Islam and Muslims

A Muslim once gave a non-Muslim a copy of the Quran to read. With great enthusiasm and deference, the non-Muslim took the Quran, and read it from beginning to end. When the two next met, the non-Muslim returned the copy of the Quran with these words: “Now give me the other Quran to read.” The Muslim thought that his friend wanted a different translation of the Quran, so he found one and handed it to him. The non-Muslim examined it for a few minutes, then said: “But this is the same Quran. What I meant was—give me the Quran that you people practice in your daily lives.”

Though this may seem like just an amusing tale, the fact of the matter is that the non-Muslim had hit the nail right on the head. The Muslims do have two Qurans, one which was revealed by God fourteen hundred years ago, and another which they themselves have written. The first is the real Quran. The second is not known as “The Quran” as such. It goes by the name of “Quranic commentary” and “Quranic interpretation”. The commentary and interpretation of the Quran that the Muslims have made amounts to a parallel text. It is this second “Quran” which provides the foundation for their practices in the modern age.

The Quran teaches that Islam means submission, but the Muslims have—in their own commentaries—turned their religion into a source of pride. The Quran tells us that salvation depends upon a person’s actions, but, from the interpretations Muslims have made of the Quran, one would think that it is enough to be a purely nominal Muslim in order to earn salvation. The Islam contained in the Quran teaches one to become conscious of one’s own faults, and seek to correct them; but from what Muslims have made of the Quran one would think that Islam teaches one to pick on the faults of others, and ignore one’s own. The Islam of the Quran is a universal religion, which belongs to everyone: but the Islam which Muslims have fashioned for themselves is that of a nationalistic heritage which belongs to them and to no one else.