Family of the Heart - DIALOGUE & DISCUSSIONS 

Rashid Mughal

Kinza Bakhtiar

Relevance of the Koran in the 21st Century

By Rashid Mughal

First and foremost, I guess the relevance of the Koran in the 21st century is a matter of great concern to countless confused Muslims residing away from their homelands in the comfort and safety of the West.

The comfort and safety of those displaced or misplaced Muslim exiles are marred by the discomfort and danger of an identity crisis in which everyone is blindly groping for an anchor in the turbulent sea of change all around us.

In their fossilized ignorance of the ages, all races and religions known to man have been continuously pounded by wave after wave of enlightenment in the dark ages, periodic awakening and mass hypnotism, faith and doubt, and by massive waves of science and technology, reason and innovation, and an urgent need to globalize human thought on this planet for the common good of all.

But, alas, even today we are no better than the primitive caveman even if our garb and home have changed. We are still in the kindergarten of spiritual evolution, our minds steeped in ignorance and darkness.

Stubborn in our ignorance, we resent change and cling hopelessly to some kind of authority to lead us and guide us through life.

I am specifically referring to the authority of (a) an idea, such as Christianity or Islam, democracy or dictatorship; (b) a person, such as Jesus or Muhammad; and (c) a book, such as the Bible or Koran.

The subject of our discussion today is whether or not the Koran is truly a God-sent guidebook for humanity in the 21st century.

There will be those who resent such an inquiry and self-examination, and there will be those who'd love to change with the times if that were possible.

Most people believe the Koran is a book written by none other than the Creator of the Universe through an angel called Gabriel, and that the book was "revealed" to Muhammad fourteen hundred years ago as a tablet of truth for all time to come.

At the end of the day, what is a book, regardless of who wrote it? Basically, a book is a story, or a history, written by some author or scribe, and the Koran is no exception in that respect.

However, we are conditioned from the day we are born to accept the authority of the Idea, the Man, and the Book of Allah as the foundation of our belief system.

We go through life believing the Koran was written by Allah Himself with the aid of a ghost writer called Jibreel.

It is not commonly acknowledged as having been plagiarized from God's earlier compositions called the Torah, Zabur, and Injil, which were published at different times in languages other than God's very own perfectly gracious Classical Arabic.

The Koran thus became the latest edition of the Word of God, with every imperfection of God's earlier works thoroughly revised, edited and amended. Or so they say. 

The Koran is all those books and scriptures rolled into one, and it is universally believed to be God's Own definitive edition for all time. Our function today is to find out whether or not it is relevant to the cosmopolitan culture that is emerging in the world of today.

It is rather daunting, for scholar and simpleton alike, to learn Classical Arabic -- which they say is the official language to be used on the Day of Judgment -- in order to see what the Koran is all about.

No one will admit the Koran is a poetical and fanciful history book beginning with Creation and ending with Doomsday, yet Muslims believe it is the Word of God, a code of life, morality and laws for all of humankind.

To Muslims everywhere, those in their turbulent homelands and those in the cozy comforts of their self-imposed exile in the West, the Koran is entrenched in their belief system as the greatest book ever written. It is simply defined as a miracle.

It is indeed extremely difficult, but not entirely impossible, to break away from the shackles of belief that keep us tied down in our cultural beliefs and traditions.

Anyone who reads the Bible or the Koran objectively and carefully enough will soon realize that God appears to have been created in the image of Man: He is vengeful and compassionate, violent and merciful, partial and equitable, and so on, on and on.

As a young person, my mind shuddered when I read in the Koran how cruel and kind God could be. I began to question the wisdom of God in exposing the dark side of His nature in such a frightful and threatening way to a young and innocent soul.

Why was He trying to instill my mind with fear? Why doesn't He demonstrate that He is a loving and just God?

Moreover, I questioned why God would write a book that had very little of religion in it and far too many stories concerning who, what, when, where, why, and how He went about fixing His Own mistakes and the errors of His miscreant and sinful creation, stories that were nothing but history badly patched up, and history, if you examine it properly, is always written in the past tense.

How could the past help us in the future? And what is there to learn in such a book? What have Muslims really learned from it in the past fourteen centuries?

Learning is not what you acquire by rote, by repetition over and over again. Moreover, learning has meaning if it teaches you mathematics and the sciences, architecture and engineering, computer science and technology. Learning has meaning if it advances your knowledge and understanding of the world and your place in it.

Let us please be sincere. Let us ask ourselves what it is we hope to learn from the Koran that we don't know already?

Of course the Koran tells us Who God is, What He did and Why, When and Where and How. We know far too much about God and His every move, and yet we haven't got our act together.

What's more, we pretend to know from the Koran how the Mind of God really works -- exactly like the mind of Man, caught up in the same dualities that divide man against man and nation against nation in the Name of God.

Can such a book with its partial view of history and God's practice of favouritism be truly relevant today as a spiritual guide?

There's no need to answer that question, but why don't you think and reflect on it!

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