BY: MANSOOR ALAM
This is the month of Ramadan in which the Quran was revealed:
شَهْرُ رَمَضَانَ الَّذِي أُنزِلَ فِيهِ الْقُرْآنُ هُدًى لِّلنَّاسِ وَبَيِّنَاتٍ مِّنَ الْهُدَىٰ وَالْفُرْقَانِ
(2:185) – It was the month of Ramadan in which the Qur’an was [first] bestowed from on high as a guidance unto man and a self-evident proof of that guidance, and as the standard by which to discern the true from the false. [Asad]
In Surah الدخان (Al-Dukhan) the Quran says:
إِنَّا أَنزَلْنَاهُ فِي لَيْلَةٍ مُّبَارَكَةٍ
(44:3) – Behold, from on high have We bestowed it on a blessed night. [Asad]
But what is the purpose of this revelation according to the Quran?
فِيهَا يُفْرَقُ كُلُّ أَمْرٍ حَكِيمٍ
(44:4) – On that [night] was made clear, in wisdom, the distinction between all things [good and evil]. [Asad]
This was when the boundary lines between حق (Haq or Truth) and باطل (Baatil or Falsehood) were clearly and distinctly laid out on the basis of rational reason, knowledge, and wisdom.
Quran gave values to humans
If one were to ask: provide in one sentence what the Quran gave to humanity – then it would be:
إِنَّا أَنزَلْنَاهُ فِي لَيْلَةِ الْقَدْرِ
(97:1) – We have indeed revealed this (Message) in the Night of Power [Yusuf Ali].
The Quran revealed الْقَدْر (Al-Qadr) or permanent values of life to humankind in this night. There is no concept of values at the animal level of life.
There are no values in front of animals
Animals are oblivious of values. There are only physical needs in front of them. Animals will start eating anywhere whenever they are hungry. They have no concept of ownership – of mine and yours. They have no concept of halal or haram. The concept of “values” is relevant only to human beings. This is what is called الْقَدْر (Al-Qadr).
Safeguarding chastity is a value
Safeguarding chastity is a value applicable to humans only. Just in one word “الْقَدْر” the Quran has explained the difference between life at human level and life at animal level (97:1).
Now, let us come to the word “لَيْلَ” (Layl): It could literally mean night; or it could mean the period, in which the Quran was revealed, was a dark period in human history. The Quran itself clarifies it in another verse:
كِتَابٌ أَنزَلْنَاهُ إِلَيْكَ لِتُخْرِجَ النَّاسَ مِنَ الظُّلُمَاتِ إِلَى النُّورِ
(14:1) –A DIVINE WRIT [is this -a revelation] which We have bestowed upon thee from on high in order that thou might bring forth all mankind, by their Sustainer’s leave, out of the depths of darkness into the light. [Asad]
Why the word “لَيْلَ” (Layl) in relation to the Quran?
Night or “لَيْلَ” (Layl) is the harbinger of darkness while the day is the portent of light. The Quran uses night or “لَيْلَ” (Layl) because the world was shrouded in darkness before the Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The onset of revelation changed human perspective on life because humankind was made aware of new values. It is the concept of values that changes human point of view. If there are no values in front of humans, then their life remains at the level of animal. As for human life, the point of view of life of those who are conscious of these values and those who are not, are different.
Need for values
The value of every objective thing depends on one’s point of view. When one gets a chance to cheat for personal gain and doesn’t, then it is because of his values. But the one who does cheat is because he does not have values in front of him. Otherwise, there is no difference in the physical value of the money that is earned honestly or dishonestly. The difference is only in the point of view of life as it pertains to human value. When life keeps moving forward, it keeps becoming different. When life becomes different, then the world becomes different! When one’s internal “self” changes because of one’s adherence to values then the external world changes.
إِنَّ اللَّـهَ لَا يُغَيِّرُ مَا بِقَوْمٍ حَتَّىٰ يُغَيِّرُوا مَا بِأَنفُسِهِمْ
(13:11) – Allah does not change a people’s lot unless they change what is in their hearts. [Yusuf Ali]
The most precious thing in the Universe is human “self”
The Quran came to make man aware of his worth through the new values it brought for humanity – the values that would make him conscious of life at the human level as opposed to his life at the animal level. Man goes after material things but forgets the most precious thing he has inside of him, his own “self.”
Suppose a boy is crying in the street because his toy broke down. Passersby laugh at him but the toy is very valuable to the boy. That is, the points of view of both are different – to the boy the toy is very valuable; but to a passersby it is a cheap toy worth few pennies. Thus, the value changed because the perspectives had changed. As Allama Iqbal says:
Your prayer is to get fulfilled, your wish!
My prayer is that you change your wish!
God’s judgment can never change by your prayer;
But it may be that you get changed by your prayer!
And when you change, your world will change.
Without values “thou” cannot change
One considers something more valuable only on the basis of value. The Quran gave values to distinguish life at the human level from that at the animal level. The Quran says that its values were revealed in a period of the world when the whole world was covered in darkness and was deprived of the light of revelation. We know that we cannot distinguish things in darkness. The Quran brought the light of its values in this dark night. This night was the harbinger of a new world. In the cover of darkness one cannot distinguish between one thing and another. In that period of darkness when concept of values had disappeared from human mind, the Quran gave a code of values and openly declared:
وَمَا أَدْرَاكَ مَا لَيْلَةُ الْقَدْرِ
(97:2) – And what will explain to thee what the night of power is [Yusuf Ali]?
Who can tell you other than Allah how valuable this night is in which humanity received this code of values? The Quran says:
لَيْلَةُ الْقَدْرِ خَيْرٌ مِّنْ أَلْفِ شَهْرٍ
(97:3) – The Night of Power is better than a thousand months [Yusuf Ali].
For this one night thousand months can be scarified in which humanity was deprived of the light of revelation.
Every moment of this night of الْقَدْر (Al-Qadr) is so precious that all the forces of the Universe bow down before the laws of Allah in this night. No wonder that every prayer is accepted in this period provided one follows these values that this night brought with it. The question is: what will happen in the Night of Power? Once these values have been received then what kind of revolution will occur in the world? The Quran says that this would be a grand revolution. This night will be the harbinger of a new spring, a new period, a new life.
Power without values turns the world into hell
One extreme concept of life is that the forces of nature are everything in life. By conquering these forces through science a nation can achieve power. And that nation can use that power to dominate the world. But the forces are just forces. And our period is a perfect living evidence of how the world could be turned into hell by purely relying on these forces. No human feels peace at heart nor is he living in a peaceful environment today. It is the scientific forces of nature that, in effect, are ruling the world because man has conquered them today like never before. On the opposite extreme of this concept of life is another concept of life that this world is a prison; that this world is to be shunned; that this world is to be hated; that one should run away from this world and go to a cave. Why? – To meditate and to purify one’s soul by climbing the ladder of spiritualism.
What is human “self”?
Human personality or “self” is a source of energy which does not appear in any material form. We can call it pure energy or divine energy. The Quran says that Allah gave His divine spark to man whereby he became a being having faculties of learning, freedom of choice, and freewill. This is the thing which is called human “self” or human “personality” or human “ego.” The Quran has used the term divine energy for this. From this point of view Allah has also used the term الروح (Al-Rooh) for His revelation. The entire Universe is running on law – the law of Allah pertaining to the Universe. This law has within it great energy – so much energy, in fact, that it runs and propels this entire Universe. Similarly, the revelation of Allah – called الروح (Al-Rooh) – also has great energy. The agency that brings the revelation – and whose essence we cannot understand as to what it is – the Quran has called it روح الامین (Rooh-ul-Amin). The Quran says that this revelation has a great revolutionary power and energy.
The ultimate goal of life is to harmonize material power with the power of revelation
One concept of life is purely materialistic concept of life. The final goal of this concept of life is to conquer the forces of nature as much as possible and to use the power thus obtained for dominating others. The other extreme is to shun and negate this world of matter and to seek power of spiritualism. The Quran says that life under either of these two concepts turns to pure evil by keeping them mutually exclusive. Under one concept, life becomes sick of overindulgence and unfettered domination; and, in the other, it becomes sick of paralysis, stagnation, and lifeless subjugation. Humanity, as a consequence, disappears from the world completely under both these mutually exclusive concepts. The “values” provided by the revelation open the door for humanity’s renewal and rejuvenation by providing new measures of life. How does this happen?
تَنَزَّلُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ وَالرُّوحُ فِيهَا بِإِذْنِ رَبِّهِم مِّن كُلِّ أَمْرٍ
(97:4) – in hosts descend in it the angels, bearing divine inspiration by their Sustainer’s leave; from all [evil] that may happen. [Asad]
Allah’s revelation and forces of nature will then work hand in hand resulting in a life that:
سَلَامٌ هِيَ حَتَّىٰ مَطْلَعِ الْفَجْرِ
(97:5) – does it make secure, until the rise of dawn. [Asad]
There will be security in every aspect of life. But this will happen gradually. This is the meaning of “تنزیل” (Tanzeel) – the revelation and the forces of nature will gradually transform the human society until the forces of darkness disappear and the light of peace and security reigns supreme everywhere on Earth:
وَأَشْرَقَتِ الْأَرْضُ بِنُورِ رَبِّهَا
(39:69) – And the earth will shine bright with her Sustainer’s light. [Asad]
The entire Universe will start shining by harmonizing the forces of nature with the divine energy. This is the final goal which will happen through the revolution brought about by the Quran. And this is the night of الْقَدْر (Al-Qadr) which will be the harbinger of a new world order.