By Wael Abdelgawad for IslamicSunrays.com
“A book is like a garden carried in the pocket.” – Arab proverb
A book in your pocket is like a secret treasure. It is a magical means of transportation, a source of knowledge, a historical record, and a treasure chest containing the knowledge of human minds and hearts, or in the case of the Quran, the message of Allah to humanity.
You can take the book out of your pocket and lose yourself in it, forgetting about all the worries of the world, just as you can do in a beautiful garden.
Fozia, a Muslim sister from the UK, points out that a book helps one develop through acquiring knowledge, as a garden blossoms through the growth of its flowers and creatures…
Making the Impossible Possible
Indeed, to carry a garden in one’s pocket is impossible, but that’s the thing about books, they make the impossible possible. A family that has been stuck in poverty for generations can break that cycle by sending one child to higher education. Someone who comes from the most desperate circumstances can achieve the seemingly impossible and become a doctor, engineer, or even President, all through the power of education. The power of books.
That reminds me of a quote by Cesar Chavez, the famous campaigner for farm workers’ rights, who is now deceased. He said,
“Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore. We have seen the future, and the future is ours.”
This process of social change that he describes starts with a book. It starts with education. The ultimate Book is the Quran, and it is a world-changing book. It brings light where there was darkness, and changes human beings from the inside out.
The First Revelation of the Quran
Does anyone need proof that the processes of personal growth and social change both start with books? Consider the first revealed verses of the Quran itself, in Surah 96, Al-‘Alaq:
1. Read in the name of your Lord Who created.
2. He created humankind from a clot.
3. Read and your Lord is Most Honorable,
4. Who taught (to write) with the pen
5. Taught the human being what he knew not.
The moment of the first revelation of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was a moment of immense significance for all humanity, possibly the most significant moment in human history. It follows that the message is one of great significance as well.
What is this message of great significance, these first few profound and powerful words?
Read, and write, and do it in the name of Allah.
Allah exalted and honored human beings by giving us knowledge, the capacity to acquire more knowledge, and the tools to record and share our knowledge, whether verbally or in print. He commanded us to make use of these tools, and to do it in Allah’s name so that our motives and methods remain pure, and so that the results will be beneficial to humanity and not destructive or oppressive.
We are supposed to use our knowledge to create vaccines for diseases, not to create deadly viruses for biological warfare. We should use nuclear power to generate clean energy, not to design bombs that can destroy nations. We must use robotic technologies to create artificial limbs for victims of war or accidents, or to explore the depths of the sea, or to clear old minefields without loss of life, or to rescue miners trapped deep underground… not to build hunter-killer drones that destroy innocent human lives while the operator moves a joystick a thousand miles away.
Knowledge must be employed “in the name of your Lord Who created,” not in the name of greed or vengeance.
This is especially important today, when fantastically powerful technologies are being developed every day. Supercomputers, nanotechnology, genetic engineering, cloning, quantum physics… If these technologies are not tempered with faith and wisdom, humanity could unleash horrors on the world that will make previous wars and genocides look like a bad case of the measles (no disrespect intended to victims of past conflicts).
A New Course for the World
The Quran was also a message that the time had come to change humanity’s meandering course. Human beings all over the world had been creating societies, customs and laws based on superstition. Some societies were based on artificial castes. Others were based on worship of human beings, or worship of the dead, or cult-like religions, or collections of taboos and myths.
The revelation of the Quran signified the beginning of a new course for the world, a lighted path based on scholarship, science and the systematization of knowledge. The engines of this new period would be literacy, scholarship, Tawheed (Oneness of God), and righteousness.
Human history, with its long and bleak stretches of ignorance and suffering, like a vast desert with only a few small oases, was given a permanent garden in the form of a book: the Quran.
A book is a garden in your pocket. It’s natural, inspiring, and life-changing. It’s your own personal haven. But only if you read it and let it into your heart.