Thanks for stumbling onto this blogpost. The purpose of this Quran Year Project is laid out here, however, if you are looking for more, try the content guide which you can check out here.
“To truly understand the Quran you have to learn Arabic,” said a well meaning friend. “It is in the Arabic, not just colloquial, but Fusah Arabic that you’re going to understand the power of the Quran.” And thus, my little motivation fizzled away. I had to admit that reading the Quran in English translation would diminish, but to not start at all was incredibly embarrassing to share. However, I would put it off to the distant future when I would have time to study and learn Arabic properly, is just pathetic.
Just like that I let others tell me what to do and when to do it. I fell onto my own sword of procrastination and putting things off. I guess I was looking for an excuse to keep myself free from investing the time necessary to reading the English translation, since it was a significant undertaking. Learning Arabic, Fusah for that matter, is no easy undertaking, especially if you live and work in the West. But I understand where my well meaning friends were coming from. The reward is to understand something that is profoundly earth shattering- the message of the Quran.
And this perception about learning Arabic to appreciate the Quran is true, to an extent. Consider the story of Omar, it was a handful of verses that he heard that moved him to shift his entire being from hating with a passion Muslims and Islam, to becoming one of the ardent supporters and followers of the Prophet SAW. He didn’t just hear “[t]here is no God but God, and Muhammad is his Messenger” but rather he heard the complicated relationship altering ideas that were built into the Arabic language that the Quran was revealed in.
The Quran is the soul of the Muslim religion. It is what gives this religion its spirituality. Aisha RA, the wife of the Prophet, related that “The Quran was the Prophets character.” That is a staggering statement. Not only does the Quran speak to the human soul, even when you don’t truly understand what is being recited, I feel that it is the essence by which humanity can be refined toward the perfect. Perfection being the domain of God, we can only try to emulate, get closest to, the character of the Prophet which was the perfect human character.
Listening to the Quran does move me. Especially when recited by a wonderful voice. Which makes complete sense because the Arabic word “Quran” literally means the recitation, an indication that this was a text meant to be heard, not just read, therefore, its power lies in its auditory nature. Sadly, the auditory experience alone doesn’t develop an understanding and association to Islam, as 90% of the worlds Muslims don’t understand Arabic (like me, I understand Urdu and am fluent in English).
There shouldn’t have been any reason whatsoever for me to put aside my seedling desire to read the English translation of the Quran for so long. As a believer, I should have sat down with the Quran and studied it thoroughly. The fact is the first verse revealed required “reading.” When you look at Islamic civilization there are no images of God, but rather there is the Quran. To know God, one has to know the Quran.
But come on, truly out of the billion Muslims around the world, how many of us have sat down and studied the Quran? And that same question can be lobbed to Christians, how many self-identifying Christian have sat with the text from cover to cover? But this is not an excuse for me to not have read a Quran. I profess Islam as my faith.
I admit, I let these small statements from well meaning friends become actionable leverage pieces for Shaitan to whisper and dissuade me from delving into the Quran. But conversely, if you consider the tenuous relationship individuals have with the Quran, why would any Muslim offer such misguided advice that has the power to weaken a persons intention to learn more about the faith and to get closer to the Quran? If it were one person, I would say its a off hand remark, and I was being stupid. However, the fact that it was multiple people from various regions of the West coast suggesting that learning Arabic is the only way to appreciate the Quran, the implication being that an English reading would be a waste of time, suggests to me that there is this culture ingrained into the psyche of Muslims that legitimacy in religion is derived solely from Arabic. I don’t think I can process that statement fully here, nor is it my purpose with the Quran Year Project to delve into that.
This endeavor is motivated in part because its time. Second, its inspired by a friend from NewGround who recently spent the year reading the Bible and Quran. Finally, its inspired by non-Muslims who have spent time reading the English translation of the Quran, like Lesley Hazleton and the blog “A Christian Reads the Quran” in which Jason Knight endeavors to better understand Islam by turning to its principle text, the Quran. One of his conclusion struck me really hard:
Maybe my biggest realization came about halfway through the year when Muslims began to find and comment on this blog. What I discovered is that if I really wanted to understand Islam, reading the Qur’an is only the beginning. In fact, I am wondering now if I have read more of the Qur’an than some Muslims I have talked to this year (not the clearly learned Muslims who were kind enough to take a lot of time to educate me about their religion). I was mistaken when I thought the Qur’an would unlock a thorough understanding of Islam. I would say now that if one really wants to understand this esteemed religion one would be best served by reading the Hadith, the traditions and sayings of Muhammad that have been collected since his death.
(Bold emphasis is my doing, not Mr. Knights) Its true that he read more of the Quran then most Muslims, but then again majority of Christians don’t read the entirety of the Bible either. Something that he acknowledges in his other blog posts. But I don’t want to get into the comparing business, the fact is I felt incredibly guilty because that was precisely my position in relation to his.
I am a Muslim, and the most time I spent studying the Quran was when I went looking for things, or the tidbits I picked up here and there through articles and talks. There was no concerted effort to spend time with the text. To spend time with the text is to know God.
I also want to point out that I have been trying to be more conscious about the Quranic imperative to be reflective. I wrote a little about this in my post “The art of reflection“, but this was in relation to having an intentional effort to reflect deeper on my Central America traveling experience.
Reflection though is creeping into other parts of my life and being intentional about following the Divine request to engage with the Quran is something that required practice. Here I am now. Ready to reflect. Ready to get the Millennial Quran Reflection going. Oh, that maybe, should be the name for what I am doing- the Millennial Quran Reflection Project (MQRP)… okay, will work on the naming more.