The novel touches on almost all aspects of human life, but what is of special interest to me in this regard is that it views life from the central point – at least as history has shown us: that the entire panorama of life is taking place in a kaleidoscope colored by the horrors of war. His graphic description and lively metaphors have made the novel not only readable but also a thing of beauty. Often the imageries seem to be of a spiritual nature and reflect the inner reality of life. I would boldly go so far as to comment that many of the imageries can be considered modern symbols of the ongoing stream of life. His philanthropic attitude to life and the diversity of cults has given him a vision as well as a viewpoint that has made his work unique. Rather than attempting to create an instance of cheap entertainment, he has pointed to the central problem of humankind. However, he has not felt satisfied in doing so; he has shown alternative ways of harmonizing the diverse movements of the human psyche toward the achievement of the common goal – to discover life together by coexisting with all the differences. The main focus of the present article will be on how he has treated the Islamic concepts of Jihad and how he has discovered the causes of anomaly in some people’s believing in the Qur’an, which, although it is a true revelation, seems to have been creating problems rather than solving them.
Cook makes a number of remarkable observations on the role of the Qur’an in influencing believers to waging unfair wars or in misinterpreting it. Through the mouths of different characters he has created an environment through which he has attempted to get some important messages through to the readers. They are listed below.
Ä The Muslims, the Christians, and the Jews are the People of the Book, which is why they should be able to be respectful to one another and thus have a peaceful coexistence. Not surprisingly, the Qur’an also says the same thing. Here are some verses as proof.
Say: O People of the Scripture! Come to an agreement between us and you: that we shall worship none but Allah, and that we shall ascribe no partner to Him, and that none of us shall take others for lords beside Allah. (The Qur’an 3:64)
Say: I am no new thing among the messengers (of Allah), nor know I what will be done with me or with you. I do but follow that which is inspired in me, and I am but a plain warner. (The Qur’an 46: 9)
And the Jews say the Christians follow nothing (true), and the Christians say the Jews follow nothing (true); yet both are readers of the Scripture. Even thus speak those who know not. Allah will judge between them on the Day of Resurrection concerning that wherein they differ. (The Qur’an 2:113 )
And who forsakes the religion of Abraham except Him who befools himself? Certainly We chose him in the world, and Look! in the Hereafter he is among the righteous. When his Lord said to him: Surrender! he said: I have surrendered to the Lord of the Worlds. The same did Abraham enjoin upon his sons, and also Jacob, (saying): O my sons! Look! Allah has chosen for you the (true) religion; therefore die not save as men who have surrendered (unto Him). Or were you present when death came to Jacob, when he said to his sons: What will you worship after me? They said: We shall worship your god, the god of your fathers, Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac, One Allah, and to Him we have surrendered. Those are a people who have passed away. Theirs is that which they earned, and yours is that which you earn. And you will not be asked of what they used to do. And they say: Be Jews or Christians, then you will be rightly guided. Say (unto them, O Muhammad): Nay, but (we follow) the religion of Abraham, the upright, and he was not of the idolaters. Say (O Muslims): We believe in Allah and that which is revealed to us and that which was revealed to Abraham, and Ishmael, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the tribes, and that which Moses and Jesus received, and that which the prophets received from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and to Him we have surrendered. (The Qur’an 2:130-136 )
Look! Those who believe (in that which is revealed to you, Muhammad), and those who are Jews, and Christians, and Sabaeans - whoever believe in Allah and the Last Day and do right - surely their reward is with their Lord, and there shall no fear come upon them neither shall they grieve. (The Qur’an 2:62)
Ä The author says that the Qur’an is a perfect Book, so it need not be blamed for any inconvenience or misunderstanding it may give rise to. Not surprisingly, the Qur’an itself says so. It says that there are people who CLAIM TOBE BELIEVERS but actually they create chaos in the name of religions. The do not want to be normal believers, but they want to be something special in the arena of religion.
And of mankind are some who say: We believe in Allah and the Last Day, when they believe not. They think to beguile Allah and those who believe, and they beguile none save themselves; but they perceive not. In their hearts is a disease, and Allah increases their disease. A painful doom is theirs because they lie. And when it is said to them: Make not mischief in the earth, they say: We are peacemakers only. Are not they indeed the mischief-makers? But they perceive not. And when it is said to them: believe as the people believe, they say: shall we believe as the foolish believe? are not they indeed the foolish? But they know not. And when they fall in with those who believe, they say: We believe; but when they go apart to their devils they declare: Look! we are with you; Certainly we did but mock. Allah (Himself) doth mock them, leaving them to wander blindly on in their contumacy. These are they who purchase error at the price of guidance, so their commerce doth not prosper, neither are they guided. Their likeness is as the likeness of one who kindles fire, and when it sheds its light around him Allah takes away their light and leaves them in darkness, where they cannot see, Deaf, dumb and blind; and they return not. Or like a rainstorm from the sky, wherein is darkness, thunder and the flash of lightning. They thrust their fingers in their ears by reason of the thunder-claps, for fear of death, Allah encompasses the disbelievers (in His guidance, His omniscience and His omnipotence). The lightning almost snatches away their sight from them. As often as it flashes forth for them they walk therein, and when it darkens against them they stand still. If Allah willed, He could destroy their hearing and their sight. Look! Allah is able to do all things. (The Qur’an 2:8-20)
The Qur’an enjoins the responsibility of forgiving those who may have done wrong to some extent knowingly or unknowingly, but the so-called leaders do not want to take so great a burden on themselves when they see that they can easily make a business simply by raising unwanted chaos.
Keep to forgiveness (O Muhammad), and enjoin kindness, and turn away from the ignorant. And if a slander from the devil wound you, then seek refuge in Allah. Look! He is Hearer, Knower. (The Qur’an 7:199-200)
Those leaders who divide the community into sects are far away from the truth, because that is a strategy of the non-believing tyrants:
And lo! this your religion is one religion and I am your Lord, so keep your duty to Me. But they (mankind) have broken their religion among them into sects, each group rejoicing in its tenets. (The Qur’an 23:52 - 53)
Lo! Pharaoh exalted himself in the earth and divided its people into castes. A tribe among them he oppressed, killing their sons and sparing their women. Lo! he was of those who work corruption. (The Qur’an 28: 4)
The Qur’an says that the source of power is good deeds and good conduct:
Whoso desires for power (should know that) all power belongs to Allah. to Him good words ascend, and the pious deed doth He exalt; but those who plot iniquities, theirs will be an awful doom; and the plotting of such (folk) will come to naught. (The Qur’an 35:10)
Ä The author mentions the Islamic Bedouins in Part IV. Personally I believe that it would be better if he called them Arab Bedouins instead of Islamic Bedouins. The Qur’an has referred to them as being wicked people who cannot win over their own minds and thus they lack morality and loyalty. So if such people cause problems somewhere then that should not be attributed to any Muslims. Those Bedouins fight for their own gains and not for an ethics.
The wandering Arabs are harder in disbelief and hypocrisy, and more likely to be ignorant of the limits which Allah has revealed to His messenger. And Allah is Knower, Wise. (The Qur’an 9:97)
Those of the wandering Arabs ... speak with their tongues that which is not in their hearts. (The Qur’an 48:11)
The wandering Arabs say: We believe. Say (unto them, O Muhammad): you believe not, but rather say "We submit," for the faith hath not yet entered into your hearts. Yet, if you obey Allah and His messenger, He will not withhold from you aught of (the reward of) your deeds. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. (The Qur’an 49:14)
- The author raises the timely question: Why do the Muslims not protest against those so-called leaders who are doing business with people’s faith? The Qur’an says that this is an area where Islam will become weak until the right leader emerges before the end of time. The Qur’an instructs the Muslims to invite others to do good deeds and AT THE SAME TIME to forbid them from doing wrong things. But Most Muslims are only doing a part of the job, which is why what they are doing is not producing any good results.
And hold fast, all of you together, to the cable of Allah, and do not separate. And remember Allah's favour to you: How you were enemies and He made friendship between your hearts so that you became as brothers by His grace; and (how) you were upon the brink of an abyss of fire, and He did save you from it. Thus Allah makes clear His revelations to you, that haply you may be guided, And there may spring from you a nation who invite to goodness, and enjoin right conduct and forbid indecency. Such are they who are successful. (The Qur’an 3:103 - 104)
You are the best community that has been raised up for mankind. You enjoin right conduct and forbid indecency; and you believe in Allah. And if the People of the Scripture had believed it had been better for them. Some of them are believers; but most of them are evil-livers. (The Qur’an 3:110)
Until the Muslims are prepared to take both the responsibilities on their shoulders, they cannot be true Muslims:
They believe in Allah and the Last Day, and enjoin right conduct and forbid indecency, and vie one with another in good works. These are of the righteous. (The Qur’an 3:114)
For relevant reasons, world peace is now dependent a lot on how the Muslims treat Islamic commandments, how they treat the followers of other religions, and how others – the so-called super-powers – treat the belief system of Islam. The novel Harmony of Nations places this issue in the right context with the right intensity of importance.
S. M. Zakir Hussain (Bangladesh)