Word of God demands Serious Attention!
By: Dr. Ashraf Amin
Qur’an is the word of Allah revealed to Prophet Muhammad (saw) in a period of 23 years in Makkah and Madinah of the Arabian Peninsula. Though the series of Divine scriptures were revealed on the prophets preceding Muhammad (SAW), Qur’an has the distinction of being the final and the all inclusive, comprehensive and cosmopolitan scripture. Recognition and appreciation of all the major Prophets and books form the hallmark of the Qur’an. It has summarized the teachings of all divine religions. The Qur’an claims to come with two-fold purposes: first to confirm the true and original message, and second to guard the authenticated message for the time, eternal. The Qur’anic word applied to mark this special position attained by Qur’an is ‘Muhaimin’ (5:48) which is very comprehensive in its meaning as it (Muhaimin) refers to the one that safeguards, watches over, stands witness, preserves and upholds.
The Qur’an as Muhaimin preserves within it the teachings of all the former revealed books. Qur’an thus becomes a test for teachings of other revealed books on the criteria of authenticity. Further Qur’an substantiates the ‘Word of Allah’ that has remained intact in the previous divine books. It stands as a witness for it bears testimony to the Will of Allah contained in such books; and works to sift the interpretations and commentaries of the people which were mixed with it.
In this backdrop when Qur’an claims to restore all the purity of knowledge, beliefs and good actions as possessed by all the Prophets of human history, one could hardly turn a deaf ear towards It. Thoughtful and inquisitive men won’t afford to neglect the teachings and philosophy of Qur’an. It is so that innumerable exegeses have been written on Qur’an since It’s revelation on Prophet Muhammad in the 7th century CE. And there is no break in that endeavor till this day. However with the strides of science, technology and human philosophies, the Qur’an is read with fresh queries, and insights both by Its admirers and skeptics.
Though in the earlier periods both Traditional (Tafsir bil Mathur) and rational approaches (Tafsir bil Rai) of Qur’anic exegeses existed, in the contemporary times a cry for rationalistic interpretation of Qur’anic verses is raised aloud. Though Qur’an applauds reason but it also reminds of the limitations of human reasoning. The exegesis and interpretation of Qur’an is thus a sensitive and careful exercise. Now as Qur’an has detailed in principle many things about man, life, universe, soul, good, evil, hereafter, heavenly bodies, the world of animals, plants, insects, angels, rain, air, clouds, etc. scholars from all backgrounds- religion, linguistics, history, psychology, science, mathematics, philosophy, astronomy, refer to this Book for expanding, enhancing their knowledge and sometimes verifying It’s authenticity.
There have been many attempts even in Muslim ranks where exegetes have tried to compile rationalistic Tafsir of Qur’an as that of Allama Zamakshari, Tafsir-i-Kashaf or Tafsir of the Qur’an in the light of modern discoveries of science like that of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, Tafsir-ul-Qur’an. In the contemporary times scholars like Maulana Wahid-ud-Din Khan don’t hesitate in reconciling Qur’an with science. Efforts are going from all directions where Muslims, neo-Muslims, non-Muslims all attempt to study Qur’an through their own perspectives.
Recently on 5th and 6th of July, 2021, I had a fortune to participate in a two day webinar organized by the Department of Islamic Studies, BGSBU, Rajouri. The theme of the webinar was captivating and apt─ “Approaching the Quran in the Contemporary Times: A Quest for Engaging with the Divine Guidance”. A total of 8 guest speakers spoke on the theme. It was a rare platform to witness the scholars of both religious and science backgrounds exploring the wondrous verses of the Qur’an about the universe and the earthly life. It was one of its first programme where diverse opinions about Qur’anic exegesis were expressed in a cordial manner. The webinar generated fresh debates about the interpretation of Qur’an in the post-modern times.