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We know that the matter sounds almost funny…but in all honesty, it is true. It is true not only for Christians, but it is even more true for Muslims. Today we boast the figure of 1.3 or 1.4 Billion Muslims…very proudly…and almost 1 billion of them/us are non-Arabs. And unfortunately, 90% of these people are no different than the students that Dr. Bart Ehrman was talking about. We are not trying to belittle the value of Eemaan at all…but if we are really being honest with ourselves, we would acknowledge that it’s a very sad reality. Unfortunately, it is believed that 90% of Muslims have never even read the meaning of the Qur’an….
We believe that the number one reason for this is the way that the Qur’an is being taught today.
Traditionally, when children are young, we as Muslim parents go on a ‘hunt’ for a suitable Qur’an teacher to teach our children or decide to send them to a madrassa to ‘learn’ the Qur’an. We throw parties for them once they have completed the recitation of Juz ‘amma or the entire Qur’an. We boast about the level of memorization they have achieved to all our friends and colleagues. And then, once they have attained that esteemed status of a ‘Haafidh’, we believe our mission is complete and begin working on a new one, to procure success for them in this world.
The concept of understanding the meaning of the Qur’an, implementing its teachings in our lives and treating it as a constant companion and guide in our lives, is completely lost to many of us.
The bottom line is: We equate teaching as teaching recitation of the Qur’an. Period. Nothing more.
In today’s world, if you were to ask a common Muslim parent: What does it mean to learn the Qur’an? They would unequivocally respond with: ‘To read and memorize the Qur’an’.
Unfortunately, for many of us, deep knowledge of the Qur’an and other sciences have been made so “sacred” that it seems the laity cannot read or even attempt to understand the Qur’an. In this regard, we are almost similar to medieval Christians, as they were not even granted access to read the “word of God” and only listened to sermons by the Priests on the pulpit. Today, our fellow brothers and sisters are being told almost the same thing; that they cannot even attempt to understand the Qur’an, that to understand the Qur’an they would need to be qualified and have a certain degree of knowledge! While there is some truth to this, in that, we are advised to learn the Qur’an from those who have knowledge of it, this in no way means that we must not attempt to connect with the Qur’an at an individual intellectual level. After all, the greatest example we have before us is of that of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), to whom the Divine Qur’an was revealed, even as he was an illiterate man!
If we look at the state of Muslims today, then it is this fallacious ideology that is partially to blame. We ask our people to believe in a book but not to study it in a language that they understand!
In contrast, Allah never sent down a revelation except that the messenger spoke the language of the people.
وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَا مِن رَّسُولٍ إِلَّا بِلِسَانِ قَوْمِهِ - ابراهيم: ٤
And We never sent a messenger save with the language of his folk, that he might make (the message) clear for them. [14:4]
ربَّنَا وَابْعَثْ فِيهِمْ رَسُولًا مِّنْهُمْ يَتْلُو عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتِكَ وَيُعَلِّمُهُمُ الْكِتَابَ وَالْحِكْمَةَ وَيُزَكِّيهِمْ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ
لَقَدْ مَنَّ اللَّـهُ عَلَى الْمُؤْمِنِينَ إِذْ بَعَثَ فِيهِمْ رَسُولًا مِّنْ أَنفُسِهِمْ يَتْلُو عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتِهِ وَيُزَكِّيهِمْوَيُعَلِّمُهُمُ الْكِتَابَ وَالْحِكْمَةَ وَإِن كَانُوا مِن قَبْلُ لَفِي ضَلَالٍ مُّبِينٍ
آل عمران: ١٦٤
. هُوَ الَّذِي بَعَثَ فِي الْأُمِّيِّينَ رَسُولًا مِّنْهُمْ يَتْلُو عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتِهِ وَيُزَكِّيهِمْ وَيُعَلِّمُهُمُ الْكِتَابَ وَالْحِكْمَةَ وَإِن كَانُوا مِن قَبْلُ لَفِي ضَلَالٍ مُّبِينٍ
What are these verses about?
What is the common factor in these verses?
What topics are being spoken about in these verses?
You might say that this is the ‘job description’ of a Prophet. You may have heard these verses many times before, but there is something significant in them that we would like to highlight.
Here are three segments of the above verses that we want to analyse:
Surah Al Baqarah – Verse 129 ( يَتْلُو عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتِكَ وَيُعَلِّمُهُمُ الْكِتَابَ)
“…Who shall recite unto them Your Verses and instruct them in the Book (this Qur’ân)…”
Surah Al- Imran – Verse 164 (يَتْلُو عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتِهِ وَيُزَكِّيهِمْ وَيُعَلِّمُهُمُ الْكِتَابَ),
“…Reciting unto them His Verses (the Qur’ân), and purifying them (from sins by their following him), and instructing them (in) the Book (the Qur’ân)…”
Surah Al Jumu’ah – Verse 2 (يَتْلُو عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتِهِ وَيُزَكِّيهِمْوَيُعَلِّمُهُمُ الْكِتَابَ).
“Reciting to them His Verses, purifying them (from the filth of disbelief and polytheism), and teaching them the Book (this Qur’ân, Islâmic laws and Islâmic jurisprudence)
If you pay close attention to the verses, you will notice how Allah Almighty separates two actions: recitation and teaching. Both are pertaining to His verses or His Book. Now, the question is, why did this Divine book need to be taught when it was revealed in a language that the people spoke and had very good command of?!
These verses inform us of the way that Allah desired for the Qur’an to be taught. He, the Almighty, made a clear emphasis on teaching the book in addition to reciting the book. It is almost as if recitation was a duty on the Prophet, where the audience was inactive or had no participation, whereas, teaching was more inclusive – where the audience were required to actively learn and participate as students.
If the Arabs, who at that time were at the peak of linguistic achievements, needed someone to teach them the book that was a clear book for them to understand, what then of the non Arabs…? And if recitation was such a primary focus, then why didn’t the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) say: خيركم من تعلمقراءة القرأن وعلمه (The best of you are those who learn the recitation of the Qur’an and teach it)
Hence, the result of this ideology is very apparent – the Book that was sent to guide mankind has been abandoned! We are the only nation in the world who read, memorize, and write a language that they do not comprehend. Consequently, we lack a real connection between ourselves and the Qur’an. It has been reduced to nothing more than mere melodious recital, a ritual to perform and for some even a ‘chore’. May Allah protect us and forgive us for our heedlessness!
In conclusion, we believe that there is a dire need for Muslims to re-examine the way that the Qur’an is being taught around the world – especially to the Non-Arabs. Moreover, in the recent wake of growing threats to Muslims living in the West, we need to aim collectively to bring people closer to the Qur’an. To truly cause positive change in this world and in our lives, we would need to simply live by the book of Allah. A light and guidance for all of mankind:
ذَٲلِكَ ٱلۡڪِتَـٰبُ لَا رَيۡبَۛ فِيهِۛ هُدً۬ى لِّلۡمُتَّقِينَ
This is the Book (the Qur’ân), whereof there is no doubt, a guidance to those who are Al-Muttaqûn [the pious and righteous persons who fear Allâh much (abstain from all kinds of sins and evil deeds which He has forbidden) and love Allâh much (perform all kinds of good deeds which He has ordained)]. [2:2]
At Tanzeel, we are striving to take small steps in this direction. Tanzeel is an innovative online Institute connecting Muslims with the Qur’an by providing a comprehensive learning experience with a simultaneous focus on recitation, memorization, and understanding delivered by highly qualified teachers. Join us in changing the landscape of how the Qur’an is taught today.