SPEECH BY ANAS ZUBEDY
In the name of God Most Gracious Most Merciful.
YTM Raja Dato’ Seri Eleena binti Almarhum Sultan Azlan Muhibbuddin Shah Al-Maghfur-lah
Datuk Hussamuddin Yaacub
Datuk Seri Wong Chun Wai
Dr Chandra Muzaffar
Friends from Yayasan Penyayang Stephen Doss and his team,
Contributors and supporters, friends from the media, zubedy’s clients and zubedyans
PEACE BE WITH YOU.
May I start with a Quranic Do’a from Chapter 20: verses 25-28
""O my Sustainer! Open up my heart [to Thy light], and make my task easy for me and loosen the knot from my tongue so that they might fully understand my speech”
Kindly allow me to continue by unpacking the reasons we organize the Let’s Read The Quran or in short #LRTQ campaign. A campaign encouraging Muslims as well as non-Muslims to read the Quran in the language they best understand.
Firstly, zubedy’s corporate vision.
As a business organization, our corporate vision is to Unite People, that is “to get people to work together” – not just within business organizations but between Malaysians and humanity as a whole. Besides embedding our programs, services and products with shared values, we also outline 3 main campaigns that have the possibility and ambition to go global.
One, our #SSNC each year from Hari Kebangsaan 31st August to Hari Malaysia September 16th.
Two, the #LRTQ campaign, from March 1st to March 31st each year God willing,
And three, our #MLOL campaign, a campaign to bring together shared values between different traditions aimed each June during the World Interfaith Day – June 22nd. We plan to kick start the #MLOL this June, if the time and condition is right.
Why the #LRTQ campaign? Here is reason number 2.
I noticed in my discussions both in face-to-face and through social media, that many of our brother and sister Muslims are not familiar with the meaning of the Quran. This is very unfortunate as the Quran is our hidayah, our guidance. This is not at all surprising because Muslims generally are preoccupied to khatam or to complete reciting the Quran in the Arabic form rather than understanding its meaning. We need to remedy this.
Furthermore, as I share Quranic gems on my Facebook, many of my non-Muslim friends are pleasantly surprised by the universal message and shared values found in the Quran. In fact, at times I have the feeling that the non-Muslims seems to react more positively to my Quranic posts! I figured that it would be good if non-Muslims understand the Quran too. They can act as our mirror and feedback whenever we do not live up to the Quranic values.
The Third Reason is the Quranic example. Meaning, I learn from the Quran.
The Quran shows the way of engagement – that is we must make it easy by using the language of the people whom we address – making it accessible. The Quran chapter 14:4 reads
AND NEVER have We sent forth any apostle otherwise than [with a message] in his own people's tongue, so that he might make [the truth] clear unto them; but God lets go astray him that wills [to go astray], and guides him that wills [to be guided] -for He alone is Almighty, truly Wise. –
Also refer Quran 44:58 and 19:97
I consider myself one of the lucky ones as my late grandfather who was a Hafiz Al Quran not only taught me the Arabic Quran but took time to explain to me the Quran in the language I could understand – in broken Bahasa Indonesia. In fact, he went much further. He unpacked and explained the Quran in the language a kid can make sense and with real life examples, experience and role modelling.
YTM Raja Dato’ Seri Eleena, friends, ladies and gentlemen, the first 5 verses or shall we say commandment from God revealed to Prophet Muhammad guided men to read and the use of the pen.
Let me repeat that.
The first message God communicated to mankind through his final Prophet is to drive us to read and to write.
While language is native to our species where a child can learn to talk without instructions, reading and writing are unnatural acts. They are not innate talents in humans. Reading and writing are made possible only through the deliberate shaping of the mind. Reading and writing require practice. Reading and writing require schooling. Reading and writing requires a conscious act to change! Reading and writing necessitate transformation of a society.
To read, our minds need to be taught and trained how to translate symbolic characters into the language we can understand. That is why neurological studies have shown that the brains of a literate differ from the brain of the illiterate in many ways. The way they reason. The way they form memories. The way they process signals and how they interpret the world around them.
Learning to read and write, rewire our brain in a big way.
The Quran moved and transformed the Arabs from a society that was based on oral culture to a literary one. This change marked the start of one of the most far-reaching revolutions of human thoughts. Knowledge is exchanged more and more through writing instead of speaking. While oral culture is limited by the capacity of the human memory, literary culture freed them. Knowledge, human thoughts and information can be stored, shared and retrieved from books and libraries (and today hard drives and in the clouds). The development of science, technology, economics, philosophy, cultural work and even history cannot have advanced without this change.
The natural state of the human brain is one of distractedness or non-linear as our senses are naturally attuned to change – fast paced shifting to reflex. This is important for survival to reduce the odds of being eaten up by predators or simply overlooking a source for dinner.
To read a book demands an unbroken sustained attention to one single static object – an unnatural process of thinking for humans for the most part of history. The brain has to practice ignoring everything else going on around them. To resist the natural sensory cues. The ability to focus on a single task over a long period of time is one of the biggest change in the history of human psychological development.
In the silence of deep reading, humans take trips in their own minds, draw ideas, inferences, analogies, play around with possibilities, visualize and dream – in short, we journey where the usual mind never has been before. Of mathematical formulas, economic models, scientific possibilities, astronomical expedition, fictional journeys and artistic beauty.
Reading is meditative. It calms the distracted mind. But while meditation seek to empty the mind, reading filled it up. Replenishing it with new ideas, new energy, new spirit. Deep reading is a form of prayer that connects one to himself, to his world and to his Creator.
Reading created the modern man.
Reading made us who we are today. Reading is the catalyst of modern history. You and I, we are here today with all that is around us because of the human capacity to read. We are here because God chose to sent us a clear message to Read and Write as his first call to his last Prophet. And thank God, the earlier Muslims took heed.
YTM Raja Dato’ Seri Eleena, friends, ladies and gentlemen … obviously I have oversimplified history. There are a lot more that had happened that cannot be explained in a short speech. For example, reading as a human activity could not have spread like wild fire if the Arab Muslims did not learn how to make paper from the Chinese in 751 AD. No paper, no books. No books, no reading - as the other alternatives like papyrus and animal skin is simply ineffective, too costly and inefficient. The Chinese have one of the best kept secret for 700 years. Paper was invented by Tsai Lun in the first century AD. And the West never knew the art of paper making until the 12 century AD when they learnt how from the Arabs. In the fourteenth hundred Johann Gutenberg of Germany innovated the modern printing machine which led to a complete process of mass production of books and printed materials.
History suggests the Islamic Golden Age traditionally dated from the 8th century to the 13th century. Western Europe domination of the world started in the fifteenth hundred. Do you see the connection?
Yet Prof Chandra and Prof Shad, if we ask the average person who Tsai Lun the inventor of paper was, the majority has no clue. Muslim history taught in schools and madrasahs and world History taught all over the world hardly stress about the contributions of the human intellect through reading, education and the development of the human mind. We focus on war and egoistical men expanding their territories. We ignore the most powerful weapon that God commands us to use – To Read, and the use of the Pen.
But today, YTM Raja Dato’ Seri Eleena, friends, ladies and gentlemen we can change that. We think big but will act small. We will promote READING. We encourage as many as we can to go back to basics. Read the Quran in the language you understand best. The language that you are familiar with.
Many have asked how? Just get a hard copy Quran or google the Quran and start. To join the campaign, just do it. Or you can choose themes like,
1. 31 short verses from the Quran
2. 31 short chapters of the Quran
3. 31 verses about women in the Quran
4. 31 verses about love in the Quran
5. 31 interesting facts about the Quran
6. 31 Du’as from the Quran
7. 31 verses of the Quran and taking ownership
8. 31 verses of the Quran and Creation
9. 31 favorite verses of the Quran
10. Sedekah 31 verses to all your friends , etc
Or for those who are more inclined to write, please do write articles about the Quran – linking the values, concepts and ideas with yourself and the world around you.
Should you be short of time to write but are able to translate, please do translate the contributions of others into the language of your people.
Before I end, let me say a million thank you to
1. YTM Raja Dato’ Seri Eleena for officiating this launch.
2. Datuk Hussamuddin Yaacub for offering to cover the campaign daily in Sinar Harian from March 1st to 31st via highlighting stories from the contributors
3. All contributors and supporters, not forgetting friends from UIA who recited the verses in their own language
4. The Media for giving us good coverage, GodWilling not just for the launch but the entire campaign
5. And of course, the Zubedy team who has worked hard to make this campaign fruitful.
I end this speech with a favorite Quranic verse of mine,
So lose not heart, nor fall into despair: For ye must gain mastery if ye are true in Faith. Quran 3:139