In this monograph, Dr. Akram continues his personal reflections on the Qurʾān, in this case, on the idea of the Qurʾān as a straightforward Book that is free of aberrations and crookedness, which many human beings have attempted to muddle with their restrictions and excesses, all of which mar the pure and straight Qurʾānic path.
They asked: You have mentioned in a previous article your particular care to ponder over the Book of God in the blessed month of Ramadan. Can you enlighten us on any new meaning that your reflections have lead you to understand?
There are a number of meanings from God’s Book that I was inspired to in this month.
They asked: Tell us about the most noble of them in your eyes.
It is God’s description of His Book that it is free of aberration, when He says: “Praise be to God Who has revealed to His servant the Book devoid of all crookedness;” [18:1] and “We have indeed propounded for mankind all kinds of parables in this Qurʾān that they may take heed. It is an Arabic Qurʾān free of all crookedness that they may guard against their evil end.” [39:27-8]
They asked: What did God intend by describing His Book as free of aberration?
The clarification of that lies in another verse:
“They ask you concerning the mountains: “Where will they go?” Say: “My Lord will scatter them like dust and leave the earth a levelled plain in which you shall find no crookedness nor curvature. On that Day people shall follow straight on to the call of the summoner, no one daring to show any haughtiness. Their voices shall be hushed before the Most Compassionate Lord, so that you will hear nothing but a whispering murmur.” [20:105-8]
Look at how God describes how he will make the sites of the mountains on the Day of Judgement a smooth and naked land, where you would not be able to see any deviation or rift, nor any depression or elevation. It would be a day when all would follow the voice of the caller without deviating. The land of Resurrection will be one flat and equal plain, with no bends or curvatures, no valleys or hills. People will follow the caller in a direct and straight path that will lead them to the plain, without any turns or bends, and without need for directions or inquiry.
Similarly, God has made His Book clear and plain in order to guide to His straight path, which is direct, in the center and balanced. It doesn’t leave any scope for deviant, unjust interpretations, nor any hastily spewed details or deviant views based on desires. And whenever any doubts should arise for any person from their lack of deliberation, they find the sunnah of the Prophet to take them by their hand back to salvation.
They asked: Is this aberrancy different from deviation?
Yes, for those who obstruct others from God’s path are two types: firstly, those who deviate people away from it through their own desires and views and bring them to travel on other than the path of God; and secondly, those who hinder men from the path of God by trying to make the path itself crooked. The latter remain traveling within God’s path but fill the road with mountains and valleys, and sudden twists and turns. They fumble about, with sapped strength and heavy deeds. God says: “Say: ‘People of the Book! Why do you hinder one who believes from the way of God, seeking that he follow a crooked way, even though you yourselves are witness to it being the right way?’ God is not heedless of what you do.” [3:99] And He says: “. . . those who hinder men from the path of God and seek to make it crooked; and disbelieve in the Hereafter.” [7:45 and 11:19]
They asked: How do they seek to make it crooked?
It is like the statement of God: “The People of the Book adopted many different ways rather than follow the true way of Islam even after the knowledge of truth had reached them, and this merely to commit excesses against one another. Let him who refuses to follow the ordinances and directives of Allah know that Allah is swift in His reckoning.” [3:19] Surely they seek to make it crooked as they had differed after true knowledge had come to them. They utilized the knowledge as an instrument for gaining position and status, a snare to net more wealth—consuming it in falsehood and a justification for affirming that they were closer to the truth than others, with sharper intelligence and greater deductive ability. In other words, the origin of their differences was their greed for worldly leadership, and so their scholars split up into groups, sects and various views, each of them calling people to that instead of calling them to the way of God. They invented in God’s way much deviation and hindered people from that way. God says: “Those who have chosen the life of the world in preference to the Hereafter, who hinder people from the Way of God, and seek to make it crooked, they have gone far astray.” [14:3]
I also said:
When these partisan and sectarian scholars became enthralled by their own opinions and by their groupings, they began to confine the straight path to their own interpretations. They made the application of their religion for the masses extremely restrictive and constrained, requiring the most experienced minute experts, who twisted the laws and rulings with their tongues and pens. This is the matter that leads to the rise of competing, schismatic jurists and artificial opposing sects, and there is no doubt that this is from the most evil types of corruption in the earth. God said, prohibiting them from that: “And do not lie in ambush by every path [of life] seeking to overawe or to hinder from the path of God those who believe, nor seek to make the path crooked. Remember, how you were once few, and then He multiplied you, and keep in mind what was the end of mischief-makers.” [7:86]
They said: Tell us more about that meaning with examples from the Book of God.
Take an example from His statement: “Then call to mind the other event: when Moses said to his people, “God commands you to sacrifice a cow,” they replied, “Do you mean to have a jest with us?” He answered, “I crave God’s protection from behaving like ignorant people . . .” [2:67-71] God commanded the slaughtering of a cow with a clear and open command, with no room for confusion or ambiguity. At this point, had they slaughtered any cow, of any color or stripe, they would have fulfilled God’s command, but they restricted the matter by seeking inappropriate questions. And this is how the minute specialists draw [this cloud] over themselves, making a general, absolute, and clear matter encompassed by restrictions, conditions, and interpretations which the pious slaves of God reject, being repugnant to their ears and repulsive to their hearts and minds.
I also said:
Surely the knowledge which comes from God through the medium of the messengers is the aim of all the Muslims—rather all of humanity itself. God does not want to make it vague or unclear, nor difficult or unknown, such that it would require experts to remove its veils or lift its curtains. God issues a command for a ruling, and also commands the cause which leads to it. Both the ruling and the cause are clear and a healing for people, without ambiguity or concealment. So He commanded us to remember Him (dhikr), and also commanded us to pray (ṣalāh) as a means to remember Him. When people pray, they fulfill the directive to pray as well as the one to remember Him. Then later on, people come in order to make this general command to remember God restricted by all sorts of restrictions and conditions, and also began to restrict prayer in the same way with those things which neither God nor His Messenger mentioned. Then other people come to oppose them with their own restrictions and conditions, and then more people come and so on. This is how groups proliferate, all insisting that remembering God or prayer is not correct unless it is in a certain way. So they begin to differ, split, become schisms and fight with one another, seeking to make the path of God crooked.
They asked: What are examples of those who seek to make the path of God crooked?
The priests and rabbis of the Christians and Jews, and from this ummah, many groups which made their own way the exclusive path to God, confining the truth to themselves and labeling others with deviation. They were not satisfied with what God clarified in His Book or the Prophet in his sunnah. They made what was lenient difficult, and what was easy sorrowful, and what was straightforward crooked, obstructing people from the path of God.
I also said:
God created people on a pure nature and blessed them with many means to knowledge such as the faculties of hearing, seeing and the intellect. And when they are left with God’s Book they are guided to its meanings and inspirations, because it is in uniformity with their nature and their intellects. They can judge it to be true and correct, and then accept it. The standard that is used in this judgement is shared by all human beings, and they can utilize it to recognize that which has come from their Lord.
They asked: Do we not need teachers then?
Of course, but the teachers’ only obligation is to clarify God’s path, not to seek to make it crooked.
They asked: How can we distinguish between sincere teachers and those that follow their own desires?
Through your innate nature and your intellects, in the same way that you can recognize a competent and trustworthy physician from a pretender who is ignorant and only after your money. But you will have to strive hard in this regard, and do not be lazy or weak, for God says: “As for those who strive in Our cause, We shall surely guide them to Our Ways.” [29:69]
Imlā al-Khāṭir Series
In this series, which he names Imlā al-Khāṭir (literally, “dictation of thoughts”), Dr. Mohammad Akram Nadwi follows in the tradition of the Ḥanbalī scholar Ibn al-Jawzī’s Ṣayd al-Khāṭir and shares with the world his reflections on a variety of topics ranging from theology to law, history to heart softeners, philosophy, education and more. Composed in a casual, conversational style consisting of questions followed by their brief answers (each portion predicated by qālū/qultu, “they said”/”I responded”), he utilizes therein the highest level of Arabic, reflecting his love of the language and his extensive expertise in Arabic grammar and rhetoric. These short but poignant reflections are part of the balāghah genre and tradition of Arabic literature. It should be noted that these translations, done by his senior students, serve as a guide and can never fully match the style, tone and eloquence of the original Arabic. Also note that Dr. Akram does not necessarily review each translation and is not responsible for any errors, improper word choices, or the likes, that are an inevitable part of the translation process.
سلسلة إملاء الخاطر| Imlā al-Khāṭir Series
A Centre for Arabic and Islamic Sciences
Oxford . London . Online