I am thankful to you for sending me an advance copy of your book, A Call to Unity and Action, being a fine collection of verses from the Our'an. This is an excellent selection which will very conveniently place before the public some of the inspiring verses of the great Sacred Book. I am confident that your selection will receive due appreciation. (14th Oct. 1938)
Syed Abdul Jabbar's Call to Unity and Action is an excellent book. It Shows what Islam really is. The book consists of original text from the Our'an and these verses give a true idea of the teachings of Islam. The Islam presented in the book is quite different from the distorted picture of the great religion which the generality of non-Muslims have in their minds. True Islam is full of love and toleration. It teaches its votaries to live in peace and amity with the rest of mankind and invite the attention of all towards it by its followers leading lives of purity, piety, helpfulness and love. Syed Abdul Jabbar has done a service to Islam by quoting the original verses of the Our'an showing its inherent good qualities and its high morality. (20th Oct. 1938.)
Translation is, at best, wrong side of embroidery ; but when it comes to the rendering into a different language of a work of great artistic beauty with its subtle rhythmic nuances the difference between the original and the translation becomes more manifest.
To translate the Quran adequately is well nigh impossible. To start with, the sonorous roll and periodic rhythm of Arabic have no parallel in modern languages, and the Quran represents Arabic at its most musical and suggestive. The most pretentious translation has to despair of recapturing the impassioned cadence and subtle undertone of the Quranic style. Why then translate the Book at all? The answer, alas, is simple. The number of people in India and elsewhere with adequate familiarity with Arbic is dwindling daily—the message of the Quran, however, is eternal, and for the whole world. And so, some medium has to be found out to drive home the immortal truth into the consciousness of too mortal men.
There are numerous translations of the Quran, good, bad, and frankly indifferent. Among the translations that have come to my notice the one which is most persistently capturing some of the tonal qualities of the original, and which is most satisfying as translation is the one by Allama A. Yusuf Ali. And I think, Mr. A. Jabbar has shown praiseworthy discrimination in choosing Allama Yusuf Ali’s for his brochure.
Mr. Jabbar has gone in for simplification. In a volume of very convenient size he has made a small selection from the Quran and arranged the verses under different subject holdings so that the reader may easily find verses on any particular matter which are scattered all over the Book culled and bunched together under the appropriate title.
It is necessary to remember, however, that the method has its limitation which I feel sure Mr. Jabbar is well aware of. A verse in the Quran stands in close ideological and tonal relationship with the verses that precede it and those that follow. Its ramification branch out like the roots of a tree, and all it’s a part of a greater whole. Any such uprooting as represented in this book necessarily entails the loss of significance and suggestiveness. The reader has to understand fully that no such volume can be a substitute for the Quran. It is only a first step towards the understanding and appreciation of the Divine Book.
This note of warning does not at all imply that the Book does not serve a very definite purpose. There is need, to-day, as at no other time, to make the message of the Quran more universally understood. And I am sure a perusal of the volume will dissipate a great many of the foggy and wrong-headed nations people entertain about the religion of Islam.
There is one aspect of the Book, however, which has especial significance as Mr. Jabbar rightly suggests in his introduction. Islam means peace. It is the religion of goodwill and tolerance of mutual give-and- take, and harmony in social and spiritual life. By a strange irony of fate false ideas has taken roots in the minds of many men—that Islam stands for a religious repression, rancour and a narrow and bigoted prejudice. Unluckily the behaviour of a few so-called followers of Islam might give colour to this misconception. To have made a sincere and convincing effort to eradicate this false notion is in itself a praiseworthy performance.
I congratulate the Editor on having done something very useful adequately. The Book will appeal to all readers who sincerely and honestly believe that sympathetic understanding of the more cherished beliefs and ideals of each other is the only permanent means of peace and happiness for mankind.
I have been thinking for a long time of the dissemination and propagation of the teachings of the Holy Quran. Maulana Abu) Kalam Azad in the Introduction to his Turjaman-ul-Uuran (Urdu Translation of Quran) writes: "For general study and dissemination it is necessary that the translation of the Quran should be published in different forms and in a variety of editions in such large numbers that Musalmans of every strata of Society and every tract of the country should be able to benefit by it, and no Muslim home should be without a copy of it." These lines provided an impetus for the resolve of mine to collect and publish in a small brochure some of those verses of the Quran which contain injunctions and commandments. I am, therefore, publishing this brochure in the hope that it will prompt the readers to study the Holy Quran with care and thought.
I believe the greatest cause of the decline and downfall of the Muslims is their neglect of the Holy Quran. By decrees the knowledge of the Arabic language declined among them, until they ceased to understand the Holy Quran altogether. One can follow the injunctions of a book only when one understands them. If the order of a court comes to you in a language which you do not know, - how will you comply with it?
God enjoins to read the Quran slowly and to understand it (73: 4 and to meditate on it (47: 24). This can best be done when you understand the Arabic language; when however you are not conversant with the language then have recourse to the translation. Mr Marmaduke Pickthall, who was a life- long student of the Quran, in his English translation The Glorious Kuran (which is incidentally the first translation of the Quran by an Englishman who is also a Muslim), says:-
"The Koran cannot be translated. That is the belief of old fashioned Sheikhs and the 'view of the present writer. The book is here rendered almost literally and every effort has been made to choose befitting language. But '"he result is not the Glorious Koran, that inimitable symphony, the very sounds of which move men to tears and ecstasy. It is only an attempt to present l the meaning of the Quran- and peradventure something of the charm in English. It can never take the place of Koran in Arabic, nor it is meant to do so,"
The same is the view of the famous Turkish General Mahmud Muhtar Pasha as noted in Wisdom of the Quran written by him in French and translated into English by John Naish, Chief Oriental Reader, Oxford. The celebrated soldier and scholar says:-
" The Quran, in its original Arabic dress, has a beauty and charm of its own. Couched in concise and exalted style, its .brief pregnant sentences, often rhymed possess an expressive force and explosive energy which it is extremely difficult to convey by literal word for word translation,"
My submission therefore is "Read the Arabic Text with a good translation and" gradually you will be able to understand the Text."
History bears witness to the amazing triumph of the Muslims so long as they remained faithful to the teachings of the Holy Quran.
In the lifetime of the Prophet in the year 628 A.D. (6th year of Hijri) the Prophet had sent embassies to the Courts of the Emperors of Rome, Persia and China calling upon them to acknowledge the one true God and to serve Him alone. In the same year a mosque was built in Canton (China) at a distance of about 8,000 miles from Mecca, which survives to this day. It is one of the eldest mosques in the world.
One historian has estimated that within twelve years of the death of the Holy Prophet (11 AH.= 632 A.D.), i.e., by the close of the reign of Omar the Great (23 A.H. = 644 A.D.) the Muslims had conquered thirty-six thousand towns and forts. The rule of Caliph Omar extended over twenty-two million square miles. Within a hundred years of the Prophet's Hijrat from Mecca to Medina the Muslims had spread ever three continents, stretching in the east to the banks of the Indus and in the west to the south of France, while the whole of North Africa owned their sway. In fact, within one hundred years they had subjugated almost the whole of the then civilized wo.rld, except India and the Roman Empire.
It was the spirit born, in them, of a true under- standing of the Quran which made the Muslims cheerfully suffer the brutal persecutions and merciless tortures and oppressions to which they were subjected in the early days of Islam, a full narrative of which may be seen in the Seerat-un-Nabi of the late Maulana Shibli. The chief fact to be noted in this connection is that these barbarous persecutions failed to induce even one Muslim to objure his faith. A Christian historian says truly: "It would be well for Christians to remember that Muhammad inspired his followers with such an unshakable faith as it would be vain to look for among the first disciples of Jesus Christ. When Jesus was taken to the Cross all his disciples fled and left their master to his gruesome fate. On the other hand the followers of Muhammad rallied round their persecuted prophet, sacrificed their lives in his protection and finally made him triumph over his enemies" (Apology for Mohammed by Godfrey Higgins.
The whole basis of the law of Islam is spiritual purification and moral training, equity and good con- science. Islam .teaches to make the best of all things, to avoid the foolish, to seek refuge in God, to touch not the goods of an orphan, to covet not another's goods, to abstain from adultery, and to keep your eyes away' from lustful objects, to avoid vanity, to give alms, to offer prayers, to show kindliness and respect, to one's parents, to avoid iniquity, to be neither unjust nor violent, to seek the pardon of God and to turn to Him for He is merciful and loving, to call upon the Lord in loneliness and in secret. Islam as preached in the Quran is the religion that helps man to live in peace with himself, and in peace with his fellows and the rest of creation.
A few special characteristics of the religion, the Quran teaches, may be recounted here:-
Firstly, Islam may boast of a catholicity peculiar to itself namely that, in order to be a good Muslim, it is not necessary to reject the truth or veracity of other religions revealed to the world before the Quran. The Quran does not set out new ideas, not already known to mankind.
Secondly, Islam is a religion easy of comprehension. A Muslim is required to believe in one God, in the truth as revealed in the Quran and the Scriptures that have preceded it. It does not lay down an elaborate ritual beyond the grasp of the man in the street.
Thirdly parochialism or any notion of the favoured nation has no place in the teachings of Islam. Parochialism is the creation of the brain of Mullas and self-styled Molvies. There is no honour by birth, or disgrace by colour, race or language. There is but one criterion of greatness open to all alike. "Surely the noblest amongst you in the eyes of God is one who is most mindful of his duty" (Quran).
Fourthly, Islam establishes a brotherhood among Muslims-" No one among you is a believer in God unless he loves his brother as he loves himself."
Fifthly, Islam is a religion of peace and toleration. The dominant feature of Islam as its name implies, is the making of peace.
Sixthly, Islam is not merely the elaboration of theory-it is a code of practical ethics and a guide to daily life. To be a good Muslim, the practical is as essential as the theoretical, mere belief being in- sufficient.
Seventhly, Islam eradicates various injustices of a social nature, and attempts to establish the most equitable social order in the world.
Eighthly, Islam is a religion which takes account of human nature.
Ninthly, Islam lays much stress on the acquisition and cultivation of knowledge by men and women. The Prophet says:-" He who goes abroad in the search of knowledge is in the path of God till he returns." "It is incumbent on every male or female to acquire knowledge." "The ink at scholar is more holy than the blood of the martyr." And again, "Acquire knowledge, it will enable you to distinguish right and wrong, it will light the way to heaven; it will be your friend in the desert, your society in solitude, your companion in loneliness, your guide to happiness, the sustainer of your misery, the ornament among your friends, and the armour against your enemies" (Hadis, i.e., sayings of the Prophet).
Mohammad, in distinction to other Prophets before him, passed through all the phases of life from orphan to king, from idealist to the man of the world. His amazing career has embraced the position of a son, a father, a husband, a neighbour, a shepherd, a tradesman, a preacher, a persecuted fugitive, a friend, a warrior, a general, a judge, an administrator, a law-giver, a statesman and then an Emperor. It is because of his wonderful spiritual power that though unlettered, yet, in his life he filled all these roles.
In Quran God says to the Holy Prophet, "We sent thee not, but as a mercy for all creatures" (XXI: 107). Hear what the messenger of God him- self points out, says he: "Respect the ways of Allah, and be affectionate to the family of Allah; All creatures of God are His family and he is the most beloved of God who loveth best H is creatures" (Hadis).
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