By Dr Tauseef Ahmad Parray
Kidwai’s 365 SAYINGS OF THE QURAN is a beautiful anthology of selections from the holy Qur’an engaging the reader in a moment of daily reflection
Blurb 1: In the Preface, the author delineates the reasons for the anthology. These include: to present a ‘conspectus of the message of the Quran’; to give a ‘fair idea of the Quran’s worldview to those readers who are unable to study the entire Quran translation; to serve as a ‘readers’ guide or companion volume for learning about the main thematic concerns of the Quran’; and above all acquaints readers with the ‘content and context of the Quran’.
Blurb 2: This selection of Quranic verses by Professor Kidwai provides an opening and an opportunity to study, reflect upon, and assimilate this enduring and universal Divine message.
Professor Abdur Raheem Kidwai—Professor of English and Director, UGC Human Resource Development Center (HRDC), at the Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh (India)—is a well-known author of many works on the Qur’an and Islam. Having obtained higher degrees (double PhD) in English from AMU and the University of Leicester (UK), he has published extensively on the English translations of the Qur’an, literary Orientalism, English studies and Urdu literature. Some of his works in the field of Qura’nic Studies include: The Qur’an: Essential Teachings (2005); Translating the Untranslatable (2011); Daily Wisdom: Selections from the Qur’an (2011); What is in the Quran? Message of the Quran in Simple English (2013); and 365 Sayings of the Qur’an (2014). Here I present a brief review of this last work.
365 Sayings of the Qur’an—as the title itself reveals—is an anthology or compilation of 365 Quranic verses, proposed and intended ‘to introduce briefly the core contents of the Quran’ and to ‘familiarize readers with the basic meaning and message of the Qur’an … in simple, easy to grasp English’ (Preface; p. vi). Consisting of ‘selected’ verses of holy Qur’an, of 365 passages, and covering the whole year, this attractive presentation engages the reader in a moment of daily reflection. The verses selected cover almost all the core contents of the Quran. These range, to put it in the author’s words, from ‘its doctrines about the One True God, Prophets, Next Life’(Life Hereafter), to its ‘account of the marvels of God’s creation; its life-giving, universal and timeless message to mankind cutting across all the barriers of time, place, and ethnicity; its life-ennobling directives about being kind to parents, orphans and the poor, and the weak’ (Preface; p. vi).
Preceded by the ‘Preface’ (pp. v-vii), ‘Introduction’ (pp. ix- xvii), and followed by ‘Subject Index’ (pp.367-73) and ‘List of Quranic Verses (pp. 375-81), the selected verses are mainly from the following surahs (chapters): Al-Fatiha (1), Al-Baqarah (2), Aal-i-Imran (3), Al-Nisa’ (4), Al-Maidah (5), Al-Anam (6), Al-Aeraf (7), Yunus (10), Al-Rad (13), An-Nahl (16), Bani-Israel (17), Al-Anbiya (21), Al-Hajj (22), Al-Nur (24), Al-Ankabut (29), Al-Rum (30), Al-Ahzab (33), Al-Zumar (39), Al-Shura (42), Al-Jathiyah (45), Al-Hujurrat (49), Ar-Rahman (55), Al-Mulk (67), and Al-Maarij (70).
The passages range mostly from a single verse to few verses. For later case, examples are: Day 1, 109,113, 143, 157, 160, 161, 164, 167, 169, … 211, 217, 220, 222, …292, 299, 304, 308, 328, 353, 354, 355, 357, and 362. At various places, he provides annotations and footnotes, for explanation and clarification of the verse(s) cited. These selected passages are not randomly, but are intended to enable readers to gain a clear idea as to what the Qur’an says, for example, on: the purpose behind the creation of man and the universe; man’s obligations towards God, and fellow human beings; man’s social relations; gender equality; how to co-exist peacefully with others; the immense reward for charity, justice, and good conduct, and so on.
In the ‘Preface’, Professor Kidwai—being a prolific author and researcher on the Qur’an and Qura’nic studies especially and being well-aware of the fact that there are many complete English translations of the Qur’an— presents the main objective and intention for this anthology. These include: to present a ‘conspectus of the message of the Quran’; to give a ‘fair idea of the Quran’s worldview to those readers who are unable to study the entire Quran translation; to serve as a ‘readers’ guide or companion volume for learning about the main thematic concerns of the Quran’; and above all acquaints readers with the ‘content and context of the Quran’ (Preface; p.v). Also, it is noteworthy that the message of Quran is eternal and universal, and in my humble view, all these objectives are justified and substantiated by author by providing these selected 365 passages/verses—which speak for themselves as to why Quran is such a remarkable work. Reading and reflecting on these verses, which cover a vast number of concepts and themes, help the reader to realize the marvels and wonders of this miraculous Divine Word.
The verses/ passages quoted for each day, range from a single verse or part of a verse to few verses; and at various places, annotations and footnotes are provided, which is intended for making more clear and simple the Divine message. Few examples are: on Q. 2: 188, the author adds as: ‘Our conduct should be characterized by total honesty and fairness. This helps construct and maintain a perfect, happy and peaceful social order’. On Q. 2: 256, he adds this note: ‘Islam grants man total freedom to embrace or reject faith. It nonetheless warns him eloquently against the dire consequences of rejecting faith’. In the explanation of Q. 4: 1, the author points out that this brings out ‘the Islamic concept of the basic unity of mankind, cutting across all ethnic, linguistic, religious, and other labels’.
Similarly, Q. 4: 35, the author is of the opinion that ‘Islam grants both husband and wife a fair, equal opportunity in marital affairs in order to ensure justice. Q. 6: 164 is explained by Kidwai as: ‘In Islam, there is a direct God-man relationship, without any intermediary or clergy’. In the explanation of Q. 7: 189, Kidwai writes: ‘In Islam gender relations between man and wife are synonymous with mutual love, emotional peace and physical joys. This blesses the couple with mental, emotional, psychological and social equilibrium and poise’. The author adds this note to Q. 17: 29: ‘The note of moderation in the above directive is remarkable. A squanderer, apart from losing all that he has, is also reproached for his foolishness. Q. 22: 5 is explained as: ‘For the seventh century desert Arabs this served as a graphic illustration of the phenomenon of life-after-death. Even today it is readily comprehensible for grasping the truth of man’s resurrection in the next life’.
On the similar lines, the author adds these notes to Q. 5: 32 and 16: 97 respectively: ‘This is Islam’s stance on the sanctity of human life. Those committing mindless terrorism while abusing Islamic religious symbols have nothing to do with Islam. For, Islam insists that the human life is sacred’; ‘[this is] another illustration of absolute gender equality in Islam. Every pious person, man and woman alike, is assured of God’s immense rewards’.
Taking into account all these features, this selection of Quranic verses by Professor Kidwai provides an opening and an opportunity to study, reflect upon, and assimilate this enduring and universal Divine message. Thus, it is assumed that English-speaking readers- especially youngsters-, will find this anthology a beautiful presentation of a selection from the holy Qur’an—engaging the reader in a moment of daily reflection—both spiritually enriching and easy to understand. With selections of one verse to few verses, covering the whole year, Kidwai’s 365 Sayings of the Qur’an is not only a must-have for every home, but is a must-read for every Muslim.
The author is Assistant Professor, Islamic Studies, at GDC Pulwama, and can be reached at: [email protected]