ALLOWING our senses to open up to the majesty of the universe, we are struck with its beauty and grandeur.
The activity of humankind in pursuit of livelihoods during the day and its coexistence with other species, the silence and comfort of the night as darkness engulfs the world; the companionable sounds of birds with the change of seasons and the rustling of leaves as they swing in the wind; the rows of farms and the colour of fruit, cereal and vegetables that have been sown; the water bodies that provide the lifeline for all living beings; the hills and mountain peaks covered in snow in winter that melts and runs down as fresh water, are but a few signs of the inherent beauty of this world.
In the galaxies, the Quran mentions seven skies, each with its own earth and the lowest sky has been graced with “lamps”: the sun, moon and stars. Each is set in its orbit and revolves within it according to a set of principles. While almost all surahs depict the beauty of God’s creation, it is perhaps Surah Rahman that provides a magnificent picture of the favours of the Most Merciful.
Immersing oneself in Quranic verses brings a sense of peace and tranquillity.
According to a hadith, “God is beautiful and loves beauty” (Al-Mujam Al Ausat, 6902). As per the contemporary scholar Khaled Abu El Fadl, what is a temporary sign of God’s beauty shall perish, but His perennial beauty is eternal (Quran 55:26-27).
What can be a more beautiful manifestation of God’s beauty than the book, revealed to the Prophet (PBUH) to show the people of Makkah and to others the path to beauty, ie the path to God? A miracle in itself, it is beauty encapsulated in the highest of books, revealed to God’s beloved Prophet.
The creation of humans is upon a basic nature or fitra: an instinctive, intuitive understanding of the differences between right and wrong and a desire for justice. When this is developed and man’s arrogance and Satan’s temptations are controlled, humans demonstrate higher and higher levels of beauty.
The Quran entails us to do ihsan (the best in morality), command the ma’ruf (that which is right) and forbid the munkar (wrong deeds). In each of these commands, the Quran instils the spirit of beauty of our souls. It asks us to be on the side of justice and speak the truth, even if it goes against us and our families.
One of the most beautiful gifts of God to humans only is that of rationality and intellect. By using these qualities and honing them constantly, we gradually become conscious of the beauty of the Quran. Strange as it may sound in an era when intellectual reasoning is anathema to Muslims, this is what God has enjoined humans to exercise. “He has taught him speech (and intelligence)” (55:4).
Even for Muslims who do not understand Arabic, the rhythm of the words is evident as they flow into each other, as waves of the sea, or as springs meeting at a point and then expanding into a larger spring. There is a melody, even without the qirah, that strikes at the chords of the heart. Immersing oneself in the verses brings a sense of peace and tranquillity, not to be found anywhere else.
As one begins to understand the structure of its surahs, its coherence, its links to the stages of the Prophet’s life, how some verses are contextual and refer only to those times, and how some are universal and need to be understood with reference to each other, one begins to decipher the meaning of the Sharia being the righteous and beauteous way. Every word of the book holds deeper meanings which are revealed to the discerning heart and mind, again and again.
How beautiful is the verse describing wives and husbands as garments for each other; having being created for love and companionship!
In one single word, protection, confidence, care, warmth and strength have been combined to produce the raison d’être for marriage. Yet, how many people would quote this, instead of insisting upon the juristic interpretation of husbands being managers of wives?
Islamic jurists sought to interpret the verses of the Quran through existing communal and cultural practices. Once these laws were established, they seemed to be set in stone.
Muslims no longer think, seek the truth or deliberate upon the words of the Quran. Fadl suggests that in our rituals of worship, we often use the political, legal and cultural aspects of religion, while ignoring the ethical, the moral and, by extension, the beautiful.
Weighed down by our biases, arrogance, hatred, we forget mercy and compassion. We forget our search for the beautiful; we forget our search for God.
The writer is a freelance contributor with an interest in religion.
Published in Dawn, June 28th, 2019