Last night I stayed up and read Quran, trying, trying to reach my goal of finishing the English translation in the month of Ramadan. I have part of today and tomorrow left to read 12 out of 30 sections.
I’m not sure if I’ll make it, but somehow it doesn’t seem to matter, because last night I had a moment, such a moment of connection that I haven’t had for a long time.
Usually when something like this happens I want to lock it away, like a treasure, safe from prying eyes.
Even now, writing this, I feel like, “What the heck am I doing telling everyone about this?”
But part of me answers, “Maybe you’re just encouraging others, who might be distracted, to reach deeper. That’s why you’re doing this.”
And so here goes.
I think I mentioned that I’ve been reading a different translation of the Quran. I’ve ever been reading the Yusuf Ali translation but this year I decided to change it up and I’m reading the Noble Quran translation.
The language is often clunky.
In trying to be super authentic to the original, the translaters include all kinds of superfluous details and yet of course the basic stories are there.
So I was coming across the story of Moses (peace be upon him) when he was in the wilderness and he saw a burning bush in the distance. Familiar story, but it was written differently in this translation, and I came across the verse where he has come upon the hallowed ground and God asks him, what’s that you have in your hand?
And I came up short!
It was just so odd.
Had never encountered it before like that.
It’s funny but I think I’ve always been at heart, a skeptic. I meet people with an open mind, I deal with them on the assumption that they’re good people, and yet there’s always a watcher at the back of my mind, picking up on inconsistencies, lies and omissions that raise red flags and while I don’t immediate reassess my opinion of these people, I wait and watch and see if I should pull back. And as a result of this cautious investigatory approach to basically everyone in my life, there’s always a little piece of me that’s on guard. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
My approach to religion has been one fraught with hypotheses. I’ve seen way too many people delude themselves and it’s something I’ve always been on guard about, and I figure that hey, if God did compose the Quran (and I believe He did) and He’s also responsible for the scientific world around us, then there absolutely cannot be any sort of scientific errors in it. The Quran has to conform to scientific logic, plain and simple.
And all my life I’ve been testing it.
And all my life it has passed.
And yet I came up short with this line.
Why would an all knowing God ask Moses (peace be upon him) what he had there in his hand?
He should have already known!
And then, the most sublime moment occurred.
A dawning of sorts!
The verses go like this:
And when he came to it (the fire), he was called by name: “O Moses!
“Verily, I am your Lord! So take off your shoes, you are in the sacred valley, Tuwa.
“And I have chosen you. So listen to that which will be revealed (to you).
“Verily, I am God (Allah) La ilaha illa Ana (none has the right to be worshipped but I), so worship Me, and perform As-Salat for My remembrance.
“Verily the Hour is coming and I am almost hiding it that every person may be rewarded for that which he strives.
“Therefore, let not the one who believes no therein (i.e. in the Day of Resurrection, Reckonning, Paradise and Hell) but follows his own lusts divert you therefrom, lest you perish.
“And what is that in your right hand, O Moses?”
He said: “This is my stick, whereon I lean, and wherewith I beat down branches for my sheep, and wherein I find other uses.”
Allah said: “Cast it down, O Moses!”
He cast it down, and behold! It was a snake, moving quickly.
Allah said: “Grasp it and fear not; We shall return it to its former state…”
So as soon as I read that verse: And what is that in your right hand, O Moses?, I thought wait a minute! But almost immediately, without words the answer came, that God had to establish what the staff in Moses’ hand was in Moses’ perspective. It had to be expressed. Moses saw it as a stick, and he had to acknowledge it was a stick so that then God could reveal the transformation.
Oh dear. Even writing this just doesn’t convey the sense of illumination I felt.
Like a bit of consternation and doubt followed by the most glorious moment of “Aha! Of course! How silly of me!”
And maybe it would be obvious to anyone else, but it wasn’t to me.
But even then that’s not the real essence of the experience.
Here I was, huddled over the Quran, a bit of a crick in my neck from reading it for so many hours, absorbing the incredible ideas it contains, tired, and a bit drowsy, the whole house quiet, husband and son sleeping upstairs in the room, just me alone in the night, awake and reaching out, reaching out to my Lord and Creator in the waning hours of this blessed month, and right then there was this wordless feeling that He was there, present with me.
And it made my heart swell with emotion.
It’s not the first time I felt it, and I certainly hope it won’t be my last.
And so I read on, and on, trying to fulfill my quota, and yet also realizing that it wouldn’t be a tragedy if this year I don’t finish it because I’ve already gotten more out of this Ramadan than I’d expected, in that one little wakeful moment.
And later on I came across the ayat/verse where God says that when He loves someone He proclaims it to those in His presence, “I love so and so, so you love so and so.” And the cry goes out, and everyone loves that person for the sake of God.
And as I came across this very ayat that I’ve read dozens of times before, I felt a great deal of hope that this ayat might well be talking about me.
Because yes, I do feel loved.