Transforming Power of the Quran
Dr. Maher Hathout, July 10, 2005
In regards to the miracles of the Quran, some said it is the language of the Quran, which is inimitable because of the Arabic grammar and words. For e.g. the word that has the letters Alif, laam, meem (Quran 2:1), people challenged others if they can put together using the same alphabet such as the elegant style of the Quran. This is a valid point but it can convince only those who know good Arabic and not even the Arabs who speak Arabic today.
Some said, it is the prophecies in the Quran that could predict the future events. Some others said, it is the scientific miracle because certain statements mentioned can be explained only by the scientists of modern times. We all know that science could change.
In my humble judgment, the real miracle is, the amount of radical change the Quran did to life in a short period of time. When talking about the short period, it is a total of 23 years followed by seven to eight years i.e. the years followed the revelation of the entire Quran.
To establish democracy in Europe it took around 650 years; women emancipation movement took around 800 years and then the rise and collapse of Communism took 50 years. It took this many years to change a small aspect of life.
The year during the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is not like it is now. There were no jet flights, computers and e-mails etc. If we factor in the compensation for the speed of communication, those 30 years is about 2 or 3 weeks our time.
Let us discuss the ten major areas that Quran had an impact on the people, which in turn brought the radical change we talk about.
1. Theological change
a. Oneness and uniqueness of God.
Everyone knew God but not the way explained in the Quran. With the advent of Quran, the idea of God radically changed. Quran stated the rule, "Nothing is like unto Him" (Quran 112:4). Any God that one can imagine, draw, touch, build, give an image, find for Him a beginning or an end, is begetting or begotten, put on the cross or have a wrestling match with Jacob, all these are gods that humans are making. But for God to be God, He ought to be different. This extreme abstract, God being that far and so close and one can communicate with Him directly, without any mediator is something that was never heard of, at least in this clarity.
From ancient Egyptians to Greek gods to Hinduism to Judaism to Christianity, God in that concept, which is oneness and absolute uniqueness (At-Tawhid At-Tanzih), is a radical change in theological thinking that Quran brought in.
b. Direct access to God
A person can get direct access to God by turning to Him.
Before that, if one has to reach God, he/she needs to offer sacrifice on the altar or should approach factors such as human, stone or animals to connect to the God. Even though Christianity came with an advanced concept of God, people still confined to mediators. Until relatively, Recently majority of the Christians did not have access to the Bible.
God says, "Call on Me; I will answer your (Prayer)" (Quran 40:60)
It is true that some Muslims today seek mediators but this is a deviation from the Quran.
c. Absence of Clergy
The demolition of the concept of clergy class, which is holy and unfortunately considered more qualified than any one of us. In terms of value and closeness to God, Allah says, "Noblest among you is the one who is most aware of God" (Quran 49:13). Only God knows who is the most aware of Him. Did Muslims maintain that? The answer is "No." We lost the vision. Some touch scholars and imams to get blessings and prayers (barakah and dua).
2. Absence of eye-catching miracles
At the time of Moses (PBUH) and Jesus (PBUH), there was a need to get something eye catching like the partition of sea by Moses (PBUH) and healing of leper by Jesus (PBUH). This was appropriate for humanity at certain stage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) never used any miracles to convince people of the validity of his message.
3. Gender Equality
It is said that the great Greek Philosopher, Socrates used to begin his day by thanking God that He made him a man and NOT a woman. It was considered that the life is hierarchal. Higher class is man and lower class is woman. Today, even Muslims are slipping into this mistake
According to Genesis, "God created Adam. Adam felt lonely. So while Adam fell asleep, God took the rib of Adam and created Eve." Thus woman was perceived as a subsidiary to entertain man.
According to Genesis both men and women are not equal. Women are considered a part of the necessity so that males do not feel lonely. Because Eve was not complete, she was tempted by the devil and in turn tempted Adam to eat the fruit from the forbidden tree. Hence woman who was created from an unneeded rib but was also a troublemaker otherwise we all would have been enjoying in Paradise!
This is in sharp contrast to what Quran says."Both male and female are created out of an entity (Nafs)" (Quran 4:1). Both Adam and Eve felt tempted, repented, forgiven and then both came to earth to be vicegerent of God. This is a basic change in outlook to life. Before the revelation of Quran, it was completely different.
Today, Muslims have gender bias, but it is a deviation. Now everyone is claimed to be a women emancipator except for the Muslims. In reality, gender equality is a major change that Quran brought in.
The very first verse that is believed to be revealed in the Quran talked about "Reading, then writing and then researching" (Quran 96: 1-5). This brought in an educational revolution.
Islam started the first public educational system. According to Islam, education is not a privilege but a right and duty upon every Muslim male and female.
In ancient Egypt, the direct employees of Pharaoh and guardians of temples will alone receive the education and not common people.
In Synagogues, Rabbis were educated but masses were not. In US, it was a crime for a black man to know how to read and write until relatively recently
In Islam, the unlettered Prophet (PBUH) asked the Prisoners of War (POW) who know how to read and write to teach children so that he can free them. This is a major revolution.
Copernicus had to put his life at stake in order to prove that earth revolves around the Sun and not the other way around. In Islam, it is the opposite. Scientists were ordered to know how God initiated the creation. The religion of Islam was a fuel for scientific exploration. This real renaissance happened prior to the renaissance of Europe.
Invention of Sulfuric acid by Jabir bin Hayyan (aka Geber), invention of Arabic numerals etc., all these happened in response to a divine revelation.
5. Human Rights
Quran set an important landmark called inalienable rights, irrespective of race, color, creed, religion or social status.
”We have honored the sons of Adam; provided them with transport on land and sea; given them for sustenance things good and pure; and conferred on them special favors, above a great part of our creation.” (Quran 17:70)
Right to dignity, offer the sustenance of good things, right of migration (to travel), citizenship and elevated humans above the level of animals. These are the rights given by God to human beings.
”Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And Allah heareth and knoweth all things. (Quran 2: 256)
Right to freedom and to make choice.
Before the Quran came, everyone came to erase the previous god. In Egyptology, the era of the god Amon came and erased the god before him and put himself above the previous god and then the other god came and erased Amon and so on. This occurred up until Christianity came to Spain, where it erased Islam and Judaism.
When Islam spread, other religions existed. Sometimes the Muslim rulers were good and sometimes bad but the right of other religions were protected. This is something completely new with the advent of Quran.
Before that, "Some human beings are more equal than others", "The equality is for the Romans and not for the all the subjects of the empire". "Divine rights of the Church (Pope)" later moved over to "Divine rights of the King" and it was not considered as a set back but a step forward. When the Kings got the landlords around them they fought and moved the divine rights of the Church to divine rights of the King. King has a different blood, which is the Royal blue. "The Law for the ruler and the law for the ruled" etc.
In Islam, Prophet (PBUH) said, "If Fathima (daughter of the Prophet) had stolen, I would apply on her the due punishment" (Muslim). This brought a new revolution in life.
6. Concept of Justice
Before Quran came, justice was whatever ways things can be done to establish an authority that keeps social order. Under such concept we have "plead bargain", if a person has committed three crimes, he confessed to one and drop the other two to solve the problem with the least possible amount of dollars because justice is a "pragmatic social contract".
When Quran came, Justice became a divine value that no one can tamper with. It is applicable to oneself, to friend, to foe, to the close one without any partiality. "Never let hatred of any-one lead you into the sin of deviating from justice." (Quran 5:8). Whether the subject is rich or poor, the justice is justice and it should not be colored with favoritism and things like that.
7. Equality under the law
At one period of history, Mamlooks ruled Egypt. Mamlooks were a group of kids who were kidnapped and trained in military institution to become best fighters in the world in a sense they were skillful and smart. One of them became the ruler.
A common man came to the ruler who was a Mamlook and said, "According to our law the ruler should be a free man." And since this ruler was a Mamlook, he becomes illegitimate. And they went to a scholar and explained the situation. The ruler was a tough ruler and said that he is not a Mamlook and nobody owns him.
The scholar asked the ruler, "Well, who liberated you to start with?"
In order to solve this constitutional problem, that scholar took the ruler to the market and found someone to buy him and release him so that the ruler becomes legitimate.
Just imagine how compelling the idea of being subject to the law. Whether we like this law or not, if that is the law then even the ruler is subject to it. This is new in human history.
8. Idea of restricting the concept of authority
According to the Quran, the government or the ruler does not have the absolute authority.
"... obey those given the authority to command from among you." (Quran 4:59)
Quran indicated very clearly that, those who lead:
a) ulil amr, which means “a group” and never spoke about one
b) minkum, which means “it should come from you” and
c) the allegiance to them should be based on the respect of the Quran, in other words, there is constitutionally, and if they deviate, they can not have authority anymore. The authority is given by an oath of allegiance (baya), acceptance of the people and the people are supposed to watch over them.
Ruler for the first time was hired/employed by the masses to serve them according to the constitution and should conduct the affairs through counseling (Shura) and if the ruler deviates, he should be fired.
Today, most of the rulers in the Islamic countries are not following this Quranic instruction. It is a deviation. Deviations are always amenable to change but if the theory itself is based on deviation then it becomes uncorrectable.
9. Individual Responsibilities
Before the revelation of the Quran, the reward and punishment were collective. "You kill me I will get after you and your tribe". "You steal from me; your tribe will not have anything left to pay me back."
Same things applied to credit. "I am better than you because I belong to this tribe or nationality or family".
According to the Quran, everyone is responsible for himself/herself; one is accountable for his/her intentions and deeds.
"Every soul draws the meed of its acts on none but itself: no bearer of burdens can bear the burden of another." (Quran 6: 164)
This concept of individual responsibility is the Quranic product.
10. Concept of life as a task and test
Life is not a punishment; it does not carry the original sin. Islam demolished this concept. Both Adam and Eve repented and their repentance was accepted by God. Life is for task and for vicegerency. The life is eternal and does not end. We are going to be permanent and we are NOT going to be nothing again. We are here on this earth temporarily and will go to the other world either heaven or hell based on our deeds, intentions and the grace of God. One did not make a decision to come and hence one cannot decide when to go by committing suicide. Before birth, we were nothing. It is quite difficult to accept the fact that we were nothing before our birth but that is the truth. Decision of God is irrevocable. Let us pray that we go to Paradise, Insha Allah.