Dr Wasim Ahmad
Department Head of Islamic Studies
Preston University Ajman
Muslims all over the world are very much concerned about the burning of Qur’an that is likely to take place on Saturday’s 9/11 anniversary. A question, however, springs to mind as to why does the West (here symbolized by the Florida evangelical church) want to burn the Qur’an? It occurs to me that the West is not angry with Qur’an. It is actually angry with the Muslims who are not playing their desired role. The Muslims who at the most are engaged in debates – the era of which is long past. The Muslims who are not contributing their maximum to the total fund of knowledge and human experiences. The Muslims who are not doing their best for the progress of humanity and the development of the world – as they had done during the ascendance of their civilization. The West is angry with the Muslims because they are not engaging it more in meaningful dialogue and at the informed and intellectually higher level. The West is not interested in polemics and this is precisely what we are interested in. Hence there is a huge communication gap between the Muslims and the West. Being the upholders of the Books the Muslims were expected to take the initiative. They were expected to reach out. Oblivious of this fact, they started considering the world as their adversary. They forgot that they were the salespersons and the rest of the humanity was (is) their customers.
How could the West be angry with Qur’an which gave the foundations on which the West built a remarkable civilization? How could the West be against Qur’an which promotes the spirit of inquiry and inquisitiveness? How could the West be against this Book which constantly asks to reason and rationality i.e. RESEARCH? There is probably a huge communication gap here. What the West is trying to say we are not able to grasp it. In all such reactions the West and the whole world makes a statement which almost always we fail to listen and comprehend. The crux of all the issues we almost always miss out upon. This is because of our deep-rooted psychology of learning wrong lessons from the right stories. The question arises how long will we continue reacting in this manner? How long will we be going against the Book precisely because of which we are so angry? How long will we be ‘burning’ it ourselves and will get angry when others will do the same?
Why are the Muslims angry? The Muslims are angry because they (think that they) have appropriated Qur’an. They think that it is their Book. It is a false notion. Just as nobody can say that honesty is his personal property now onwards and the sunshine is a commodity that he exclusively owns, in the same manner no one has monopolized the Book. We, however, consider the Book to be ours and carry out everything contrary to it. We think that we can do whatever we want to do as it is our Book. It reminds me of Khwajah Hafiz Shirazi:
chooN na deedand haqeeqat rah-e afsaanah zadand
(When we do not see the truth, we take to the path of falsehood.)
Muslims are angry because they have been in deep sleep for long (what else closing the door of Ijtihaad is?). They are now being rudely awakened by the world and are seeing that the rest of the people have gone much ahead. Reaching to the same heights requires painful and patient hard work. Out of frustration, however, we take to the short-cuts. We forget the fact that the longest is actually the shortest. This is why we almost always misinterpret every phenomenon. And every incident. The (maybe rumoured) burning of Qur’an reinforces the fact that there is huge gap between where we should have been (benefiting from the same Book) and where we actually are. Not understanding this issue there is a communication gap with the West.
Our writers and speakers have played havoc. They have done just the opposite of what they were supposed to. They have thought and reacted in the same manner as the uneducated, uninformed and less fortunate ones do –forgetting the fact that the society had invested in them hugely for some reason. Our writers and speakers have shown the incomplete and distorted picture. They have shown the partial ‘truth’. Despite the fact that there is nothing like ‘partial truth’. It is either truth or falsehood. The burning of Qur’an, however, can serve as a catalyst for a much desired and much needed change in discourse and a tradition of learning the right lessons from the right stories. We can turn this negative into positive with a different outlook. We can utilize this opportunity to communicate with the West about what the essence and cumulative spirit of Qur’an is instead of reinforcing what the West already perceives of Qur’an – by and because of our reactions to such situations.
If ultimately we cannot stop anyone from burning Qur’an, let us then – when they burn Qur’an – we burn our false egos, our vain desires, our preconceived notions, our prejudices, our sectarianism, our groupism, our exclusivity, our isolationism, our communication gap, our comfort of opinion over the discomfort of thought and our emotionalism (jaahiliyyah) over reason and rationality (Islam).