A Gorgeous Description of the Qur’an

This passage really inspired me to truly dive deeper into the Qur’an. I pray that in this month of Ramadan, the month in which the Qur’an was revealed – that you can find more meaning and depth in your readings than ever before.Light-in-Quran-karkariya.co-sufi-path-english


At once dazzling and disturbing, beautiful and surprising, the Quran challenges our human expectations of what a Book should look like and forces us to abandon our notions and question our frames of thinking. Titus Burckhardt once wrote: “The Quran does not satisfy, it gives and at the same time takes away; it expands the soul by lending it wings, then lays it low and leaves it naked; for the believer, it is both comforting and purifying, like a rainstorm.” Yet, until we are able to let go of our hubris and embrace the “way” of the Quran, we will never truly understand the Book and, by extension, Islam. What follows is one of the best descriptions of the Quran I’ve come across. 

The Quran: literally, “that which is often recited.” A web of rhythm and meaning, the words of which throb through Muslim worship and which, at every point in the believer’s life, break surface, sanctifying existence with the scent of eternity. A paradoxical flash of the divine light, penetrating the veil of solid existence into our world. Redolent with symbol, half-hidden meaning and rapier-sharp insight, it transforms the reader by suggestion rather than by formal structures of argument and proof. It demands to be accepted on its own terms: only when the reader is prepared to discard all that he believes a book should be, will he begin to discern its symmetries and its heart-rending power.

Goethe sensed this. In his West-Oestlicher Divan he declares how, after inspiring initial astonishment and fear, the Quran “soon attracts, astounds, and, in the end, enforces our reverence. Its style, in accordance with its contents and aim, is stern, grand, terrible—ever and anon truly sublime. Thus, this book will go on exercising, through the ages, a most potent influence.”

And so it does. More so for the Muslim than for the most committed Protestant, holy writ is studied, memorized, and quoted. More than four million men and women in the world today have memorized the entire Quran: over six thousand verses. A far greater number have memorized shorter sections for use in their five daily Prayers. Throughout the Muslim world, from Senegal to Indonesia, to ride any bus or train is to see one’s fellow passengers quietly reading from a miniature copy of God’s Book or reciting it to themselves, enjoying a breath of the transcendent to relieve the tedium of their journey. The same Book, in intricate calligraphy, adorns the rear window of passing cars. Short, aphoristic verses are painted on the walls and doors of houses. The conversation of city businessman and rustic peasant alike is peppered with allusions and direct quotations from the Book. Everywhere human life is anchored to the hidden world by the Quran.

For the Muslim, God’s Book is much more than a source of liturgical and social rules; indeed, such topics occupy less than one tenth of the Quranic text; and it is more even than a revelatory declaration of man’s origin and his fate, an exposition of the truths of man’s spiritual nature and of judgement. The Quran is oft-recited, at the most profound possible level, because it is of God. Its text reveals God’s will for His creation, but is also a revelation of HImself. It is uncreated, timeless, a dimension of God’s pre-existent attribute of speech, communication: it is the Logos, which is the interface between the Absolute and the contingent realms. It is the pre-existent light which becomes manifest in history as prophethood. […]

One of the most surprising features of the Quran to the Western reader coming to it for the first time is the way in which subjects of many kinds may be found together in a single chapter, or even in the course of a few verses. This is an essential aspect of the Book’s message. It is human nature to endeavor to categorize and label our experience of the world, and we feel disconcerted when our familiar expectations of such an ordering are not fulfilled. The Quran, both in its literary style and in its internal arrangement, conforms to no human norms. It is a message which has broken through the veil of the unseen and causes us to look upwards, bringing us suddenly into a new dimension, a new mode of perception. The Quran is from the One, and it belongs to a higher order of creation than our own, where unity and differentiation begin to coalesce, and where our perception of a world dispersed into multiple states and forms loses its validity. But despite this unique feature, the formal message, the outward meaning of the Book, is in no way compromised; indeed, it gains in cogency, for each of its teachings and guiding principles is meaningful only in the context of the transcendent unity of God.

The question of the sequence of topics found in the Quran blends into another issue: the miraculous quality of the Book’s semantics and diction. For Muslims, it is an article of faith that the prose style with which its meaning patterns are articulated is inimitable in its beauty, precision, and moving grandeur, and that this constitutes the greatest of the miracles with which God confirmed the message of His last Prophet. This quality, known in Arabic as the I’jaz, comes over only very imperfectly even in the best translations; nevertheless it is still possible for the European or American reader to sense something of the breathless, insistent rhythms of the original. To the Arab, whether Muslim or Christian, the Quran has always remained the summit of eloquence which every stylist should aspire to emulate. Perhaps the greatest of all the arts evolved by Islamic civilization is that of the formal, virtuoso recitation of the Book before an audience, which is frequently moved to tears by the majestic cadences of a favourite passage, faithfully rendered by some master craftsman of the human voice.

— Abdul Wadod Shalabi and Abdal Hakim Murad, Islam: Religion of Life

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