The publication of Mr. Zahid Malik’s thematic and subject- wise compilation of the verses of the Holy Qur’an in Urdu in 1980 was acclaimed as an important contribution to Islamic scholarship and as an invaluable source of reference. The fact that despite his numerous preoccupations. Mr. Zahid Malik has been able to render this work into English is a manifestation of his deep commitment to reach a much wider readership.
The Holy Qur’an contains divine injunctions concerning the behaviour and actions of human beings and is in fact a complete code of life and is valid for all generations, times and places. That is why interpretation and explanation of the verses of the Qur’an has been one of the oldest fields of Islamic scholarship. The works of interpretation (Ta/sir) of eminent scholars of Islam highlight and elaborate the teachings of the Qur’an. However, these works of interpretation mostly follow the order in which the verses of the Holy Book have been arranged. There was, as such, an urgent need for a thematic index which would enable easy and quick reference 10 the text of the different verses of the Qur’an pertaining to the same subject. The original Arabic text is accompanied by English translation based on acknowledged works of translation. He deserves a well-earned tribute for this major effort.
The book is a valuable addition to the existing works of this nature and would be of great assistance to the general readers and scholars alike.
As most Muslims do, I begin my day with recitation of the Holy Qur’an. Though the majesty of the text and its matchless rhythm are themselves absorbing, I, as enjoined by the Book, try to seek its meaning as well. The Qur’an claims that it is a book of guidance. It is truly so. Yet I have often found it difficult to obtain the Quranic guidance on a particular problem. For instance, answer to the question of elections was not to be easily located in the Qur’an. Even teachings about matters such as morality, worship, marriage and a variety of other issues are not found in one place.
There is no doubt in my mind that the Holy Qur’an as a book of guidance, must contain injunctions on all matters, spiritual as well as temporal. Nevertheless, it is not a text book of history, philosophy or law. It is uniquely structured and, in the arrangement of its topics, it is not easy to find the matter one is looking for readily under a specific heading. It is not arranged along the customary lines. You have to read the whole book to find the jewels of guidance with which it is exquisitely studded at suitable places. A scholar or a hafiz (one who has memorised the whole of the Qur’an by heart) may locate the relevant verses easily, but for the ordinary reader it is a difficult task.
Naturally, I started looking for guide books which classified the teachings of the Qur’an according to subjects, or where the injunctions could be found alphabetically arranged. I was quite sure that such books existed. The more I looked for them the more was I amazed to find that no proper attention has been paid to this basic requirement. Concordances and indices wherein every word occurring in the Qur’an has been located are undoubtedly available. They are a praiseworthy effort. But mine was quite a different quest. I was not looking for a particular word or verse in the Qur’an. I was in fact in search of an idea or a subject. My query was what the Qur’an said on a certain topic.
Then I went round putting this question to persons who had specialised in Quranic studies. I consulted scholars of Islamiat. I discussed my predicament with men of letters and learning. More often than not they expressed the same amazement which I did: first, they would refer to certain books which they believed could answer my question, then admit their helplessness. The need for such a book was felt by all and a consensus started building up. Then finally, the moment of decision came. I resolved to take up this project myself.
It is my firm belief that the present century is the century of the revival of Islam; the re-awakening of Muslims. This is not merely a political revival. It is a total and universal re-awakening, To make it truly successful we shall have to go back to the original source of Islam, i.e. the Qur’an.
As Muslims, we believe in the unity of mankind and of the universe. This unity rests upon the truth that Allah alone is the Creator and Sustainer of this universe. In His utmost mercy He has bestowed upon man the highest dignity by choosing him as His vicegerent on earth. As a deputy of Allah, man was in constant need of instruction and guidance from Him. Revelation was the answer to his needs and craving. Hence a glorious series of revelations. Among the revealed books, we know of Taurat (Torah), Zabur (Pslams of David), Injil (the Bible) and the Holy Qur’an. The first three are found now bound together in the Bible. The Qur’an maintains a separate entity and is the final in the series.
Being the last revelation, the Qur’an must naturally contain all the basic principles and instructions man needs for the fulfilment of his destiny. It must have answers to all the questions man faces. Since it is a book for all time, it is brief, yet comprehensive; concise, yet lucid. In point of fact it is not merely a collection of prayers and wishes; it is a revolutionary mandate. History bears testimony to the fact that the Qur’an brought about an unprecedented revolution among the people of the desert of Arabia under the leadership of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The society that the Qur’an established set the ideals for generations to come. The mind that the Qur’an built enabled humanity to conquer nature rather than be a slave to it. It was through these teachings that an ideal society came into being in Makkah, which flowered to full bloom in Medina. All of a sudden the impact of the Qur’an began to be felt in lands near and distant as far as the Indian subcontinent, Far East Asia and the northernmost area of Europe which had been living mostly under unenlightened conditions. The light of civilization began to penetrate the enveloping gloom.
The impact continued to grow stronger, and eventually the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries saw an explosion of knowledge and freedom in Europe. The origin of this massive intellectual activity certainly goes back to Islam. The European nations had eagerly followed the trail blazed by Islamic learning. No false pride or prejudice barred them from benefitting from Islamic thought Discoveries, inventions, exploration, were the hallmark of these centuries. A new era had dawned. New vistas had opened out.
The light of the Qur’an was shining all over Europe. It closed its doors upon none. It was an open book even for those who were not Muslims. Being a revelation from the All Transcendent, it transcended all such discrimination. Its message was not limited to Muslims. It ad- dressed itself to the whole of mankind. It guided all those who came to seek the truth. When Muslims under the impace of alien heresies drifted away from the Book, the divine light receded into distance. But now when Islam’s resilience is again in evidence with a positive interest in science and technology, together with a rcinvigorated faith in Islamic tradition, Muslims are recovering from the centuries-old lethargy. In this process however, Muslims have a gnawing feeling that something has gone wrong with them. They feel something is missing in their lives.
Muslims are not alone in this feeling. Mankind in general is becoming aware of the emptiness of modem life. All values of life have lost their meaning. Life has come to mean something mechanical.
There could be many reasons for this hollowness, namely over-mechanization, breakdown of human relationships, man’s rupture with nature, the ever-expanding frontiers of knowledge, the frustration of the ecsthetic and materialistic value system. But one thing is obvious. Modem scientific progress has left man confused.
Man, to his frustration, has now realised that the value system that had grown out of socio-economic revolution during the last centuries is no more compatible with the demands of modem times. A total reconstruction of these value systems is the fundamental need of the time.
After a lengthy stagnation, Muslims are waking up, no doubt But things have radically changed during their period of torpor. They are a bewildered people now. They have to make up for the loss. They have to fill a number of gaps.
Looking back at the fourteen hundred years of Islam one can say without hesitation that the mainspring of Muslim thought and culture has been the Holy Qur’an. It has been, and still is, the foundation and the mainstay of Islamic life. Not only does the Qur’an re-establish man’s relationship with his Creator, who is Omniscient, Merciful and Compassionate, but provides also a guidance on all the questions, whether they touch man’s life in Africa or Europe. The Qur’an stimulated human interest in the studies of nature and the universe. It created an urge for knowledge; gave man dignity and self-confidence. The revolution in human outlook provided by the Qur’an had deeply engaged the attention of Muslims as well as non-Muslims. Its translation into al- most all the languages of the world is, in fact, man’s tribute to its eternal wisdom.
Nevertheless, during the last two centuries Muslims regrettably have not paid as much attention to the Quranic studies as they had done in the past. One notes with distress that today the minds and the hearts of the great majority of Muslims have very little rapport with the Qur’an. Today in view of the expanding frontiers of knowledge the intellectual limitations of man are becoming more and more pronounced. Amidst the glitter of material wealth and progress man’s, spiritual poverty is becoming painfully evident. Man’s moral cravings are seeking new avenues of expression. The question poses itself: Whither humanity?
The present book embodies an earnest effort by its learned editor, Mr. Zahid Malik, to present a comprehensive and an exhaustive survey of several themes with which the Qur’an deals. It is designed to help the writer and thinker on the character and content and meaning of the Holy Book to get at the specific passage or the verse in order that he can see it in the context of similar passages or verses spread out in the text of the Qur’an. The aim of the exercise is to view it in its totality and when seen thus, the resulting impression would tend to show that the Qur’an is free from any internal contradictions. Further such a way of looking at the various Ayats of the Qur’an would deepen the reader’s understanding to an extent that what appeared to be controversial verses at first sight form a body of coherent, self-consistent and complete ex- position of the subject-matter with which they deal. The superficial view that is often taken is that the arrangement of the various verses of the Qur’an is unscientific, in that diverse themes are dealt with in disconnected, disjointed and desultory manner. This view, in the light of modem research, is giving way to the perception that there is a serious purpose which lies at the back of the specific Quranic mode of presenting the revealed truth in a verbal form. The arrangement of verses to begin with invites and inevitably compels the reader to look at the Qur’an steadily and regard it as a whole.
Despite the fact that the Qur’an as a whole is a magnificent articulation of the revealed word of God, it becomes necessary to compile publications like the present one to supplement the conventional tafsirs (commentaries) of the Qur’an, to indicate the exact placement of its verses by giving copious references to the chapter and verse of the various statements contained in the Qur’an concerning a particular theme just to facilitate the task of readily having access to all it has to say on a particular subject. A great deal of effort is required to ordinarily locate a particular verse in the Qur’an. The present book makes it possible for a research student to get at all the relevant verses of the Qur’an connected with a particular topic, and wherever possible to support them by cross references to the literature on Haditb so that no important utterance either in the Qur’an or of the Prophet excapes notice. Sometimes, somehow, I have myself found it difficult in my own encounter with the Holy Writ to get at the particular passage or verse I have in mind but which I vaguely seem to have read before, and this involves expenditure of a great deal of time before I am able to discover precisely what I am keen to know. Meditation upon a particular theme of the Qur’an gets interrupted unless you have available some aid outside its text to enable you readily to have access to all the relevant textual material. The modem scholar is much pressed for time, if only because things are progressively happening at ever-increasing pace. As we know, the computer has already arrived on the scene and I have no doubt someone by now has analysed the Quranic themes and programmed the computer to respond to any specific question that may be addressed to it for getting copious references to the various possible answers concerning certain aspects of the Quranic topics. But be the facilities that computerisation of the Qur’an may yield, I personally think that books like Mazamin-e-Qur’an-e-Hakim published by the present editor will continue to be indispensable for the scholars and thinkers interested in understanding the grandeur, authority and sanctity of our sacred literature.
Mr. Zahid Malik has done well to identify the importat themes and with painstaking care has brought them in sharp focus so that diverse, relevant and pertinent Ayals of the Qur’an and cross references to the literature of the Haditb can be spotted in the shortest possible time. Judged by any standard, the quality of work that has been put into the compiling of the present reference book is superb. It is free from any lacuna or inaccuracy. Its presentation in English language will, I have no doubt, capture the attention of the worldwide scholarship and help it to probe into the variegated facets of the text of the Qur’an in order 10 be able to understand what it has 10 say on any conceivable question. There are no doubt various books which have attempted to do the same, but I think the performance of tile learned editor of the present book is much more impressive, even as it is comprehensive and reliable.
I recall that when Mr. Zahid Malik published the earlier compilation in Urdu I wrote him as follows:
“You have undertaken and completed this work as a service to the students of the Holy Qur’an, and Allah in His mercy has enabled you to have done it with remarkable success. It is your humility, coupled with the great effort you have put in, which has lent the work its real quality.”
These words have now acquired even greater meaning with the compilation of this monumental work in Enlgish, and Mr. Zahid Malik’s labour of love must evoke the greatest admiration of those who will benefit from its contents.
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