by Zafar Bangash (Opinion, Crescent International Vol. 44, No. 4, Sha'ban, 1436)
Muslims prepare to welcome Ramadan and engage the noble Qur’an. The ICIT offers a meaningful engagement through its Digital Library: www:icit-digital.org
The blessed month of Ramadan is approaching. It is intimately linked with the majestic Qur’an; the noble Messenger (pbuh) received the first revelation in the solitude of the Cave of Hira’ outside Makkah during this month. The Qur’an says, “It was in the month of Ramadan that the Qur’an was made accessible as guidance for all mankind” (2:185) but only those who have taqwa will be guided (2:02). How does one achieve taqwa? There are many different ways — including fasting in Ramadan (2:183). Thus, there is a symbiotic relationship between the Qur’an and Ramadan.
How does an average Muslim approach the noble Qur’an, especially in Ramadan? Most Muslims read it, often listening to the melodious recitation of a qari during taraweeh prayers. During Ramadan, there are usually as many people for taraweeh prayers, which is a sunnah, as there are for Salah al-Jumu‘ah, which is compulsory. Further, attendance at taraweeh prayers often far exceeds attendance at Fajr and ‘Isha salahs. What accounts for such great enthusiasm for taraweeh prayers compared to the other salahs?
While every opportunity to engage the noble Book should be welcomed, it is equally important to make much greater effort to understand the message of the Qur’an in the one month out of the year in which it is more approachable. Hence taqwa and, therefore, guidance is in easier reach. Sadly, the overwhelming majority of Muslims today are not familiar with the Arabic language in which the Qur’an was revealed. There are many translations that attempt to communicate the divine message in other languages such as English, which is now considered the global language. Widespread use of the internet has also contributed to English translations becoming more easily accessible. While translations are helpful for understanding the Qur’an, they are not enough.
Muslims need to go much further. This is where the tafsir (exegesis) of the Qur’an comes in. It is interesting to note that while English is a universal language, there has been no tafsir of the Qur’an written directly in English until recently. Only the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought (ICIT) has attempted this. Imam Muhammad al-‘Asi has produced not only the first-ever tafsir of the Qur’an in English but also one that makes the divine message an indispensable companion (as it should be) by showing Muslims how to navigate their affairs in an unwelcoming contemporary global situation. This tafsir would be valuable in any language. Eight volumes of the tafsir, titled, The Ascendant Qur’an: Realigning Man to the Divine Power Culture, have been published so far. The ninth volume is at an advanced stage of preparation. When completed, the tafsir series may span 30–40 volumes. It will actually be an encyclopedia of the Qur’an.
As print editions are produced, the tafsir is also being serialized in every issue of Crescent International. In recent months, we have launched another project: the ICIT Digital Library. Managed and directed by Khalil Abdul-Rahman, the site and its related activities have pulled in a number of dedicated brothers from across the globe. In addition to Afeef Khan, these include Uvais Ahmed, Muslim Mahmoud, Imran Khan and others. The ICIT Digital Library not only has all eight volumes of the tafsir but also our literature on the Sirah, such as Power Manifestations of the Sirah: Examining the Letters and Treaties of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) as well as most other ICIT/Crescent publications. Many of the previous issues of Crescent International have also been uploaded. There are currently more than 10,000 articles, papers, books, etc, in the Digital Library. More material will be uploaded as it is edited and/or digitized. Relevant material from other scholars/writers will also be included as we proceed.
The aim is to make it a rich resource for Muslims and non-Muslims interested in cutting-edge analysis of global events as well as material from the primary sources of Islam — the noble Qur’an, Hadith, and the Sirah. It is not an easy task; we have always been aware of the enormity of the challenge requiring vast intellectual, material and manpower resources. We in the ICIT/Crescent International are committed to providing whatever is at our disposal — primarily our intellectual input but also endless hours of hard work — and expect Muslims worldwide to step forward to help in the realization of this very ambitious but worthwhile project with their financial support.
The late Dr. Kalim Siddiqui had said, “Our task is to dream and work for the future — for a time when a new Muslim civilization will emerge — a dynamic, thriving, growing, healthy and happy civilization… In the meantime we must plan and produce the prerequisites for such a civilization.” We are now taking steps toward producing these prerequisites that will make our dream a reality. There is no better time than Ramadan for Muslims to make that commitment. We seek the support of all our committed brothers and sisters worldwide to help with this monumental project. It is nothing short of the building blocks of a future Islamic civilization.
Zafar Bangash is Director of the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought