Quran: The Voice of God

Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

Recently I have been studying Marxism in considerable detail, and have formed the impression that Marx was a man of extraordinary intellect and spirit; few men of such talent have appeared in the annals of history. Yet, when he gave his mind to the improvement of the human condition, the remedies he offered were unparalleled in their foolishness. Why should this have been so? The principal reason is that he had made no study of the Qur’an. He had not gone to that great source of knowledge, without which no sound and definite opinion can be arrived at on the vicissitudes of human existence. It must be conceded that the universe is a mystery and that the only book which can unveil that mystery for us is the Qur’an. No mere mortal can solve the mysteries of life and the universe without the revelations of the Book of God.

Medicines are accompanied by leaflets explaining what illnesses they are designed to cure, how they should be used and what their basic formulae are. But man is born into the world in such a condition that he knows neither what he is nor why he has been put here. No convenient handbook accompanies him, neither are there any signboards fixed to the summits of the mountains to give him directions or to provide him with answers to his questions. Man has, in consequence, formed strange opinions about himself, the earth and the sky, being ignorant of the essential reality of life. When he examines his own being, it appears to him as an amazing accumulation of intellectual and physical powers. Yet, he did not will himself into being, nor did he play any part in the making of himself. Then he looks at the world outside himself and a universe of such extreme vastness, that he can neither encompass nor traverse it, nor can he count the innumerable treasures it contains. What is all this, and why is it there? Where did this world start from and where will it all end? What is the purpose of all this existence? He finds himself completely in the dark on these subjects. Man has, of course, been given eyes, but all his eyes can do is see the outside of things. He has intelligence, but the trouble with human intelligence is that it does not even know about itself. Up till now, man has been unable to find out how thoughts enter the human mind or how the mind functions. With such inadequate faculties, he is neither able to arrive at any sound conclusion concerning himself, nor he is able to understand the Universe.

This riddle is solved by the Book of God. Today, the Qur’an is the only scripture beneath the heavens about which we can say with complete conviction that it gives us definite knowledge concerning all the realities of life.

Those who have tried to understand the Universe without recourse to the Book of God are just like those blind people who try to find out what an elephant is by touching different parts of its body. One will touch its leg, and think he has found a pillar. Another will feel its ear, and think it is a winnowing basket. Its back will be proclaimed a platform, its tail a snake and its trunk a hosepipe. But where in all this is the elephant? No matter how these blind people put together their findings, they cannot arrive at the correct answer. This is the eternal predicament of all atheist philosophers and thinkers. In their attempt to fathom the nature of reality in the universe, they have failed to be guided by true knowledge. As a result, their conclusions have been like those of a man, fumbling in the dark, and just hazarding wild guesses as to the nature of his surroundings, without ever truly understanding it.

There have been people in this world who have devoted their entire lives to the quest for Truth, but who, in their desperation at being unable to find it, have even taken the extreme step of putting an end to their lives. And then there have been others who sought the Truth but who, having failed to find it, settled for a concocted philosophy based on pure conjecture. While the latter, mistaking conjecture for reason, compiled their conclusions and presented them to the world as Truth, the former saw speculation for what it was, rejected it, then—anguished at their own ultimate helplessness—opted out of this mysterious world.

Both groups were denied True Knowledge, for, in reality, no one can understand the secret of life without the help of the original Keeper of the Secret. True, man has been given the capacity to think and understand. But this capacity is little better than an eye which can see only so long as there is some external source of light. In pitch darkness, this self-same eye cannot see anything whatsoever. Only when a light is switched on, does everything become clearly visible. The human intellect, like the eye, needs the light—the light of God’s revelation—if it is not forever to grope in the dark. Without God’s revelation, we can never arrive at the truth of things.

A scholarly acquaintance of mine once remarked that learning—so it is held—is not acquired by reading book after book and possessing a string of degrees from colleges and universities, but consists, in its supreme form, of faith. The Qur’an likewise states that, ‘in fact, it is those who fear God who are learned.’ But he failed to grasp the significance of this, he said. I replied, ‘Karl Marx is considered a ‘prophet’ in the field of economics, but he did not have one whit of the True Knowledge which, today, by the grace of God, you possess. Faced by a world in which a small number of feudal lords and industrial magnates had taken possession of a disproportionate share of the available wealth, while most people lived in abject poverty, Marx concluded that what lay at the root of these disparities was the present system of ownership which caused articles to be produced, not for their utility to the producer, but for the profit they would yield when sold to others. This permitted the privileged few to behave as plunderers, heaping up profits and increasing their own property to the detriment of their fellow men. The remedy proposed by Marx was to abolish ownership rights altogether, and to transfer the means of accumulating wealth to the public sector. The government was then to be entrusted with the organization of a public system of creation and distribution of wealth which should serve the interests of all.

At that particular point in time, it was those who possessed the necessary capital who were in a position to profiteer. The question now arose as to the actual advantage of having the government take complete control of these funds in order to turn them into a public treasury. Would not this new group of people — the members of government — be tempted, as individuals, to do the same as their capitalist predecessors, considering that they would also be vested with military and legislative powers? Karl Marx’s analysis was that the system of ownership was flawed by jealousy and the opportunities it gave for outright plunder. According to him, such social defects would disappear in a communist society. ‘Now, tell me,’ I asked my friend, ‘was Karl Marx correct in thinking so?’ ‘Certainly not,’ he replied, ‘The idea of accountability in the Hereafter is the only thing in this world that can cleanse a man of cruel and selfish tendencies.’ ‘That is the real answer to the problem,’ I said. ‘For Karl Marx’s self-made theory resulted in even greater oppression and cruelty than in the days when political and economic powers were shared by the Czars and the capitalists. Now, under the communist system, the powers of Czars and capitalists have all been rolled into one, and it is the common man who suffers.’

All those philosophers who have attempted-without God-to solve the riddle of the Universe have fallen into the same pitfalls as Marx. As to their thinking, one is struck by how such great intellects could produce such infantile suggestions. They are like so many blind people, trying, gropingly, to identify an elephant and declaring, with finality, that it is four pillars, or four tree trunks. It is only when life and the universe are scrutinized in the light of the Book of God that everything appears clearly, in its true form; then even a person of very average ability has no trouble in understanding the truth of things; at the very first glance, he goes straight to the heart of the matter. To a person who does not possess this Knowledge, however, the universe is but a labyrinth in which he wanders, lost and distraught.

We owe much to the human sciences. Yet the absolute maximum that we can learn from them is what the universe is. Till now, they have not given us one iota of knowledge on the subject of why the universe is as it is. Bring together a few gases, minerals and salts, and you have a moving, conscious human being. Put seeds in the ground and up spring plants and trees. Just make a change in atomic numbers and innumerable elements come into being. From just two gases, water—that most precious of commodities—is prepared. Steam, produced by molecular motion within water, gives inanimate engines the power to move. The electrons within an atom are too tiny to be seen through a microscope, but they too are a vital source of colossal, mountain-shattering power. These are all matters of fact. Scientific events do take place as described. But this description is the outer limit of our scientific ‘knowledge.’ When we ask why things are as they are, and why things happen as they do, human science gives us no guidance whatsoever.

Studies in astronomy show that the number of stars in the sky is as numerous as all of the sand grains on all the sea-shores of our planet, many of the stars being vastly greater in size than our earth, some even being of such enormous girth that they could accommodate hundreds of thousands of earths inside them and still have room to spare. A few of them are even big enough to contain millions and millions of earths. The universe is so vast that an airplane flying at the greatest speed imaginable, i.e. at the speed of light, (186,282 miles per second) would take about ten billion years to complete just a single trip around the whole universe. Even with such a huge circumference, this universe is not static, but is expanding every moment in all directions. So rapid is this expansion that, according to an estimate by Eddington, every 1300 million years, all the distances in this universe are doubled. This means that even our imaginary airplane traveling at the speed of light would not ever be able to fly all the way around the universe, because it would never be able to catch up with this unending expansion. This estimation of the vastness of the universe is based on Einstein’s theory of relativity. But this is just a mathematician’s guess. To tell the truth, man has yet to comprehend the vastness of the universe.

Human Studies bring us face to face with this astonishing universe. And there they leave us. They do not tell us the true meaning of the universe. They do not tell us who causes events to take place. Neither do they tell us whose hand it is that controls the great spheres revolving in the vastness of space. If we wish to have the answers to these questions, it is to the Qur’an that we must turn. If we want to know how things came into existence, how they are sustained and what their future will be, it is the Qur’an alone which will tell us. In so doing, it will acquaint us with the Lord and Master of the Universe, opening out before us the sublime nature of his works.

The Qur’an bears verbal witness to the sovereignty of God. It describes, with great force and clarity, the great, hidden, determinative force at work throughout the entire world, and gives us definitive information on those metaphysical realities which elude the hand and the eye. Not only does it spell out the facts of existence, but it also builds up an astonishing gallery of word-pictures which bring a hitherto unseen world before our very eyes.

The Holy Book not only tells us that God exists, but also paints an incredibly vivid picture of the Being who sustains and directs the Universe. Not only does it tell us about the Hereafter, but describes the Day of Judgment so graphically that its horrors become deeply etched on our consciousness. There is a well-known story of a Greek artist who painted such a realistic picture of a bunch of grapes that birds would come and peck at it. Just think that if a painting executed by an ordinary mortal could have such an extraordinary effect, what heights of consummate artistry could not be reached by the Lord of the Worlds in His creation of the Qur’an? Could any mere mortal truly appreciate the perfection of such art?

The Qur’an opens with the words: ‘Praise be to God, Lord of the Worlds. ‘This invocation is of great significance. It means: ‘Thanks be to God, Maker and Sustainer of all creatures in the world.’ A master and sustainer is one who is filled with profound concern for his subjects and provides for all their needs. Man’s greatest need is to know what he is, where he has come from, and where he will go. He also needs to know where he will gain and where he will lose. If he were to be taken to some region of space in which there was neither air nor water, this would not be such a great calamity for him as finding himself in the world without any accurate knowledge of his origin or ultimate fate.

God has more compassion for His creatures than a father has for his own son. It is inconceivable, therefore, that He should have seen this need on the part of His servants and not provided for it. By means of revelation, He has sent down whatever knowledge a man must have in order to understand himself, and He has sent it in a form which could be conveyed by the human tongue. This is the greatest favor that the Lord has done His servants.

A man who realizes to what extent he needs his Maker’s help in acquiring True Knowledge will feel his heart simply overflowing with gratitude to and praise for his Lord, when he sees what favor He has shown him in sending him the Qur’an. The words: ‘Praise be to God, Lord of the Worlds!’ will spontaneously burst forth from him. These are the words of a true servant of God having been inspired in him by God Himself. Even when it is a question of how a man should serve his Lord, he needs the guidance of his Maker. The desire to serve may itself be quite instinctive, but the would-be devotee does not know in what manner to give expression to it. The Qur’an, however, is explicit on this subject, and even provides him with the exact words he should use. In this respect, the prayers of the Qur’an are the most sublime gifts.

The Qur’an is not a book in the ordinary, accepted sense of the word. It is more an account of the final struggle to convey the message of Islam. From the most ancient times, God has been sending down knowledge of the truth through His specially chosen emissaries. In the seventh century of the Christian era, it was God’s will that the inhabitants of the Earth should quite finally be provided with Knowledge of Truth and that a society should be founded on the basis of that Knowledge which would be a source of enlightenment and an example for the whole human race until the Last Day.

In accordance with this aim, God raised His final Prophet in Arabia, and charged him with the mission of propagating this message among the Arabs. Those who came under the influence of his preaching were then set the task of spreading the message throughout the whole world. In spreading True Knowledge, and in establishing a society based upon it, the Holy Prophet was working under divine guidance. God sent His Word down to the Prophet, revealing to him what he should preach, and providing him with the proofs he required to make his preaching effective. When his opponents raised objections, he was, therefore, able to give them answers which silenced them. And when those who accepted the message later showed some weakness, he was able immediately to bring them to book to reform them.

Moreover, the Qur’an formulated rules for war and peace, and laid down principles for education and guidance. It gave solace to its adherents in times of adversity and, when they ultimately triumphed, it provided the legal framework on which society could be built anew. Twenty-three years elapsed between the beginning and the conclusion. At every stage during this period Almighty God, Light of the World, sent guidance in the form of commandments for mankind. These guidelines were later compiled, in accordance with His plan, in a particular sequence. It is this collection which is called the Qur’an.

The Qur’an is the most authentic record of the True Call, raised in Arabia by the Final Prophet, who was guided right throughout his Prophethood by God Himself. It is a collection of divine instructions, issued for the guidance of this movement at different times over nearly a quarter of a century. But the Qur’an is not merely a historical record. It is a divine proclamation, valid for all time, and cast in historical mould in order to be presented meaningfully to mankind. It is also a permanent proclamation in that it will decide the fate—good or bad—of human beings in every epoch, in accordance with the will of God.

The various parts of the Qur’an were separately conveyed over a long period of time, depending upon local exigencies. These different portions did not, therefore, come into existence as a mere matter of chance. They were parts of a well-ordered scheme—perfect in its conception—which had its origin in the supernatural world. Because they were sent down as circumstances demanded, they were not originally in any regular sequence. But when the scheme reached its conclusion, it was brought together as a complete whole, according to a definite pattern, which is unrivalled in its consistency. In that way, it is distinctly different from the type of anthology which presents selections of the speeches made by the political leaders of the day.

We can perhaps have a clearer picture of how the Qur’an was assembled if we imagine the parallel of a factory under construction in India, for which the equipment is being manufactured in some country overseas.

This equipment for the factory has to be manufactured in separate parts in different production units. These parts have then to be loaded on to different ships and sent off to India. Throughout the various stages of its construction, our factory will necessarily appear to the uninitiated as a mass of heterogeneous and incomplete objects. But as soon as all the parts of the equipment brought in different shipments are properly assembled, they will take on the shape of a complete factory, all ready to be put into commission. It was in very much the same way that the Qur’an was assembled in order to produce a complete and permanent moral code for all human beings. That is why, although formed of such disparate elements, it is of such astounding uniformity. It was because it bore a message urging man to turn a hostile environment into a favorable one, that it had to be revealed in a gradual manner, thus meeting the needs of differing circumstances. Historically speaking, it is a compilation of a great diversity of injunctions, but the divine scheme of an Omnipotent and Omniscient God has made it into a well-ordered and uniform whole.

So many books have been written on all branches of learning and on every conceivable allied subject—to date, millions of books have been printed and published—that it would take more than one’s entire lifetime to read them all. But the Qur’an is a book of such a kind that, even if one could study all the books in the world, its guidance would still be a prime necessity. Indeed, one can only truly benefit from the study of other books if one has first gained from the Qur’an that depth of insight which is at the basis of genuine discernment in all matters of importance. Without the Qur’an, the human individual is like a ship adrift on a vast ocean without a compass. Just as the ocean liner is lost without its compass, so does man need divine revelation to steer him through the entanglements of human existence. Only one who has received his share of divine light will be able to navigate his way across the ocean of this life.

Those who are denied, or who have denied themselves God’s enlightenment, will be roughly tossed on the seas of life and are likely to founder on hidden reefs without ever having been able to bring their affairs to a satisfactory conclusion.

The Qur’an fills that vacuum in human nature which, in all periods of history, has set man at variance with himself. Rousseau said that man was born free, but that everywhere he found ‘him tied up in chains.’ I would say, on the contrary, that man has been born a slave, but seeks, in unnatural ways, to make himself a master. Outwardly, man appears to be self-sufficient, but in his innermost self, he is a complex web of needs. In order merely to survive, man needs air, water and the produce of the land. In the same way, in order to sustain the life of the spirit, he stands in need of external support. Man instinctively requires a prop on which he can lean in times of difficulty; he needs one, close to himself, to whom he can bow his head in reverence; one to whom he can address his needs when he is in trouble; one before whom he can prostrate himself in gratitude when happiness comes his way. A man drowning in the ocean needs to have a lifeline thrown to him. Similarly, a man, adrift in a vast and fathomless universe, needs a spiritual rope to which he can cling. No one, however great, is free of this necessity. It is a vacuum which must be filled. If we fill this vacuum with the Divine Being, we are following the principle of monotheism. But if we abandon God and look to some other for support, we descend into polytheism.

In every period of history, man has been forced to have recourse to one or other of these two props. In ancient times, those who subscribed to monotheism depended on one God for support and, today, they still depend upon Him and Him alone. But the direction of those who subscribe to polytheism has kept changing. Ancient man, and many people, even in more recent times, worshipped countless objects, ranging from the bright stars that shine in the sky to trees and stones and other randomly chosen objects. Today, objects such as nation, country, material progress, political power have taken the place of earlier objects of worship. Such then are the people’s gods, fashioned by them specifically to fill the aching void in their hearts. But even with all this, people still need an ultimate destination in life’s struggle which will transcend the plane of pure materialism. They still need someone or something to love. They still yearn for one in whose remembrance they can warm their hearts and revitalize their spirits. But just as idols made of stone have never given any true support or help in the past, neither do the more resplendent idols of today, for, fragile and ephemeral as they are, they do not give a nation any real strength.

The Germans, for example, idolized their nation, but, far from standing by them, it brought them to the point of destruction in World War II. Italy and Japan did likewise, but their respective idols could not save their countries from becoming the graveyards of the people. Britain and France also made idols of their material resources, but even then, the empires of both countries rapidly shrank, the sun finally setting on the British Empire, an empire on which it was said ‘the sun never set.’

The Qur’an shows us where strength in this world really lies, giving us a handhold on a rope that never breaks. Without this, we have no real support in life. Moreover, it is only through our attachment to God that human beings can retain their hold on the cord that binds each to each.

The Qur’an explains that it is this One God alone who sustains us throughout our lives here on this earth. Through Him our hearts are set at ease, for it is He who provides true warmth in life. He rescues us in times of peril, assists us in the hour of need. All power rests in His hands: honor and glory will be the rewards of any nation who looks to Him for support, while only disgrace and humiliation will be the lot of those who abandon Him. To know this is to hold the key to all the treasures in life. He who possesses this key gains all; he who loses it, loses all.

We attach great importance to the scientists who discovered electric and steam power, thus providing human civilization with opportunities for progress. But the greatness of the reality which this Book lays before us is immeasurable. It does not just give us knowledge of machines, but of the human beings for whom all these machines have been made. It tells us of Man, and Man in turn learns from it the secret of successful living.

The Qur’an, first and foremost, is the Proclamation of God. Just as every enlightened sovereign has a Constitution, so is the Qur’an the ‘Constitution’ of the Almighty, Master of Man, King of kings. To put it very simply, the Qur’an is a book of directions, showing man the right path to tread. It is a Light which guides his faltering steps, giving him timely reminders of God’s will, awakening his sleeping nature and conveying the Lord’s admonition. It is a book that, in giving him the moral sense to distinguish right from wrong, cures him, and his society, of all ills. In that sense, it is a book of wisdom, full of every expression of correct understanding. More, it is a book of laws, laying down for us the very foundations on which to build and organize society. In short, it provides everything that man—as an individual and as member of society—can ever need. Without this, man can never be the gainer, no matter how hard he tries.

How can a man gauge whether he has actually developed a relationship with God or not? There is only one answer to this question: by turning his eyes inward, and judging how his inner self stands related to the Qur’an. For how one relates to the Qur’an is a true reflection of one’s relationship with God. The degree to which a man adheres to the tenets of the Qur’an will be a sure indication of his attachment to his Maker. If the Qur’an is the book he values most, it goes without saying that God is dearer to him than any other. But if some other book is held in greater esteem by him, then the most important person in his life will be its author, and not his Maker. Just as it is impossible to find the true God anywhere but in the Qur’an, so is it impossible that, after finding God, any book other than the Qur’an should be more precious to him. For the Qur’an is the book of God. It is the means through which the Almighty converses with His servants, His living representative on this earth. It is a scale on which man’s devotion to his Creator may be measured.

When man fears to stand alone, without support, in an unfathomable universe, the Qur’an sets his mind at rest by making his destination clear to him, and directing him towards it. In the Qur’an man thus meets his Lord, beholds His promises and rejoices in His good tidings. In this way, the Qur’an fills a man with sufficient conviction to define his place in the world. Giving concrete form to the instinctive feelings which swirl in man’s subconscious about his Lord and Master, the Qur’an sets his feet well and truly on the path of submission to Him. In so doing, it brings him closer to God.

In seeking to ascertain God’s will, just to read through the Qur’an is not enough: one has rather to become deeply engrossed in it. It is only when one has formed a strong degree of attachment to the Qur’an that one has access to all the advantages it offers. One has to be bound to the Qur’an as one is by a contract—or ta’ahud (the word used by the Prophet) in order to reap its benefits. This awareness of the greatness of the Qur’an, and consequent adherence thereto, cannot come about at second hand. That is, one may hear a commentator or man of letters discourse upon the Qur’an and may form a high opinion of the speaker and his attainments, but that is not the way to form a genuine attachment with the Qur’an itself. A real bond with the Qur’an can be forged only if one reads the Holy Scriptures oneself, thus having direct access to the contents. Only then will its wisdom be engraved upon one’s memory. Only then will it be appreciated for what it actually is.

This is not a mere figment of the imagination. It is supported by basic psychology. For example, it may be contended that the difference between cotton wool and stone is merely relative, that, in fact, they are the same thing, both in the last analysis being accumulations of the same kind of electrons. But this contention is purely academic. In the real world, cotton cannot be thought of as anything but soft, and stone as anything but hard. It is not superficial or abstract definitions which determine the impression one shall have of the matter at hand, but the knowledge that one gains of it by direct, personal experience.

source: quran net

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