racism, communalism and aggressive nationalism have destroyed the harmony of life. It is in the background of this disruption of harmony that the Qur’an needs to be understood and applied in all spheres of life. The contest today is not between different religions. The real contest is between religion and irreligion; between scientific (or Healthy) morality preached by Divine Messengers and commercial morality advertised by the tyrannical monarchs of the business world; and between ‘Comprehensive Peace’ propagated by the Scriptures and ‘materialistic peace’ imposed by the forces and powers that rule the roost. It is incumbent on the followers of the Qur’an to jihad (strive) for the eradication of all forms of evil; they have to unite not for the sake of fighting with any community or nation but to strive for the ultimate purpose of the unity of the whole mankind founded on the principles of universal peace and brotherhood. This requires, as the first step, a proper understanding of the Book of God. “A Systematic Study of the Holy Quran” I hope, will, Insha-Allah, help the world better understand the meaning and significance of Peace; the principles of the Qur’an will surely show them, provided they have the will to tread it, the Established Path (Sirat-al-Mustaqueem) of Peace, the Path of God and His Envoys to the humanity. Having said that, I will hasten to assert that this work is no replacement for the Qur’an itself; at the best, this is a guide for those who want to understand the Book of God particularly with its relevance to the current world; but they must return as soon as possible to the original for a complete understanding of the Book.
While the Book of God is infallible, the same cannot be true either of the English translations that have been used (for the translators are human beings) or the prefatory comments and notes made by the author of this work. With all humility, I seek the forgiveness of God for any error that might have been committed by me or for failing in any way to do justice--this of course is beyond the capability of any human brain-- with “The Living Miracle”. The present work is only a beginning; indeed each and every subject of this book deserves a separate and elaborate treatment. May God make this work useful for all those who study it
Dr. Javed Jamil
DESTINED TO SPARK
Going through this book one realises with a pleasant shock how perfect and comprehensive is the religion Muslims subscribe to; how just and humane and balanced; how solicitous of humanity’s abiding happiness and peace; how vigilant in respect of each individual; how effective in preventing abuse and exploitation and crime, both individual and organised. The first gasp of appreciative astonishment is followed by the painful realisation that a people so well guided and so perfectly buttressed with the impregnable “triangle of rights, duties and prohibitions”, should come to grief and be reduced to dire straits. Dr. Javed Jamil who is one of the restless and inquisitive souls must probe into this cruel paradox also. Equally difficult to explain is the rampant misinterpretation of Islam in the modern world. It is being equated with violence and terrorism. It is being maligned as regressive, rigid, conservative and cruel and outdated. This leads one to the conclusion that, in a paroxysm of self-denial, Muslims neglected their most precious possession, their vigorous, vital and resilient faith. They left it to be misinterpreted and denigrated by people inherently and rancorously opposed to it. Worse still, as if by design, Muslims set out to contravene the teachings of Islam defaming it grievously in the process. One of the reasons why this volte face, this reversal of values, became possible, at least in India, lies in Muslims being vertically divided on the basis of whether they were educated in madrasas or in mainstream schools. The products of either remained half-baked and unable to come to grips with a fast-changing and increasingly critical and hostile world.
I do hope that “The Essence of the Divine Verses” will serve to erase many of the misconceptions and misstatements about Islam which have been either created or lapped up by the fundamentalists among Jews, Christians and Hindus. It surpasses our comprehension that while tarring Muslims, through a process of cruel and blind generalisation, with the brush of terrorism, and unleashing on them counter-terrorism magnified multifold, the West has not cared to find out the reasons for terrorism. It has not occurred to it that the terrorists do not stand to gain by their reckless acts. They are not self-seekers. Driven by despair they pursue a suicidal course. While claiming to protect Muslim interests they are led into killing innocent people, a course that Islam deprecates and prohibits. It is also of no use sermonising people who have lost faith in the present system where the poor and weak are sedulously denied justice. What Islam came to ensure is being denied to its followers. In the process, the victims of collective injustice are made the targets of vicious attacks just because they have lost hope in a world order that they have repeatedly tried and found unjust, cruel and exploitative. I should apologise for the digression.
Dr. Jamil has taken up the cudgels in defence of a beleaguered Islam. It may not be possible to agree for anybody to agree with all the arguments advanced by any writer, but when all is said and done, the fact remains that he has put in an immense labour in citing the Surahs and Ayahs of the Qur’an in order to bring them under a significantly thematic classification. The classification, the captions and the marginal headings and indicators bring out the vigour, comprehensiveness and flexibility, and regulatory authority of the crowning glory of the revealed religion which is being designed to be proof against alterations and misconstructions.
The first part, titled “Faith”, puts together the glorious description of Almighty God spread over the Holy Qur’an. This has a forceful impact. In his comments, the author projects divinity unalloyed, unsullied and unique. He refutes the popular misconception that Islam originated with Prophet Muhammad (SAW). It may be recalled that Europeans used to call Muslims as Mohammedans on the pattern of Christianity. What comes out prominently from this book is that Islam is the religion brought to the earth by the first human being and that it travelled through a ‘chain of righteousness’ to the Last Prophet. Islam transcends matter; it discriminates between right and wrong and makes every individual responsible and accountable for his/her deeds. This universal and eternal religion, which stands for peace through submission to Allah, is an inseparable part of the cosmic order; it is as old as the universe and as immutable. It emphasises the need for divine guidance in all ages and climes. It stands for universality of a never-failing moral code. In their quest for unity of religion, some enthusiasts have identified Prophet Nuh (Noah) with Manu and Dhil-Kifl with Gautam the Buddha. They have displayed more valour than discretion in what can at best be described as conjectural impertinence. It blurs rather than clarifies, and did not apparently deserve a passing mention.
While discussing Islam’s constitution, the author says that Islam possesses great flexibility. It erects a framework, within which there is ample space to move about, to adjust and amend according to changing circumstances. Islam lays stress on Fundamental Duties and Prohibitions apart from Fundamental Rights. The Five Pillars of Islam have been dealt with at some length followed by Jihad, which has been correctly translated as “Striving hard in the way of God”; even where Jihad turns into a defensive fight, no excess in retaliation is permitted. cause of God those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for God loveth not transgressors.” (2: 190) The paramountcy of justice receives repeated and unmitigated emphasis, “O ye who believe, stand out firmly for justice, as witness to God, even as against yourselves or your parents, or your kin....” (4: 135) To do good and avoid evil is not enough; it is incumbent upon Muslims to enjoin good and forbid evil: “Let there arise out of you a band of people investing in all that is good enjoining what is right, forbidding what is wrong.” (3: 104)
Fundamental Rights bestowed by Islam have been classified according to their modern versions, such as:
1. Right to Life (“Take not life, which God hath made sacred.” (6: 51); “If anyone slew a person, unless it be for murder or spreading mischief in the land, it would be as if he slew the whole people, and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.” (5: 32))
2. Right to Freedom of Conscience; (“Let there be no compulsion in religion.” (2: 256); “For you your way, for me mine.” (109: 6))
3. Right to Equality
4. Right to Personal Freedom
5. Right to form association.
The way Islam anticipated modern liberalism is indeed fascinatingly striking. In the chapter, “Guidelines Concerning Criminal Matters”, the author has dealt with the adverse effect of the virtual abolition of capital punishment in most countries in the modern era. The lack of deterrence of alternative punishment, the inefficiency of judicial system and the delays it is heir to, the meddling power of money arrayed in support of the criminal and the eruption of organised crime as the ubiquitous Mafia; all those go to prove that under urbanization and globalization the dice is heavily loaded in favour of crime. He has also cited the provision under the Qur’anic law of pardon by the aggrieved which blends compassion with justice.
Under the caption, “Social System of Islam”, the author makes the discerningly astute remark that “In sharp contrast to the modern social system, which is governed chiefly by economic considerations, Islamic social system is governed by its primary objective of attaining ‘peace’ at all levels.” In Islam, Peace has three essential constituents: health (physical, mental, social and spiritual) of the individual, family peace and social order. He elaborates his thesis by pointing out that Islamic social system is a harmonious equilibrium between individual, family and society. He says that whereas the modern social system is based on rights, and to some extent on duties, Islam lays enhanced stress on duties and adds prohibitions which bring in the ethical element. The rationale of Islam’s policy towards slaves and the gradual alleviation of their hardships and raising of their status has been brought out with sympathy and understanding.
The last part illustrates the theme by relating stories of the Prophets and the struggles they had to undergo. The author draws a clear line of distinction between the political history that deals with wars, conspiracies, rebellions and usurpation and the moral history that revolves round the lives of the Prophets, the eternal theme being the battle between the right and the wrong. The stories of the Prophets, their travails, tribulations and the ultimate triumphs have been given in all their revealing and fascinating detail. The reader’s grasp is facilitated by marginal headings, which highlight the landmarks of the story and bring out the essence.
As I have said earlier, unfortunately, Islam has been and is being misunderstood all over the world. That Islam’s image has been tarnished nonetheless stems from four factors:
First, failure of Muslims to live up to the teachings of Islam, in particular their tendency to mistake the form with the content;
Second, inability to project the essence of Islam and dispel misconceptions about it;
Third; there are people who have not forgiven Muslims for their conquests; history and its garbled versions have made them vicariously vengeful ;
Fourth; modern society being permissive finds Islam’s regimen irksome.
We do hope that Dr. Javed Jamil’s work will spark rethinking about Islam.
Jamia Hamdard, New Delhi
10th April, 2002
PART I: FAITH
* The Supreme Being
* The Messengers of God
* The Book of God
* The Hereafter
* The Angels
PART II: PHILOSOPHY
* Faith (Iman) and Submission (Islam)
* Monotheism versus Polytheism
* Life of the World and Hereafter
* The Qur’an on Christianity and Judaism
* The Qur’an on Priesthood and Monasticism
* Man: Aims and Nature
PART III: CONSTITUTION
* Fundamental Duties
* Fundamental Prohibitions
* Fundamental Rights
* Laws related to Civil Matters
* Guidelines concerning Criminal Laws
PART IV: The system
* Social System of Islam
* Political System of Islam
* Economic System of Islam
* Spiritual and Moral System: convictions, Ethics and prayers
PART V: THE HISTORY of Confrontation between the Right AND THE Wrong
ADAM, IDRIS, NUH (NOAH); HUD; SALIH; IBRAHIM (ABRAHAM); LUT (LOT); ISMAIL, ISHAQUE (ISAAC) AND YAQUB (JACOB); YUSUF (JOSEPH); MUSA (MOSES); SHU’AIB; ELIAS (ELIJAH); AYUB (JOB); DAUD (DAVID); SULAYMAN (SOLOMON); PEOPLE OF SHEEBA;ZUL-QARNAIN; ZAKARIYAH, MARIAM (MARY), YAHYA (JOHN), AND ISA MASIH (JESUS CHRIST); Companions of the cave; Prophet Muhammad
* Last Word: The Final Document of Peace