(2) Discovering Islam: Ramadan, the month when the Quran was revealed

Ramadan, the month when the Quran was revealed

By:  Shaik Kadir

Ramadan is a blessed month for Muslims for many reasons. During Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, Muslims have many opportunities to take part in numerous activities for spiritual gains and self-development.   

A few examples are:  Apart from the month-long total fasting with its attendant do’s and dont’s that enhance a person’s resilience, patience, perseverance, endurance and spirituality, Muslims are taught by Islam to be more generous and charitable; to perform extra prayers, like the long nightly terawih prayers (optional but rewarding to do), apart from the usual obligatory 5 times-a-day solat (prayers), and reading of the Qur’an (tadarus) at home with family members and in the mosque, covering a portion a day until the whole Qur’an is read completely before the end of Ramadan.

The Muslim sentiment towards the Qur’an is:  “It is our guide from being lost and ignorant to being enlightened and becoming well-adjusted in life.”

What would be interesting to know is that Prophet Muhammad received the first Revelations containing five verses from God in Ramadan:  The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for mankind and clear proofs for the guidance and the criterion (between right and wrong).”  (Qur’an, 2:185)

That event took place on the day of 17th Ramadan.   Since that time, the event has been celebrated annually from night of 16th Ramadan.  Called Nuzul al-Qur’an (the commemoration of the revelation of the Qur’an) coincides with 15 July this year (2014).

To commemorate this historic event, various religious activities, like religious lectures and religious quizzes for children, are held throughout Ramadan to glorify the Islamic Holy Book.

QUR’ANIC APPEAL

The Qur’an, rendered in prose-poetry style, appeals to Muslims because of several factors that include its role and guidance, its presentation technique which is in the form of commands, instructions and questioning as well as its astounding recital sound. 

The Qur’an is, it can be read in a very enlivened and inspiring way.  No musical instrument is needed to accompany the person reading the Qur’an.  Referring to the “melody” of the Qur’an, Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall, an English convert, in the “Translator’s Foreword” of his English translation of the Qur’an, says: “… that inimitable symphony, the very sounds of which move men to tears and ecstasy.”

Because the Qur’an can be recited in beautiful ways, Qur’an-recital competitions have been conducted internationally on an annual basis.  

The Qur’an is the one in its original Arabic.  Translations are not the Qur’an but merely its interpretations.  Fortunately for Muslims, the original (in Arabic, the language spoken by the Prophet) is in the hands of all Muslims.  Translations of the Qur’an in any language are available for those who do not understand Arabic.

The Qur’an is not written by Prophet Muhammad or anyone else but recorded verbatim when the Prophet received the Revelations from God through the Angel Gabriel, the same Angel who appeared to Mary, mother of Jesus Christ, as well as to Jesus Christ and all the other prophets.

Since the Qur’an is the exact Words of God, Muslims love to memorise as much of the Qur’an as possible.  Indeed Muslims have been memorising the Qur’an right from day one of the birth of the Qur’an, from its very first Revelation as instructed by Prophet Muhammad.  Because the Qur’an is in its entirety the words of God it is made easy to memorise – by God Himself as indicated in the Qur’an.  God says: “We have indeed made the Qur’an easy to remember …” (54:17)   Indeed memorising and reciting the very words of God is commendable, praiseworthy and valuable.  

Trained Muslims, when they recite or read the Qur’an aloud, would render it with astonishing Qur’anic melody.   Others simply love to listen, often in awe, to the cadence and rhythm of the Qur’an when they are being recited.  The imams (prayer leaders) of Masjidil Haram (Grand Mosque in Mecca), for instance, are well-known for their soulful baritone delivery of Qur’anic readings, and pilgrims during the congregational solat (Muslim prayers) often are enthralled by the rendering, feeling it penetrating deep into their very souls. 

The Qur’an is a Holy Book whose verses and entire contents had been seen and approved by Prophet Muhammad himself.  This Holy Book has been committed to memory from end to end by millions of Muslims, called hafiz, throughout the ages since then, some 1,400 years ago. 

Also, the memorisation of many chapters of the Qur’an is necessary because the recitation of the Qur’an is an integral part of many Islamic practices and functions.    For instance, during the solat (Muslim prayers), Muslims are required to recite chapters from the Qur’an.

In the Qur’an, God directly addresses four sets of people as follows:

  • to Prophet Muhammad as an instruction or an explanation to strengthen his confidence in his mission,
  • to Muslims in particular,
  • to all believers (in God) in general, and
  • to all mankind.

However, anyone, even a non-believer, reading the Qur’an gets instruction and wisdom from the Messages directed to anyone in the four groups of people.

UNIVERSAL ROLE  

The Qur’an is basically a Book of Guidance for anyone.  Its primary role is to help create the right relation between man and God, between man and man, and between man and his environment as well as other things in the universe so that mankind can attain the highest goals in every field of human endeavour, like spiritual, moral, scientific, intellectual and social.  God tells Prophet Muhammad that the Qur’an is “A Book that We (God) have revealed to you abounding in good. People may ponder over its verses, and that people of understanding may receive guidance.” (38:29)  

The Qu’ran provides immense stimulus for man to tap the three important sources of knowledge – self, human history and the physical world – for him to benefit from them. It also provides the principles and rules for gracious living and invites people to carry on discovering the bounties of God for their benefit. 

The message of the Qur’an is timeless, and is for all mankind.  Any verse from it can be interpreted in a number of ways – literally, philosophically, mystically as sufis do and even taken as a point of law.  Thus, the Qur’an is not entirely for the scholarly few to interpret, but it can be read and understood by any level of people and be applied in their respective personal lives.

Addressing the Prophet, God says: “Verily, We have revealed the Book (the Qur’an) to you (O Muhammad) in truth for instructing mankind. He who receives guidance from it benefits his own soul: but he that strays injures his own soul.” (39:41)

The Qur’an, describing itself as the “Message”, addresses not only Muslims but all human beings:  “It is nothing less than a Message to all (people).” (68.52); “Verily, this (Qur’an) is no less than a Message to the worlds.” (81:27), and “We have revealed it as a blessing: so follow it and be righteous.” (6:155)

PRACTICAL APPROACH

 Putting the teachings Muslims read from the Qur’an into practice brings greater blessing. “Those who listen to the Word (the Qur’an) and follow the best meaning in it; those are the ones whom God has guided.” (39:18)

 The Qur’an is not only meant to teach Muslims to perform specific acts of worship, such as prayers and fasting but also to guide humankind above all to do good to all people and promote the spirit of togetherness and friendship (silatur-rahim).  We, Singaporeans, who are multi-ethnic and multi-religious, value unity, peace and harmony and the spirit of Ramadan ought also to prevail with non-Muslims to foster stronger national unity among all of us, Muslims and non-Muslims as we accept the uniqueness of each community.

Muslims have a greater role.  We have to understand and apply the teachings of the Qur’an and work towards transforming its contents as best as we can to promote unity, peace and harmony among all Singaporeans and people of the world.

 

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