The author of the Qur’an is none but Almighty God. Before the reader is an English rendition of the Glorious Book by Shabbir Ahmed (1947 to ?) an ordinary servant of God.
The work, although close to translation, is more of an understanding from within the Qur’an itself. This Divine Writ calls itself An-Noor (the Light) and light needs no extrinsic sources to show itself. Therefore, I have based my presentation on two principles:
1. Focusing on the language in which the Qur’an was revealed.
2. Making use of Tasreef, that is, how the Qur’an repeats its messages from very diverse vantage points.
A diligent study of the Book using Tasreef helps us look at the Qur’an in its Big Picture, and this method gives us a phenomenal advantage toward its understanding.
I have rendered the terms and linguistics of the Qur’an using the Quraish (Quresh) dialect of Makkah since it is the Arabic dialect in which the Qur’an was revealed to the exalted Muhammad bin Abdullah, the Final Prophet, Messenger and Apostle of God. [570-632 CE]
19:97 And only to this end We have made this (Qur’an) easy to understand in your own tongue (O Prophet). That you might convey thereby glad news to the righteous and warn people given to futile disputation.
Being a young member of the Saudi royal medical staff, I had the good fortune of learning the Quraish dialect in the 1970s under the auspices of King Faisal bin Abdul Aziz and King Khalid bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia. I was blessed with the opportunity to learn Islamic theology in the University of Madinah after having learnt the subject under the guidance of the celebrated names of Qari Baqaullah and ‘Maulana’ Ehtishamul Haq Thanwi in Karachi during my college days in the 1960s.
In addition, the opportunity to socialize with the Bedouins was certainly a great advantage since even today they frequently speak the Quraish dialect. Learning the dialect, by no means, amounts to absorbing the Saudi theology.
Some of the well-known western scholars who learned Arabic by socializing with the Bedouins:
In the 1810s - The Swiss Muslim traveler-explorer, Johann Ludwig Burckhardt (Sheikh Ibrahim bin Abdullah 1784-1817).
1850s - The British Muslim Sir Richard F. Burton (1821-1890), adventurer-explorer-soldier-writer, famous for the first ever English translation of “The Arabian Nights”.
1860s - The German non-Muslim scholar-traveler-explorer, Heinrich von Maltzan (1826-1874). Unfortunately, upon his return from Arabia, much furor was raised by his fellow men and the dejected von Maltzan went to Italy and committed suicide by throwing himself from the Tower of Pisa!
1920s - The Austrian Muslim Leopold Weiss (Muhammad Asad 1900-1992), traveler-explorer, journalist-author, exponent of the Qur’an.
1960s - The French, not widely announced, Muslim surgeon-scholar-author, Maurice Bucaille. (1920-?)
The first ever commentaries of the Qur’an were written in the third and fourth centuries after the exalted Messenger during the Abbasid Dynasty when Zoroastrian influence held sway in Islamic politics, society and even in the Arabic literature. The commentators of the Qur’an, historians, Muhadditheen (the Hadith/Tradition collectors) and Fuqaha (‘Islamic’ Jurists) overwhelmingly originated from among the non-Arab Persians.
The late Allama Ahmad Amin Al-Masri sums up the resulting chaos in his excellent work Fajril Islam:
“Very certainly, the reader will agree with me that the Persian literature gave an entirely alien complexion to the Arabic linguistics.”
Many celebrated thinkers and authors in the Islamic world strongly agree with the Egyptian scholar on this score. We need not go into details since the point will become sufficiently clear soon, when we cite some examples.
How was mankind robbed of God’s Final revelation? He Himself extols this revelation, “And this grace of your Sustainer is better than all the treasures that they may amass.” [10:57-58,16:53, 16:71, 43:32]
By robbing I mean giving alien, erroneous and misleading meanings and concepts to the original matchless, powerful and glorious Qur’anic terms. Here is how it happened:
The First Dilemma: While the language of the Qur’an remained untouched, its words and terms were made to lose the splendor they so beautifully conveyed in the original, revealed Arabic Mubeen. So much so, that the Qur’anic terms were dressed up with the erroneous philosophies prevalent in the once Zoroastrian culture of Persia, and they became widely accepted even among the Arabs!
This staggering tragedy explains why, how and where, even the Arabic speaking people lose their touch with the Qur’an! The Book describes this staggering tragedy very clearly,
25:30 And the Messenger will say, “O My Sustainer! These are my people, the ones who had disabled this Qur’an making it of no account." [They had immobilized it like villagers who bind a cow by tying her front foot to her horn. Mahjoor = A cow thus immobilized]
This ill treatment of the Divine message and the subsequent filling of the void with conjecture is THE cause of the Muslim downfall on a Global scale.
Any nation that holds on to this Divine Writ in letter and spirit can build a Paradise on earth. The early Islamic history is a great testimonial to this claim, but we will explore this point a little further.
How, then, do the others continue to make progress?
Naturally, a very important question arises here. In the last several centuries, the West and many other non-Muslim countries have been making spellbinding advances in education, science and technology and in their governmental systems without the Qur’an! The short answer is that they have been using well their faculties of reason and intellectual inquiry.
Another very significant factor has been quietly playing its role in this regard. The Qur’an has been, perceptibly and imperceptibly, making a Universal impact on human civilization during the last fourteen centuries. The celebrated French surgeon, thinker and historian, Robert Briffault (1876-1978) has very convincingly elaborated this fact in his remarkable work, "The Making of Humanity."
But Muslims, after disabling the Divine revelation, have also allowed their intellect to paralyze. They have fallen easy prey to the utterly senseless dogmas fabricated centuries after the exalted Prophet and his noble companions.
However, the rule stands for all that the Last revelation of God economizes human effort (Sir Allama Iqbal). It can give them eminence they have never imagined before, scientific and moral achievements side by side, in a short span of time without having to go through the prolonged ordeal of learning through trial and error. And thus, they can adopt a progressive system of life that embraces all that is good, promoting the well-being of humanity, while avoiding all that is evil and harmful. Furthermore, this Revealed System of Life is fully sustainable and durable.
How Does The Current Arabic Rob The Qur’an?
44:58 Certainly, (O Prophet) We have made this Qur’an easy in your tongue, in order that they may take it to heart.
69:40 This is the revealed Word in the dialect of a noble Messenger.
81:19 This is the revealed Word in the dialect of a noble Messenger. [44:58, 69:40]
It is of paramount importance to know that the mentioned dialect is not extinct. It is very much alive and well in the Pre-Islamic and ‘Para-Islamic’ poetry and well preserved in some good dictionaries such as Tajil ‘Uroos, Lisanil ‘Arab, Qamoos, Lane’s Lexicon, Imam Raghib Ispahani’s Al-Mufridaat Fi Ghareebil Qur’an and Lughaatil Qur’an. The first of these practically embraces the next two and the last one is from Arabic to Urdu. Edward Lane’s Lexicon is primarily based on Tajil ‘Uroos. The role of the desert nomads, especially in the Empty Quarter, has already been mentioned.
I will keep this discourse brief since nothing is more convincing than citing relevant examples. Plenty of such examples are given throughout the rendition for the reader to see for himself how the Ajami (Non-Arab, and more specifically, non-Qur’anic) concepts rob the Qur’anic terms of their clarity, power and grandeur.
Herein are given only a few of those examples:
Taqwa is usually translated as: Righteousness, goodness, avoiding evil, God-consciousness, warding off evil, piety, fearing God, doing good etc.
Now a non-Muslim, or even a bright Muslim youngster may ask, “Well, the Qur’an in the very beginning claims that it is a guidance for the righteous, the God-conscious, he who wards off evil, the pious, he who fears God, one who does good works. But, why should such people need any guidance?”
The answer lies in the Quraish dialect that describes Taqwa as walking in security, like someone who strolls through a garden but watches his garment against getting entangled in bushes and thorns. All of a sudden the verse now makes beautiful sense, that the Qur’an is a Guide to those who wish to journey through life in honor and security.
- Manyyasha is almost invariably translated as ‘whatever God wills.’ Since this term appears in the Qur’an very frequently, its wrong translation lays down the foundation of ‘Fatalism’ in Islam. Such erroneous translations can only convey abject messages and results like this: ‘God honors whomever He wills and humiliates whomever He wills.’ Or, ‘God sends astray whomever He wills and guides whomever He wills.’ An intelligent reader has every right to ask, "Why then did God reveal His message in the first place?"
The original Qur’anic meaning of Manyyasha is, ‘according to His laws’. God has appointed laws for success vs failure, and for guidance vs straying. [And these laws are given in the Qur’an. See 4:88]
- Such terms as Sayyeh, Ithm, Zanb, Fisq, ‘Udwaan and the like are all blanketed together as the vague term ‘SIN’. I have let the Qur’an explain the true meanings of each term repeatedly in the text, at times in parentheses.
- Zulm has almost always been given a very vague meaning, ‘wrongdoing’. But the Qur’anic concept of Zulm is extremely clear and appealing: To displace something from its rightful place – to harm one’s own self – violation of human rights – oppression – relegating the truth – to hurt anyone. These meanings become crystal clear in their context in every single related verse.
- Hasanah, Khair, Saalehat, ‘Amal-e-Saaleh, Birr etc are all blanketed together as the vague 'good deeds'. The correct Qur’anic meanings I have incorporated in the text at the relevant places.
- In addition, the true Qur’anic understanding of terms such as Adam, Angels, Satan, Jinn, Salaat, Zakaat, Saum, Hajj, The Unseen, The Occult Phenomena, Belief, Kufr, Resurrection, The Law of Requital, Duniya, The Hereafter, Haraam, Halaal, Jihad, Islam, Iman, and many more will repeatedly be found in the text just as the Qur’an explains them.
A brief Glossary has been included in the Introduction of QXPiv.
The Second Dilemma: It occurred when the commentators of the Qur’an, centuries after its revelation, tried to connect every verse with a certain historical event, calling the process Shaan-e-Nuzool (Circumstances of a revelation.) Here the words and terms of the Qur’an were given tailor-made meanings to fit the supposed story, with total disregard to their original vibrant meanings, concepts and messages.
This deplorable practice only serves to bind the verses of the Timeless Qur’an to some supposed incidents and chain the Word of God in another set of shackles!
A very significant Islamic jurist, Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal (d. 241 AH) in those early times saw the chaos and raised a very strong voice against this awful practice, "Three kinds of books are absolutely unfounded, Maghaazi, Malaahem and Tafseer” - (The exalted Prophet's battles, his dreams, and expositions of the Qur’an done by ancient scholars). [Ref: Tazkarah-til-Maudhua’at by Ash-Shaikh Muhammad Tahir Al-Makki and Maudhu’aat-e-Kabeer by Mulla Ali Qari]
Worst of all, and inevitably so, this conjecture of Shaan-e-Nuzool was attributed to the exalted Prophet and his noble companions. This led people into believing that this was how they (the Prophet and his companions) used to understand the Qur’an! So, the foundation of an Islamic decline was laid down and mankind was robbed of the Supreme Gift of guidance bestowed upon them by the Creator!
Now The Third Dilemma: The later generations of translators and commentators have uncritically followed the men of old and this tendency has been consistently taking its noxious toll. They have been thinking of the Ajami Arabic as the known Language of the Qur’an. By Ajami Arabic I mean applying the Zoro-Persian or any alien concepts to the Arabic words and terms of the Qur’an.
Please recall that this deplorable practice of “Shaan-e-Nuzool” was given legitimacy during the Abbasid Dynasty to the extent that the alien, empty and erroneous concepts given to the Qur’anic terms became widely known and well accepted. The Mighty Word of God, the great Equalizer of humanity, threatened the personal interests of the elite, whereas a ‘disabled’ Qur’an very well suited the ulterior motives of the Royalty, the Elite and the Islamic priesthood. A formidable coalition of this ‘eternally’ sinister TRIO thus made inroads into Islam and supported each other toward a common goal, that is, exploitation and enrichment at the expense of the masses who, in turn, violated one another’s, and particularly women’s rights.
The later commentators whether Arabs or non-Arabs, have since looked at the Qur’an with the tinted glasses of the earlier Mufassireen (commentators or exponents.) This dilemma has only helped perpetuate the pathetic state of mental slavery of the “Islamic” world to this day.
The Bewilderment: Muslims, then, keep wondering: What went wrong? What has happened to us? How can we stand up? Which way should we go? What brought upon us the current, in fact, the last many centuries of global humiliation? Is a Renaissance possible? If yes, how is it possible?
The answer is one word, Al-Qur’an, in its true meanings as the companions of the Prophet understood and strove to apply it and, thereupon, success embraced their feet at every step and in every walk of life.
Respected reader! Right before you is my sincere effort to break free of those "time-honored" shackles of mental slavery, and to breathe in some fresh air – (QXP) The Qur’an As It Explains Itself.
A Project Done In Full Public View:
“The Qur’an As It Explains Itself”, with its first edition completed in April 2003, is the first ever rendition of the Qur’an into any language that has been done in full public view. From the very first letter in Dec 2001, it had been made available on the Internet. This proved to be a great blessing. Some great scholars of the Qur’an and of the Arabic linguistics, helped me to make this exposition as clear as possible.
Respectfully, here is the fourth edition, and God willing, I hope to continue working for another improved edition.
Shabbir Ahmed, M.D.
Florida, 11 July 2007