Thursday, January 7, 2010

Stimulating Classes - Part 2: The Quran

I took a class called The Quran just this last semester. AMMMMMMMMMAYYYZING!!!! I couldn’t help but compare the Quran classes I take at the mosques to this one I was taking at a university – a class offered by someone who received his Masters as well as his PhD in Islamic Studies and Arabic; has translated numerous Arabic texts, articles, theses, and books from Arabic to English and vice versa; speaks English, Arabic, French, Farsi, Italian, Spanish, and … two other languages that I can’t remember right now (8 total, blessed be his brain!); has presented papers during several international conferences on various topics on Islam and the Quran; and is absolutely amazing, brilliant, hilarious, and SO fun to hold conversations with about ANYTHING in the world. (Get this: It was actually his idea that we ask the university to start offering Pashto classes – the moment I let him know I’m Pashtun and we talked about Pashtuns for three hours or so. See how awesome he is?)

Anyway, so in this class, the professor allowed us to do what we Muslims are told is haraam: He listened to, accepted, AND appreciated our questions regarding anything about religions/God/Islam but most specifically, the Quran. What’s best, he allowed us to answer our own questions many times, especially when he didn’t know the answer and told us that either the question hasn’t crossed his mind before or it hasn’t been answered by anyone else as of yet or then he doesn’t know if anyone has answered it. Of course, he acknowledged the fact that we were reading the *translation* of the Quran, but we had to study the context of the Scripture, even if from the translation. For instance, he’d have us define a certain term (including kitab, Quran, Surah, nushooz, zauj) based on the context it was used in. He’d give us all, or most, of the places where the Arabic word appears in the Quran and then ask us what it means – and to figure it out, we had to put a blank in its place when reading its translation. Ahhhhhhhh, the privilege to be able to tell HIM what WE think what something means!!! My God!! How pleasuresome! He allowed us to disagree with the translators and scholars, provided we presented enough evidence and reasoning for our own arguments and against theirs.

I will continue doing that. I don’t have to be in class with him to do that, now, do I?

Oh, what’s really sad and pitiful is that I once told an entirely typical-Muslim acquaintance of mine that I was taking The Quran class and suggested that she look into it as well some time in case she’s interested in Islamic Studies, and she said, “You know, I was once registered for that class, but my mother saw the syllabus for it, and she said I should just take classes for my own major instead. I mean, classes on Quran? Come on! I can learn the Quran any time; they’re always being offered at the mosque, you know?”

Oh how I pitied that girl! To think that this class can in ANY way be compared to classes in a mosque?! That this professor can be compared to the Quran teachers at a mosque? To compare someone who challenges you to challenge him, challenges YOU and your theories, pushes you into the world of scholarship … to someone who thinks you’re going to hell just because you choose not to pray 5 times a day or don’t wanna cover your hair or just simply don’t believe the exact same way he does? One “teacher” whose first response to many of my questions is, “What do you think?” and if my answer doesn’t make sense to him, then he’ll give me other people’s answers and only THEN his own; the other “teacher” whose answers to many, MANY questions he/she can’t answer is, “Allah knows best.” Or “There’s definitely wisdom behind it.” Or, my most favorite, “We should not ask such questions; Allah doesn’t like it because it creates doubts in our hearts and weakens our faith.” :S (but alas, my faith strengthens only when I ask more questions!) The latter never reminds me that I have been blessed with brain, intellect, intelligence, reason – a mind of my own – that I can use to gather an answer entirely on my own, and if he/she doesn’t like it, so what? It’s still a *possible* answer, and I’ll have it whether anyone likes it or not, and the former constantly makes me think.

So, yeah. These two extremely different types of people don’t even fall under the same species. It should be considered a grave sin to even THINK about comparing them, I say :D

Here’s a link to the syllabus for the class. It has been altered since a professor from another university borrowed it, and so it’s not the exact same thing – still approximately 98% the same, though. You’ll get the idea.


  1. Hmmmmmmmmm :)

    Thanx for sharing your esteem Quranic class experience...Look shehnaz this is the way to deal with divin book..The Quran clearly and repeatidly tell ''taaqiloon,tafakkurroon''.use your mind your thinking and the same your class doing..Problem creats when one follow translation with blind mind,peopl say here Che pa deen ke naqal chalege aqal na..Mosque teacher can not reach to that high tip..Quran iz the book of analysis,thinking and research.If it claim for all ages and humanity then definitly something sound is there..You are lucky enough by haveing such blessed teachers(scholars)..History is also compulsory with Islam..The sociology in wich Quran revealed must also be touched with sociological eye,then Quran appear more clear.There are some fundamental words in quran which are often in repeated form like Salaat,Zakaat,Jaheem,Janna,etc etc.Liguistically speaking the origon of such words must be search out and as i told you earlier Ghulam Ahmad Parwez did a good research on such words .He almost compiled 2000 word from quran and did a comprehensive reseach on it..The mosque mulla dont have such capacity to reasonbly elaborate the odd of God to humanity..Quran clearly say that We have made quran easy to understand,is ther anybody to think and understand???
    I love quran cz i have studied it many time with new inspiration..We must make it BED BOOK (kho ka da khaza paki na we:(
    One thing i found in traditional way of translation is the impression of KING GOD who sometime clearly say(in king mood) like, Allah jisay chahta he behisaab rizaq daita hey,,ya,,,Allah jesay chahta he gumraah kr daita he ,jisay chahta he seda rasta dekhata no no no...this is not the way to translate God.He iz not a dictator nor blind rather He is INTELIGENT with Inteligent design..Whatever God say say with reason and logic..He never called himslef a KING rather His guidance iz full of wisdom for those who are wize...
    I hope you will find more and more miracles of this LIVING BOOK(as God iz living)once you go through it by reason and wisdom..

    Woh zamaney me muazziz the musalman hokar
    aur tum khwaar hoe taarik e Qur'an hokar..

  2. Thank you very much for your great and well-needed insight, Nawaz Khan wror! It's enlightening and appreciative to have a mind like yours among Pukhtuns.

    I agree that God isn't the way we are often taught He is. I don't see Him as a king -- not the kinda king that many theists have made Him to be, anyway. Not a dictator, not a ruler ... I rather see him as a friend, and that's what makes me beleive in him to begin with. He's my friend before he's my anything else.

    You're right that I'm blessed for having someone like my professor who is showing me the path to intellect. It's so liberating, Nawaz, it's SO liberating. It's as if I have something very special to wake up to every morning: "What can I learn today about my religion, about my God?" Something like that.

    Dera manana for your thoughts! As always, they're very appreciated :)


Dare to opine :)

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