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Understanding the Quran

The holy Quran is the religious basis of Islam. It contains ordainments and commandments for Muslims and a code of conduct for them. It teaches Muslims what is good and what is bad; what should be done and what should not be. It also exhorts Muslims to develop their mental and intellectual faculties so as to become leaders in all spheres of life. It gives moral lessons to its followers in order to make them better human beings.
But when we study the Quran minutely and with a keen eye, we find that there is more to it other than mere ordainments and enjoinments. The Quran does not deliver its message in a plain, dry and technical language. It’s not merely a book of law containing difficult technical terms and sentences with complex subordinate clauses.
On the contrary it is a book with a very developed language and style replete with metaphors, similes, examples and comparisons to make its message comprehensible and interesting. Not only that, the purpose of the use of the particular language, diction and style of the Quran was to develop to make man more civilized and more humane but also to develop the mental and intellectual faculties of its followers because people with greater mental and intellectual faculties progress both materially and spiritually.
Language is not only a tool for expression but also a tool for sharpening the mind. The more developed the language, the more developed are its speakers. That’s why the Japanese people developed scientifically in a short span of time because they have three scripts of writing and a very difficult language. Every Japanese child learns to master three scripts (Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji) to write Japanese language in comparison to one script of all the other languages in the world. People with simple language and alphabet have low mental capacity because their language does not require much mental effort for speaking or writing and therefore there is less scope of sharpening the brain. In the globalization era, the West has been encouraging simpler languages and simpler mode of expressions because to it the language is only a tool for buying and selling. So whatever style or diction is conducive in buying and selling is good for them and this trend is being accepted by speakers of other languages as well without giving thought to its demerits and disadvantages.
Recently, a survey by Centre for Bio-Medical Researches (CBMR), Lucknow, in India found that Urdu passages are elixir for brain and it increases the power of imagination of its speakers. The complexity and difficulty of the script and the language requires the readers to make much mental effort to read and understand the language.
From this point of view, the Quran’s use of a developed and sometimes decorative and poetic language seeks to develop the intellectual and mental faculties of its readers and students.
Not only the Quran but also all the available divine and revealed scriptures like the Vedas contains a similar language and style which is sometimes philosophical and poetic though it does not present poetry in the real or imaginary topics. The religious books of Hinduism, Bhagavad Gita also has this style and language. Bhagavad Gita literally means Divine Song. That’s why Swami Vivekananda said about Vedanta:
“In the old Upanishads, we find sublime poetry. Plato says, inspiration comes to people through poetry and it seems as if these ancient Rishis, seers of Truth, were raised above humanity to show these truths through poetry. They never preached, nor philosophized, nor wrote. Music came out of their hearts.”
The verses of the Quran also follow a rhythmic pattern and symmetry and often end in rhyming words. But the verses of the Quran do not follow a strict pattern or metre because the purpose of the Quran is not creating pieces of poetry but to convey its message in the most appropriate words. This pattern inspired verse libre of the English poetry and later in Urdu poetry in the form of Nazm-e-Muarra and Azad Nazm. The whole Surah Rahman is written in a beautiful poetic style with a recurring sentence after every one or two expression or sentences.
Though Swami Vivekanand may have observed that the Rishis or sages did not philosophise, the Upanishads are not devoid of philosophical expressions. e.g.
Tat TwamAsi — Thou That Art
AyamAtma Brahma — This Atman is Brahman
Prajnanam Brahma — Knowledge (consciousness) is Brahman.
AhamBrahmasmi — I am Brahman
The Quran also neither hates nor declares philosophy un-Islamic. Philosophy is a way of logical thinking over the truth of existence and the universe. The Chambers 20TH Century Dictionary defines Philosophy in following words:
“Pursuit of wisdom and knowledge: investigation of the nature of being: knowledge of the causes and laws of all things etc.”
Philosophy is not akin to hollow thinking or day dreaming. It rides on logical and out of box thinking. In the past, philosophical thinking led to many scientific discoveries and inventions. Maulana Abdul Majid Daryabadi says:
“The taste for philosophy can grow only in a society where level of rational thinking among its people has been raised to a certain level.” He further says, “Since philosophy frees man from the bonds of traditional customs and dogma and teaches him to use his own mental faculties, the spirit of innovative thinking cannot grow in a society unless it is not content on following the age old beliefs and practices.”2
Since the Quran exhorts its readers to ponder, think and do research on the existence and the causes of things and phenomena, it encourages philosophical and scientific temperament of its readers. On a number of occasions it says, “Why don’t you think?”; “Why don’t you do research?”; “Why don’t you ponder over or delve deep into the reality of things?”
In Surah Rahman, the Quran says, ‘He (God) taught him (man) Bayan, the art of speech (and writing). Bayan consists or all the tools of eloquence and effective speaking and writing. The knowledge of Bayan consists of use of metaphors, similes, figures of speech and other tools of effective expression. The Quran uses meaningful, beautiful and forceful expressions to teach man the use of language. At the same time the Quran uses all these tools in such a balanced and harmonious way that the readers easily understand the meaning.