I feel that this article written by my Singaporean friend is perfect as my first blogpost for our LRTQ2 campaign. I was the (rude) stranger she mentioned in it ... since then she and I are real good friends :)
Reading the Qur’an I
Sometimes we get a message through a person we encounter… often it is up to us to go beyond a perceived insult to our ego to decrypt the message:
“Read in the name of your Lord and Cherisher, Who created – Created man out of a (mere) clot of congealed blood: Proclaim! And your Lord is Most Bountiful, - He Who taught (the use of) the Pen, - Taught man that which he knew not. Nay but man does transgress all bounds, In that he looks upon himself as self sufficient. Verily, to your Lord is the return (of all)” [96:1-9]
One evening when I was out station in the neighbouring country, I found myself in the midst of a discussion on religion and reading the Qur’an. I already had a full day of meeting that day and another heavy discussion was really just too much for me to bear. Besides, I knew too little about religion to get deeply involved.
But still I needed to contribute to the conversation: “I want to learn Arabic so that I can read the Qur’an”, I announced.
A man, a little less than a stranger to me, replied, “How long have you been saying this? It is not going to happen. It is just an excuse. You might as well start by reading a translation of the Qur’an in a language that you understand.”
I was appalled by the audacity of the man – how could he just brush aside my noble intention like that. And how could he be so sure that it was “just an excuse”… he hardly knew me! I felt insulted. I went back to being silent for the rest of the evening.
Back in my hotel room, I kept remembering the words of the man a little less than a stranger to me. It pierced deep. After a long pause and some soul searching, I had to admit it: if I put my ego aside, the man was right. Not knowing Arabic was just an excuse. I needed to start to know the Qur’an. I had no more excuse. A translation could never replace reading the Qur’an in the language it was revealed in, but reading the translation would be a start for me to get to know the Qur’an.
By sheer coincidence, when I opened up one of the drawers in my hotel room I saw a Yusuf Ali’s version of the translation of the Qur’an in English. That night, after doing my Isya’ prayers, I started reading a translation of the Qur’an.