Thought for the Day
Monday 10th August 2015
Dr. Amanullah De Sondy
Senior Lecturer in Contemporary Islam
University College Cork
The recent discovery of what is said to be the world’s oldest Qur’an at Birmingham University has us asking about how we deal with things that are old. I’ve been following the different ways this new find has been welcomed. The views vary. From those who question whether it is that old by looking at the material, the way it is written, and even the ink that is used. To the many Muslims around the world who present this as a way of showing the authenticity and ‘proof’ of Islam.
I can’t help but think that we might actually be missing the bigger point as we think about texts, religious or otherwise, and what really matters about them. Is it about how they came to be or if they are authentic or not - or is it more about what they say - how the text impacts on the lives of people who read it and live by it. Texts live through the lives of individuals. Like Harry Potter, a great story that touched the mind and soul of many kids, and adults, in various ways because it had themes of good, evil, morals and ethics. These key concepts of creating a good life and society are probably what every author wants their readers to think about. But even the Qur’an, as we know it, is out of the hands of God and in the hands of every day Muslims. From its earliest time to the current day, it has been interpreted in various ways.
And so we find that old and new texts can do harm too, especially religious texts that are used to promote only one type of understanding. As a Muslim, I see first hand how the Qur’an is understood in a variety of ways, from whirling dervishes to terrorists. Life is given to the text beyond how old or even how authentic it is. For me, thinking more closely at the various ways to live a text out in a beautiful way is what it is all about.