I’ve been a devout Muslim growing up listening and learning about Islam. Going to the mosque, praying and then hating the concept of it being an obligatory ritual to carry out five times a day. Often making family members and parents angry for questioning obedience.
I was really young when I had started memorizing the Quran. But that was it. I had read it, completed it when I was eight years old in which my mother took joy for I had accomplished something that was considered essential for every Muslim household: the members of the family were supposed to know how to read the Quran and should have read it all at least once in a lifetime.
Why? I had no idea. It was just my rote learning and pronunciation doing the trick. To be honest, reading it felt nothing. Nothing at all. Why? Because most probably I didn’t understand one single word that was written in it. It was more of a ritualistic practice similar to my prayers that I loathed. It was too much of an outside experience for an inert introvert like me. The aspect of praying was beautiful and somehow magical – asking an all-powerful entity to grant you a wish! Every time at the end of my namaz, I would ask God to somehow turn me into Spiderman and then every morning I would try swishing my hands to see if I could actually shoot webs. Certainly pissed at my wish not being granted I would skip a prayer or two and would ask God more angrily again.
Over the years, my bargain for becoming Spiderman changed from the embodiment of a certain special hero to being given superpowers to believing shit’s not gonna happen. But one fine day, out of extreme curiosity that always gets me killed, I decided to go for the i’tikaf. Now, i’tikaf is more of a spiritual retreat in the month of Ramazan where one spends time in prayer and the remembrance of God. It’s very common for Muslims to boast the number of times they’ve read the Quran in Ramadan. People claiming as much as reading it ten times over a period of thirty days. Really? I would often find it very difficult to believe.
Quran has 30 siparahs or sections in a booklet form. These booklets consist of 114 chapters. So dividing 114 by 30 would give you an average of around 4 chapters a day, the length of which varies on their own. Some of the chapters are but a few verses while some are 2.5 sections long. So for a person to claim to have read the Quran ten times would have to read 40 chapters a day!
Anyhow, I had gotten a brand new copy of the Quran with a very simplified translation of the Arabic as a birthday gift from my dad. It was really neat considering the way it was annotated and indexed. Every part of the Quran was referenced in the index based on the topics being discussed in the chapter or the general issues relevant to the time of the revelations of the chapters with references to such chapters numbered in the index. This got me hooked, literally.
Yes, I’m saying that I was reading the Quran with interest for the very first time in my life at the age of eighteen. What was different this time? I was actually reading the translation verse by verse and actually understanding what it meant and why it meant the way it was! The feeling was literally out of this world. It was just like the first time I had learnt how to ride a bike, or completed one of my jigsaw puzzles.
But the best part of it was something that I had not realized it earlier. At twenty-seven years of age now, I see Quran as being the source of expanding my horizons to think and ponder and concentrate and reflect. It sounds too cliche, I know. But it wasn’t just this scripture, of course, I read the bible afterwords and then the Torah (translated version) and then more books on religion. But it all started with understanding the Quran, which meant that it lifts from me the burden of adhering to the ONLY mainstream highlighter version of the Quran that a lot of people know. It is the ONLY version that most people use all around the world to justify their Islamic belief and present circular counter-arguments. I assure you I was like the general people for a very long time when I had only heard what the Quran said and had not read it myself, believing the word from the mouth of my peers and the clerics, never trying to even move an inch and play my part into learning more about my religion!
And this book has been my go-to place when my heart is broken. This reflection of my mind coming from a sceptic like me is but an astonishment. For a major part of my life, my belief in science and religious dogmatism has been headstrong, but somehow the love and respect religion holds over me stays ironclad.
The Word: ISLAM
So let me shake some dust and make a few walls tremble while you read. It is the book that is meant for the finality of time for Islam. And if it claims to be so, then it must surely have knowledge and guidance for times to come. And then it should surely have references to its predecessors before it which it confirms in various verses. I have decided to share with you my reflections on my scripture.
For once, Islam DOES NOT mean peace! The consonants S L and M when combined transliterates into Salama which means peace and blessings. However, Islam means, subjugation, obedience, letting go!
Hell, NO! Would be the first response of the majority of people reading this. I said the same thing in my head too. But let’s proceed further.
Subjugation to what exactly?
We’ve all heard about democracy being the general rule of the day, right? What exactly is a democracy? People choose someone from among themselves to lead them for a certain period of time-based on the individual’s ethical and moral beliefs. Fair enough. Unfortunately, God usually hasn’t worked in this way. Let’s look at the lot of messengers and prophets [approximately 124000]. They never put up their name for a vote, and NOBODY among the people voted for them. It was more of a “yep, you are a prophet, do as I say now” thing from God.
As most of the religious scriptures being the word of God go, it is believed that the prophets spread the message of God and guided the people in order to lead a better life. Fair enough. But then Quran and Islam? What exactly is the Quran? A step-by-step guide to subjugate people or force them into obedience? Oops, this is totally a bad pun. (Please don’t hang me for blasphemy!)
Let’s look at the word: QURAN
It means ‘The Reading‘ or ‘The Lecture‘ in very simple words which is more analogous to the word sacred writing or Scripture. And, in times of grief, this reading has given me hope saying that things will get better and one must never give up and lose hope!
So linking The Reading to Obedience means that there are predefined instructions that one MUST follow if one needs to accept Islam as a deen. Often debated that deen is a concrete codex of life and is more rich and vast in terms of just a list of holy do’s and don’ts given by the word religion.
In simple words, Islam has a set of rules. If you are to be a Muslim, you must OBEY those rules and LET GO of the things, ideals and ways that are against Islam which are basically ethical and moral values preached in all the scriptures. (Hey! No religion allows you to lie or prevaricate or break people’s hearts or use them or shed innocent blood – not even Islam!)
It simply means to SUBJUGATE yourself to the will of the Lord. Which by all means is still your choice. You HAVE a choice. But when you choose Islam, you adhere to it as much as you possibly can. There’s no leeway.
This post is just a personal reflection and not meant to hurt or humiliate any religion or individual. Every religion is sacred and love is the most sacred of all.