When Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, took the oath of office in early 2007, he borrowed Thomas Jefferson's copy of the Quran from the Library of Congress. Jefferson, a man of vision, learned from many sources. The Quran was one of them.
I would like to share, in brief, the importance of the Quran in Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, which began at sundown Monday.
Fasting was a gift given to all prophets and messengers to build piety and purification, and to reinvigorate the better person within us. This is a month to make an extra effort to be God-conscious, love all creation, be sincere in motives, show goodness without expectations, fulfill obligations, and to be humble with dignity, resolute in avoidance of sin, responsible for our words and deeds, moderate and demonstrate no excesses, just, lawful, most generous and charitable and to be truthful with God, oneself and others.
The Quran was first revealed in the month of Ramadan. God guides Muslims in the Quran to recite it frequently. In addition to individual recitations, during Ramadan, the Quran is recited in congregation in all mosques in nightly prayers. Thus, the entire Quran is recited and completed by the last week of Ramadan.
The themes of the Quran cover topics providing guidance and lessons for life here in this world and the world after we die.
The subjects of the Quran include, but are not limited to, the religious doctrine, the unity of God, how to live according to his will, and creation, including the environment, criminal and civil law, laws of inheritance and marriage, human interrelationship and responsibilities, Judaism, Christianity, polytheism, social values, morality, science, history, stories and lessons from past prophets.
The stories in the Quran are there to teach us life lessons.
The Quran provides examples of prophets such as Adam, Noah, Abraham, Lot, Isaac, Ishmael, Jacob and his sons, including Joseph, David, Solomon, John the Baptist, Jesus and many others.
The Quran, in stories of the prophets, elaborates their sacrifices in spreading the message of God. It gives examples of and reveals the fate of nations that rejected their prophets, and examples of those who lived a life pleasing to God Almighty.
There is one common message of worship of one true God, the God of Abraham, Moses, Jesus and all the prophets and messengers. Obedience to God and his prophets, Muhammad being one of them, is a must. The Quran uses events from both past and present to illustrate its central message - unity of God and of the prophetic message.
I hope that the sharing of the above description will help in understanding your neighbors. Remaining strangers creates misunderstandings.
Riaz Hasan is a former director of outreach for the Tracy Islamic Center. He is now active in Islamic outreach in San Joaquin County and the greater Bay Area. For more information, send an e-mail to Islam.Outreach@yahoo.com.