Do we really know the Holy Qur’an?

Dr Rashid al Balushi – The writer is an Assistant Professor of Linguistics at the Sultan Qaboos University. This is the first of two parts. For fourteen centuries, we Muslims have been reading the Holy Qur’an, many of us have memorized it all, many more have memorized parts of it, many boast reading the whole Book once or more during Ramadhan, and some of us are even qualified to interpret it, or interpret parts of it.
But have we really known it, or known “from” it to the extent that allows us to say that we know or understand it?
It is well known that there have been many interpretations of the Holy Qur’an, and there are new interpreters in every era.


But have we unlocked all the secrets of the Holy Book, unveiled its wonders, revealed its wisdom, uncovered its powers, have we understood, analyzed, and learnt from it enough to become the wise/best people (“You are the best of peoples, evolved for mankind” 3:110), and to change the situation of our nation.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) addressed Muslims saying “I left among you two things, you will not go astray as long as you hold on to them: the Book of Allah and my Sunnah. [al-Muwatta’ by Imam Malik, page 899].
The wording of this Hadith basically indicates that the reason behind the backward situation of the Muslim nation is that we have not been holding fast to Qur’an and Sunnah.
The general understanding is that holding fast to Qur’an and Sunnah should make us a much more religious/pious nation, which, InshaaAllah, will guarantee us a place in paradise.
But there is another understanding and another advantage for holding fast to Qur’an and Sunnah. The following lines will focus on understanding of Qur’an.
Basically, true knowledge of Qur’an goes beyond understanding the meaning and wisdom of its verses and implementing them in our lives.
True knowledge of Qur’an is first in the belief that its words are not like other words, simply because the speaker is different from all other speakers, and second in the belief that Qur’an is a source of power, given the powerfulness of the speaker, Allah Almighty.
I am not referring here to the fact that Qur’an has cures to all our illnesses and solutions to all our problems and answers to all our questions. And I am not referring to the fact that its verses may acquire new understandings/interpretations in every century or so, or to the fact that new scientific discoveries and inventions prove that it is the Word of the Creator.
I am referring to another, and unfortunately hard to define, property of Qur’an, basically the fact (or probably ‘view’, for those who do not agree with me) that the Holy Qur’an includes more knowledge, wisdom, and power, much more than we can imagine. And it will remain hard for us to truly know Qur’an before we make good effort to know Allah. Above and beyond this arguably acceptable philosophy, here is some evidence.
Granting that Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the last of prophets, and his message (Islam) is the last of messages, and his Book (Qur’an) is the last of Books, and thus the most powerful of them, true knowledge of Qur’an (given the aforementioned Hadith) should make us a very powerful nation, intellectually, spiritually, socially, economically, militarily, etc. What you have read so far comes to my mind whenever I hear the following Qur’anic verses, 38-40 of surat al-Naml ‘the Ants’.
“He said (to his own men): “You chiefs! which of you can bring me her throne before they come to me in submission?”. Said an ´Ifrit, of the Jinns: “I will bring it to you before you rise from your council: indeed I have full strength for the purpose, and may be trusted.” Said one who had knowledge of the Book: “I will bring it to you within the twinkling of an eye!” Then when (Solomon) saw it placed firmly before him, he said: “This is by the Grace of my Lord!- to test me whether I am grateful or ungrateful! and if any is grateful, truly his gratitude is (a gain) for his own soul; but if any is ungrateful, truly my Lord is Free of all Needs, Supreme in Honour !”.
Basically, regardless of whether this “one who had knowledge of the Book” was an angel or Aasaf ibn Barkhiya or Baleekha (or even prophet Solomon himself, as some interpreters say), this “one” had knowledge of part(s) of “the Book”, which is prophet David’s Book (the Psalms – Zaboor), meaning that he did not have knowledge of the whole book, otherwise Allah Almighty would have said ‘الذي عنده علم بالكتاب’, but Allah said “he who had knowledge from the book”.
In other words, despite the quoted translation, the wording of the verse says ‘from’, not ‘of’, indicating partial knowledge of “the Book”.
And even if “the Book” refers to general knowledge and wisdom that “the one” acquired from extensive reading about and observations of nature, life, religion, and nature of the world, his knowledge is still partial.
Assuming this to be on the right track, if someone who had knowledge “from” the Psalms (or any other book or group of books) could cut through time and space and bring the queen’s throne from Sheba in Yemen to Palestine, then someone with true knowledge from (or of) Muhammad’s Book should be able to do more.
This is, of course, if “the book” here refers to the Psalms (or Torah), or another book that Allah Almighty gave/revealed to Solomon (peace be upon him) only, or all the books that were revealed to the prophets until that time, and that righteous man had knowledge of some of its/their parts. However, if “the book” here refers to Al-lawH Al-maHfuudh “The Preserved Tablet”, as some interpreters seem to say, then that is a different story. But if it was a book other than The Preserved Tablet, then it arguably may not be greater (in its power and wisdom, and hence effect) than the Book revealed to the greatest prophet (or rather human being). This is the basic premise.