How do we, as lovers of the Ancient Beauty, come to recognize the gem-like beauty of the Qur’án, as an emanation from His Exalted Pen?
Number me not with them who read Thy words and fail to find Thy hidden gift which, as decreed by Thee, is contained therein, and which quickeneth the souls of Thy creatures and the hearts of Thy servants. – Bahá’u’lláh
The point has often been made that the Qur’án is outdated – and in its moral and legal teachings, it certainly is. If that weren’t the case, God would not have sent another Revelation. However, in its spiritual teachings, the Truths enshrined within it remain unchanged. This is evidenced by how frequently Bahá’u’lláh quotes from it to explain fundamental spiritual principles.
Defending Islám and the Qur’án does not mean justifying its practices in the context of today’s society. It means upholding its value and role in human history, while preserving those eternal aspects that will never be eclipsed.
The Qur’án speaks often of fear, the fire, and God’s wrathful vengeance; but this is no ordinary fear, or fire, as it has been preached to the masses. That fear is something you would cherish in your heart as a dear possession, and a guarantor of victory – as you might honor wisdom as a safeguard for knowledge; and that fire is nothing other than unbelief itself, into which the infidels are cast by their willful disobedience; and God’s wrath is likewise the harsh light of truth, as much as the Earth’s, if you were to ignore the laws of gravity and throw yourself from a great height.
Words like these have spiritual meanings that are greatly obscured by literal, humanistic interpretations, that imagine God as some powerful, earthly-minded king Who imposes whatever laws He wishes, while punishing the disobedient. However, the beauty of Qur’án is not to be found in this view. Hold foremost in your mind the goodness, love, and mercy of God, and then read His verses as if there could be no other interpretation.
For example, in verse 2:59, we find a pretty scary statement:
… So We sent down a torment from Heaven upon those who did wrong for the iniquity they committed.
The word used here for torment is rijz, which is also translated as “defilement” (or sometimes, evil whisperings) in verse 8:11:
Behold, He covered you with sleepiness, security from Him, and sent down upon you water from the sky to purify you thereby, to remove the defilement of Satan from you, to fortify your hearts, and to make firm your steps thereby.
These “evil-whisperings of Satan” portray the promptings of the insistent self, that inclines people toward evil. Thus, the “torment” sent down on those who do wrong is to leave them to themselves! Compare this to a similar statement from the Báb:
Indeed shouldst Thou desire to confer blessing upon a servant Thou wouldst blot out from the realm of his heart every mention or disposition except Thine Own mention; and shouldst Thou ordain evil for a servant by reason of that which his hands have unjustly wrought before Thy face, Thou wouldst test him with the benefits of this world and of the next that he might become preoccupied therewith and forget Thy remembrance.
Rather than fire and brimstone, divine torment here is described as material benefit and the promises of the next world! How opposite to any literal reading of the Qur’ánic verse!
Similarly, many of the dreadful passage from the Qur’án can be understood in another light: not as vengeful acts of an angry God, but conditions of spirit whose ultimate effect is so horrible, that for some, only the literal message conveys the intended meaning.