Originally published in Santa Barbara Independent
While Ramadan may be known as the month Muslims restrict their caloric consumption, Ramadan is also the month the Qur’an came into being. Muslims believe that Prophet Muhammad began to receive revelations of the Qur’an in the lunar month of Ramadan. Muslims further believe the angel Gabriel repeated the portions of the Qur’an revealed up to that point to Prophet Muhammad. While the soft recitation of the Qur’an can be particularly heard throughout Muslim households in Ramadan, the poetic verses may fall on empty ears if the Qur’an’s spirit and essence is merely lip service.
Such recitation is a disservice to the Qur’an, particularly when the Qur’an presents itself as a reflection of human nature [30:31]. The Qur’an is a reminder of one’s natural disposition and provides a means to attain one’s innate purity. It is unfortunate then that Muslims throughout the world neglect the message of the Qur’an and instead mask their own political agendas through fabricated verses of the Qur’an. It is unfortunate that certain Muslim countries forget about the concept of justice when the Qur’an clearly says, “O ye who believe! be steadfast in the cause of Allah, bearing witness in equity; and let not a people’s enmity incite you to act otherwise than with justice. Be always just, that is nearer to righteousness. And fear Allah. Surely, Allah is aware of what you do” [5:9].
Another name for the Qur’an is al-Dikhr, that is, “the Reminder.” The Qur’an doesn’t see itself as a reminder just for Muslims, but the Qur’an sees itself as a “Reminder unto all the worlds” [81:28]. One can take the lead from individuals who read the Qur’an with an open mind to understand the Qur’an’s beauty. However, not many people take the time to read the Qur’an. If they do, the Qur’an is not read in its proper context. As Lesley Hazleton, a non-Muslim, says, “[W]e imagine that the Qur’an can be read as we usually read a book as though we can curl up with it on a rainy afternoon with a bowl of popcorn in reach … as though God was just another author on the bestseller list.”
The Qur’an’s capacity to touch individuals is not just for self-proclaimed Muslims, but for everyone throughout the world. One marvels at the story of British journalist Yvonne Ridley. This was a woman who, in complete James Bond–style, donned the burqa in order to enter Afghanistan in disguise in 2001. Ridley was captured by the Taliban and accused of being a spy. Nonetheless, she refused to be put into submission like many women who are mistreated in Afghanistan. Rather, she says, “I was horrible to my captors. I spat on them and was rude and refused to eat.” The world sighed with relief when 11 days later when the Taliban released her to the British government, the day before the U.S.-led invasion began. The world was also surprised when two years later she converted to Islam. Many presumed that this was just another case of the Stockholm Syndrome; that is, the experience changed her mental state to have a bond with her captors. But this theory didn’t hold, given her mental acuity. The reason she became a Muslim was because she read the Qu’ran. While she was captive, she made a promise to a captor that she would read the Qur’an once released. She was determined to be a person of her word and fulfill her promise. Ridley called the Qur’an “a Magna Carta for women,” saying, “the Koran makes it clear that women are equal in spirituality, worth, and education. What everyone forgets is that Islam is perfect; people are not.”
I couldn’t put it better myself. Just because your religion is Islam, doesn’t mean Islam promotes your every action. To understand what Islam really teaches, read the Qur’an. The library at the alislam.org website has free copies in English. Now, I am not saying you will have as dramatic an experience as Ridley, but at least you will have a better understanding of a faith claimed by 1.6 billion people in the world. Ramadan, after all, isn’t just about reducing calories, but also about understanding the Qur’an and finding your innate purity.