Sunday, 12 June 2011

Struggling to Surrender: Some Impressions of an American Convert to Islam ISBN 0-915957-26-4

a talk during ISLAMIC Awareness week in lancaster university on

talk why so many BRITONS convert to ISLAM
and he is doing his PHD on this topic,

in his slide there is a page on a research paper

Struggling to surrender is a remarkable book. It is an easy and interesting read yet it is full of new perspectives and profound thoughts. Dr. Lang discusses many concepts that I myself have struggled with for years like faith and reason, why bad things happen to good people, destiny and fate, and the purpose of life. He also discusses controversial topics like the place of Prophet Mohammad traditions (Hadith), women in Islam, Jihad and apostasy. Throughout he presents his ideas in a knowledgeable and logical way and supports them with verses from the Holy Qoran. The English translation of the Qoran that Dr. Lang uses is also one of the excellent features of his book.
"Struggling to surrender", I believe, presents Islam in its original pure and uncorrupted form. This book will touch your heart, stimulate your mind and change your life because it will guide you to the true spirit and essence of Islam as manifested in the Holy Qoran.
Dr. Lang quotes one of the well-known Muslim writers as saying " Islam has the best religion and the worst believers". I think this is absolutely true. I have turned away from Islam at one point because of misconceptions that came from watching and listening to " Muslim brothers and sisters" preaching their version of Isalm. I have to say that it is the version that dominates the Arab/ Muslim world today (an extreme form was the Taliban). After years of struggling myself, my salvage came through the Qoran. It was God's mercy that led me to read and study the Qoran cover to cover and find true Islam.
Although this book is directed at American Muslims, I think it is a must read for all Muslims and also for Non-Muslims who want to learn about Islam.


This writing is an excellent narration of one man's spiritual and religious awakening. As many people have done before, he admits to his readers how he was at first apprehensive about Islam, but unlike others before him we are fortunate in that he writes about this experience. This is a great intro to Muslim ideology, belief and worship. I highly recommend it.

Lang, Jeffrey 1954 (1373)—
Struggling to Surrender: Some Impressions of an American Convert to Islam/

by Jeffrey Lang, 2nd Rev. Ed.
p. 244 cm 22 1/2 x 15
Includes bibliographical references
ISBN 0-915957-26-4
1. Lang, Jeffrey.
2. Muslim converts—United States.
I. Title.
BP170.5.L36 1995

so i search and found this


Almost everything of their beauty could be traced to northern Europe— the delicate angularity of their features, their fair complexions, their long, luxuriant golden-brown hair—but not their eyes: large, flashing dark brown eyes, the type you might steal a glance from at an outdoor market or on a village street in Arabia, the type that sees right through you and lingers in your memory for a long time.

“Why did you become a Muslim?” asked one of my two interrogators. What answer would their innocence comprehend? Both gazed up at me dis- passionately, as if they had all eternity to wait for an explanation. Maybe they were not meant to understand but only to ask, to initiate the process of self-examination.


When I became a Muslim, I did not consider how many choices I was making, not just for myself but for my three daughters and their children and their descendants. Of course they needed to know why I made that decision, because it had been made for them as well and they would have to come to terms with it for the rest of their lives.

The prophet Muhammad said of his youngest daughter: “Fatimah is a part of me and I am a part of her. Her happiness is my happiness and her pain is my pain.” A father finds special fulfillment in his relationship with his daughters. Through their feminine nature, he can reach beyond the lim- its of his gender and is opened to a greater range of feelings and emotions than his public life allows. They complement and counter-balance him, not just as females but as his children, because he sees the completion of him- self in their personalities. “Why did you become a Muslim?” holds an entirely different significance for me when it comes from my daughters, for it originates in me. It is my completory voice, in its still untainted truth- fulness, cross-examining me.

I explained it to them briefly and as well as I could, but not in a way that finalized the matter, as I wanted to be sure the door was left open for further inquiry. Their question is the impetus behind this book, which be- gan as nightly reflections on their question.

I have been fighting with myself for some time over whether or not I should publish this book. My hesitation was not due to any fear of causing controversy but rather because of its very personal character. Without doubt, it is a very American interpretation of Islam, for how could it be otherwise? I cannot (and should not be expected to) extricate myself from the first twenty-eight years of my life. I continue to follow a strategy that I used when I was an atheist: I study what scholars inside and outside of a religion say about it. Insiders often overlook or brush aside sensitive ques- tions, whereas outsiders have their own prejudices. Through cautious comparison and contrast, I hope to offset the two tendencies. Thus, my understanding of Islam has been influenced by non-Muslim scholars.

Nevertheless, it was the encouragement of fellow Muslims that finally prompted me to publish this book.


It was the beginning of my senior year at Notre Dame Boys’ High School, and our religion teacher, a truly fine priest, decided that we needed to be convinced that God exists. And so he proceeded to prove it by argu- ing from first causes. I was a pretty good mathematics student and enam- ored of mathematical logic, so I could not resist the urge to challenge his conclusions.


There I was, an atheist in the eyes of family, friends, and schoolmates. The strange thing was that, at this point in time, I had not abandoned my belief in God but instead was only pursuing a line of argument largely for the sake of argument. I had never stated that I disbelieved. What Ihad said was that I found the proofs presented to our religion class inadequate. Nonetheless, I did not reject this new designation because the altercation did have a profound effect on me. I came to realize that I was not sure what I believed or why.

its a book

241 pages


After finishing my studies at the University of Connecticut, I got mar- ried. My wife and I moved to West Lafayette, Indiana, so that we could enroll in Purdue University’s graduate school. Although newly married, we agreed that our marriage was not a permanent commitment and that it would end amicably if better opportunities arose. But for the moment, it had some practical advantages. We were certainly friends but there was no passion, and, as expected, we divorced three years later on good terms.


I had just defended my Ph.D. thesis and was waiting outside the room while my committee was coming to a decision. It was five years of intense devotion to my subject that had brought me to that day and I was emo- tionally exhausted. The door opened and I was greeted with the words, “Congratulations, Doctor Lang!”


It was December 1981 when I graduated, and I stayed on as an instruc- tor for another semester while I searched for a job. West Lafayette was made for contemplation; there was nothing else to do there. It was the type of college town that becomes a ghost town when the students leave for va- cation. It had several fast food restaurants, a couple of movie theaters, a few churches, three laundromats, and some large grocery stores. You did not have to go very far before you were out in the rural farming areas. I walked several miles each day along the roads, crunching through the deep snow. It was the coldest winter I had ever known. The sea of white was invitingly peaceful as I sifted through my thoughts.

I could not forget the young lady who had come to my office for help. When I opened the door, there was this mysterious, presumably Middle Eastern woman facing me. She was completely covered in black from head to toe, although her hands and face were visible. She needed help in field theory, she said, and her professor had recommended me.

I agreed to help her, and my preconceptions about Arab women were very quickly shattered. She was a graduate student in mathematics and I supposed that, since she shared an office like mine with other teaching assistants, she must be a teaching assistant as well. But I simply could not imagine her standing in front of a class of Indiana natives of Ger-


You cannot simplyread the Qur’an, not if you take it seriously. You either have surrendered to it already or you fight it. It attacks tenaciously, directly, personally; it debates, criticizes, shames, and challenges. From the outset it draws the line of battle, and I was on the other side.

I was at a severe disadvantage, for it became clear that the Author knew me better than I knew myself. Painters can make the eyes of a por- trait appear to be following you from one place to another, but what author can write a scripture that anticipates your daily vicissitudes? The Qur’an was always way ahead of my thinking; it was erasing barriers I had built years ago and was addressing my queries.


Each night I would formulate questions and objections, and somehow discover the answer the next day as I continued on in the accepted order. It seemed that the Author was reading my ideas and writing in the appropriate lines in time for my next reading. I had met myself in its pages, and I was afraid of what I saw. I was being led, working my way into a corner that contained only one choice.

I had to talk to someone—but not the Qandeels—to someone who did not know me, so that there would be no expectations. That Saturday, while I was in Golden Gate Park and heading back to Diamond Heights after my daily walk, I settled on a solution: I would go to the local student-run mosque on Monday.



I was about to stand up to leave when the doorknob turned. It was now late afternoon and the setting sun was stationed somewhat behind the door. The lighting in the room was dim, so when the door opened the entrance was engulfed in light. Standing there was this silhouette of a man with a scraggly beard, ankle-high robe, sandals, turban, and a cane. He looked like Moses returning from Mount Sinai; he was biblical and fascinating. I had to stay.

He entered quietly and did not seem to notice us. He was whispering what must have been a supplication with his head raised slightly and his eyes almost shut. His hands were near his chest, his palms turned upwards as if waiting for his share of something. When he finished, he asked Muhammad something in Arabic and then walked unassumingly into the washroom.
“That’s Brother Ghassan.” They were revived and optimistic. “He’s
the imam. He leads the prayers.”

I knew from my reading that Muslims had no official clergy. “Anyone can lead,” Muhammad offered; Abdul Hannan, myself, anybody.” A mo- ment later Ghassan came into the room. His head was lowered meekly as he came over to us. He had a slight, Ghandi-ish kind of frame. His com- plexion was fair and his eyes and face were simultaneously peaceful and desolate, as if he had resigned himself to some great personal tragedy.
As the other two students made room for him, he sat down next to me.
He put his hand on my knee.

“What’s your name?” He was the first to ask and, unlike Abdul Hannan and Muhammad, he wanted to talk casually at first, apparently to reduce the tension. I appreciated his attempt to put me at ease. His voice was low-toned and strong, and had a certain special resonance that gave him an aura of inspiration. His accent told me he was from Arabia. He was somewhat shy and tried not to look straight into my eyes.
“Jeff Lang.”

“Are you a student at USF?” he asked. I looked much younger than my age; in fact, earlier that semester, I had been asked to leave a teachers’ meeting because everyone thought I was a student.
“No, I’m a professor in the math department.”

His eyes widened and he glanced at the others. We spoke for a few minutes, and then Ghassan asked me politely if I would excuse them while they prayed the afternoon prayer. It was the first time I had seen Muslims praying together. I used the break to stretch my legs, which by now were stiff from sitting on the floor.
When they were done we returned to our former places. Ghassan re-
sumed the conversation. “So how did you become interested in Islam?”

I wondered if he knew the Qandeels but I said only, “I’ve been read- ing about it.” Apparently that answer sufficed. We continued for a while discussing mostly technical matters, but we were not really communicat- ing. I was running out of questions and he was running out of comments. We were both disappointed, and I thought of getting back to the math department.
“Do you have any other questions?”
“No, not really.” But then something popped into my mind. “I do have
one question.”
I paused, not sure how to formulate it. “Can you tell me what it feels
like to be a Muslim? I mean, how do you see your relationship with God?”

I could already see that Ghassan had the fantastic charisma and intu- ition so indispensable for a spiritual leader. I would later discover that he had a huge following, both here and abroad. Like Mahmoud, he was acutely sensitive to your inner pain, but unlike Mahmoud, he would not let you ignore it. He would magnify it in front of you and force you to focus on it. This is a tremendous power that few possess. Every great reli- gious leader must have it, however, and, along with it, the accompanying tremendous responsibilities and dangers.

His eyes met mine but he did not answer immediately. Maybe he was surveying the source and the intent of the question. Then he lowered his head, as if praying, summoning his spiritual energy. Slowly moving his head from side to side, as people do when they want to indicate a negative response, he began to speak.

The first word he said was both a prayer and a call: “Allaaahh!” He paused and took a deep breath. “Is so great! And we are nothing compared to Him, we are less than a single grain of sand.” As he spoke, his thumb and index finger squeezed tightly a nonexistent speck of sand, which he lowered to the floor and then released to reveal nothing, making his sym- bol all the more effective. “And yet, He loves us more than a mother loves her baby child!”

He was fighting back his feelings; his eyes were nearly closed and his head still lowered. From this point on, until he finished his words, I would see a spirit that was burning with fear, hope, and desire. Each remaining sentence would be a wave of emotion, rising and then receding.

“Andnothing happens except by the will of Allah! When we breathe in”—he put his hand to his chest—it is by His will. And when we breathe out, it is by His will. When we lift our foot to take a step, it is by the will of Allah, and we would never be able to put that foot back on the ground except by His command! When a leaf falls from a tree and twists and turns on its journey to the ground, no segment of that journey takes place except

by Allah’s will. And when we pray and put our nose on the ground, we feel a joy, a rest, a strength that is outside this world and that no words could ever describe. You have to experience it to know.”

He remained quiet for several seconds, letting the words sink in. How much I wished that he and I could change places, if only for a few min- utes, so that I could feel the desire, the passion, the anguish, the yearning for his Lord! I wanted to know the serenity and the torment, the trust and the fear, rising from insignificance, aspiring for surrender. I yearned to be resuscitated from this spiritual death.
“So, would you like to become a Muslim?”

His words cracked the air, exploding in my consciousness. Why did he have to say that? That wasn’t why I’d come here! I could see myself try- ing to explain it to my family, colleagues, and friends. I was working at a Jesuit university. What about my job?

Faces and voices crowded my mind: my ex-wife, old acquaintances, a couple of them even dead, while I stumbled over excuses. I felt panicked again; my lower back and the back of my neck were hot, my palms were wet. What business was it of his, anyway? Why not just leave it alone and let us both walk out of there?He wasn’t going to lose anything. I did my best to conceal my anxiety and alarm. I suffocated all that turmoil and spoke calmly: “No, not today, anyway. I really just wanted to ask a few questions.”

How I hoped that would end it! I needed to get to my office. What was I even doing here? My body was locked in tension, braced for the next at- tack. I knew I would have to be firmer this time. But a part of me was straining to hear him say it again. Groping! Reaching! Pleading! Begging! Praying! “Don’t leave me, not after having come this far!”

Ghassan had been through this before and he knew better than to give up easily. He tried again softly. “But I think you believe in it. Why don’t you try?”

The voices and faces were gone. There was no need to get so upset. I did not owe anything to anybody—not to Ghassan, my friends, no one. The decision was mine alone. Then I remembered my parents and all those lessons about being “German” that they had taught my four brothers and me (every culture has the same lessons that it identifies as its own), and I remembered one in particular: if you feel that something is right, then pur- sue it, regardless of what other people think. “Follow your feelings,” my mother would say. The first time I had applied that philosophy was when I had changed undergraduate majors. In retrospect, that was so compara- tively easy. I looked at the three of them and nodded my head up and down. “Yes, I think I’d like to become a Muslim.”


Although Islam is spreading very rapidly in the West, its presence is still something quite new. The number of Western Muslim authors remains quite small. Some of the better known are Muhammad Asad, Marmaduke Pickthall, Martin Lings, Maryam Jameelah, and Hamid Algar.5Today, there are numerous European and American Muslims who are spreading their faith to others, and we are seeing an increasing number of Western writers who are sympathetic to Islam.6In their impressions, one discovers oft-repeated themes. In this chapter, my aim is to highlight some of these and also to describe, based on my own experience and the many discus- sions that I have had with others, how these pieces might fit and work together in guiding one to accept the message of the Qur’an. In other words, I will attempt to present a model of conversion to Islam.


lex, because, in his travels, knowledge of the some- times illusive “straight path” was also a matter of life and death. The
5Muhammad Asad, The Road to Mecca (Gibraltar: Dar al Andalus, l980); Hamid Algar,
The Roots of the Islamic Revolution(Ontario: Open Press, l983); Irving The Qur’an;
Maryam Jameelah, Western Civilization Condemned by Itself (Lahore: Kazi Productions,
n.d.); Martin Lings, What is Sufism? (London: George Allen & Unwin, l983); Pickthall,
Meaning of the Glorious Qur’an.
6Maxime Rodinson, Islam and Capitalism (London: Penguin Books, l974); Frithjof

Schuon, Understanding Islam (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1963), trans. D. M. Matheson, l963; Fredrick Denny, An Introduction to Islam (New York: Macmillan, l985); John L. Esposito, Islam: the Straight Path (New York: Oxford Press, l988).
7Toshihiko Izutsu has an excellent analysis of the Qur’an’s semantical structures in his
God and Man in the Koran(Salem, MA: Ayers Publishers, l964). Also see Kenneth
Cragg’s very insightful The Event of the Qur’an (London: George Allen & Unwin, l973).


Qur’an’s references to books, balances, debts, and rewards on the Day of Judgment, the making of a loan to God that will be repaid with manifold increase, and to the bargain that God has struck with the believers have obvious links to the commercial lifestyle of Makkah, the center for trade in Arabia during the lifetime of Muhammad. When the Qur’an compares the state of disbelief with that of dying of thirst in the desert, or when it draws a parallel between resurrection and the restoring of life to dead earth after rain, or when it describes Paradise in vivid sensual terms, we can imagine how immediate and alive these images must have been for those who first heard them from the lips of the Prophet.

The Arabs of Muhammad’s time were not atheists or agnostics, but neither were they deeply religious. Their attitude toward religion was a lit- tle like that of many people today: religious faith was one part of a larger tradition, a cultural appendage that had its limited time and place and could be called upon when needed. In technical terms, they were idol worshippers, for they believed in a plurality of more or less superhuman deities who had a limited ability to affect an individual’s life. The Qur’an’s problem with the Arabs was not their lack of belief in God, but that their false beliefs about God permitted and fostered depravity.


A central Qur’anic concept is the extreme importance of reason and contemplative thought in the attainment of faith. Almost every modern- day Western orientalist has noted this. For example, Rodinson writes:

The Koran continually expounds the rational proofs of Allah’s omnipotence: the wonders of creation, such as the gestation of animals, the movements of the heavenly bodies, atmospheric phe- nomena, the variety of animal and vegetable life so marvelously well adapted to man’s needs. All those things “are signs (ayat) for those of insight.” (3:190)
And a little further on he adds:

Repeated about fifty times in the Koran is the verb aqala which means “connect ideas together, reason, understand an intellectual argument.” Thirteen times we come upon the refrain, after a piece of reasoning: a fa-la taqilun—“have ye then no sense?” (2:41-44, etc.) The infidels, those who remain insensible to Muhammad’s preaching, are stigmatized as “a people of no intelligence,” per- sons incapable of the intellectual effort needed to cast off routine thinking (5:53-58, 102-103; 10:42-43; 22:45-46; 59:14). In this respect they are like cattle (2:166-171; 25:44-46).8
H. Lammens wrote that the Qur’an “is not far from considering unbe-
lief as an infirmity of the human mind.”

H. Lammens, “Caracteristique de Mohomet d’apres le Qoran,” Recherches de science
religieuse20 (l930), pp. 416-38, 430


The Qur’anic term kafir, which interpreters most often render as “dis- believer,” comes from the rootkafara, which means “to cover or conceal.” In Qur’anic usage, it has the general sense of one who conceals or rejects, consciously or unconsciously, a divine gift, a divine favor, or truth. When talking of such people, the Qur’an asks, almost incredulously, “Do they not travel through the land, so that their hearts may thus learn wisdom?” (22:44); “Do they not examine the earth?” (26:7); “Do they not travel through the earth and see what was the end of those before them?” (30:9); “Do they not look at the sky above them?” (50:6); “Do they not look at the camels, how they are made?” (88:17); and “Have you not seen the seeds

which you sow?” (56:63). The implication behind all these questions is that evidence of the truth of this message is to be found in the study of his- tory, cultures, the earth, the cosmos, and nature, among others. The Qur’an insists that it contains signs for those who “are wise” (2:269), “are knowl- edgeable” (29:42-43), “are endowed with insight” (39:9), and who “reflect” (45:13).

The very first revelation to Muhammad, consisting of the first five verses of the ninety-sixth surah, stresses the acquisition and transmission of knowledge in the human quest for advancement:

Read, in the name of your Lord, who created—created man from a tiny thing that clings. Read, for your Lord is the Most Bountiful, who taught [man] the use of the pen, taught man what he did not know. (96:l-5)

Thus the first command revealed to mankind through the Prophet was, quite literally, “Read!” And the ability to do so is proclaimed as one of the great divine gifts. Asad comments:

“The pen” is used here as a symbol for the art of writing or, more specifically, for all knowledge recorded by means of writing: and this explains the symbolic summons “Read!” at the beginning of verses l and 3. Man’s unique ability to transmit, by means of writ- ten records, his thoughts, experiences and insights from individual to individual, from generation to generation, and from one cultur- al environment to another endows all human knowledge with a cumulative character; and since, thanks to this God-given ability, every human being partakes, in one way or another, in mankind’s continuous accumulation of knowledge, man is spoken of as being “taught by God” things which the individual does not—and, in- deed, cannot—know by himself. (This double stress on man’s utter dependence on God, who creates man as a biological entity and implants in him the will and ability to acquire knowledge, receives its final accent, as it were in the next three verses) [which read: No, truly, man is rebellious, seeing himself as independent. Surely unto your Lord is the return. (96:6-8)]10

10Asad, The Message, 963-64

These last three verses characterize the attitude of modern man, who, because of the achievements of science, has come to believe that he is independent of the need for God. From the Qur’anic perspective, he

“transgresses all bounds” in his abuse of the divine gift of intelligence. The Qur’an’s dual challenge to test one’s own positions against those of the Qur’an according to the standards of reason, coherence, and accepted truths is well-suited to this attitude and, moreover, its acceptance has been the first step for many who eventually converted to Islam. However, before proceeding further, a note must be made concerning the style and the translations of the Qur’an.


Sometimes, when relating a story of a prophet, the Qur’an will include a detail that is not found in the Bible and then call it to your attention by stating that God made this person, people, or event a “sign” for later times. This occurs in the brief account of the Flood mentioned above. One of the most interesting cases of this occurs in the Qur’an’s narrative of the Exodus:

And We brought the Children of Israel across the sea. Then Pharaoh with his hosts pursued them in rebellion and hostility until, when the fact of his drowning overtook him, he said: “I believe there is no god except the one in whom the Children of Israel believe, and I am of those who surrender to him.” God said: “What—now, after you have rebelled and caused corruption? This day We shall save you in your body so that you may be a sign for those who come after you. But truly, many among mankind are heedless of Our signs.” (10:90-92)


As mentioned above, the first words revealed through Muhammad were: “Read, in the name of your Lord, who created—created man from a tiny thing that clings” (96:1-2). The Arabic word which I have translated as “a tiny thing that clings” is‘alaq. In many translations it is rendered as “blood clot,” which a human being never is at any stage in his develop- ment and which is not the original meaning of the term, although it has a nice ring to it in English. Originally ‘alaq denoted a tiny leech-like crea- ture with the ability to attach itself by one of its ends to a surface. This is an apt description of the fertilized egg during the initial stages of develop- ment, a time when it literally implants itself in the womb:

The implantation of the egg in the uterus (womb) is the result of the development of villosities, veritable elongations of the egg, which, like roots in the soil, draw nourishment from the thickness of the uterus necessary to the egg’s growth. These formations make the egg literally cling to the uterus. This is a discovery of modern times.29

After implantation, the embryo continues to grow until it looks to the naked eye like a piece of chewed flesh. The bone structure then develops inside this mass, followed by the development of muscle tissue that cov- ers the bones. This is well known to us today. We find this description in the Qur’an:

We fashioned the thing which clings into a chewed lump of flesh (mudghah) and We fashioned the chewed flesh into bones and We enclothed the bones with intact flesh (lahm). (23:l)


In several places (7:54; 35:37; 31:29), the Qur’an directs us to con- sider the alternation of night and day as another sign from the Almighty. An interesting case is the following: “He wraps the night around the day and He wraps the day around the night” (39:5). The Arabic verbkawwara, translated above as “to wrap around,” has a more precise meaning. It comes from the same root as the Arabic word for ball (kurah) and has the definite connotation of wrapping or winding something around a spherical object, such as winding a strand of yarn around its ball. From the perspec- tive of the planet earth, this is exactly what takes place in that a half sphere of night followed by a half sphere of day is perpetually being wrapped around its surface. This is due to the earth’s rotation and the sun’s rela- tively stationary position in relation to the earth. The Qur’an’s phrasing in this description is remarkable, unless one accepts its claim to being a rev- elation from God.


Another example of subtle yet extraordinary precision in describing a natural phenomenon occurs in 16:68: “And your Lord inspired the bee, (saying,) “Take for yourself dwellings in hills, on trees, and in what they (mankind) build.” The imperative “take” above is the translation of the Arabic wordattakhithi, which is a feminine form (for Arabic, unlike English, differentiates between the sexes). The feminine form is used when all of those it refers to are female, whereas the masculine is used when a group consists of at least one male. Therefore the Qur’an is in fact saying: “Take for yourself, you female bees, dwellings. . . .” A swarm of bees is comprised of three types: a queen, the worker bees who collect honey and build the hive, and the male drones, whose sole purpose is to impregnate the queen and who are then killed off by the worker bees. The latter type are females with underdeveloped sex organs. Thus, the phras- ing of this command is in agreement with the fact that male bees do not participate in the construction of the hive or “dwelling,” which is the sole work of the females.


Have not those who disbelieve seen that the heavens and the earth were fused (ratq) and then We broke them apart (fataqa), and we made every living thing out of water. Will they then not believe? (21:30)

page 36


The Day when We will roll up the heavens as written scrolls are rolled up. As We brought into being the first creation, so shall We bring it forth anew—a promise [which We have made binding] upon Ourselves. Behold, We are able to do [all things]! (21:104)

He Who created the seven heavens one above another. No fault will you see in the creation of the Most Merciful. So turn your vision again. Do you see any flaw? Again turn your vision, and again your vision will come back to you, dazzled, defeated. (67:3-4)


There comes a moment in the reading of the Qur’an, as for ex- ample in personal study focused on understanding the meaning, whether reciting out loud or reading it silently, when readers start feeling an uncanny, sometimes frightening presence. Instead of reading the Qur’an, the reader begins feeling the Qur’an is “read- ing” the reader! This is a wonderfully disturbing experience, by no means requiring a person to be a Muslim before it can be felt. This expression of the Qur’an’s inherent power has been a major fac- tor in the spread of Islam, as well as Muslims’ continuing loyalty to the Straight Path, as the Qur’an itself characterizes the reli- gion.33

33Fredrick Denny,Islam (New York: Harper & Row, 1987), 88.
34Bennabi,The Qur’anic Phenomenon, 165-84.


Back to the “Signs”
We will show them Our signs (ayat) in the farthest reaches and
within themselves until it is clear to them that it is the truth. (41:53)


Signs do not only guide; they also confirm and validate our steps and decisions. So it is with the ayat of the Qur’an in our journey from “the far- thest reaches” and within our own selves. Virtually all of the Qur’an’s “signs” from nature appear amid reminders of man’s duty and account- ability to God, and the impending judgment. Each of those verses that have already been cited can serve to illustrate this point. The following have been selected primarily for their beauty.

A surah which We have sent down and which We have ordained. In it, We sent down clear signs, in order that you may remember. (24:1).



Surah Al-Noor 35-38 (24:35-38)

Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The similitude of His light is as a niche wherein is a lamp. The lamp is in a glass. The glass is as it were a shining star. (This lamp is) kindled from a blessed tree, an olive neither of the East nor of the West, whose oil would almost glow forth (of itself) though no fire touched it. Light upon light. Allah guideth unto His light whom He will. And Allah setteth forth for mankind similitudes, for Allah is Knower of all things. (35) (This lamp is found) in houses which Allah hath allowed to be exalted and that His name shall be remembered therein. Therein do offer praise to Him at morn and evening. (36) Men whom neither merchandise nor sale beguileth from remembrance of Allah and constancy in prayer and paying to the poor their due; who fear a day when hearts and eyeballs will be overturned; (37) That Allah may reward them with the best of what they did, and increase reward for them of His bounty. Allah giveth blessings without stint to whom He will. (38)


Bennabi,The Qur’anic Phenomenon, 165-84

In the resplendent “Verse of Light,” Bennabi sees an intriguing pres- age. The allegory invokes the image of a brightly shining light within a container enclosed in glass, lit from a source unknown at the time of this revelation, “neither of the East nor of the West,” that shines although no flame touches it. This parable may indeed serve, as Bennabi suggests, as the description of an electric light, at which, when brought to our attention, we can only wonder. At first such speculation may seem to violate the beauty of the passage, but it is not uncharacteristic of the Qur’an, in its theme of harmony, to simultaneously relate mystical and temporal infor- mation, with the former appropriately almost blinding us to the latter.
Two parables concerning disbelief and its destructive consequences
immediately follow this verse:

And those who disbelieve, their deeds are like a mirage in a desert, which the thirsting one deems to be water, until, when he comes to it, he finds it is nothing, and there indeed he finds God, and He pays him his account in full; and God is swift in the reckoning. Or like darkness in a deep sea; there covers him a wave, above which is a wave, above which is a cloud—darknesses, one above anoth- er; when he holds out his hand, he is barely able to see it. And the one to whom God does not give light, he has no light. (24:39-40)


As for those who disbelieve, their deeds are as a mirage in a desert. The thirsty one supposeth it to be water till he cometh unto it and findeth it naught, and findeth, in the place thereof, Allah Who payeth him his due; and Allah is swift at reckoning. (39) Or as darkness on a vast, abysmal sea. There covereth him a wave, above which is a wave, above which is a cloud. Layer upon layer of darkness. When he holdeth out his hand he scarce can see it. And he for whom Allah hath not appointed light, for him there is no light. (40)

Dan orang-orang yang kafir pula, amal-amal mereka adalah umpama riak sinaran panas di tanah rata yang disangkanya air oleh orang yang dahaga, (lalu dia menuju ke arahnya) sehingga apabila dia datang ke tempat itu, tidak didapati sesuatu pun yang disangkanya itu; (demikianlah keadaan orang kafir, tidak mendapat faedah dari amalnya sebagaimana yang disangkanya) dan dia tetap mendapati hukum Allah di sisi amalnya, lalu Allah menyempurnakan hitungan amalnya (serta membalasnya); dan (ingatlah) Allah Amat segera hitungan hisabNya. (39) Atau (orang-orang kafir itu keadaannya) adalah umpama keadaan (orang yang di dalam) gelap-gelita di lautan yang dalam, yang diliputi oleh ombak bertindih ombak; di sebelah atasnya pula awan tebal (demikianlah keadaannya) gelap-gelita berlapis-lapis, apabila orang itu mengeluarkan tangannya, dia tidak dapat melihatnya sama sekali dan (ingatlah) sesiapa yang tidak dijadikan Allah menurut undang-undang peraturanNya mendapat cahaya (hidayat petunjuk) maka dia tidak akan beroleh sebarang cahaya (yang akan memandunya ke jalan yang benar). (40)


Bennabi points out that the first simile would be expected from a resi- dent of seventh century Makkah, but he sees the second, with its images of dark clouds and billowing waves, as better suited to someone from the

northern coastal regions. He links the reference to the existence of layers of waves upon waves in the ocean to what is now known in oceanography as the phenomenon of superimposition of waves and the increasing dark- ness one encounters at greater depths of the ocean to the discovery in the field of optics of the absorption of light in water.

The obvious theme here is that a life dedicated mainly to worldly pur- suits ends in utter disillusionment and spiritual suffocation. We are more likely to discern this from the verse than what Bennabi has derived. However, the phraseology is notable. If I were to compare the state of dis- belief to drowning in the sea—and having grown up on the New England coastline, I might—I would use “wave after wave” instead of “wave above wave,” for one often thinks of waves existing only on the ocean’s surface and as occurring sequentially, one after another. This is how it appears to us, but the Qur’anic description is, in fact, more accurate. Also, unless I had experienced deep-sea diving, it is unlikely that I would think of gradu- ated levels of darkness in the ocean depths, since in relatively shallow wa- ter—a pool or lake—the degree of light is more or less constant.

Bennabi’s findings, if we accept them as valid, are obscured by the more obvious messages of the passages into which they are woven, while the majority ofayat are presented independently as evidences from human experience or nature. They serve to illustrate one of the many ways by which the Qur’an invites its own investigation and merges worldly into spiritual considerations.


Will you not then use your reason? (2:44)

The Qur’an enjoins us to study critically our behavior and beliefs. Salvation is obtained through searching out and surrendering to the truth. One of the aims of the Qur’an is to teach us to approach religious ques- tions with discipline, to reason accurately, in order to uncover contradic- tions and inconsistencies within ourselves. Embedded in many of the Qur’an’s parables, stories, and admonitions are lessons that deal with cor- rect and incorrect reasoning. Characteristically, the Qur’an accentuates the importance of proof and evidence in argument:

And they say: “No one will enter Paradise unless he is a Jew or a Christian.” Those are their desires. Say: “Produce your proof if you are truthful.” (2:111)

page 41


The idolaters will say: “If God had wished, we would not have as- cribed partners to Him, nor would our fathers, nor would we have prohibited anything.” Thus did their ancestors argue falsely, until they tasted Our might. Say: “Have you any (certain) knowledge? If so, produce it for us. You follow nothing but conjecture.” (6:148)


Orang-orang musyrik akan mengatakan: Kalau Allah menghendaki tentulah kami dan datuk nenek kami tidak mempersekutukanNya (dengan sesuatu yang lain) dan tidak pula kami haramkan sesuatu apa pun. Demikianlah juga orang-orang yang dahulu sebelum mereka telah mendustakan (Rasul-rasul) sehingga mereka merasai azab seksa Kami. Katakanlah: Adakah kamu mempunyai (sesuatu keterangan yang berdasarkan) ilmu supaya dapat kamu tunjukkan kepada kami? Tiadalah kamu menurut melainkan sangkaan semata-mata dan kamu pula tidak lain hanyalah berdusta. (148)


Or do they say: “He has invented it?” No, but they do not believe. Then let them bring a discourse like it, if they speak truly. (52:33- 34)

Why did they not bring four witnesses to prove it? But since they
did not bring the witnesses, in God’s sight they are liars. (24:13)


In several places, the Qur’an exposes the logical flaws of some com-
mon approaches to religious questions:

The Jews say the Christians have nothing to stand on, and the Christians say the Jews have nothing to stand on, while both recite the (same) Book! Thus, like what they say, say those who do not know. (2:113)

When they are told, “Spend of that which God has provided you,” the ungrateful say to those who believe, “Shall we feed those whom, if God had willed, He would have fed (Himself)? You are in nothing but manifest error.” (36:47)

The first of the above verses illustrates the “glass house syndrome,” whereby arguments used against another religion apply equally to one’s own. The implication in the second is that a response such as that quoted not only denies man’s charitable impulse, but, if this reasoning is adopted, there is no need to pursue any human endeavor, including self-preserva- tion.Surat al A‘rafpresents a parable of how people stray from the truth
based on circumstantial evidence:

The similitude is that of a dog: if you attack it, it lolls out its tongue, or if you leave it alone, it lolls out its tongue. That is an example of [how] people reject the truth.35(7:176)


35Gary Miller brought this example to my attention.


The tendency to lose oneself in senseless arguments over insignificant
details is criticized in Surat al Kahf :

Some say they were three, the dog being the fourth among them. Others say they were five, the dog being the sixth, guessing at the unseen. Yet others say seven, the dog being the eighth. Say: “My Lord knows best their number, and none knows them but a few. Therefore, do not enter into controversies concerning them, except on a matter that is clear, and do not ask of anyone to make a pronouncement concerning them.” (18:22)


There are marvelous lessons in wisdom in the Qur’anic narratives. As the tale of Moses and the sage unfolds (18:60-82), the reader finds himself attempting to anticipate the solution of a timeless riddle: how can ostensi- bly evil things serve a greater good? As he tries in his own mind to resolve it, he is in fact teaching himself about divine justice and the nature of good and evil. Similarly, in Surat Yusuf, we learn about the subtle workings of God’s will and the meaning and purpose behind life’s adversities. In the story of David and Solomon (21:78-79), we are given a lesson in sound judgment. With the Qur’an’s persistent attack on errors of disbelief, either directly or in its many accounts of believers—disbeliever showdowns, the reader, regardless of his position, becomes engaged in an ongoing debate. He is in fact receiving instruction by almost reliving critical episodes in other people’s lives.


Another important device to make us ponder more deeply on funda- mental issues is the intentional contradiction. On the question of good and evil, we are told:

Say: “All things are from God.” But what is amiss with these peo- ple that they fail to understand a single fact? Whatever happens to you of good is from God, but whatever happens to you of evil is from yourself. (4:78-79)


Say: "All things are from Allâh," so what is wrong with these people that they fail to understand any word? (78) Whatever of good reaches you, is from Allâh, but whatever of evil befalls you, is from yourself. And We have sent you (O Muhammad SAW) as a Messenger to mankind, and Allâh is Sufficient as a Witness.[] (79)

Katakanlah: "Semuanya [datang] dari sisi Allah". Maka mengapa orang-orang itu [orang munafik] hampir-hampir tidak memahami pembicaraan [4] sedikit pun? (78) Apa saja ni’mat yang kamu peroleh adalah dari Allah, dan apa saja bencana yang menimpamu, maka dari [kesalahan] dirimu sendiri. Kami mengutusmu menjadi Rasul kepada segenap manusia. Dan cukuplah Allah menjadi saksi. (79)

Apa jua kebaikan (nikmat kesenangan) yang engkau dapati maka ia adalah dari Allah dan apa jua bencana yang menimpamu maka ia adalah dari (kesalahan) dirimu sendiri dan Kami telah mengutus engkau (wahai Muhammad) kepada seluruh umat manusia sebagai seorang Rasul (yang membawa rahmat) dan cukuplah Allah menjadi saksi (yang membuktikan kebenaran hakikat ini). (79)


ok i stop here...

i just read up to page 43

altogether there are 241 pages of the book

it is a great book that i learnt a lot. Thank you ALLAH...

thanks to the author too.


you do LEARN a lot and do a lot of research and search the ilm..


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