Ramadan & The Noble Qur’an

Developing Just Leadership

Zafar Bangash

Sha'ban 20, 1445 2024-03-01


by Zafar Bangash (Opinion, Crescent International Vol. 54, No. 1, Sha'ban, 1445)

Image Source - Pixbay Free Content

Ramadan and the noble Qur’an are intimately linked. It was in the month of Ramadan that Allah (swt) sent down the Qur’an from the Lawhun Mahfuz (the Well-guarded Tablet) into its earthly form and then the first few ayat were revealed to the noble Messenger (pbuh) in the Cave of Hira on Jabal al-Nour (Mount of Light).

The noble Book says: “It was the month of Ramadan in which the Qur’an was [first] made accessible from on high as a guidance for people and a self-evident proof of that guidance, and as the standard by which to discern the true from the false…” (2:185).

Before discussing the significance of this ayah, let us reflect on what Muslims do in the month of Ramadan. They not only observe the daily fast for a whole month but also renew their close association with the noble Qur’an. This is done through the melodious recitation of the Qur’an during taraweeh prayers (late night prayers).

This is commendable but Muslims need to delve deeper than mere recital of the divine Word. Allah (swt) reminds us that it is a book of guidance for all humanity (2:185) but only those will get guidance who have taqwa (2:02). There are many ways to achieve taqwa, including fasting in the month of Ramadan.

Returning to the Qur’an as the book of guidance, let us reiterate that its guidance is available to Muslims as well as non-Muslims. Every individual must make that choice freely and without coercion (2:256 and 18:29). Choices, however, carry consequences.

Further, it is self-evident proof of that guidance, as well as the standard by which to discern the true from the false. Implicit in this ayah is the fact that in order to be guided and to discern truth from falsehood, understanding of the message is essential.

When we consider the situation of Muslims today, many fall short on this score. The melodious recitation of the Qur’an in Ramadan is wonderful. Some reciters can even move their listeners to tears but the Qur’an’s recitation should not be used as mere spiritual entertainment. It must lead to understanding the message of the Qur’an.

Let us reiterate some self-evident truths. The Qur’an is our guide from the womb to the tomb. Guidance, however, is conditional upon understanding and the escalating self-assurance that comes from implementing that guidance.

To understand the message of the Qur’an, knowledge of the Arabic language is essential. As the Qur’an is the pinnacle of Arabic expression, it is the perfection of the Qur’an that led to what is known today as standard Arabic, or fus-ha. In the contemporary Arab world, this is the Arabic that is utilized in the vast majority of media, in the universities, in government, and in all Islamic teaching and dissemination establishments. Standard Arabic today, unlike other languages that have undergone mostly unrecognizable transformations over the centuries, is exactly the same today as it was over 1,400 years ago when the Qur’an was revealed. Hence, what is to be understood today from the Qur’an is no different than the prophetic understanding of it all those hundreds of years ago. What a miracle for the people of the world today!!! The Qur’an is that living miracle — and it will be alive until the Last Day.

When Islam was the dominant power and civilization, standard Arabic was the dominant language of the world. Unfortunately, this is not the case today. Not only have non-Islamic languages become dominant, they reflect a hedonistic and demonic power culture.

This leads to the question, what should Muslims do in this situation? The simple answer is that Muslims should learn Qur’anic Arabic. This is not as simple as it sounds, especially for those residing in non-Muslim majority societies.

The way out of this dilemma is to present the message of the Qur’an in a language that is widely spoken and understood: English. This poses its own dilemma. English has been secularized and cannot render many Qur’anic words such as taqwa, ihsan and iman, accurately. These words are imbued with multiple layers of meanings, intimately linked to the ethos of Islam. Thus, we arrive at the sad conclusion that the Qur’an cannot be accurately translated into any other language. Only an approximation of its meanings can be communicated.

With sincere effort and dedication, such challenges, however, can be overcome. This is what has been achieved in a contemporary translation of the Qur’an by Imam Muhammad al-Asi. Titled, The Ascendant Qur’an, the first Arabic-English translation was produced last year. It was well-received and widely welcomed as an important addition to the many English translations available in the market. Now, an English-only version has been produced.

It has been exhaustively reviewed. Difficult words have been simplified. Expressions unfamiliar to non-Muslims have been rendered into easily understandable English. And where possible, to familiarize the novice reader to the Qur’anic text, Islamic Arabic proper nouns have been replaced by their biblical equivalents. Muslims unfamiliar with Qur’anic expressions will also find it extremely helpful.

The distinctive feature of Imam al-Asi’s translation is that it highlights some important aspects that have been heretofore missing, chiefly Allah’s power and authority so as to integrate those who yield to Allah’s command and counsel into the power-grid of Islam. It is essential to emphasize Allah’s power and authority because taghuti powers, having usurped what properly belongs to Allah and being ill suited to exercise that awesome power, are now responsible for the widespread corruption, oppression and injustice that is endemic to our modern world.

Throughout life, we strive to earn the pleasure of Allah and to protect ourselves from His corrective justice. To be able to don the mantle of protection, prevention, and precaution, i.e., have taqwa, we must learn to live the Qur’an. Being part of the Qur’anic culture is an “acquired taste”. It requires effort, commitment, and ultimately full confidence and reliance on Allah’s guidance and the methodology of His final Prophet, Muhammad (pbuh).

The principle of social justice is front and center in the Qur’an. Through Imam al-Asi’s translation, readers will learn to develop a keenness and a sense of responsibility to confront and overcome the widespread injustices in the world today. Understanding Allah’s power and authority and yielding to it will enable us to overcome the many challenges Muslims face today.

The Prophet Muhammad’s 23-year struggle resulted in producing a generation shaped by the Qur’an. It did not seek the material possessions or comforts of this dunya, but the pleasure of Allah (swt) in the akhirah. Their mission and struggle were directed at saving errant humanity from its deviant beliefs and practices that were leading to its destruction.

Guided by this final Testament, subsequent generations of Muslims set out to shape the destiny of humanity for nearly 1,000 years. For this Qur’anic generation no challenge was too great and no price too steep.

Ending gross injustices was the most important dimension of their mission. Islam imbued the early generations of Muslims with the spirit of self-sacrifice to Allah so that social justice on earth would be a reflection of absolute justice in the realm of forever.

While Muslims are not in the driving seat of history today, this should not lead to despondency. Islam has the regenerative power to enable Muslims to re-emerge in their natural dominant role in the world. The building blocks of this regenerative process are none other than a proper understanding of the noble Qur’an and the Prophetic Sunnah and Seerah.

The ‘English-only’ translation of the Qur’an by Imam Muhammad al ‘Asi is meant to develop the contemporary Qur’anic generation. It is presented in a captivating style and is available in multiple formats: hard-bound, soft cover and pocket size.

Muslims should not only get a copy for themselves but also gift it to relatives and friends, especially in the month of Ramadan. The English only version is especially useful as a gift to non-Muslim friends. This will also fulfill an important obligation of the Muslims as da‘ees.

6x9 hard cover: $36
6x9 soft cover: $30
4x7 pocket size, soft cover: $17
Audio edition: $10
ePub digital edition: $10

Shipping & handling extra for print copies.

To order your copy, please contact us at: icittafsir@gmail.com

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