Universal Directives of Qur’an: Introducing 'The Quran Speaks to You'

By Dr Tauseef Ahmad Parray

‘The Quran Speaks to You’ is a helpful guide which provides the life-enriching directives of the Quran--the divine "Guidance Unto Humankind"--in a simple, lucid and coherent manner

ABDUR RAHEEM KIDWAI (b. 1956) is an English Professor by profession and a writer (among others) on Islam, Qur’anic Studies, and English Translations of the Qur’an. He has made enormous and significant contribution to this genre of scholarship, in the form of these books: The Qur’an: Essential Teachings (2005); Bibliography of the Translations of the Meaning of the Glorious Quran into English, 1649-2002 (2007); Daily Wisdom: Selections from the Holy Qur’an (2011); Translating the Untranslatable: A Critical Guide to 60 English Translations of the Quran (2011); What is in the Quran? Message of the Quran in Simple English (2013); 365 Selections from the Holy Qur’an (2014); God’s Word, Man’s Interpretations (2019); and The Quran Speaks to You (2022).

Title: The Quran Speaks to You: 60 Great Lessons from Islam
Author: Abdur Raheem Kidwai
Publication Details: Mumbai: Jaico Publishing House, 2022; Pages: 238;
ISBN: 978-93-91019-54-9; Pbk; Price: ₹399/-

Many of these works are addressed to Muslims with no or little knowledge of Arabic, to the new Muslims, and/ or to the (non-Muslim) English readership. For example, Kidwai's translation of the Qur’an, What is in the Qur’an?, attempts to present in simple, fluent English the paraphrase of the meaning and message of the Quran” while striving to retain its original message. It has around 400 explanatory notes on a range of issues “with a view to bringing into sharper light the Quranic guidance directed at the entire humanity”. His Daily Wisdom: Selections from the Holy Qur’an (2011) attempts to set out “meaning and message of the Qur’an in simple, understandable English for the general reader, Muslim or non-Muslim alike”. Similarly, his 365 Sayings of the Qur’an (2014) is an anthology or compilation of 365 Quranic verses, proposed and intended “to introduce briefly the core contents of the Quran” so that “to familiarize readers with the basic meaning and message of the Qur’an … in simple, easy to grasp English”.

Thus, highlighting and disseminating the universal message of the Quran is one of the major objectives of Kidwai's works related to the Quran—and a new addition to this literature is the book under review.

The Quran Speaks to You, as its subtitle reveals clearly, is “a collection of 60 Quranic passages” (p.2) which illustrates the Quranic belief system, values and way of life. It highlights what the Quran says about God (the Creator), basic/ fundamental beliefs of Islam, purpose of creation, social relations, living a harmonious and peaceful life, gender equality, Islam and other religions/ religious beliefs, morals and manners, and other allied aspects.

Divided into three main parts: What to Believe? (Chapters 1-12) How to Lead Your Life (Chapters 13-53) and The Afterlife (Chapters 54-60)—the book is preceded by a Preface (pp. 1-4) and ends with Appendices like Quranic Gems (pp. 185-191), Glossary (pp. 192-203), Further Reading (pp. 204-227), Quranic Passages (p. 228), and Index (pp.229-238). It “introduces the Quranic outlook on various aspects of Islam for those who are new to it”, and thus helps in shedding light on “some misconceptions about Islam or the Quran” (p. 3). The book (as mentioned in its back cover description) presents ‘the main ideas which form the pillars of Islam’ and thus ‘the author shows you how the religion reveals the way to lead a dignified life’.

Each passage is accompanied by an explanation to help in understanding the message easily on various topics related to “the Quranic belief system, values and way of life” which helps a reader in realizing “the common ground among all religions”, which is “needed all the more today when some divisive forces and wicked terrorists have been maligning the image of Islam” (p.4). It also helps in clearing up the ‘wrong ideas about the Quran and Islam’ by outlining ‘Islamic rules for behaviour and the benefits earned for the afterlife for good deeds’; and thus, ‘provide an understanding of the core concepts of Islam.’ To validate these claims and to  grasp this message, below is provided a summary of some chapters from each section:

In chapter 1, “Who is God?” (pp. 7-10), the author quotes Q. 112: 1-5; 2: 255; and 59: 22-24 and in their explanation states: “The Quranic concept of God is simple and straightforward. It does not admit any anthropomorphism, deism or pantheism or any metaphysical or philosophical conundrum. He is all in all, and hence in Islam any notion of His partner or associate is totally ruled out” (p. 9).

In chapter 9, “Who is most honourable in the eyes of God?” (pp. 34-35), Kidwai refers to Q. 49: 13 and describes it as “remarkable for its universal message and for its concern for God-centeredness”. For him, “everyone is equal for being the progeny of Adam and Eve” and it is our “excellent conduct alone” which makes us “honourable in the eyes of God” (pp. 34, 35).

In chapter 20, “How to treat fellow human beings?” (pp. 70-74), Kidwai, referring to Q. 4: 36 and 46: 15 and 31: 14, states that the first verse presents “a summary of both the Islamic faith and practices” and through these verses collectively the Quran has presented “the ideal of peaceful coexistence and pluralism” centuries before these turned out to be the buzzwords in our times” (pp. 72-73).

In chapter 26, “Do not disrespect other religions” (pp. 86-88), Kidwai, referring to Q. 6: 108 states that the Quran “recognizes the diversity of religions” and it “does not approve any coercion in matters of faith” (p. 86). With referenced to  Q. 2: 256, 109: 6 and 88: 21-22, he validates the claim that the Quran “accords much importance to interfaith harmony and understanding” (p. 87).

In chapter 44, “Treating all life as sacrosanct” (pp. 137-141), the author refers to verses like Q. 2: 190-91 and 244, 9: 5-6 and states, among others, that the Quran “declares life as sacrosanct and hence forbids violence and killing” (p. 137).

Similarly, while highlighting the gender parity in the Sacred Text, the author in chapter 53, “What is the Islamic law of inheritance?” (pp. 160-61), referring to Q. 4: 7-8 states: “The Quranic law of inheritance is one of the many egalitarian steps undertaken by Islam in the seventh century. … Islam elated the woman’s status by granting her a share and recognizing her as a heir” (pp. 160-61).

In chapter 54, “What is the nature of human life?” (pp. 165-67), Kidwai, referring to Q. 57: 20 and 27, deduces that the Quran: (i) “asks us to lead a goal-oriented life, with a sense of mission” and does not recommend monasticism but denounces it; (ii) warns us about the “pitfalls of worldliness and materialism” and “apathy and neglect towards the next life”; and (iii) highlights “the illusory, purely temporary nature of our life and this world”.

These 60 chapters, under three broad headings, thus, illustrate the Quranic belief system, values and way of life and each chapter is supplemented further with many other Quranic verses on the theme in the Further Reading (pp. 204-227), which is an additional but significant feature of this book. Equally significant in the Appendices is the Quranic Gems (pp. 185-191) which lists certain selected passages which embody "perennial wisdom and profound indights" (p.4) and thus highlight the universal message of the Sacred Text. However, there are certain typos in the book which need to be rectified; for example it mentions that Quran has about 60,000 verses instead of over 6,000 verses.

All in all, Kidwai’s The Quran Speaks to You is a helpful guide which provides the life-enriching directives of the Quran—the ‘divine Message’ directed to all of humankind—in a lucid, simple, coherent manner and thematically. It is, thus, recommended for everyone (Muslim or non Muslim) interested in knowing and understanding the universal message of the Quran: be it related to the the belief system, social and ethico-moral values, gender parity, pluralistic ethos  or way of life.

  • The author is Assistant Professor, Islamic Studies, at GDC Sogam, Kupwara (J&K). Email: [email protected] 

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