The Foresaken Qur’an

‘And the Messenger cried out: O my Lord! surely my people have treated this Quran as a forsaken thing’ – Surah 25 verse 30 as translated by Shakir

 

If you have read Mahaguru58’s posting entitled ‘Answering rest of Fatt Monk’s questions on Islam’, you will see first-hand the above verse being played out.

 

Fatt Monk’s question, apparently, was ‘if a person is born into a Muslim family, does the person have the choice of quitting Islam and join another religion?’                                          

  

Mahaguru58 replied with an emphatic ‘No’.

 

Not, ‘No, I don’t think so’ or ‘In my view, no’ or ‘ In my view, it is a big sin’.

 

His ‘No’, in the context of that question, means a  person born into a Muslim family does not have the choice of quitting Islam and join another religion.

 

Born a Muslim, die a Muslim!

 

No choice!

 

Many unsuspecting readers would be forgiven for thinking that Mahaguru58 had just restated the position in Islam as laid down in the Holy Qur’an, and not his own view on the matter.

 

See, though, what the Holy Qur’an says.

 

‘How shall Allah guide a people who disbelieved after their believing and (after) they had borne witness that the Messenger was true and clear arguments had come to them; and Allah does not guide the unjust people. (As for) these, their reward is that upon them is the curse of Allah and the angels and of men, all together. Abiding in it; their chastisement shall not be lightened nor shall they be respited. Except those who repent after that and amend, then surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. Surely, those who disbelieve after their believing, then increase in unbelief, their repentance shall not be accepted, and these are they that go astray. Surely, those who disbelieve and die while they are unbelievers, the earth full of gold shall not be accepted from one of them, though he should offer to ransom himself with it, these it is who shall have a painful chastisement, and they shall have no helpers’ – Surah 3 verses 86 – 91 as translated by Shakir.

 

‘Surely (as for) those who believe then disbelieve, again believe and again disbelieve, then increase in disbelief, Allah will not forgive them nor guide them in the (right) path’ – Surah 4 verse 137 as translated by Shakir.

 

The answer in the Holy Qur’an to Fatt Monk’s question is yes, but you will face God’s wrath.

 

Mahaguru58 says no. Cannot.

 

‘And for what your tongues describe, do not utter the lie, (saying) This is lawful and this is unlawful, in order to forge a lie against Allah; surely those who forge a lie against Allah shall not prosper’ – Surah 16 verse 116 as translated by Shakir.

 

Few who profess Islam, though, will question or challenge Mahaguru58 and the likes of him in respect of such stated views.

 

 Why?

____________________________________

 

‘They have taken their doctors of law and their monks for lords besides Allah, and (also) the Messiah son of Marium and they were enjoined that they should serve one Allah only, there is no god but He; far from His glory be what they set up (with Him). They desire to put out the light of Allah with their mouths, and Allah will not consent save to perfect His light, though the unbelievers are averse. He it is Who sent His Messenger with guidance and the religion of truth, that He might cause it to prevail over all religions, though the polytheists may be averse. O you who believe! most surely many of the doctors of law and the monks eat away the property of men falsely, and turn (them) from Allah’s way; and (as for) those who hoard up gold and silver and do not spend it in Allah’s way, announce to them a painful chastisement,   – Surah 9 verses 31-34 as translated by Shakir

 

Year : 1997

 

Place : KL High Court Canteen

 

Present : Lawyer H ( Indian Muslim ) and myself

 

Me : This is for you

 

H : What’s that?

 

Me : Yusuf Ali’s translation of the Qur’an.

 

H : For what?

 

Me : To read, lah. Try and understand God’s verses.

 

H : Oh,  I have the Arabic Qur’an.

 

Me : Oh, didn’t know you understood Arabic.

 

H : I don’t

 

Me : Well take this, lah and try to understand

 

H : No thanks. I tak layak to try and understand on my own tanpa berguru.

 

Me : Ok, read the translation and then ask your guru a lot of questions.

 

H : No, lah. The ustaz says its dangerous to baca terjemahan. May get confused.

 

Me : Is it not dangerous to believe everything the ustaz says without verifying from the Qur’an?

  

H : That’s the trouble with you, lah. Iman tak cukup kuat.

 

Me : Iman terhadap siapa? Tuhan ke Ustaz?

_________________________________________

 

By year 2000, I had grown restless with most of the translations.

 

One verse in particular was causing me immense trouble.

 

‘O our Lord! surely I have settled a part of my offspring in a valley unproductive of fruit near Thy Sacred House, our Lord! that they may keep up prayer; therefore make the hearts of some people yearn towards them and provide them with fruits; haply they may be grateful’ –Surah 14 verse 37 as translated by Shakir.

 

This is supposed to be the supplication of Abraham.

 

I’ve checked this verse with every translation I have. They all have Abraham saying the same : that he has despatched some of his progeny to a barren land to ‘keep up prayer’.

 

My late father said we could pray in any place that was clean. Yet this verse has it that Abraham despatched his offspring to an unproductive valley for the sole purpose of performing prayer.

 

If my late father was right that one could pray anywhere, why was Abraham sending his children to what appears to be ‘no man’s land’ to ‘keep up prayer’?

 

 ‘Prayer’ in Surah 14 verse 37 is translated from the Arabic ‘salata’.

 

My difficulty with Surah 14 verse 37 drove me to the conclusion that if I was going to get anywhere at trying to understand the Qur’an, I would have to try and do my own translation and interpretation.

 

How? I could not read or understand Arabic.

 

Hannah E. Kassis’s Concordance of the Qur’an in conjunction with Othman Ali’s ‘Al Qur’an Terjemahan cara Lafzhiyah’ have been invaluable aids, together with scores of dictionaries.

 

I examined every verse in the Qur’an where the Arabic ‘salata’ or words that shared the same root therewith appeared.

  

Surah 11 verses 84 – 87  left me convinced that salata and the other words that shared the same root had been wrongly translated to mean ‘pray’ or ‘prayer’.

 

‘And to Madyan (We sent) their brother Shu’aib. He said: O my people! serve Allah, you have no god other than He, and do not give short measure and weight: surely I see you in prosperity and surely I fear for you the punishment of an all-encompassing day. And, O my people! give full measure and weight fairly, and defraud not men their things, and do not act corruptly in the land, making mischief: What remains with Allah is better for you if you are believers, and I am not a keeper over you. They said: O Shu’aib! does your prayer ( translated from ‘asalatuka’ ) enjoin you that we should forsake what our fathers worshipped or that we should not do what we please with regard to our property? Forsooth you are the forbearing, the right-directing one’

 

If the translation of ‘salata’ to prayer in the context of Surah 14 verse 37 seemed at  odds with an understanding that prayer could be performed anywhere, the translation of ‘asalatuka’ to prayer in Surah 11 verse 87 raised, for me, at least,  the following curiosity.

 

Can prayer enjoin?

 

If ‘way of life ordained’ or something similar was substituted for ‘prayer’ in Surah 14 verse 37 and Surah 11 verse 87, would the verses tend to make more sense?

 

If ‘prayer’ in the two verses were substituted with ‘covenants with God’ or something of similar meaning, would this, too, not make more sense?

 

Today, I am convinced that ‘salata’ and other words that share the same root do not mean ‘prayer’ or some ritual.

 

I am still searching for answers.

 

Am I not entitled to search?

 

Am I not entitled to try and understand the Qur’an for myself?

 

My effort to translate and understand the Qur’an for myself is ongoing.

 

 And if I err in this effort, it is only to my Lord alone that I must answer to.

 

Are those who profess Islam, then, entitled to stop me?

 

‘Those who listen to the word, then follow the best of it; those are they whom Allah has guided, and those it is who are the men of understanding’ – Surah 39 verse 18 as translated by Shakir 

 

____________________________

 

 

 

Aidid Safar ( not his real name ), too, tried to translate and understand the Holy Qur’an for himself.

 

He authored a book entitled ‘Arab Conspiracies against Islam’ which, I understand, has since been edited, re-titled ‘Mental Bondage In The Name of God’ and is available online through Amazon.

 

At his website, he says : Yes, they do say ‘Islam’ is peace, but what many do not realise is the obscurity surrounding this word, which has fooled the people for ages and that the conspirators have successfully turned it into a brand name for a religion not ordained by the God.

 

A Malaysian, he left Malaysia to avoid persecution by those who would deny him his right to think and reason.
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Published in: on April 5, 2008 at 12:08 pm  Comments (10)  

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10 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Good one Haris.
    Btw, you still owe me a copy of the Quranic translations according to index

    Nik E

  2. I suggest you read the Penguin translation of the Qur’an. There is no mention of prayer there. Only ‘worship’. Pity that that translation, done by N J Dawood in 1956, is banned in your country.

    Oh yes, and I thought that the literal translation of ‘Islam’ is ‘submit’ and not ‘peace’?

    RS,

    I had a copy of Dawood’s translation. Also Ahmed Ali.

    Both were stolen during a Qur’an study session! I kid you not.

    I am still not comfortable with worship. It does not fit into the context of 11:87 or even 14:37.

    I have come to understand Islam to mean ‘attainment of peace through submission or surrender’.

  3. Haris,

    Some people seem to think the sequence of the Surah, which is not specified in Qur’an, is critically important. They use this as one of the justifications for adherence to the Hadith.

    Seems to me, if Qur’an does not specify the sequence, then the sequence is unimportant.

    Am I missing something?

    Singam,

    My 2 sen.

    In approaching the Qur’an, I have divided the verses into 4 categories.

    1st, the historical verses. The correctness of accounts therein cannot be verified by forensics.

    2nd, the normatives. They either resonate with you or they don’t.

    3rd, the scientific verses.

    4th, the verses that incline me away from deducing that this was the work of one writing his own autobiography.

    Sequence has never been essential for me. It has, however, been a most useful reason for those who wish to embellish what is to be found in the scripture.

    As I said, my 2 sen

  4. This is a good reminder for many if not all. Knowledge (“ilm”) is something that one should not stop learning/getting/cultivating. It is endless. Reading the Quran goes beyond reciting it beautifully and with perfect tajwid. There will be questions and curiosities that arise when trying to understand it. Yes, question it if you are not sure or do not understand it. Seek the right scholar to field your question, cross check the answers with other scholars. Performing solat sunat Istikharoh is the other avenue that I personally use when I am confused and would like to seek His guidance on certain issues or I can’t seem to find answer to. Lastly, remember this, what we know is just a drop of water in an ocean; Allah’s knowledge is all the ocean combined together and more. For He knows best. Wallahualam.

  5. Salaam,

    May Allah help you in your search for knowledge.

    Although same in beliefs and in dogma (aqeedah), the nations (umam plural of ummah) before us did have different laws in place. The Jews, for example, if someone committed a sin then he would have to kill himself. If alcohol was to stain clothes then they would have to cut the piece of cloth off the clothes. Also, they couldn’t pray in every place, rather only in the masjid. There is a hadeeth of the Prophet (SAW) in which he says that ‘my ummah has been given preference, all of the earth has been made a ‘masjid’ for it…'( I believe this hadeeth is in Imam Muslim’s collection.)

    Wallahu ‘alam

  6. A question on the word ‘salata’. And since you’ve been mulling over this for many years, it’s definitely struck you before, I’m sure. But I’ll ask it anyway. Might not the word have more than 1 meaning? Perhaps it does indeed mean ‘prayer’ or ‘worship’ in some contexts? And perhaps in others it may mean an ‘ordained way of life’?

    Satya,

    Let’s entertain your argument for a moment.

    Who’s to say, then, when ‘salata’ in one verse means ‘pray’ or ‘worship’ and when, in another verse, it means ‘ordained way of life’?

    I think the problem arises, when trying to translate or interpret the Qur’an, when we bring to this effort the baggage handed to us by our forefathers.

    Take prayer.

    This was impressed upon and accepted by me as a cardinal requisite of Islam well before I had begun to try and understand the Qur’an for myself. So when you read the verses that allude to bowing and prostration, you immediately assume that these are further affirmations of a command to perform a certain ritual called ‘prayer’

    Until you encounter a verse like 22 : 18 and are prepared to ponder on the question ‘how does the mountain prostrate? Is this prostration intended to mean a literal prostration or does it allude to a adherence by all of creation to His Divine Will?

  7. Prayer is ‘Dua’ in Quran. Many verses reflect this. ‘Salata’ to me is committments as in Wa aqeemu salat – And uphold your commitment. Likewise I am on a long journey that may take the whole of my lifetime. In the meantime I will follow closely the Quran’a advise as in “implore, reflect, question and not accept anything I cannot verify”. The Uztasses of the world, on the contrary, advise for us to follow blindly, as in the concept of ‘taqlid’. Therefore the first thing I did was to not follow whatever they say. The Quran is indeed very easy to learn, is there anyone who wishes to learn?

    Salaam

  8. We start life with faith in the word of wisdom and then by evalution and reflection live life affirming this wisdom.A good example will be ‘Do not play with fire’will serve us well as children.As one gets older one understand the nature of fire and the blind faith that serve us so well as an aid bloom into respect for fire.Do not dismiss the door of faith as like the baby walker are good aid for baby learning to walk and yet must be discarded when one can walk.Recognise aids as aids and one see the usefulness of Hadith in its relevance to the Truth revealed in the quran.Quran is indeed easy for those with straigt forward mind.This site does more good for Islam than the building of expensive mosques.Thank you Haris.

  9. Salaam/Peace Everybody,

    Islam has become corrupted so much by the introduction of sectarian teachings and when you question people about the origin of these practices, they will tell you that you are not the same level understanding of Alims to understand it and better follow your religion and have faith on hadiths.
    When you tell cite them hadiths that contadict logic and the Quran, they consider you as a strayer can be stoned for heresy.

    Javed, from Mauritius.

  10. Salam bro.. I hope you have time to continue writing about Quranic verses for us to share and discuss.


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