MEANING OF THE QUR`AN
"Living Islam – East & West"
in existence takes place unless there is a reason behind it. Our
scientific endeavors and technical achievements have all progressed
because of the search for cause and effect, building up the
information base for what is now our contemporary, modern society,
with its far-reaching programs probing further into outer rather
than inner space. Whatever we pursue in our intellectual life, using
our brain capacity, is based on a sharable pattern that we can
understand within the context of a language or culture. Whenever we
are shocked, disappointed, afraid, or uncertain, it is because a
discontinuity has taken place in our thought pattern. If someone
suddenly begins speaking in a language one cannot understand, there
will be an immediate freeze in the communication. So discontinuity
is what we do not accept or like, by our innate nature.
fundamentals in the source-book (the Qur`an) came down in one
instant upon the Prophet of Islam and unfolded outwardly over twenty
three years. These two apparently opposing statements are not
incompatible because the Book has always existed. The Book of
Creation existed before the creation was made manifest. An analogy
is to reflect upon any outer program. Before we embark on the
construction of a house, the design already exists somewhere, maybe
in the mind of the potential owner or the architect, and it unfolds
in a pattern that is outwardly visible. And so with Qur`an: it is a
pattern, a map, like a transparency which one can take and
superimpose on any aspect of existence to see it's meaning. It is as
if one needs a gradational or topographical presentation which
collates the map of life in a fashion that is understandable to us.
If the knowledge of the map is alive and available, one will see
Reality wherever one looks, and it will never change. God says in
the Qur`an in Surat al-Mulk:
He who created the seven heavens in one above another; you
see no incongruity in the creation of the Beneficent God; then
look again, can you see any fault? Then turn back the eye again
and again; your look shall come back to you confused and
is no fault in the original design. This does not mean that there is
no fault in the situation created by the human element. In other
words, the designer's intention is the perfect connectedness of it
all, but we are given limited freedom to act. Within that limitation
we will bring about injustice. So injustice in this world is our
doing, inadvertently. This will continue until we realize that we
have no option but to be in submission, to be in Islam, to give in
to the decree of the Creator. Once that process has begun, then we
have started an the path that was intended for us, by choice.
Prophet Adam, peace be upon him, had no choice -- he was in the
Garden. There was nothing other than uniformity so he could only be
obedient -- he had no other choice. He learned the meaning of
disobedience by obediently listening to that vibration called
Shaytan. Now here we are in this Reality which is based on
duality. We find ourselves born wanting to live forever seeking
friendship, and abhorring enmity, seeking security and fearing
insecurity, having varying degrees and different contexts of love
and hate. We are all the same. The Qur`an says:
created you from one self. (4:1)
manifestation of hatred, insecurity, fear or love differs from one
person to another, indeed from time to time for the same person.
Before breakfast the manifestation of the desire for the person who
has awakened hungry is to eat a good breakfast. After breakfast, if
he is sensible, the last thing he wants is a second course. We find
ourselves in a situation that hinges on duality, and yet there is a
thread in it for all of us which we may refer to as humankind or
humanity. We are one lot, we are one people, homosapiens - there is
a common denominator.
us now look at the inner meaning of the Qur`an. There cannot be
an inner unless there is an outer and the outer is a true reflection
of the inner. Therefore, from the Qur`anic point of view, all
things in this existence, whether they are material, intellectual or
even subtler elements, are interconnected. From this point of view
everything is divine, having emanated from the same Divine Source.
So truly speaking, there is no such thing as a visible element of
our way of life separated from the invisible element.
put it another way, in reality there is no difference between the
traditional and the mystical way of Islam. Where does one end
and the other begin? How can you differentiate between the outer and
the inner? The outer has an inner reality, and the inner will
manifest in the outer realm. An intention will eventually manifest
itself in an action. Where is the boundary that prevents that
continuum? Where does the atom end and the physical reality of
are interspaces between these systems. As you know, scientists can
describe various systems according to different scientific theories.
We can describe a gravitational system in detail in the science of
physics, but when you come to thermodynamics or the subatomic world,
there is another system we can still describe. We know the
interrelationships between these systems and yet we cannot define
them precisely. So we must refute this separation of the outer and
says in the Qur`an:
is the First and He is the Last. He is the Evident and He is the
is it that He is not? So if we are talking about a unified state,
the foundation of all inner sciences, then wherever we begin, we are
bound to end up at its opposite. If one begins with outer concern
such as the ritual of purification, one will eventually end up with
inner concern. If one begins by cleaning the house from the outside,
a time will come when the inside will be cared for. And the Qur`an
makes this point in one ayah, if not in many. The Qur`an says:
purify your clothes. (74:4)
must understand that the purification of outer garments is
superfluous unless one is concerned about the purification of one's
body, mind and heart, for they all interconnect. A man is known by
how he lives, what he eats, and his immediate environment. The
prophetic tradition tells us that one who keeps the company of a
people for forty days becomes like them. Inadvertently their
characteristics are imbibed.
one has an inner eye, reflecting upon the outer meanings of the
verses of the Qur`an will lead one to their inner meanings.
Existence is entirely balanced on opposites -- life and death, man
and woman, good and bad, sleep and wakefulness, health and disease
-- and we want at all times to be in the middle. Imbalance results
from not being in the middle. Let us examine the virtue known as
courage. On one side of courage is cowardice, and on the other is
recklessness. Courage is that very fine point right in the middle.
Every other virtue is the same -- balanced between two extremes.
Regarding this, the Qur`an Says:
we have created you a middle nation. (2:143)
nation is the people of unification, people who want to know the
truth, and whose Qur`an is every breath of life.
us share one short surah (chapter) of the Qur`an, Surat
al-Shams (The Sun), so that we may see how the inner and the
outer are totally connected.
swear by the sun and its brilliance,
And the moon when it follows the sun
-- Glory, Majesty, and Might are His alone -- is reminding us by the
effulgence of the sun in the form of an oath, swearing by it. By the
radiant sun which gives us warmth and heat. God has started by
giving us a physical proof of one of the major causes of life on
this earth - - the sun. By the fact that there is this self-fusing,
self-perpetuating light which is the sun. And by the moon which
reflects the sun's light.
the day when it exposes it,
And the night when it draws a veil over it.
God reminds us of the other two opposites -- day and night.
The description is very beautiful even from a poetic point of view,
that this incredible effulgent day suddenly has something thrown
over it to hide and cover it. Allah now reveals another pair of
opposites to strengthen the oath even further.
by the heaven and Him who made it, and by the earth and Him who
then Allah comes to us:
by the self and Him who made it perfect (91:7)
related derivation of the word for self is nafas which means 'breath'.
We are hanging on air, inhaling and exhaling -- again two opposite
states, yet we become arrogant and forget this fact. Do we really
identify ourselves with these physical forms, walking about!
immediately brings us from the cosmic story to the microcosmic
story. We are the reflectors of the macrocosm. The subtle
implication, the inner meaning of the verse, is that this self
must contain all the double elements that were mentioned in the
preceding verses. Its arrangement is fithrah, innate,
preprogrammed subgenctically form within. That preprogramming
develops through stages and time in a contiguous fashion. The root
meaning for innate (fitrah) is 'to crack'. The child breaks
into this world with a cry of despair at being dislodged from the
aqueous, contented, mild situation of the preceding nine months,
where it knew only the mind of the mother's heart. Suddenly the
child is ejected into a gaseous environment and disconnected from
that umbilical situation. Immediately the programmed unfoldment
of the self begins. The child is born wanting to connect. The
first connection is physical. The first worship is to maintain the
body -- that is the temple that the child knows innately, and the
mother's breast is the object which fulfils that need. In time, if
one grows in consciousness, one recognizes that the breast is the
earth from which we take our physical sustenance.
by the self and Him who made it perfect. (91:7)
that the self has within itself perfection and completeness
of the inner and outer, a combination of visible and invisible
He inspired it to understand immorality and piety. (91:8)
who is pious is aware at times that he is hanging between these two
opposites and that at any moment he may slip. Thus he wants to be in
such a wakeful state that his inner and outer are completely
connected, otherwise he knows he will slip into the abyss, the abyss
of suspicion, doubt, inner hatred, or any of the other abysses that
we can inwardly suffer from. It could even be the abyss of outer
misbehavior, such as falling asleep behind the wheel of a car for
ten seconds in traffic! Piety (taqwa) is that perpetual,
spontaneous, continuous and natural awareness. The word does not
have a dualistic sense. Immorality or decadence, the opposite of
piety, takes one far away from reality. Yet how can we know nearness
unless we know what is far? There must be recognition of what is far
so that we may then, by our own will, seek nearness. Man can sink to
a level of decadence and degeneration lower than any other created
thing. And yet the Qur`an tells us that the Angels prostrated
themselves to the Adamic consciousness.
Angelic powers or energies are fully programmed in their own
channels but we are unable to penetrate them. It is another world to
that which we cannot gain full access for our own sake. Think of our
own physical world. If we had eyesight good enough to observe all
the creational activity going on around us, we would not be able to
place things in the middle perspective. Likewise, if we could
receive all the other invisible signals that are going on, angelic
or otherwise, call them Angels, radar or infra-red or whatever,
untestable, unmeasurable, unseeable, untouchable energy waves so to
speak -- if we were sensitive to all those energy bundles or waves
-- we would be so encumbered that, in all probability, we would lose
our sanity. Right now, around us, there are millions of waves going
back and forth. Fortunately, we have been endowed with selective
perception and our horizon is limited. Within this limited horizon
we can subjectively test and realize the unlimited horizon that
on the one hand, we have immorality and decadence and on the other,
piety and complete awareness. The choice is ours. We make that
choice according to the degree of our desire for knowledge. The
successful one is he who purifies himself.
will indeed be successful who makes it grow in purity. (91:9)
verbal root of the word for 'succeed' is 'to plough, till, or
cultivate'. Success then implies turning over the soil of the self
so that it is aerated and soft and then becomes conducive for the
growth of success.
same is true of the heart. The root of 'heart' in Arabic is qalb.
The verb qalaba means 'to turn'. If the heart is attached to
a specific thing then that is the limit of cognizance. If the heart
turns, however, then it can select what is most appropriate.
meaning for the Arabic word which means 'to purify' is 'to
increase'. If the impurities of a substance are removed, substance
actually increases, not in quantity but in quality. Also, a derived
noun, zakah, means charity. Purification of the self is a
consequence of giving away and leads to increase. Allah prescribes
for us precisely through the example of His Prophet that of the
great beings who followed him, so that we may know even in the most
vulgar circumstances, how to give justly. Within this system nobody
who completely and utterly know in themselves that they have no
right to own anything in this world, and are at best the guardians
of a few things for a short while, are accommodated. Those who think
they will take their few possessions to the grave must also be
accommodated. All are God's creation.