APPROACHING THE QURAN

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The Quran was conveyed by Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, to humanity as God’s Word and testifies to his Prophethood. Being his greatest miracle, it challenges the Arabs of that time and all people to come until the Last Day to produce one chapter like it. It is unparalleled among Divine Scriptures, as regards its preservation and transmittal, for all copies of the Qur’an that have circulated since its first revelation are exactly the same.

As the Quran deals with all important theological issues and surpasses all scriptural records of pre- or post-Islamic ages in the abundant variety of its contents, its approach, presentation, and solutions are unique. Rather than dealing with a topic in the usual systematic method of theologians or apostolic writers, it expressly states that it has its own manifold method: tasrifi. This style shows variety, changes topics, shifts between subjects, reverts to the previous one, and deliberately and purposefully repeats the same subject in unique rhythmic and recitative forms in order to facilitate understanding, learning, and memorization: See how We display the revelations and signs so that they may understand and discern (6:65).

The Quran shows the universe’s order. As almost all types or varieties of existing things present themselves to us side by side or mingled, the Quran links varieties together with a specific rhythm to display God’s Unity. This style encourages people to reflect upon unity in variety and harmony in diversity. In fact, each chapter deals with many topics in various ways, a characteristic that adds to its unique beauty and matchless eloquence. Attentive reciters or intelligent listeners can so enjoy its rhythmical pitches that the Quran declares:

God sends down in parts the best of the words as a Book fully consistent in itself, and whose statements corroborate, expound and refer to one another. The skins of those who stand in awe of their Lord tingle at (the hearing and understanding of) it. Then, their skins and their hearts come to rest in the Remembrance of God (the Quran). This is God’s guidance, by which He guides whomever He wills. And whoever God leads astray, there is no guide for him. (39:23)

In addition, its verses and chapters are not arranged chronologically. Some verses revealed and placed together are preceded and followed by other verses. Some chapters and verses are lengthy; others are short. This arrangement is an aspect of its miraculousness, which many Orientalists and their Muslim imitators cannot understand.

The Quran exhibits the universe’s order. Just as its contents have both a whole–part and holistic–partial (or universal–particular) relation, so does the Quran itself. In other words, a body (the whole) consists of various limbs and organs (the parts). A single part cannot wholly represent the body, although each part is a whole in itself, because the whole body cannot be found in any of its parts. But humanity and all species are holistic or universal, for each species is composed of members, each of which contains all of the species’ features and so represents the species. Each person is an exact specimen of humanity in structure.

In the same way, each Qur’anic verse is a whole in itself and has an independent existence. In addition, an intrinsic relation exists among most of the verses. Said Nursi writes that:

[T]he verses of the Qur’an are like stars in the sky among which there are visible and invisible ropes and relationships. It is as if each Qur’anic verse has an eye that sees most of the verses and a face that looks towards them, so that it extends to them the immaterial threads of relationship to weave a fabric of miraculousness. A single sura can contain the whole “ocean” of the Qur’an, in which the whole universe is contained. A single verse can comprehend the treasury of that sura. It is as if most verses are small suras, and most suras a little Quran. In fact, the whole Quran is contained in Surat al-Fatiha, which itself is contained in the basmala.6

At first glance, this unique tasrifi style sometimes seems to produce contradictory verses. But this is not the case, for the Quran is like an organism that consists of interlinking parts. As a result of this whole–part arrangement and the holistic–partial relationship among verses, although its outward meaning or aspect is open to everybody in respect of people’s basic duties, a profound and comprehensive understanding of a verse often depends upon a complete understanding of the Quran. This is another unique characteristic, another aspect of its miraculousness, and another sign of its Divine authorship.

This characteristic is crucial to Quranic interpretation, for the Quran is the written counterpart of the universe and humanity. Moreover, the Quran, the universe, and humanity are three “copies” of the same book—the first being the “revealed and written universe and humanity” and the second and third each being a “created Quran.” Given this, the Quran teaches us how to view humanity and the universe. Thus any apparent contradiction among its verses is due to the reader’s misunderstanding. One whose being is unified with the Quran sees no contradiction, as he or she is free of all contradictions. If people view the Quran in light of their particular contradiction-filled worlds, of course they will see contradictions. This is why those approaching the Quran first have to be free of all contradictions.

Arabic, the language of Revelation, is the Quran’s outer body. Religion, a method of unifying all of our being’s dimensions, is far more than philosophy or theology. Therefore Arabic, an essential and inseparable element of the Quran, was chosen so that the Arabs of that time would understand it and because a universal religion requires a universal language.

The Quran views the world as the cradle of human unity. It seeks to unite all races, colors, and beliefs as brothers and sisters and worshippers of the One God. Its language is a basic factor that helps people ponder religious realities and unite all dimensions of their being according to Divine standards. Translations cannot be recited in prescribed Prayers, for they cannot be identical to the original language. Without Arabic, one can be a good Muslim but cannot understand very much of the Quran.

The Quran is the source of all religious, spiritual, social, scientific, economic, political, moral, legal, philosophical, and other knowledge in Islam. As the guide to all truth, it has four main purposes: demonstrating God’s Existence and Unity, establishing Prophethood and the afterlife, promulgating the worship of God, and setting forth the essentials of justice. Its verses, which mainly dwell on these purposes, contain creedal principles, rules for human life, detailed information on the Resurrection and the afterlife, how to worship God, morality, various scientific facts, principles of civilizational formation and decay, historical outlines of previous civilizations, and so on.

The Quran also is a source of healing, for applying it in daily life cures almost all psychological and social illnesses, as well as a cosmology, epistemology, ontology, sociology, psychology, and law revealed to regulate human life regardless of time or place.

 

Ünal, Ali. Living in the Shade of Islam. Somerset, NJ: Tughra, 2009.