THE GATEWAY TO THE QURAN – Surah Al-Faatihah

(Professor Justice Shahzado Shaikh, Islamabad)

Background:
Before revelation of the Quran, clear concept of the Unity of Only One God Alone, had been confused and corrupted. The mankind was divided. Human history shows that in Babylonia, China and Egypt, patriarch could sell his children into slavery. Women were treated as chattels. Arabs used to bury their daughters alive, in shame. In Greece, society was divided into three classes – notables, commoners and slaves. Rome was similarly divided into various classes. These were Patricians (nobles) and Plebeians (commoners). They were divided poles apart. Hindu society was also divided into classes- Brahmans, Kashtriyas, Vaishyas and Sudras (untouchables). Religious teaching was limited to Brahmans, and Untouchables were the out-caste. The caste system continues to prevail. History has given strong verdict against barbaric people, period of ignorance and Dark Ages.

Concepts about religions were not based on reason but they were mere beliefs based on conjecture and custom. People were discouraged to reflect and think about natural phenomena. Study of some facts of nature, mentioned in the Bible, were declared Apocrypha (not meant for common man) as a sort of sinful taboo. The Church and the Roman Empire, both persecuted people on these charges. Galileo's case is one of many such regressive and retrogressive episodes of history of science. He was forced to deny that the sun was the center of the solar system and that earth turned on its axis or revolved round the sun. He was compelled to kneel down before judges of the `Inquisition’. He had to say: “I,Galileo Galilie, give assurance that I believe and always will believe, what the church recognizes and teaches as true.” He was 36 when Bruno was burnt in 1600 C.E. Therefore he was quite cautious in making his `statement’, Although as he stood up he `defiantly’ murmured `Ee pur si muove (And yet it moves)’. Good luck for Galileo, these words were inaudible to the dogmatically deaf judges.

Philosophy had become mere conjecture. Hypothesis had no foundation because it was not proved by scientific observation and experimentation, e.g., Aristotelian and Ptolemian theories about planetary system, etc. Aristotle thought that earth was stationary and that sun, moon, planets, and stars moved in circular orbits about it. In Ptolemy's cosmological model, presented in second century A.C., earth was at the centre. Greek Philosophy, while it touched its zenith in logic, discourse and dialogue, is an admitted example of complete neglect of scientific verification of its own hypotheses. In spite of intellectual leadership, Greek civilization decayed and state disappeared.

Superstition had dominated and subverted all chances of reflection into phenomena of nature. Psyche of man was completely subjugated to celestial and environmental events. There was no wholesome approach to universe because of superstitions and unnatural and irrational beliefs. They attributed different happenings and environmental changes to different gods and their consorts which blocked course of mental exercise to consider cause and effect of each separately and in a system as a whole. Man was serving idols and self-made gods from all sorts of mud and materials. Fear of creatures and created objects had overawed and overwhelmed human faculties and reasoning. All sorts of beliefs, reflecting abject ignorance, in augurs, stars, stones and what not, had blocked progress of human thought, research in the field of science and development of human society.

Ritual had replaced the worship. All groups discredited religion of each other. The earlier revelation was not available in its original word and form. Misconception of terror, not love of God, and harshness of nature and its unfriendly phenomena had terrified human mind. There was no coincidence and concurrence in the word and deed of the priest and the rabi. Cruelty was cold, crude and brute. Persecution and torture are remembered as ugly part of human history.

It was in these circumstances that the Quran gave the guideline to patronize and put on the right path the effort for common good and welfare of society, along with progress and development of individual personality as the basic building block of durable social structure.

The Quran besides prohibiting subservience to superstition, provided psychological protection and spiritual sense of security within its own fold, e.g., in Surahs 113 & 114. It presented a revolutionary concept promoting intellect to take stand on reason. Constantly and consistently, it appealed to reason and invited all mankind, irrespective of any class, colour or creed, to make use of faculty of reflection to study `creation’, their surroundings and their own selves. In fact the first message starts with this invitation, which, in essence, being in the form of imperative and instruction, makes introspection, enquiry, reflection and research as religious duty.

"Read in the Name of your Lord-Master-Sustainer-Owner (Allah),
Who Himself created. (1)
He created the man from zygote." (2) (96-1 & 2 )

The Quran established that everything, though peculiar in many ways to itself, as an element or entity, is linked to everything else in a definable system serving the purpose of the supreme objective of existence, in its movement forward to the final goal. It clearly asserted that everything in the universe had been created, subjected and harmonized to sustain life, of which man was the highest species and that it was open to exploration:

"O you, groups of jinn and mankind! If it be, you can pass
beyond the zones of the heavens and the earth, pass you!
Not without force shall you be able to pass!" 55-33

It condemned all social evils as crimes, not only against individual(s) but also against society, humanity and morality. It gave a blue print for establishment of a just and progressive society, and in fact established a model. When examined against concepts, which are projected as modern in different times, Al-Faatihah stands as most advanced and modern in all times. Sir James Jeans’ following statement may appear to be modern today: “In the deeper reality beyond space and time, we may be all members of one body.” But when we look fourteen centuries back, we find that the invocation in the plural form in verses 5 & 6 of Al-Faatihah, even when recited by an individual, binds and blends man into the society for the common good. The Quran and the Traditions stress not to detach from the society. In fact, it infuses spirit to raise and sustain edifice of just and progressive society. These Quranic concepts always stand out as most advanced and modern in all times.

Failed Models and Geo-religious Scene at the Time of Revelation of the Quran:
Besides local brute force of pagans, following major religious groups existed in respective geo-political settings, when the Quran was revealed:
Chinese: Besides being a major religious group, it was an empire, securing itself within confines of the Great Wall.
Indian: It was a fractured melting pot of religions, dominated by Hinduism; itself in disarray, with Harsha Vardhana Dynasty at Qanauj.
Magian: Iranian Empire was in constant conflict with Roman Empire - They were softening bellies of each other.
Judaic and Christian: The Church was supported by Roman Empire with Jews dispersed in the Peninsula with some fortifications of their own.
These and all the failed models on the high way of history should serve as exemplary admonition to keep away from that route. The Quran mentions many examples of empires (e.g. Roman and Persian), societies, (e.g. Jewish and Christian), civilizations, (e.g. Egyptian, Babylonians, etc), particularly from the ancients (e.g. Aad, Thamud, etc), and even individuals as examples of admonition.

Direction set by Al-Faatihah:
In this background, right at the earlier stages of revelation of the Quran, the whole concept seems to be condensed in a capsule of one Surah (Al-Fatihaah) which made it easy to understand and implement. It clarified that the revelation upholds the truth enjoining the belief that The Only One Allah Alone is Himself `The Rabb’ – The Ever-All Owner-Sustainer-Master-Lord. He is Ever All-Beneficent, Ever All-Merciful and Sovereign-Owner of the Day of Recompense. The belief in the Day of Recompense emerges from the belief in Resurrection. The entire concept is translated in a practicable model (the concept based conduct) called `Ad-diin’ (the religion, if it could be translated briefly). The recompense is determinable on the basis of `Ad- diin’. Righteous living is possible only in consonance with this belief and in obedience to the Laws based on nature, for the good of humankind. Unity of mankind and progress of society, along with development of individual personality are primary objectives of the Message. Those who had deviated from the Truth (the Law) and had divided themselves into sects, are invited to be back on the Right Path (which could be only one single path in conformity with nature). Like the Unified Law of cosmos, there is a Universal Law regulating human life – being one and the same for every one. Deviation and division do not find favours and do not lead to success.

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مزہبی کالم نگاری میں لکھنے اور تبصرہ کرنے والے احباب سے گزارش ہے کہ دوسرے مسالک کا احترام کرتے ہوئے تنقیدی الفاظ اور تبصروں سے گریز فرمائیں - شکریہ
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