Prayer Time

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Books generally follow a standard pattern. Every book bears a title that reflects its subject, and is divided into sections and subsections. Information and ideas are neatly separated into compartments. Every section and subsection carry their own headings and subheadings and discuss specific aspects of the subject. Matter discussed in one chapter is seldom brought up in another. Redundancy is considered a major defect and an antonym of eloquence. A good author packages his contents well and discusses specific aspects of the subject into appropriate sections.  However, the Qur’an does not fit that mold of ‘a book’. It was revealed a little at a time, over twenty three years. Being voluminous, it is divided into chapters that serve only as identifiers. Neither the name of the book itself, nor the titles of the chapters indicate the subject to be discussed. The chapter entitled ‘cow’ does not discuss cows, and the chapter entitled ‘elephant’ does not discuss elephants. It is not a book written on the subject of religion and its title simply means ‘the recital’.  The subject of the Qur’an is the message that the end of life is not the end of a person. There is a life after this life. The Creator - the One and Only - will judge the performance of all men in this life, and that judgment will determine their abode for eternity. The paradise is for the pious, and hell is for the wicked. The subject and purpose of the Qur’an is to invite mankind to believe in this simple truth.


 The same subject is repeated in every chapter. Other subjects are discussed, and repeated in succession, to call attention to it, and to present evidence of its veracity. The Qur’an explains the creation of the cosmos to stress the insignificance of man compared with the power and might of the Almighty, and to illustrate the vastness of the universe. It describes the creation of man and invites attention to the fact that he is equipped with the faculties of reasoning and speech, and a free will. It declares that life has a purpose and that man has a special status in the scheme of things. It brings up the subject of the creation of the earth to highlight the fact that elaborate preparations preceded man’s arrival on the scene. The earth was positioned in the precise location to allow the evolution of life. Everything man needs is made available in the right proportions and measure. The elements were tamed and tuned to perfection, so that the earth became a cradle for man. The system of rain and wind and the supply of nutrients in the soil assure the growth of vegetation, and provide an ample supply of food for man and his cattle


Thus the earth was readied to serve as an examination hall - a place for him to be tested. He will undergo a trial in this life for a prescribed period. The transition of man through different stages of life proves that his stay on earth is destined to be brief. Relentlessly, he advances towards death and the Day of Judgment, where man will witness the result of his endeavors. The Qur’an narrates the stories of the past messengers to indicate that the Creator not only provided for the material needs of man, but also revealed the divine guidance for him to follow. It narrates the history of man to demonstrate his arrogance - and its consequences - towards the guidance of his Creator


The Qur’an repeatedly brings up these subjects in succession and parades them as proofs to reinforce its message. It stays on a subject long enough to secure a point and then returns to its main subject. The echo of its message reverberates even when it lays down the rites of worship, the rules of conduct, and the punishment and consequences of crimes. Thus the Qur’an scuttles from one topic to another, and sometimes changes the subject in the middle of a sentence, all perfectly designed to achieve its objective - to convey the message. The words, context, emotional tone and the manner of narration vary, but it never deviates from its purpose. It is as focused on its message, as the magnetic needle is to face the North Pole. The repetition attains its planned objective. Not only does it clarify and confirm the message, but it also keeps it in the forefront and does not let it slip out of the limelight. It fortifies the belief that the consequences of actions are inevitable. Deeds are recorded and registered in this world, the harms and benefits ensue in the next world. Efforts made in this life yield results in the life to come. Seeds sown here bear fruit in the hereafter. The brevity of our life precludes the reward and punishment of our moral deeds in this world. The Qur’an moors the psyche of its believers to the life of the hereafter. The message is repeated in the Qur’an scores of times. According to literary standards, the frequent recurrence of subjects is a flaw that should render a book unreadable and unworthy. Such a book would have become obscure long ago. But the Qur’an achieves eloquence despite the frequent and abrupt changing of subjects. The repetition enhances rather than diminishes its quality. No other literary classic can sustain that inimitable style. That is why it is not an ordinary book, but rather, it is the Book.  The masters of languages create the classics, but the Master and Creator gave us the Qur’an


Poets and writers are born, not taught. The penchant for poetry clamors for expression and manifests itself early in life in the form of heightened interest in rhythm and rhyme. But the natural gift needs to be nurtured and nourished, or it will wither and wane. It needs to be groomed and polished with years of practice. Talent matures with time and toil. Raw talent hardly ever produces readable composition, much less a masterpiece. A novice becomes the protégé of a master, learns the rules of language, increases his vocabulary, and benefits from the experiences of his peers and other masters. All those who aspire to be great do not produce a masterpiece. Even with talent, hard work, and years of practice and patience, only a precious few create classics that survive them. Classics follow many failed attempts and cast their shadows before they come about. The poets, writers and philosophers of the time, as well as ordinary folks, were astounded because, out of the blue, a seemingly ordinary man began to recite an elegant and exquisite composition of the highest caliber. He had lived in their land ever since he was born, and had never before composed poetry, nor had he ever recited a poem composed by others. Before he caused a sensation by preaching the worship of One God, he led a quiet life of a small town businessman. His associates were ordinary people and he never courted the company of poets and other literary types. His friends and family had never known him to exhibit any signs of poetic prowess. Suddenly, and without a prior hint, revelation poured forth from the lips of a man totally uninterested in poetic expression. Christians cite the miracles of Jesus, son of Mary (peace be upon them both), and worship him as one of the three persons godhood. Buddhists treat their leader, Buddha, as god. Because of the miracle of the Qur’an the Arabs, too, would have readily accepted Muhammad (peace be upon him), as a god. However, instead of taking credit for the extra ordinary occurrence, Muhammad (peace be upon him), the recipient of the revelation, humbly disclosed its source to the world. It was not his doing, he said. It was from God, the One and Only, the First and Last, and the Everlasting!


Say, O [Muhammad], "I am only a man like you to whom it has been revealed that your god is but one God; so take a straight course to Him and seek His forgiveness." And woe to those who associate others with Allah - (Qur’an 41: 6)





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