Weak in faith and obedience as I am, and unlearned, my first duty must be to confess my utter inadequacy to write this book. For, says Allah, subhanaha wa ta'ala, 'Had We sent down this Qur'an upon a mountain, you would have seen it humbled and torn asunder by the fear of God . ' So how can any human being, let alone one so poor in knowledge and impure in spirit, presume to point the way to the majesty and mercy, the beauty and wisdom that is the Qur'an? What emboldened me however was the persistent nudging of many friends who felt that what I had shared with them needed to be shared by many more. But the real strength and courage came from Allah's promise: 'Those who strive in Our cause for Our sake, surely We shall guide them in Our ways.' And the Prophet's words, blessings and peace be on him 'Convey on my behalf even if it be one Ayah' and 'Best among you is the one who learns the Qur'an and teaches it' seemed to make it almost a duty to be coveted.
My aim in writing this book is very modest. This is not a work of erudite scholarship. I am no learned mufassir, nor am I writing for scholars. I am not presuming to teach and guide, for I have no pretensions to that office. I am writing for those ordinary, inexpert and unlearned seekers after the Qur'an, especially the young men and women, who are struggling hard to fulfil their desire to understand, absorb and live the Qur'an, as I am doing myself. I am writing for students about things which I am learning myself. In this book, then, I write as one wayfarer to another, trying to share with him whatever I have found and grasped as useful as I have stumbled, with all my deficiencies, along the easy and rewarding road to and through the Qur'an. I am sure that they, with their greater sincerity, devotion and competence, will improve greatly upon what I have presented here.
This book is the product of a long and still-continuing search. Its contents have been gathered over many years of reading. The beginning of this book goes back more than three decades when I had just begun my own struggle to live by the Qur'an, and when I was given the duty of explaining how to study the Qur'an to a group of similarly committed young students. Most of what I said then, I owed to a small number of sources: Hamiduddin Farahi's Tafdsari Fardhi; Sayyid Mawdudi's Tafhimul Qur'an; Amin Ahsan Islahi's Tadabburi Qur'an; al-Ghazali's lhya' 'Ulum al-Din; Shah Waliullah's Hujjah-Allah al-Balighah and al-Fawz al-Kabir fi Usul al-Tafsir, and Suyuti's al-Itqan fi 'Ulum al-Qur'an. For all that this book contains, I continue to owe a debt of gratitude to them. And whilst I would like to acknowledge this, I must also point out that none of these authors are responsible for my own errors of understanding and presentation. The first opportunity to put my thoughts in writing arose in 1977 when I wrote a short introduction to Yusuf Ali's translation of the Qur'an published by the Islamic Foundation 'The Way to the Qur'an'.
This book is born out of certain abiding convictions. And whilst they are all explained in the book, it is useful to recall and summarize some of them here:
First, our lives will remain meaningless and ruined unless they are guided by the Qur'an, the word of God.
Second, the Qur'an, being the eternal guidance given by the Ever-living God, is as relevant for us, today; as it was fourteen centuries ago, and will remain so forever.
Third, we almost have a right, in some sense and measure, to receive its blessings today as its first believers did; provided, of course, that we come to it and move in it in a manner that may entitle us to share its rich harvest.
Fourth, every Muslim has a duty to devote himself to reading, understanding and memorizing the Qur'an.
Fifth, one must abandon oneself totally, in thought and deed, to whatever the Qur'an has to offer. Any pride, arrogance, sense of self-sufficiency, reservation, or ingenuity that can mistakenly be read into it, is fatal to its understanding and would shut the door to its blessings.
Sixth, the path of the Qur'an is the path of self-surrender, of practising what it tells you, even if one learns only one Ayah. One Ayah learnt and acted upon is better than a thousand which are explained beautifully but which do not impart any beauty to the reader's life. Obedience, after all, is the real key to understanding.
There are seven chapters. Each deals with a different aspect of the journey. The first, dwells on what the journey means to our lives; the second, on what provisions must be gathered inside our hearts and minds before setting out; the third, on what postures and actions of heart, mind, and body are necessary for the full involvement of the inner self; the fourth, on what rules should be followed in reading; the fifth, on why and how to understand; the sixth, on how to undertake collective study; and the seventh, on the essential need of offering our lives to the fulfilment of the Quranic mission. What the Prophet, blessings and peace be on him, said about some specific parts of the Qur'an is gathered in one appendix. Another suggests certain syllabuses for personal and collective study, which many may find useful. Some study aids are also included.
This is not a book which should be put away after one hurried reading, unless one does not like what it says, or one does not find it useful. Those who need such a book and find it useful will, I hope, find it necessary to take plenty of time over each part, and to read it again and again. To them I would like to say: make it serve as your companion all along.
Some things you will have to study carefully, some you will have to store in your memory, some you will need to refer to frequently. But only what you practise will be of value to you. What this book does is to demarcate the road and erect the necessary signposts which point the way, give guidance, caution, warn, or prohibit, as the need may be. Still you will have to equip yourself with a vehicle, put fuel in it, come on the road, and drive. Nothing in the book can substitute for your inner longing, will and determination, and persistent effort.
A special word about the warnings and cautions spread throughout the book, about accepting and using what has been said here. They are important. Always keep them in mind, whether you are trying to understand the Qur'an on your own, or using the syllabuses, or acting upon any other thing.
I have placed great emphasis on the urgent need for personal endeavours by each Muslim to try to understand the Qur'an. To me this is the most fundamental demand of the Qur'an. I am, however, aware of the pitfalls on this road, and these I have tried to note. In this respect, I would like you always to keep before you the words attributed to Sayyidina Abu Bakr: 'Which earth will bear me and which sky will protect me if I say anything by my personal opinion in interpreting the Qur'an. ' This has always had a great sobering and steadying effect on me: you, too, should profit by it.
We are living in a time when the need to centre our lives on the Qur'an is most urgent and compelling. Without this we Muslims will never rediscover our selves, never give meaning to our existence, never find dignity in this world. More importantly, we will never please our Creator and Lord. Without the Qur'an, mankind, too, will continue to slide towards the abyss of total extinction.
There is today a rapidly growing realization of this urgency among Muslims. The desire to understand the Qur'an and live by it has become widespread. The tide of Islamic resurgence is both a product of and a stimulant to this awareness and desire.
During these crucial days, if this humble effort succeeds in kindling in some hearts the desire to set out on the journey of the Qur'an, a life journey, and if it serves as their companion, my labours will be amply rewarded. Though it will benefit me only if Allah pardons all my errors of intention and understanding and blesses this endeavour of the heart with His acceptance. To those who benefit from this book, my plea is: do not forget me in your prayers.
Khurram Murad 15 Sha'ban 1405 6 May 1985