Respect but not practice
The modernization of the society would involve social and intellectual change. The watchword is efficiency, which means on one hand, to avert religious and spiritual ideals and on the other hand, to embrace the beautiful ideals of democracy, pluralism, secularism, capitalism and all that jazz. As the (material) success of the western world never fails to impress people, a large number of us Muslims perceive that the modernization and not the religion is the need of the hour and therefore he who submits in with the lemmings’ obedience to the teachings of the Koran shall have to part with the benefits of the modernization that include the worldly luxuries, comforts and all the good thing possible on earth. Success, status, advancement and money are too valuable to be risked. Rather than place all of these symbols in jeopardy we make compromises which we think are required to hang on.
The Islam we practice is heavily underlined by elements which are accretions of the developments that keep driving the world towards the so called ‘modernization’ and ‘materialism’ and therefore contradict the fundamentalist view of beliefs and practices to which Muslims must adhere. In the process of the structural secularization of Muslims (that began with the colonization of the Muslim countries by the imperialist Europe) Koran and the teachings of Islam were virtually driven out from the framework of law of knowledge, and of power. The fragmentation between the public world (derived from the west) and private world (derived from the Islamic sources) as on now is almost complete.
In a typical Muslim house the holy Koran would invariably find itself decorated in the costly wrap up on the 'rihal' (a sort of reading desk formed by two boards crossing each other like the letter X) at the higher elevation on niche of the drawing/living room. As a token of the highest reverence, the believers would touch the holy book after they perform ablution and shower kisses and rub it with forehead and eyes. However in the normal day to day dealings the respected book would hardly be consulted (even referred to for guidance).
Symbolically speaking, father loves his son. Based on his vast experience the former is keen as mustard to see that his son does not make compromise with his conscience and grows up into a no-limit, successful person and be positive about his life rather than a grumbler. The father does everything possible to achieve this goal. The son admires his papa for his efforts and doffs his cap to him as a mark of respect.
Despite watching that he never hurts his father the son (due to the inadequate knowledge and lower comprehension as to what is good and what is not) invariably gets on to a feeling that the papa doesn’t always care for his feelings/preferences and does not even acknowledge dreams, needs and all the things that the son feels are the best for him. As and when the papa is around, the son therefore feels forced, threatened, and even intruded upon. His perception of his privacy being invaded and/or denied leads to the feeling of being betrayed and controlled. Even when the son is supposed to hold his father in great respect, the feeling does not however bring them an inch closer. The two intimately related individuals tend to be as wide asunder as pole and pole.
Koran, the divine truth, was revealed to the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) with an aim to provide solution to the problems of the humanity. ‘Verily, we have created man in difficulty’; hence the need of revelation. The holy book is to be construed as a sort of Instrument of Instruction which has been issued to man in his capacity as God’s vicegerent to enable him to conduct his life’s operation on earth in such a manner that he is able to obtain success in this world and the reward of eternal bliss in the Hereafter. The verses are ordained as the ‘code of conduct’ to the humanity in general and Muslim Ummah in particular. The divine teachings are what the Prophet (pbuh) himself (successfully) practiced as 'sunnah' and advised the faithful to follow to become a true Muslim. The example he set has became a pattern book of good manners for entire Muslim world.
The book is the guide (and the role model) to which Muslims continuously refer and with which they instinctively compare themselves. There is no detail too small that it will not have some ramification upon the way a Muslim behaves. It is also the template for the way any successful leader of the Islamic world should behave; he will only be loved and obeyed if his conduct follows this true and straight path. Koran has been the Prophet Mohammad’s ultimate, unanswerable weapon. Again and again, Arabs who were intensely hostile to his doctrine were seduced by its sound.
Each surah takes the believer on a journey, towards the divine source of life and the purpose of existence. Many surahs warn of the punishments that have befallen mankind in the past for ignoring the words of the prophets of old and those that await all mankind on the Day of Judgment. But there is always amidst the many stern warnings a ray of hope. God is also Ar-Rahman---the kind---and Ar-Rahim---the Merciful---who at the end of days offers forgiveness even to Satan. He is also intimately present, in those haunting words of the Koran, ’we created man….and are closer to him than his jugular vein’ (surah Qaf no.50, verse 16).
There is an unearthly, timeless magic about Koran. There are verses in it that must have seemed mysterious and indecipherable for centuries but which suddenly glow with an acute relevance in later ages whose outlook has been changed by scientific discoveries and an expanding understanding of the world. In the farewell sermon the Prophet (pbuh) had declared to his people. ‘I leave behind me two things, the Koran and my example, the Sunnah, and if you follow these you will never go astray.”
The book caused revolution, changed history, altered opinions, thoughts and laws, redefined cultures and civilizations and reinvented laws and constitutions. It churned shepherds (that reared sheep and goats) into scholars of high learning as also of great repute (with hardly any parallel in the world). Arabs who knew/professed only shepherding camels and were largely barbarians, turned into shepherding and changing destinies of humans. With all the attributes of being a book that keeps on being the ‘book of all the times’, the Koran with all the respect and reverence on earth would be consulted every time people planned their strategies, be it in governance, business, family and social issues, wars and international relations.
As we do not always live up to the teachings of the book, because of our worldly/materialistic desires, like the symbolic ‘son’, we frequently find difficulty in incarnating them in our social and political institutions. The perceptions, beliefs (aqaaid) and actions, both ‘zahir’ (inside) and 'baatin'(outside) grow in conflict and in disharmony with the teachings prescribed in the book. The upshot of this all is that, while with all the respect on earth we do recite (parrot) the verses but the feeling does not bring us closer to the teachings of the book for guidance as the benefits of the modernization are quite attractive and enticing.
Symbolic of using cannon for killing mosquitoes the holy book is used instead to destroy satanic castles and kill monsters living therein. The mullah may use Koran in amulets (taaviz) to cure diseases and to protect from evil, and the common man to swear upon the book as witness to affirm truth/solemnity of the promises/statements. In the normal day to day dealings when it would (as it historically did) provide solution to our problems, we hardly consult the book for guidance. Rather we feel kind of forced, threatened, and even intruded upon in its presence (na-aoozubiilah).
As Civil Service Rules---the written document that contains rules, regulations, and procedures---are to a bureaucrat to follow the administrative routines for running a government, the holy Koran is for us Muslims to live a successful life both in this world and the world hereafter in eternity. Unquestionably sacrosanct and inviolable, while the CSR command reverence and indispensability in the bureaucracy world wide, the holy Koran also commands respect and indispensability in the Muslim world. In effect if the civil servant can not afford to lose sight of this crucial guidebook for a jiffy---he would ensure that the book is always handy, within reach, be it on table, on rack, on floor or as bed book under pillow so---so must it be the case with the holy Koran. Our ancestors treated the book as the guide to which they continuously referred and with which they instinctively compared themselves. As placing of CSR on ground with the bureaucrat’s feet pointed document-wards would not tantamount to showing disrespect to the document, Muslims must understand that paying reverence to the book would be possible only when we live our life as per its teachings.