Muslim Community: a unifying theme of the Quran Sep 2005
By Ahmad Ibrahim
THE QURAN, guidance for humankind, has a unique literary style and all the subjects it deals with gravitate around the unifying themes
MUSLIMS believe that the Quran is the unalterable word of God[i]. It is the final revelation from God to the last Prophet[ii] Mohammed (PBUH) and affirms all the earlier divine messages. Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) said that the best of you is who has learnt and then taught it[iii].
The Quran deals with many subjects in classical Arabic, in a highly moving language. It blends creeds, morals, creation, laws, rituals, philosophy, life and death, and history all in the form of a book. And it does it with a unique literary style unlike any other book. Much has been written about this unique style and many scholars have dedicated their lives, over the centuries, to this subject. In this essay, we do not intend to re-write the commentary on this literary style but to highlight some relevant points to support our discussion on the unifying theme of Quran.
First, subject or chronology does not arrange Quran nor does it follow a logical sequence in its arrangement. Prophet Mohammed (PBUH[iv]) received the divine revelations in a random order of a few verses at a time, over a period of time and arranged them into a pre-ordained sequence, which became the final book. Under this arrangement, the Quran moves from one topic to another in an unexpected and abrupt manner. There is no clear division of subjects into chapters and sections. Readers often find this style difficult to follow.
Secondly, the Quran covers one subject in many different chapters and to grasp the complete picture reader must refer to all the passages with their context.
Lastly, the reader also needs to relate the subject to the central themes, which are the main unifying ideas of the book, to fully understand the message. Thus, to understand the book, it is important that we clearly understand the main subjects, their context and their relation to the unifying themes of the book.
In this essay, we will examine why the Muslim Community is one of the major and unifying themes of the Quran and how we can further highlight this theme and perceive a relation between the apparently disparate topics.
Muslim Community is a unifying theme
The very first passage of the Quran says that it is a guide for those who believe[v]. This is the recurrent theme throughout the book. God revealed this book to provide guidance to a community of men and women, who are dutiful to their Creator.
It is a book about their history, faith, values, rituals and especially, their future. While appreciating the diversity in humankind, Quran’s emphasis is on the identity of believers based on principles, values and morals. Quran has an inclusive approach, which is respectful to the differences between humans but invites people of all cultures to come together to know each other, to help each other to do good and caution each other from harm[vi].
This theme is also sustained and vindicated by history and traditions. They tell us how Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and also many prophets before him founded communities with shared beliefs and values and how their communities overcame resistance to become driving forces for the social, economic and political uplift of the society.
Community has such an importance for Muslims that the Islamic or Hijra Calendar starts from the date when the Muslims of Mecca migrated to Medina and founded the community there. Since then, despite a general decline in the sense of community, the Islamic institutions of congregational prayers and taking care of poor through zakat have always remained the main pillars of the Muslim community.
Therefore, we believe that a major unifying theme of the Quran is the community of Muslims and all other subjects should gravitate around it. Quran projects this community as a group of men and women who are bound by their faith and shared values, who respect each other for their uprightness, commitment and sense of duty and who are ready to accept anyone within their folds without any discrimination and prejudice. Thus a strong spirit and sense of the community is found within the passages of the book.
We believe it is a hope and an opportunity for those who embrace the vision of a Muslim Community free from the evils of prejudice, partiality or favoritism; the evils against which our founding father warned us[vii].
Highlighting the community perspective
With this background, we thought why not make an effort to better understand this major unifying theme of the Quran. Therefore, we decided to present our views in the form of a series of short essays to think and develop ideas. In these essays we have tried to highlight different aspects of the Muslim Community including, its vision, mission, identity, foundation, social bonds and culture.
These short essays are about a thousand words long and written with a common theme, the community. These essays provide an initial set of ideas, principles and guidelines. They need to be refined and expanded, through a process of community dialogue that seeks an informed and wise consensus.
If our members want to share their perspective, we encourage them to contribute their essays, which can help broaden our knowledge on this subject.
Note: If you are interested in submitting an essay please refer to guide section below.
Guide for contributing essays
Essay is a short literary composition on a single subject, usually presenting the personal view of the author.[viii]
It requires a sincere effort to understand a topic and communicate that understanding effectively and accurately. Therefore, just like any other literary composition, essays require that the writer organizes it well, provides the evidence and reasoning and if the subject requires further research, do some hard work.
The following are the general advice on writing an essay:
· The essay should be readily understandable. · Display clarity of thought by clear writing. · Use the language of everyday speech. · Do not be arrogant and do not humiliate or criticize anybody. · Do not take a self-righteous approach.
As a general advice follow the core values of the community
Note: please refer to http://clearvision.com.pk/values
Notes & References ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- [i] Quran 6:34 “...and none can alter the words of God…” 10:64 “…No change can there be in the words of God…” 15:9 “…it is we who sent down the reminder and surely we will guard it…”
[ii] Quran 33:40 “…he is the messenger of God and the last of the Prophets……..”
[iv] Peace be upon him
[v] Quran 2:2 “…guidance to those who are dutiful…”
[vi] Quran 90:17 “…exhort one another to perseverance and exhort one another to pity.”, 103:3 “…exhort one another to truth and exhort one another to endurance.”
[vii] Speech of Mohammed Ali Jinnah to the Constituent Assembly on Aug 11, 1947