Some years ago, I was watching on television, in New York, the legendary boxer Mohammed Ali’s interview, in which Ali was saying how self-contradictory are the contents of the Bible, whereas in the Koran there is no such contradiction. Looking at the way Islam is practised in the world, the Koran has a place in the life of Muslims that is vastly different from what many holy books of the other faiths have in their respective believers.
Unfortunately, some Muslim clergy and rulers have often brought bad name to Islam, by misinterpreting many of its key principles. A majority of Muslims have very little understanding of what Islam is according to the Koran and they often go by what the clergy say are its tenets and practices. It is partly because the Koran is written in Arabic and most followers see it as a holy book that should be read even without being able to understand it owing to their ignorance of the language. This is particularly true of Muslims of the non-Arab world. Such situations have also helped Muslim fundamentalists and Islam-bashers spread many flawed interpretations of the Koran, harming the members of the community in general the world over and projecting a wrong image of them as people with flawed behaviour.
Of late, there has been a welcome trend of getting the Koran published in different languages. This will be very useful in spreading the true knowledge of the Koran and enhancing the people’s understanding of Islam.
The book by Muhammed Sharif Chaudhury, under review, marks a step forward because it elaborates on principles affecting different aspects of human life enunciated in the Koran, which in modern terms is a constitution in itself. What the holy book has to say about the judicial, economic, social and political systems, war and migration, education, knowledge, science and so on has been analysed in detail.
For instance, the idea of ‘Zakat’, or a ban on the practice of collecting/levying interest in financial sector/monetary market, signifies the salutary objective of building a compassionate society and preventing any form of economic exploitation. When one looks at the modern world, it is apparent that interest is the foundation of modern banking, an area where the West is dominating and the poorer sections are being exploited.
The chapter on war discusses jihad and the principles governing it. At a time when jihad is much talked about and looked at with a sense of fear and contempt, the brief analysis should serve to present jihad in proper perspective, demonstrating how different is the way the Koran expected it to be practised. I wish issues of this kind were discussed more elaborately.
When this book is read in combination with A.A. Kherie’s ‘Index-cum-Concordance for the Holy Koran’, one has the opportunity to grasp the context in which many enunciations of Islamic principles of life were made. These books offer English-speaking readers a great opportunity to get to know the real Islam, as distinguished from what is dished out by the clergy or its deviant advocates such as Osama Bin Laden. These are a valuable source of analysis for students of Islam and comparative religion.
A CODE OF THE TEACHINGS OF AL-QURAN: Muhammad Sharif Chaudhry; Rs. 600.
INDEX-CUM-CONCORDANCE FOR THE HOLY QURAN:
A.A Kherie; Rs. 995. Both the books pub. by Adam Publishers & Distributors, 1542, Pataudi House, Daryaganj, New Delhi-110002.