Reading The Quran Speaks to You

Life Enriching Divine Directives for the Humanity
A Kashmiri man recites the holy Qur'an inside a shrine during ongoing fasting in the month of Ramadhan in Srinagar on Wednesday April 6, 2022. [Representational Image]
A Kashmiri man recites the holy Qur'an inside a shrine during ongoing fasting in the month of Ramadhan in Srinagar on Wednesday April 6, 2022. [Representational Image] File: Mubashir Khan for Greater Kashmir

ABDUR RAHEEM KIDWAI (b. 1956) from Aligarh Muslim University is an English Professor by profession and a writer (among others) on Islam, Qur’anic Studies, and English Translations of the Qur’an. For his enormous and significant contribution to this genre of scholarship, he is rightly described as a “versatile scholar in academia” whose “academic credentials and familial tradition have immensely enriched emerging trends of Islamic scholarship”.

Some of his major works in the field of Qur’anic Studies, especially in the genre of introducing Quran to the general readership, include: The Qur’an: Essential Teachings (2005); Daily Wisdom: Selections from the Holy Qur’an (2011); 365 Selections from the Holy Qur’an (2014); and (the latest one) The Quran Speaks to You (2022).

All these works are addressed to Muslims with no or little knowledge of Arabic and to the (non-Muslim) English readership. They are written with the objective of highlighting and disseminating the universal message of the Quran—and a new addition to this literature is the book under review: The Quran Speaks to You.

The Quran Speaks to You is a collection of sixty (60) Quranic passages illustrating the Quranic belief system, values and way of life. It highlights the teachings of the Quran about God (the Creator), the fundamental beliefs of Islam, the purpose of creation, social relations, living a harmonious and peaceful life, gender equality, Islam as well as other religions/ religious beliefs, morals and manners.

Divided into three main parts—What to Believe? (Chapters 1-12) How to Lead Your Life (Chapters 13-53) and The Afterlife (Chapters 54-60)—the book is preceded by a Preface (pp. 1-4) and ends with Appendices like Quranic Gems (pp. 185-191), Glossary (pp. 192-203), Further Reading (pp. 204-227), Quranic Passages (p. 228), and Index (pp.229-238).

It “introduces the Quranic outlook on various aspects of Islam for those who are new to it”, and thus helps in shedding light on “some misconceptions about Islam or the Quran” (p. 3). The book, as mentioned in its description, presents ‘the main ideas which form the pillars of Islam’ and thus ‘the author shows you how the religion reveals the way to lead a dignified life’.

Each passage is accompanied by an explanation to help in understanding the message easily on various topics which helps the reader to grasp “the common ground” existing between all religions, which is needed today because of multiple divisive forces (having maligned “the image of Islam” (p.4). It also helps in dissipating some incorrect ideas about the Quran and Islam by outlining the Islamic rules for behaviour and the benefits of good deeds in the Hereafter.

The sixty chapters (60 passages), under three (3) broad headings, thus, illustrate the Quranic belief system, values and way of life and each chapter is supplemented further with many other Quranic verses relevant to the theme in Further Reading (pp. 20-227). It, thus, acts as a simple and lucid guide in understanding of the core concepts and universal message of Islam. To grasp this, below is provided a summary of some selected chapters from each section:

In chapter 1, “Who is God?” (pp. 7-10), Kidwai quotes Q. 112: 1-5; 2: 255; and 59: 22-24 and in the explanation states: “The Quranic concept of God is simple and straightforward. It does not admit any anthropomorphism, deism or pantheism or any metaphysical or philosophical conundrum. He is all in all and hence in Islam any notion of His partner or associate is totally ruled out” (p. 9).

In chapter 9, “Who is most honourable in the eyes of God?” (pp. 34-35), Kidwai refers to Q. 49:13 and describes it as “remarkable for its universal message and for its concern for God-centeredness”. For him, “everyone is equal for being the progeny of Adam and Eve” and it is our “excellent conduct alone” which makes us “honourable in the eyes of God”. In chapter 20, “How to treat fellow human beings?” (pp. 70-74), Kidwai, referring to Q. 4: 36 and 46: 15 and 31: 14, states that the first verse presents “a summary of both the Islamic faith and practices” and through these verses collectively the Quran has presented “the ideal of peaceful coexistence and pluralism” centuries before these turned out to be the buzz words in our times” (pp. 72-73).

Furthermore, in chapter 26, “Do not disrespect other religions” (pp. 86-88), Kidwai, referring to Q. 6: 108 states that the Quran “recognizes the diversity of religions” and it “does not approve any coercion in matters of faith” (p. 86). With reference to Q. 2: 256, 109: 6 and 88: 21-22, he brings to the fore the point that the Quran “accords much importance to interfaith harmony and understanding” (p. 87).

Similarly, while highlighting the gender parity in the Sacred Text (by referring to Q. 4: 7-8), the author in chapter 53, “What is the Islamic law of inheritance?” (pp. 160-61), states that the “Quranic law of inheritance is one of the many egalitarian steps undertaken by Islam in the seventh century. … Islam elated the woman’s status by granting her a share and recognizing her as a heir”.

Supporting his statement by citing the verses like Q. 2: 190-91 and 244, 9: 5-6, the author in chapter 44, “Treating all life as sacrosanct” (pp. 137-141), states that the Quran “declares life as sacrosanct and hence forbids violence and killing” (p. 137). In chapter 54, “What is the nature of the human life?” (pp. 165-67), Kidwai, referring to Q. 57: 20 and 27, deduces that the Quran: (i) “asks us to lead a goal-oriented life, with a sense of mission” and does not recommend monasticism but denounces it; (ii) warns us about the “pitfalls of worldliness and materialism” and “apathy and neglect towards the next life”; and (iii) highlights “the illusory, purely temporary nature of our life and this world”.

All in all, Kidwai’s The Quran Speaks to You is a helpful guide which provides the Qur’an’s life-enriching directives—the ‘divine Message’ directed to all of humankind—in a lucid, simple and coherent manner and thematic style. It is highly recommended for all Muslims and non-Muslims interested in understanding the universal message of the Qur’an.

The author is Assistant Professor, Islamic Studies, at GDC Sogam, Kupwara (J&K).

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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