Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Qur’ān and Us – Part II

Something which the Muslims and indeed the non-Muslims have come to realise is the immense power of the Qur’ān – once tasted, never forgotten.

Muslims throughout history dream about it day and night, wondering how incredible it would be if they could memorise it.

Others dream how great it would be to recite like the masters of old, being able to capture the hearts of those listening in an intense and indeed overpowering moment of feeling, enchanted by His Words and Wisdom; didn’t he (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) say, “Hasbuk! Hasbuk!” (Enough! Enough!) unable to continue with the power of His words upon him.

Students of knowledge and scholars alike wonder how it would be if they knew the true meanings of His Verses ‘azza wa jall; a gift that very few will ever have the pleasure and satisfaction of achieving.

Then we have the general Muslims who might have given up on trying to commit this miracle to heart but are willing to sacrifice everything they have in order that their children will become the next generation of preservers – they wait patiently in order to receive their promised crowns of light in the next life, at the hands of the intercession of their offspring.

And what of the non-Muslims? There are those who have wondered all their lives what all the fuss was about and there are others who have entire departments working for them in order to destroy its message and power.

Others have already given up and realised that as long as the Qur’ān exists amongst the Muslim nation, it will never be overcome. It is of little surprise then to see that after the failed efforts to fabricate, deviate and destroy its message, new attempts centre on banning the book entirely from public access.

This would be laughable if it wasn’t something already alluded to by Islamic practice and tradition. The way of our early fathers was to commit the Qur’ān to personal memory, with the physical book (mush-haf) version being a luxury. To this effect, the Prophetic injunctions to memorise the Qur’ān and the excellence and honour of such an action in addition to the rewards promised by Allah ‘azza wa jall, make this a clear priority in the life of the practising Muslim.

Add to this the declaration of the Creator, “Hence, indeed, we have made this Qur’ān easy o bear in mind; who, then, is willing to take it to heart.” (al-Qamr, 17) and thus we should try and investigate as much as possible how to memorise as much of this blessed book as we can.

The only problem is to decide on which method to use in memorising the Noble Book and thus enter the company of that exclusive honoured group: the Preservers of the Scripture.

This series was written based on the author’s experiences of the ultra-traditional method of the Shanqiti tribe in North West Africa yet one should be quick to realise the immense difficulty of trying to apply this blessed method with our present situation in the West.

The problem becomes clearer when we look at the basic Shanqiti method: arising early at Fajr time, utilising that blessed morning period for a few hours to read the chosen pages to ones Shaykh, and then after having it corrected, proceeding to write out the chosen verses a number of times and then repeated continuously for often as much as a couple of hundred times to commit it to memory. The rest of the day is spent in revision, in tandem with other students to check each other and the valuable teaching of other younger children to further cement previous memorised portions. After the Maghrib prayer, there will be a further revision period of the day’s appointed portion as well as the revision of yesterday’s pages. An early night would be encouraged and thus we have a general outline of what happens in a traditional mahdhara such as found amongst the tribes of the Shanqitis, with a few minor variations to suit specific schools.

So what’s wrong with trying to apply that here in the West or more specifically the UK?

Firstly, one should always be realistic about ones ability and logistically prepare themselves for what they are able to do. Those who are truly serious about their desire to memorise the Qur’ān will often take a few years out to travel to a specialist centre in the Muslim world to be able to dedicate themselves to this most noble of tasks. The sheer silence and pristine environment of the Saharah Desert or the mountains of the North West Frontier in Pakistan has its own blessing in trying to pursue this aim, out of sight of mobile phones and internet connections and the other numerous distractions that day-to-day life bring.

Unfortunately, the above scenario will remain just a dream to many, especially those who are married, something which invariably proves to destroy ones crack at serious study despite all the time and effort expended in choosing a partner “who will want to go abroad and study seriously with me”, only to find parents, pregnancy and a new home suddenly appear out of nowhere to change ones life direction.

For those who are willing to try and implement some form of classical system into their daily routines living in the West, unfortunately come across many hurdles which de-motivate the individual which perhaps a clearer picture of the task ahead might help to avoid. Part of that clarity would be to be realistic about ones working day in the UK.

The tremendous variation in the length of the night is probably one of the single most key factors. During the summer, one is unable to go to sleep until very late, often 11-11:30 pm but yet will have to arise before 4am for the Fajr prayer. With no siesta in the working day, it is very difficult to expect to work on just four hours sleep for a full twenty four hour working day to allow oneself to revise after Fajr when the majority of people will utilise the post-Fajr period to prepare sleep-wise for the working day. Although there will be a further period for study available later on in the day during these long days, it is a time of noise, business and family and hence not conducive to memorisation as are the early Fajr hours.

This extreme then flips to very long nights in the Winter which brings its own problems of late Fajr prayer times (hence not allowing any time post-Fajr because the working day has begun) which require students to rise early in the dark of Tahajjud and stay awake, something which is more difficult to do in terms of memorisation.

Throw into this the lack of qualified scholars to revise with, the constant distractions of modern day life in a developed country and most importantly, the fact that our hearts collectively are too dark with mistakes and sin to allow space for the light of the knowledge of God and we really have a problem on our hands. All this, and when we remember that the Qur’ān itself has been made easy and joyous to recite and memorise, we recognise that it is our merry selves that have made it so difficult!

One details these issues only to bring a sense of realism to our endeavours to become Preservers of the Holy Scripture. Although we want to encourage everyone to become closer to the amazing miracle that is the Qur’ān, we shouldn’t kid ourselves that the rewards promised by Allah for the memorisers are something achieved in a flash without utter dedication. Did anyone expect the Qur’ān to intercede for us on the Final Day just based upon our mere good intentions?

What this means is that we have to be dynamic in our approach to becoming closer to the Qur’ān, and in particular when it comes to memorisation. Muslims will continue to live the lifestyles they currently do and the Qur’ān will need memorising as it always has. As times evolve, we can adapt without having to betray our heritage and culture.

The Muslim Arab world in particular has been studying many modern-day memorisation techniques that have been developed by leading thinkers and academics from the West, modified to fit the religious context Muslims desire and are claiming good results already due to their suitability to the Western lifestyle. This can be seen as similar to the boom in online-based Islamic learning systems as well as intensive weekend seminars and case-based learning models which have only become popular due to the scholars that have endorsed them as the replacement to classical learning for those unable to pursue the normal route in the West.

Also it should be noted that some will still be able to derive the principles of the classical methods of numerous repetitions and utilise times more conducive to their working day, and then cleverly make use of opportunities with their Shaykh a few times a week and depend on high quality digital recordings of the Qurrā’ to maintain discipline and authenticity on the other days. This has been witnessed widely by this author in the West, and alongside a greater concern from parents to use their children’s free early years to memorise the Qur’ān whilst young with parental supervision and other modern media aids, has proved to be a real solution for those who are willing to confront the challenges of modernity face-on with a sincere, patient and dynamic attitude.

And with Allah is all success. It is He we ask to grant us ability - indeed, He is All-Capable of that.

2 Comments:

Blogger Imran said...

Interesting article . . .

http://politics.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,2047110,00.html


Call that humiliation?



No hoods. No electric shocks. No beatings. These Iranians clearly are a very uncivilised bunch

Terry Jones
Saturday March 31, 2007
The Guardian

I share the outrage expressed in the British press over the treatment of our naval personnel accused by Iran of illegally entering their waters. It is a disgrace. We would never dream of treating captives like this - allowing them to smoke cigarettes, for example, even though it has been proven that smoking kills. And as for compelling poor servicewoman Faye Turney to wear a black headscarf, and then allowing the picture to be posted around the world - have the Iranians no concept of civilised behaviour? For God's sake, what's wrong with putting a bag over her head? That's what we do with the Muslims we capture: we put bags over their heads, so it's hard to breathe. Then it's perfectly acceptable to take photographs of them and circulate them to the press because the captives can't be recognised and humiliated in the way these unfortunate British service people are.

It is also unacceptable that these British captives should be made to talk on television and say things that they may regret later. If the Iranians put duct tape over their mouths, like we do to our captives, they wouldn't be able to talk at all. Of course they'd probably find it even harder to breathe - especially with a bag over their head - but at least they wouldn't be humiliated.

And what's all this about allowing the captives to write letters home saying they are all right? It's time the Iranians fell into line with the rest of the civilised world: they should allow their captives the privacy of solitary confinement. That's one of the many privileges the US grants to its captives in Guantánamo Bay.

The true mark of a civilised country is that it doesn't rush into charging people whom it has arbitrarily arrested in places it's just invaded. The inmates of Guantánamo, for example, have been enjoying all the privacy they want for almost five years, and the first inmate has only just been charged. What a contrast to the disgraceful Iranian rush to parade their captives before the cameras!

What's more, it is clear that the Iranians are not giving their British prisoners any decent physical exercise. The US military make sure that their Iraqi captives enjoy PT. This takes the form of exciting "stress positions", which the captives are expected to hold for hours on end so as to improve their stomach and calf muscles. A common exercise is where they are made to stand on the balls of their feet and then squat so that their thighs are parallel to the ground. This creates intense pain and, finally, muscle failure. It's all good healthy fun and has the bonus that the captives will confess to anything to get out of it.

And this brings me to my final point. It is clear from her TV appearance that servicewoman Turney has been put under pressure. The newspapers have persuaded behavioural psychologists to examine the footage and they all conclude that she is "unhappy and stressed".

What is so appalling is the underhand way in which the Iranians have got her "unhappy and stressed". She shows no signs of electrocution or burn marks and there are no signs of beating on her face. This is unacceptable. If captives are to be put under duress, such as by forcing them into compromising sexual positions, or having electric shocks to their genitals, they should be photographed, as they were in Abu Ghraib. The photographs should then be circulated around the civilised world so that everyone can see exactly what has been going on.

As Stephen Glover pointed out in the Daily Mail, perhaps it would not be right to bomb Iran in retaliation for the humiliation of our servicemen, but clearly the Iranian people must be made to suffer - whether by beefing up sanctions, as the Mail suggests, or simply by getting President Bush to hurry up and invade, as he intends to anyway, and bring democracy and western values to the country, as he has in Iraq.


Terry Jones is a film director, actor and Python
www.terry-jones.net

6:57 pm  
Blogger saif said...

"Today we have the same Qur’an with us. Millions of copies of it are in circulation. Day and night, it is ceaselessly recited. In homes, in mosques, and from pulpits. Voluminous exegetical works exist expounding its meaning. Words pour out incessantly to explain its teachings and to exhort us to live by it. Yet eyes remain dry, hearts remain unmoved, minds remain untouched, lives remain unchanged. Ignominy and degradation appear to have become the lot of the followers of the Qur’an.

Why? Because we no longer read the Qur’an as a living reality. It is a sacred book, but it tells us something of the past only, concerning Muslims and Kafirs, Jews and Christians, the faithful and the hypocrites, who 'once upon a time used to be'."

- Khurram Murad, in Way to The Qur'an.

12:19 pm  

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