Everyone equates Ramadan with fasting and feasting, and in part that wouldn’t be entirely inaccurate. But it’s also a celebration of the miracle of Islam, which is the revelation of the Holy Quran. In the last 10 days of the special month, I decided to pick out some key favourite Quranic quotes and present them in a very unique style using Bitstrips cartoons. Here’s a compilation of the translations/interpretations with my own personal thoughts about each of them.
‘And walk not on the earth with conceit and arrogance.’
It reminds us to stay humble and keep our feet on the ground. I see so many people these days striding around puffed up with their own self-importance that it’s tragically sad, comically even, in some cases. Humility is a must.
‘And whenever you give your word, say the truth.’
The speaking of truth, the essence of honesty is not to be compromised. And yet lies and deception are everywhere these days. Which is what makes this even more important because an honest person will stand out as a shining beacon in a sea of deceit.
Al Isra 17:29
‘And let not your hand be tied (like a miser) to your neck, not stretch it forth to its utmost reach (like a spendthrift). ‘
There is no reason to deny yourself what you need or even what you merely want. If you have the money it’s okay to spend it. But sometimes it all turns into a case of competitive wallet-waving (or should that be ‘credit-championing’?). Simply put, don’t be a cheapskate, but don’t go over the top either.
Al Maidah 5:8
‘Stand firmly for righteousness, and let not your personal enmity prevent you from being just.’
I find this one very significant in its unfettered call for fairness, truth and justice. We must stand up for what is right and not be biased about it. Haven’t we all, a little more than just occasionally, allowed our personal feelings to cloud our judgement?
Al Araf 7:31
‘Eat, drink, but waste not by extravagance.’
It may seem to apply to Ramadan in particular – especially as, somewhat ironically, in a well-to-do Middle East countries the countless and lavish nightly Iftar buffets appear to be an outrageous waste of food in a desperately starving world, but its also (as with many things in Islam) a call for moderation. Funny, isn’t it, that Islam now seems indelibly associated with extremism of the worst kinds, when it persistently warns against it?
Al Baqarah 2:195
‘Let not your own hands contribute to your destruction.’
This one’s deep. It may sound a bit ambiguous but I don’t think it is. I feel it applies to all of us within and is a reminder to ward off the self-destruct abilities we all develop in time during our lives in a difficult and stressful world: depression, disillusionment, disappointment, despondency, disease, destitution etc.
There are too many reason to chop away our own foundations until we collapse to nothing. But our lives are precious, whether we are strong enough to help ourselves or even more strong enough to concede we need the help of others, it’s vital to not be the cause of our own end.
An Nisa 4:36
‘Take car of the needy, the disabled, those whose hard earned income is insufficient to meet their needs, and those whose businesses have stalled, and those who have lost their jobs.’
Charity plays a big part in Muslim culture, and it’s not always just a case of just giving alms. Even a smile is charity according to the prophet – and we can all afford that. Yet you look around in a crowded place and see mostly frowns and snarls nowadays. Obviously this is partly because most of us are having a tough time – particularly in these economically chastised days, but then its even more important to do whatever we can for each other.
This could be a case of donating money if we can afford too, but also just sharing and caring or even speaking an encouraging, hopeful and gracious word. What doesn’t help is the attitude of: ‘oh well too bad, that’s just tough,’ ‘they should get off their butt and get a job,’ why can’t they just work harder,’ and that delightful old ‘you make your own luck!’ Ever notice how that last one is always only said by those doing well?
Al Hajj 22:46
‘It is not the eyes that grow blind, but the heart.’
Poetic but so true. We have more of an avalanche of information assaulting our eyes than ever before thanks to the interweb. But the cold cynicism, the short attention spans, the diminishing empathy in today’s society illustrates that we see but we don’t really take in, comprehend, understand or quite simply ‘feel’ anymore.
I’m also taken with the use of the word ‘grow’ because as we get older we do transition from outward-looking to inward-looking, losing our fascination, wonder, and desire to learn and embrace. I know this, because I struggle with it as much as anyone else.
Al Hujurat 49:6
‘Ascertain the truth of any news, lest you smite someone in ignorance.’
As a journalist this one strikes home, particularly as these are the days of rumours and gossip spreading like wildfire through the social media sphere. If it’s on Facebook it must be true right? Sigh.
But it applies even moreso in daily life, where we are always so quick to judge, to label, to dismiss and worst of all, to accuse. In fact the verse isn’t complete, it goes on to say ‘and afterward repent of what ye did,’ – I like that because it assumes a basic goodness in us all, no one really wants to falsely badmouth someone, right? Again… sigh.
An Najm 53:32
‘Do not try to impress people on account of self-proclaimed virtues.’
Aw man, this is such massive part of our faux online and offline personalities now that it’s almost impossible not to do this if you want to get on in life – I’m as guilty as the next person.
But I believe it also points us towards humility and honesty. Be truthful about yourself and get the respect that’s due, don’t browbeat everyone with your own made-up self-importance and expect to attain genuine respect and accolade. In other words, be yourself – people will love you more for it.
Al Hujurat 49:11
‘Do not ridicule others, perhaps they may be better than you, and do not insult one another, nor call each other by offensive names.’
We all think we know better. Some are more vociferous about it than others. Yet we don’t really live in another person’s shoes, and we don’t know, nor can we comprehend, the personal problems, challenges, heartache, stresses, difficulties or obstacles that person is facing. So how can we so easily jump to judging others?
And forget all that nonsense about ‘sticks and stones… but words… etc…’ The fact is they hurt, they sting, they can bring you down emotionally and psychologically. So this is reminder not to hurl insults and mockery around so regularly and ramdomly, not even in jest. Why even risk the distress it might cause?
Al Araf 7:199
‘Take to forgiveness and enjoin good and turn aside from the ignorant.’
Two parts to this one – the first relating to the fact that it is so hard to forgive. But as Muslims we start everything with the statement that ‘God is the most merciful’ and within that is a call for us to also try to be more forgiving.
Holding grudges, harbouring negativity, nurturing vengeance is like a growing tumour that blackens our hearts and our demeanours sending us into a spiral of gloom from which we never recover, and through which we alienate everyone around us. Forgiveness on the other hand is like a load lifted and very liberating.
The second part I feel relates to getting into pointless arguments. Especially if the opposing party is not even keen to listen never mind concede what you are saying. The fact is that sometimes people take their own routes to truth and understanding, leave them to it. It also, I think, refers to those trying to talk you down, or stopping you from doing good.
‘A good word is like a good tree – with its root firm and its branches high in the sky. Whereas a bad word is like a bad tree – uprooted and without stability.’
This certainly represents the enormous power of speech and the extreme importance of what we say and how we speak to each other. But for ‘word’ I feel you could also substitute ‘deed’. It also refers to the strength this endows upon our souls and personalities.
An Nisa 4:85
‘Whoever recommends and helps a good cause becomes a partner therein, and whoever recommends and helps an evil cause shares in its burdens.’
This one seems complex but is very simple at its core. It’s not just our actions that become us, but even our thoughts and conferences. Think good, speak good, do good, be good.
‘Repel evil with that which is best, and lo, he between whom and thyself was enmity will become as though he were a warm friend.’
So much talk of Islam advocating violence and aggression yet herein is a message of peace from its very source. It calls upon us to meet evil with goodness and through that actually cultivate peace. It not only reminds us to be strong in the face of evil, but to seek friendship and harmony. I can’t think of a more obvious anti-war message.
Al Insan 76:9
‘Do not expect a return for your good behaviour, not even thanks.’
‘I don’t know why I bother, for all the thanks I get!’ How often have we uttered or heard this, or at least words along those lines. Yet a lack of obvious gratitude or appreciation should not be an excuse to abandon good behaviour. Of course it’s nice and appropriate and respectful to get a ‘thank you’ but consider it a bonus not a right. You do good, because you ARE good, not for the applause.
Ar Rahman 55:60
‘The reward for goodness is nothing but goodness.’
One way to look at this is that if you do good, good things will happen to you – and we should always hope for this. But life doesn’t always work like that. In fact sometimes life seems determinedly unfair and it’s tempting to believe that there is no reward for being good at all, but lying and cheating on the other hand appears to have obvious benefits – in the short term.
On the other hand I think this refers not to physical rewards, but to a strength of character, a clear conscience and a blessed soul. I feel this confirms that goodness is two-way, the more you give out, the more your heart fills with it. The rest is just icing.
As mentioned the thoughts on each quote are my own, and please know that I’m not a scholar or even a learned student of the Quran. I am merely trying to put into words how these quotes make me feel and what I draw from them personally. I ask forgiveness if I have said anything in error or offended anyone.