A Community in the spirit of the Holy Qur’an

The following is Hujjat al-Islam Dr Mohammad Ali Shomali’s address to a gathering of religious preachers titled ‘Role of Community in Establishing the Book’

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

I am grateful to God for giving us the blessing of getting together again to renew our bonds of brotherhood, to renew our allegiance to Imam Mahdi(atf), to share our concerns and our ideas. What I would like to share with you is my understanding of the significance of implementing the Qur’an as a community. Unfortunately, even as individuals, we do not have a great record; at least I can say that about myself. It is not something easy to be able to say that as individuals we have acted upon the Qur’an.

In Ziyarat Aminullah  (salutation to the holy imams) we say to Imam Ali(a), “‘amilta bikatibi;” (you acted according to His Book) which shows that this is not something easy to achieve. When we want to show our maximum respect to Imam Ali(a), and this ziyarah can also be recited for other Imams, we say: I bear witness that You established prayers, paid the alms- tax, enjoined the good, forbade vices.

 Imam Ali(a) is someone about whom we can say he acted upon the Qur’an and, therefore, he is qualified to say to people, “By God do not let other to overtake you in acting according to God’s Book”.

He himself implemented the Qur’an; thus, we can say to people as a summary of his achievements in life is that one of the things we must make sure we observe is to act upon the Qur’an and notlet any other group or community precede us or be more successful in thisfield.

So, it is very important to beable to qualify as a person or as an individual who is acting upon the Qur’an. However,I want to say that there is even something more and I want to share with you my understanding of a very important verse in the Qur’an that I think has not received enough attention. Normally when we read the Qur’an, hadith(tradition) and ziyarat, we find that we can have different encounters with the Qur’an. We have qira’atul which is the method or recitation Qur’an, tilawatul recitation of the Qur’an, tartilul which is the training of recitation of Qur’an with no haste, tadabbur, contemplation on the Qur’an, learning and teaching the Qur’an, and hamlulQur’an, carrying the Qur’an. The latter is a very important Qur’anic concept,although it is not my topic today. God willing, you can refer to the books of tafsir and see how important it is to be a carrier of the Qur’an. God the Exalted says in the Qur’an: “The example of those who werecharged with the Torah, then failed to carry it (62:5).”

They were loaded with the Torah, but they did not manage to carry it; so, what does it mean to carry the Torah? Likewise, what does it mean to be a carrier of the Qur’an? Do you think carrying the Qur’an is easier than carrying the ‘Throneof God’? I don’t think it is easier, 

 “Those who bear the Throne, and those who are around it (Qur’an 40:7).”

I do not think they are able to carry the Qur’an; only pious believers who have certain qualities are able to be carriers of the Qur’an. It is a beautiful concept, but I do not want to talk about it right now. Another concept which is rarely discussed is the concept of iqamatul Qur’an (the call of the Qur’an). We normally use the call for prayer, but the Qur’an talks about iqamatul kitab (the call of the Book). In Quranic chapter Ma’idah, God addresses the People of the Book and all people who believe in divine communications by saying:

“Say, ‘O People of the Book! You do not stand on anything until you observe the Torah and the Evangel and what was sent down to you from your Lord (5:68).’”

Hence, you can establish and raise the Book,  but what does it mean to do iqamatul kitab? Why is it so important that God says:  “You do not stand on anything until you observe…

Some commentators say that it means to have certain qualifications, weight and value so that you can establish Torah and Evangel and what God has revealed in the form of the Qur’an, but I think it is more than that. It is important to note that the verse states you are not able to achieve anything and you have empty hands unless “until you observe the Torah and the Evangel and what was sent down…” No matter how much we succeed in our personal life, no matter how much I and you act upon the Qur’an, teach, learn, share, and spread the teachings of Qur’an, it seems to me that we as a community can only establish the Book of God when we all dedicate our life to the Qur’an. No one can do iqamatulkitab by himself or even by a small group.

If we go back two verses, God says in the Qur’an:

“Had they observed the Torah and the Evangel, and what was sent down to them from their Lord, they would surely have drawn nourishment from above them and from beneath their feet (5:66).”

God does not specifically mention the Qur’an because it is not a matter of name; it is a matter of welcoming the message of your Lord. If they had established Torah, Evangel, and what has been revealed to them from their Lord, then God would have given them so much that they were able to eat blessings coming from Heaven and from the earth, from the top and from the bottom. God says elsewhere,

 “If the people of the towns had been faithful and Godwary, we would have opened to them blessings from the heaven and the earth (7:96).”

What does this beautiful point mean?

Does it mean that there was no single person who acted upon the Torah and Evangel? There were not even a few people among them who acted upon the Qur’an, Torah or Evangel? On the contrary, I think this needs collective commitment. It is not enough to have a few people. It is not even enough to have a large number when they are in minority because God says,

“There is an upright group among them (5:66).”

“But most of them are transgressors (5:81).”

So, even having ummatun muqtasidah (a community on the Straight Path) is not enough when there are kathirun (important people) who are fasiq (open sinners). Therefore, if we as followers of Ahlul Bayt(a) in our community want to have a value from God’s perspective, we have to establish the Qur’an. If we want to establish the Qur’an it is not enough that among us there is ummatun muqtasidah; we have to ensure that we act upon the Qur’an as a majority at least, if not all of us. God is not going to send all the blessings from the heaven and the earth just because of a few people. A community is not measured by individuals or by a minority. A community’s connection to God and implementation of the Book of God at least is measured by a very significant number of people, a high majority. Thus, what lesson can we take from this? I think the lesson that we can take from this is that we have to treat the Qur’an as a foremost priority. Any programme that we have must help people to better appreciate the Qur’an, must equip them with a better understanding of the Qur’an and must strengthen their love for the Qur’an. We cannot have any programme or any activity which would not improve the connection of people with the Qur’an if we want to follow Imam Ali(a).

If we want to follow ImamHusayn(a), look what Imam Husayn(a) did with respect to the Qur’an. Praise be to Godmy brothers mentioned very important hadith; one particular hadith that I want to mention, and you all know this hadith, is that when a teacher of the Qur’an in Medina who was called Abdur Rahman taught a child of theImam the chapter of al-Hamd, when Imam Husayn(a) heard this he called this teacher of the Qur’an and gave him 1,000 dinars and 1,000 hulla (good dress). People did not understand and exclaimed that it is too much, “O Imam, why are you giving 1,000 dinars and 1,000 dress to a person just for teaching a chapter of al-Hamd?” Imam Husayn(a) answered, “The gift I have given him can never be compared with Surah al-Hamd.”

Of course, I am not advising people to give this much, but I think the Imam here wanted to leave a great lesson for us. What is the lesson? The lesson is that your resources must go for teaching the Qur’an, your best of space, your best of time, and your best of teachers should go to serve the Qur’an. We as followers of Ahlul Bayt(a)should not be behind other Muslim communities. It starts with teaching, with learning, with recitation, with the commentary, with memorisation, but more than all we need to establish a culture which is based on the Qur’an. Yet, this culture does not comein a vacuum. It comes from this majlis (religious gathering) of recitation, teaching, and learning, for when we dedicate everything to the Qur’an and when we try to paint everything with the colour of the Qur’an then God willing we would have a generation who would be able to establish the Qur’an and to do iqamatal kitab. Indeed, this great task needs collective work.

I hope God the Exalted, gives us tawfiq (the opportunity) to have in this country a place which would be dedicated to teaching the Qur’an in all different levels so that Shi’a, Sunni and non-Muslims would all know that this the centre of excellence for learning any skills or sciences related to the Qur’an. It would be a mark of our commitment to the Qur’an, but we have lots of things to do.

God willing in Muharram, in your majalis, I request you to talk about the significance of the Qur’an, to encourage people to teach the Qur’an and to praise the teachers of the Qur’an. Encourage and praise those volunteers in our community who teach the Qur’an; also praise the parents who send their children to learn the Qur’an. Sometimes you can be an ‘alim (areligious scholar), but you still may need teachers for your children. Note in the previous hadith that Imam Husayn(a)used a teacher to teach his child the Qur’an. Sometimes there is such intimacy between parents and children that children perhaps do not take the lesson seriously. So, we need teachers of the Qur’an, we need madressas and schools, and God willing, we need Jami’atul Qur’an, as signals that we want to give to everyone in our community that it is all to move towards a culture and a lifestyle which is based on the Qur’an.

I do not think if Imam Husayn(a)was going to talk to us today he would have used anything other than the Qur’an as his point of reference or brought any framework other than the Qur’an because at the end of the day, every truth and everything that is beneficial comes from God (and goes back to God. Surely, what is the better manifestation of guidance of God than His book and His revelation?

May God help us to do justice from the pulpit of Imam Husayn(a), which is a great responsibility and a great honour. God willing, He will help all of us to do justice to this pulpit and to do what we are supposed to do in the best possible way. I ask Imam Mahdi(atfvery humbly to help all of us to know what we are supposed to do, say and teach and to have his guidance and supervision for all our activities. If our Imamaccepts to be our guide and supervisor, God willing we will not go towards a wrong direction. Thank you very much for coming once again to this meeting. May God bless you and support you and Insha’Allah please forgive us for any shortcoming and pray for us. May God bless you all. By the grace of God, have a safe journey back to every town, every centre and every community that you serve.

 “And our concluding call, ‘All praise belongsto God, the Lord of all the Worlds.’”

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