The Quran is a source of direction and life. We know historic tales of people who heard its Ayat (verses) and became mesmerized immediately by its wisdom and relevance to their daily lives. The messages brought by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) were so relatable and logical that even Jews accepted him as a leader.
So how is it that this timeless book, this book that has impacted over a billion people and is meant to have the largest impact on my life and yours, is somehow not modern or relevant? Actually, the Quran has brought to us universal messages that are undeniably true for all generation. Here are a few values that may help bring the message back into our lives.
1. Character and Personality
Many of us struggle defining who we are and what our personalities look like. Islam gives us guidance on this matter extensively. In fact, according to Islamic scholar Amr Khaled, the Quran contains 6,236 Ayat of which 5,936 address morals and values and only 300 are jurisdictions of action. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) stated, “I have only been sent to perfect moral character.”
Values and morals guide our Nafs (soul) and ultimately put us in either a state of ease or anxiety. Today, with social media, we face a lot of doubt and insecurity because we are constantly judged by our peers. By defining our morals and values as the Prophet sought to do, we are much closer to defining who we are individually. We gain clarity about our goals and thus, are more confident in our direction. As we are in the act of this Jihad (effort and struggle), we are rewarded every step of the way.
2. Cultural Integration and Tolerance
There is a common misconception that Islam rejects culture. We often forget that Prophet Muhammad brought God’s message to his people without abolishing their culture. We are told in the Qur’an, “Show forgiveness, enjoin what is good, and turn away from the foolish.” In context, this was a message to Prophet Muhammad to indulge in the good or assets of his culture and turn away from the bad and if anyone rejected his message, to leave him. Additionally, adapting to our culture makes us better prepared for Da’wah or reaching out. The Quran has come to us to provide solutions in our community, not impose difficulty.
3. Equality and Diversity
In the Quran, God doesn’t make himself exclusive to a certain kind of people; He is Rabul Alameen or Lord of Mankind and all existence, as mentioned in the opening verse of the Quran, and Malek An-nas, Sovereign of Mankind, concluded in the last Surah titled “The People.” We’ve seen again and again Islam declare brotherhood and sisterhood amongst people of different races, colors and backgrounds when ideas of this sort were taboo. Prophet Muhammad portrayed this concept during his last pilgrimage: “O People! Your God is one; your forefather (Adam) is one; an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action.”
4. Environment and Ecology
As Muslims we believe that we will be judged on how we’ve used God’s resources on Earth; those who are wasteful and heedless, al-Musrifeen, are held accountable. There are several verses and Hadith that remind us of our responsibility to nurture the environment by planting trees, consuming less, avoiding pollution, and showing mercy to animals. Muslims believe that every living thing on Earth, including plants, has submitted to God and if mistreated, will testify against the abuser on the Day of Judgment. Animal life should only be taken away for the purpose of food and even then, we are reminder to consume less and approach the process with absolute kindness towards its physical being and feelings. The Earth is God’s creation and we are obligated to look after all that exists in it (al-Anbiya 21:107).
5. Time Management and Efficiency
Inefficient use of time is another form of Israf, or waste. In the Quran, there is a Surah that discusses management, “The Bee.” The Bee is an intellectual creature that understands the purpose of her existence and realizes her skill. She indulges in the fulfillment of her goals and with persistence, she travels thousands of miles to gather her ingredients and doesn’t rest until she is fully satisfied. Her product is pure and she offers its benefits to society. The Bee is efficient and focused on the outcome. Muslims are responsible for managing their time wisely and productively. On a daily basis we struggle with managing ourselves; we procrastinate and get distracted constantly. A well-known quote from Imam Shafi’I states: “Time is like a sword: if you don’t cut it, it will cut you. Second is your Nafs (soul): if you don’t busy it with right, it will busy you with wrong.” An important example of management is Salat, or prayer. It is a form of time management that is essential to our daily lives; it gives us a reason to stay on track five times a day!
6. Entrepreneurship: Creativity, Innovation, and Initiative
Prophet Muhammad was a creative visionary by all means. He emerged from a religious leader to a political one to a leader of humankind; acting as a teacher in each phase. He commended those who invented such as those who came up with Zikr, sayings for the remembrance of God. In fact, the first follower of Islam, Sayyidah Khadija, was an entrepreneur herself. Prophet Muhammad’s message brought forth the concept of work being a form of worship and the concept of seeking work aligned with one’s skill to become a quick asset to the (then) new and growing community.
In an essay from the Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia scholars mention the following:
“…one of the most important and fundamental principles of creativity of the Prophet (PBUH) can be seen from his practice of the concept of [Jihad]. It refers to the intellectual struggle – critically and legally – in search of answers to new problems. It is inherently creative and dynamic, and is considered as an indispensable religious duty (Umar, 2006). In the process of [Jihad], a person must expend the best of his cognitive and moral efforts to achieve the desired goal. He must utilize the existing resources and methods and consider the possibilities and implications of his decision.”
Let’s not forget the Islamic Golden Age. Islamic scholars were pioneers of science and mathematics, whose discoveries are key contributions to all realms of technological advancement we see today.
7. Science and Technology
In today’s lingo, creativity is synonymous to success and technology is an inescapable medium. Technology is defined as the application of science to invent solutions. The Quran refers to many scientific phenomena. Some of them include the Earth’s atmosphere, the geology of mountains, embryonic development, oceans and clouds; the list goes on! According to Scholar Amr Khaled a particular chapter in the Quran called an-Naml, “The Ant,” talks about technology. The Ant quite directly makes references to photosynthesis, law of attraction, and various natural laws on Earth. Although we can only hypothesize as to why the chapter is titled as such, we do know that the complex structure, network, communication and coherence of the ant are a model for sociological research today. In an Oxford Journal, Charlotte Sleigh, historian in myrmecology (the study of ants) describes them in the following manner: “Ants have a long history as the foci for research in a variety of disciplines. Because of their diversity and ecological dominance in many ecosystems, they are model organisms for ecological studies, and their advanced sociality makes them ideal for studies of behavior and cooperation.”
God describes the Quran in five ways: Noor (light or knowledge), Shifa’a (solutions to personal and community affairs), Rahma (mercy), Hoda (guidance and solutions to issues of the era), and Borhan (proof through scientific means). Although they were only touched upon in this article, these features produce many values common to those of modern culture.
My analyses are based on studies of scholarly opinions. My purpose is not to make conclusions but to stimulate your thoughts and provide reason.
Essay by Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia: Creativity and Innovation in Islam and the Necessity for its Application in Islamic Education.
“Oxford Journal: Six Legs Better: A Cultural History of Myrmecology?” by Charlotte Sleigh
Various episodes of Amr Khaled’s 2015 Ramadan series, “Era and Faith”.