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16.9.12

What is Quran?

The Final Revealed Scripture:

Qur’an is the word of God, directly revealed to the last Messenger Muhammad (peace be upon him) during 23 years of his Apostolic mission [610-632 C.E]. It was instantly preserved by putting in to writing and memorization by his companions. God says:
“Surely this is a Glorious Qur’an, inscribed on an Imperishable Tablet.”(Qur’an;85:21-22). 
God has taken responsibility to guard it against corruption:
“Surely We have revealed the reminder (Qur’an) and We will most certainly guard it (from corruption).”(Qur’an;15:9).
Preservation:
During all ages, millions of Muslim of all age groups memorize Qur’an comprising over 6000 verses; a unique distinction which makes Qur’an, the only book in human history to have been continuously preserved through this method along with the written form. No other scripture or book can rival this claim. Hence, since its revelation the Qur’an is being transferred in its original revealed form, continuously (twatar) from generation to generation.
Revealed in Arabic Language and Translations:
The Qur’an was revealed in Arabic, the language of Prophet, peace be upon him (and his clan Quraish of Makka). The translation (Tarjama) of the Qur’an means the expression of the meaning of its text in a language different from the language of the Qur’an, for understanding by those not familiar with Qur’anic Arabic. It is customary to quote the original Arabic Qur’anic text (ayah, verses) along with the translation, however this require special handling due to reverence of the sacred text, hence in this book for the convenience of handling by all categories of the readers, only the translation is given, which should also be handled with due respect. It is more appropriate for the reader to also consult the original Arabic Qur’an. The English translations by Abdullah Yousaf Ali, M.Pickthall, Muhammad Asad and F.Malik are popular. There is agreement among Muslim scholars that it is humanly impossible to transfer the meanings of original Qur’an word by word in an identical mode into another language. This is due to several reasons: firstly the Qur’an itself is a miracle and cannot be imitated by man. As a consequence of this, the translation of Qur’an is not considered as Qur’an. The translations of the Qur’an; e.g. into English, French, German and Urdu, etc, in principle are regarded as paraphrases. These translations can not be used in place of original Arabic Qur’an for ritual purposes. Secondly the words of different languages do not express all the shades of meanings of their original Arabic word, though they may express specific concepts. Hence narrowing down the meaning of the Qur’an to specific concepts in a foreign language would mean missing out other important dimensions. While reading the translations of Qur’an these aspects must always be kept in view.
The example of verse: “wa- huwa ‘alladhe khalaqa as- samaawaat wa- al- ‘ard. fe sittah ayyaam..” (Qur’an;11:7) is considered here.
The word ayyaam in Arabic means; days or ‘long periods’ or ‘eons’ or ‘epoch’. The four translations being given here differ in their understanding:
“And it is He who has created the heavens and the earth in six eons” (M.Asad); “He is the One Who created the heavens and the earth in six periods” (F.Malik)
“And He it is Who created the heavens and the earth in six Days” (Pickthall); “He it is Who created the heavens and the earth in six Days” (Yousaf Ali).
The translation of ayyaam as ‘eons’ appears more scientific and accurate. Hence if some contradictions appear, it is due to the limitations of translation, not of Qur’an.
Reference Method:
The Qur’an comprises 114 chapters, called Surahs, of very unequal length and each Surah comprises number of verses. The translation of references from Qur’an are mostly given within brackets   “xyz” followed by reference of Surah and Ayah in bracket i.e: “Praise be to Allah the Cherisher and Sustainer of the Worlds.”(Qura’n;1:2). It implies that the translation is from Surah (chapter) Number 1 and verse number 2 of the same Surah.
Names of Chapters:
The names of Chapters (Surahs) can be found from the index. In this case the name of Surah Number 1 as given in Surah Index is Al-Fatiha meaning ‘The Opening’. The names of Chapters (Surahs) in Qur’an, in most of the cases have no special relation to the subject of the Surah but has been used merely as a symbol to distinguish it from other Surahs. The  name comprise of a word used some where in the Surah. Taking example of 2nd Surah AL-BAQARAH (the Cow), which has been so named from the story of the Cow occurring in this Surah (verse number 67-73). Although this Surah is an invitation to the Divine Guidance and all the stories, incidents etc. revolve round this central theme. As this Surah has particularly been addressed to the Jews, many historical events have been cited from their own traditions to admonish and advise them that their own good lies in accepting the Guidance revealed to the Holy Prophet. It has not, however, been used as a title to indicate the subject of the Surah. It will, therefore, be as wrong to translate the name Al-Baqarah into “The Cow” or “The Heifer” as to translate any English name, say Baker, Rice, Wolf etc., into their equivalents in other languages or vice versa, because this would imply that the Surah dealt with the subject of “The Cow”. Many more chapters (Surahs) of the Qur’an have been named in the same way because no comprehensive words exist in Arabic (in spite of its richness) to denote the wide scope of the subject discussed in them. As a matter of fact all human languages suffer from the same limitation. However in some cases the name of Chapters (Surahs) indicate the subject matter i.e. the first Surah Al-Fatihah, which means ‘that which opens a subject or a book or any other thing’ or in other words, Al-Fatihah is a sort of ‘Preface’. Similarly SurahAl Yousaf’ (Joseph) Surah number 12, is related with the story of Prophet Joseph (PBHH).
'Quran Pedia' aims to assist the reader in learning and understanding of the message of Quran.



2.9.12

In quest of truth: By Mubarak Ali

Generally in a Muslim society and particularly in Pakistan, there are poets, writers and religious scholars, but no philosophers, thinkers and scientists whose approach to knowledge is analytical, empirical and rational. The main task of philosophy is the pursuit of truth as it constantly probes and searches truth which evolves with time.

Societies which believe that they have found the truth do not bother to look at the changing times to realise that a new concept of truth has emerged as a result of human progress in knowledge.

This is evident from the study of the history of Greece and India where philosophers were keen to know about the nature of this world and human beings and consequently produced philosophical thoughts to understand this phenomenon.

When Greek philosophy was translated into Arabic, some Muslim philosophers were influenced by it and produced commentaries on Greek philosophers. They made attempts to lay down the foundation of philosophical thoughts in the Muslim society. However, they failed to have any impact as their efforts were countered by religious scholars like Ghazali, (1111 C.E) who condemned philosophy as a danger to revealed truth. The Muslim society therefore failed to produce philosophers and put an end to the creation of new ideas.

Those who tried to carry on Greek philosophical traditions were condemned and excluded from the Muslim intellectual traditions. Razi, Farabi, Ibn Sina and Ibi Rushd were not given due recognition by the society. Abul Fazl, a brilliant historian and thinker was completely ignored. Ghazali was accepted as the champion of faith who saved it from blasphemous ideas of the philosophers.

On the other hand, the western society inherited the philosophical legacy from Greece and added to it new ideas and thoughts which enriched the western civilisation. In the 17th and 18th centuries, there was a scientific revolution which presented the universe from quite a different angle. The enlightened movement was based on reason, knowledge and progress which gradually transformed the society. The age of enlightenment produced great philosophers and thinkers whose ideas guided the society to abandon outdated traditions and values and create new values for the new age. It unfolded a new truth which superceded old and obsolete ideas.

The process of western thinking and its search of truth did not end with the enlightened period. It continued to search for the truth. Later the Romantic Movement challenged the enlightened ideas and tried to understand nature and man differently with passion rather than reason. Positivism, nationalism, socialism and feminism movements followed, with the result that there were innovations and changes in art, literature, architecture and social, and cultural values of the western society. The new philosophical thoughts created a dynamism which discovered new versions of truth.

The problem of Muslim society has been that it is afraid of new ideas and new truth. It is particularly fearful of philosophy as it creates doubts and questions the existing truth.

Iqbal, who is also called a philosopher, exhorted his community not to study philosophy as it challenged the prevailing values.
He believed in the truth inherited from our ancestors and accepted it as it is. When the religious seminary of Deoband was founded in 1868, the subject of philosophy was not included in its curriculum.

In the absence of new philosophical ideas and believing in the unchanging truth, the society has become stagnant and intellectually barren. It fails to understand not only its own environment but also the global process. It relies on poetical and theological emotionalism and encourages our intellectuals to borrow western ideology without changing and understanding it.
Although ideas develop as societies evolve, our intellectuals implant advanced ideas in a backward society which are not accepted by the majority of people.

As our society believes in absolute truth, it is not ready to accept any new ideas which contradict or challenge it. This leaves no space for thinkers and philosophers to create new thoughts. The only use of philosophy is to support religious belief. This is what the philosophy was used for during the Medieval period in Europe when through scholasticism it subordinated religion. In the Muslim society it is known as ‘ilm al Kalam. Philosophy plays a vital role in a society only when it is liberated from faith and can bring about radical change. Whether this is possible in the Muslim society or not, is a question we must analyse and respond to.
http://dawn.com/2012/09/02/past-present-in-quest-of-truth/