In the Spirit of the Gracious and Compassionate
Creator of the Heavens and the Earth
What follows is an exchange of responses on the previous blogpost (Qur’an and Symphonic Music — Miscellaneous Comments 001 | Doctor Hakeem.
As-Salaam alaikum. Ramadan Mubarak!
I wrote this yesterday. Got carried away. (Sorry!) But, I would definitely appreciate some response. (For example: “I think your comments about Yusuf Ali are unwarranted.” or “Why do you hate your own people’s music?” or “Classical music is sissy music and the spawn of Satan.”)
Thanks (in advance) for reading it, and thanks for your response.
Wa Alaikumu salaam! Ramadan mubarak!
Your observations and comments on the verse are accurate, and I agree that the parenthetical expressions are not part of the Arabic.
In fairness to Yusuf Ali, he doesn’t call his work the “translation” of the Quran he call his work “the meaning of the Quran”. Allah will reward him for his efforts.
I agree that a better translation or meaning, which ever you prefer, is needed. Some translations i.e. Muhsin Khan are outright dangerous. Others, including many verses in the Yusuf Ali translation, leave a lot to be desired.
Imam Warith Deen Muhammed has encouraged those who follow and respect his leadership to learn to read the Quran for ourselves. This means learning Quranic Arabic. I have never heard any other respected leader, sheik, ulema, etc. in islam advise his followers to learn Quranic Arabic and read for yourself. More of us need to follow his advice.
As-Salaam alaikum. Ramadan Kareem!
I am glad you agree with my comments on the verse. Al-Hamdu lil-Laah.
My experience of the Qur’an seems to be quite different from that of almost all of the Muslims I know. For me, my journey begins with the Qur’an. As soon as I realized that, I begin learning to read it (in 1975), and Allah blessed my earnest efforts with success, and I was able to recite the Qur’an that Allah has sent down to us by March 1977. As best I can tell, we become “ins” (normally translated as “human beings”), as distinguished from “jinn” (who are people), through the agency of the Qur’an. (We could be good ins or bad ins, or good jinn or bad jinn.) I absolutely do not understand people not having learned to read/recite the Qur’an who have been calling themselves Muslims for ten, twenty, thirty, or forty years. (Out of the 1.5 billion Muslims in the world, I suspect that hardly more than a couple of million are reading/reciting the Qur’an. The Muslim ummah jumped the track 29 years after the passing of Muhammad, and have not gotten back on the track since. I am not following them.)
Calling a book a “translation” of the Qur’an is, in my opinion, less ambitious than calling it “the meaning” of the Qur’an:
- Allah and only Allah knows the meaning — or, more precisely, meanings — of the Qur’an. He is the creator and knower of the entire vastness of the cosmos and of all its intimate details. He is the one who has given us intelligence and language and the ability to grasp meanings. How can any human being know and convey “the meanings” of the Qur’an, other than to simply and accurately repeat the original language? A trillion human beings working together for a trillion years cannot learn and convey the meanings of the Qur’an. Allah knows, and we don’t know.
- The English language is not capable of conveying the meanings of Arabic words. In brief, we were born and raised in the English language. Our minds are molded in an English language understanding of reality. We need to read/recite the Qur’an over and over and over and over and over in order to begin to be reformed into an Arabic/Qur’an understanding of reality.
- “The medium is the message.” This expression was coined by the Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980). The medium is the message. Do you think Allah is being trivial? The Qur’an has rhythm and rhyme, repetition and refrains, variations on themes, and overall symphonic structure. All of this — down to the slightest detail — has meaning. It is meaning. The word “qur’aan” refers to the medium, as well as to the meaning (in the narrower sense).
- Living in a society in which music is considered by definition a form of entertainment, it is difficult for us to grasp the idea that the various musical aspects of the Qur’an are not only important and essential but are actually the core of its meaning. Having some kind of conscious understanding of the meanings of the words is actually the smallest part of grasping the meaning of the Qur’an. The essential meaning of the Qur’an comes to us through the process of reciting — which is why it is called “qur’aan” (“reciting”). (Music is falsely defined and diabolically utilized in this society. Music is called music because it comes from the word “muse”. A muse is what the pyramid-builders called what we call an angel. The most famous muse is the one we call Gabriel. This muse brought the Qur’an to Muhammad. Therefore, by definition, the Qur’an is muse-ic — music. The proper purpose of music is not entertainment. The proper purpose of music is to create human beings. Serious music creates serious human beings.)
- Just recite it — or sit with someone who can. All of this intellectualizing is a distraction — debating the virtues of this or that translation or meaning — from simply doing what needs to be done. Where is your heart? “None of you believes until your desires follow what I have brought.” Muhammad brought us the Qur’an. If are starving (and we are all starving, if you understand) and someone brings you a platter of food, do you say, “What does this mean?” Or do you eat?
The Jews, the Christians, and the Muslims (after the assassination of Ali) have been imitating pagans — building temples, engaging in traditional rituals, having priests called rabbis, reverends, imams, shaykhs, and so forth. None of this is what the prophets brought. No prophet brought a religion. Muhammad did not bring a religion; he brought a message. He dressed the same as people of his time and place. Those who knew him called him by his name. Strangers called him by his name. His closest companions and followers were not called by titles. I mean no disrespect when I do not address someone as “imam”. To repeat, I am not following the Muslims who went astray after the death of Ali. The Qur’an is my anchor and Muhammad is my guide.
It is a historical fact that the leaders of the Muslims have not wanted the general population of Muslims to read the Qur’an. What will be their reward from Allah? When I heard W.D. Mohammed tell us to read the Qur’an, that’s what I did. That was 43 years ago. Followers of W.D. Mohammed — where are you?