It is sometimes puzzling to see apparently educated Westerners and others criticising the Qur’ān for being ‘incoherent’ or lacking a logical structure. Such people would be embarrassed to make such a criticism of Ezra Pound, James Joyce or T. S. Eliot, for example, upon whose work the entirety of modern literature is built. So criticism of the Qur’ān in this respect is to admit to a certain kind of philistine illiteracy. What is interesting to reflect on is how something which came into our reality 1400 years ago should have so much surpassed, even in something relatively insignificant as its literary form, the most modern of the modern and post-modern literary forms, just as it surpassed the greatest of the pre-Islamic poets, reducing an entire generation to mute astonishment. For those who have heard it in Arabic, it is clear that it contains rhythms and rhymes that are so far removed from poetry as we know it, as to leave all those genres behind it exhausted.
Then reflect on the fact that within this structure, the Qur’ān paints a picture of the workings of reality both in its seen and unseen aspects to the extent of even giving the reader the key to history, that it lays out the core of a non-statist law for the human race far removed from the totalitarian views of the shari‘ah that some even of its adherents have, let alone its opponents, that it tells a variety of stories about the human situation seen from all sorts of aspects, and that it delineates a clear spiritual path for the reader intent on coming to know and draw near to his own reality. Its particularly unique quality is that the reader whose heart is not completely rusted over knows without doubt that he personally has been addressed.
Many things have been written about the miracle of the Qur’an, about the extraordinary nature of its syntax, the beauty of its sound when recited, the wisdom of its contents including its exposition of the unitary nature of the Divine, the laws governing reality and the laws governing sanity, and the wisdom stories with which it is replete.
But I want to talk about only one thing: that the Qur’an is today revelation. And because I have talked and written about that before, rather than reiterate it I would prefer to approach it in another way. How do we have access to this revelation that is the Qur’an? Are there some special exercises or spiritual training that are needed in order to be open to this revelation? Are its secrets arcane and transmitted only among an élite brotherhood who have been admitted to them?
The answer is that the key to it is ‘listening’ and nothing else. Allah, Exalted is He, Himself tells us the secrets openly in the Qur’an, but only if we listen. But this listening is not just the listening that one takes to a symphony or a string quartet, even though that is a highly developed form of listening. Rather, one listens with a particular knowledge and intention. You listen knowing that your Lord is speaking to you. When He says, “O you who believe…” then you say to yourself, “That is me. My Lord is talking to me.” Indeed, in other passages where Allah, Exalted is He, addresses a single person such as, “Did you not see how your Lord dealt with the people of the elephant?” you take it that you are being addressed, unless it is clear that it is the Prophet, peace be upon him, who is being addressed or someone else. And you can only listen in that way if you listen to it prepared to do what Allah tells you to do. That is the other half of the equation. If you want Allah to tell you the secrets of existence, you must listen also to what He tells you to do.
Then you will find that Allah is indeed speaking directly to you, even though you are not a prophet or a messenger or one of the great Muslims. And that is the miracle of the Qur’an. Allah speaks to you through the Qur’an just as He spoke to the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and to his Companions and to the countless generations of right-acting men and women throughout the ages, men and women who were Arabs, Indonesians, Africans, Berbers, Turks, Kazakhs and Chinese. And now Allah is speaking to Germans, Italians, Amerindians, Spaniards, Americans, Englishmen, Scots and Irish and a whole host more.
We have, like the naughty child, taken hold of the thread and tugged on it and the garment has begun to unravel, the carefully knit garment of science, or, like the boy on the seashore, we have pulled on one piece of seaweed and out of the water a mass and a great tangle of seaweed has risen to the surface.
Foolish people, semi-educated journalists and pundits, say that his only miracle, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, was the Qur’an. But if we were to try and count his miracles, we would soon grow tired. To approach this matter we must deal with another issue first: the question of how we know these things. Continue reading 'The Parting of the Ways – Part 2 – In for a penny, in for a pound – Abdassamad Clarke'»
A series of brief talks to be given by Parvez Asad Sheikh, distinguished Punjabi scholar and director of geo-political studies at Dallas House, Cape Town.
Momentous things are afoot. The world is in motion and no one knows how things will turn out. People brought up as Muslims are embracing all the values of people who were brought up as non-Muslims: democracy, science and banking etc., while people brought up as non-Muslims are flocking into Islam. A friend recently returned from Egypt told me that all of the young people take alcohol and different types of recreational drugs. Of course, there is no way for him to verify that in every single case, but it is perhaps a snapshot, a glimpse, as when someone turns the light on suddenly and you get a picture of people caught in unexpected poses. As everything swirls, we also catch a glimpse of some of the more dangerous currents that carry people off and over the edge of the precipice. One is the apparent solidity and certainty of science. Continue reading 'The Parting of the Ways, part 1 – Abdassamad Clarke'»
This article was written for and published by Globalia Magazine. It appeared in issue No.10 of July 2011.
Heisenberg’s most penetrating insight is still largely unknown
When we turn to Werner Heisenberg (December 1901 – 1 February 1976) we quickly realise that we have to consider, as it were, three different men: the mathematical physicist, the essayist and the man. The first who springs to mind is the brilliant theoretical physicist and mathematician who was at the forefront of the extraordinary revolution in human thinking known as quantum mechanics, and who, with great intellectual honesty, along with Nils Bohr, Wolfgang Pauli and a considerable number of others, held fast during the intellectual turmoil unleashed until they were able to formulate new insights with clarity. That alone will be enough for him to be remembered by history as one of the major thinkers of all time. Contrary to biographies of Einstein, which concentrate on his personal genius and scientific achievements, the key to understanding Heisenberg is the great brotherhood of science that transcended borders and ideologies before the Second World War, and which was arguably shattered beyond repair by those events. Continue reading 'Heisenberg’s Quantum Leap – Abdassamad Clarke'»
“I’m a Muslim and I believe in Divine fate and destiny, and it was his destiny and his fate… and now he’s gone… and may Allah forgive him and bless him… that’s all I have to say…” Tariq Jahan (bereaved father)
Three young Muslims in Birmingham who had left their neighbourhood mosque in the month of Ramadan in order to defend their local area from the surrounding violence, paid with their own lives for taking responsibility in the shameful vacuum left by the failure of our government to maintain social cohesion and social justice. Continue reading 'The Game is Up – Uthman Ibrahim-Morrison and Abdassamad Clarke'»