November 10, 2004

From: Mohammed Rafiq Lodhia
To: My Fellow Muslims

My Fellow Muslims,

As-Salaam Alay-Kum

“We are very near to greatness: one step and we are safe: can we not take the leap?” demanded a great American scholar, Ralph Waldo Emerson. Lo and behold! “That’s one small step for a man; a giant leap for mankind,” spoken when Neil Alden Armstrong stepped on the moon at 10.56 p.m. EDT on July 20, 1969, is a testimony that the nation having pious scholars and poets preaching the goodness of Almighty Allah made the United States of America achieve its greatness. Mind you, it was due to Holy Literature and not Holy Terror that made it possible.

Indeed, we the respective and honorable members of the Islamic Ummah, without doubt, can take a giant leap to restore the image of Islam provided we ponder over the commentary of an eminent Islamic scholar, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, in his – Magnum Opus“Tarjuman al-Quran. A small percentage of our fellow Muslims appreciates the serious thought and research that went into one of his brilliant literary masterpieces which commands us to develop our minds to cherish and cultivate the true spirit of universal humanism. Does any Muslim care to take one step away from the hustle and bustle of their daily lives to read Maulana Saheb’s translation of “Surah Al-Fatiha?” Does any Muslim dare to take one step forward to question as to why our Islamic institutions are out of touch with the letter and spirit of the Holy Quran?

A-A4Maulana Azad was a distinguished journalist, a brilliant writer and a secular theologian. Writing the preface to the first edition of “Tarjuman al-Quran,on December 16, 1930, while confined to the District Jail in Meerut, India, Maulana Saheb opined, “The first generation of people among whom the Quran was delivered were not a sophisticated race ….. No one at the time felt it difficult to catch its meaning. The moment the companions of the Prophet heard a verse recited to them, they forthwith caught its significance.” Oh well, fourteen hundred years have lapsed thus far, and we now find that both Salafis and Wahhabis have distorted the meaning of the very first chapter of our Holy Quran, “Surah Al-Fatiha. A recent article “Rewriting The Koran – A bigoted Saudi translation,” as published by The Weekly Standard on September 27, 2004, will confirm this fact. Yes, we Muslims can either try to spin the story or to play the blame game, but remember that truth will always prevail in the end.

My father, Noor Mohammed Lodhia (May Almighty Allah rest his soul in peace) taught me to hold firm to the translation of “Surah Al-Fatiha” of none other than Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. Years passed by, and on reading scholarly works of Dr. Albert Schweitzer, a Christian humanitarian and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, a Jewish theologian, I came to realize that these great scholars hailing from three Abrahimic faiths were contemporaries, and incidentally, all three of them spent their literally lives translating the meaning of “Divine Providence” in their respective languages.

I, Mohammed Rafiq Lodhia, do not profess to be a learned man, nonetheless, I developed a habit of reading. I do not confess to be strictly a practicing Muslim, however, like ordinary Muslim, I deeply respect and honor the tenets of our Islamic faith. I do not possess a scholarly head, nevertheless, the yearn to cling to the wisdom of humankind has always been ingrained in my personal life. There is an anonymous saying, “When Almighty Allah measures a person, He puts a tape around the heart not the head.” I do quite know how I will measure up at “The Judgement Day, except that, as a witness to this turbulent era, I can at least raise up my arm and confidently state that “I spoke up,” and did my moral duty by following the footsteps of the Prophet of Islam, that is, “Be persistent in good actions.

Wisdom lingers in the Islamic Ummah and we alone are collectively responsible to have allowed the humanist tradition of our peaceful religion of Islam to be taken over by the fundamentalist tradition. These so-called “fundamentalists” are the ones who have steered far away from the very basic and fundamental message of our Holy Quran by instilling their own version of either Salafism or Wahhabism into Islam. A testimony of one Stephen Suleyman Schwartz, a Sufi Muslim, and an author of the “Two Faces Of Islam: The House of Sa’ud from Tradition to Terror, on June 26, 2003 to United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary will make us all, that is, “Citizens for Peace and Tolerance,to confront the truth, and is most likely to trigger the mainstream American Muslims to take back our communities from the religious extremists residing in our midst. Enough is enough.

Merely turning away from addressing this grave issue will not reinstate the already torn image of Islam. My earnest appeal to all of my brothers and sisters is to catch up with the missionary zeal of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad as aptly described in his renowned Al-Hilal, an Urdu weekly religious journal launched in the year 1921 from the city of Calcutta, wherein, he wrote as follows:

My resolve is not to seek a task, but to seek first men to do it. In this world,
there never was any lack of tasks. But there has always been a dearth of
men to undertake them. The present age is an age of wars. All around us are
hosts of enemies, and there is not a single corner where armours do not ring.
So, there is no lack of fields for action. Those who possess the spirit of a
soldier and the courage of a hero must come out to face life as they find it
and face its trials. I assert once again that there is no lack of tasks. What we
really lack among us are patriots and fighters.

Islamic Patriots! Where have they been till now? As respective members of the Islamic Ummah, it is our first and foremost duty to take a hard look into “A Wahhabi Koran, printed in the city of Riyadh and distributed by the American branch of Saudi Arabia’s Al Haramain Islamic Foundation. Whether we like it or not, enemies of Islam are living in our very own neighborhoods. The need of the hour is to bravely face up to the threat they pose and take suitable action without
any further delay.

Quite frankly, one need not look any further for the meaning of the word, “Enemies,as according to the sayings of our beloved Prophet Mohammad (Peace Be Upon Him), “The greatest enemies of Allah are those who entered into Islam, and do acts of infidelity, and who without cause, shed the blood of man.” Come to think of it, haven’t we all seen enough bloodshed in the name of Allah? Henceforth, we need to quit dwelling on conspiracy theories, and in turn, take a swift leap to start the investigation process at the earliest.

An appropriate quip, “Prayer gives strength to the weak, faith to the faint-hearted and courage to the fearful,” must be taken into account during our prayers this Holy Month of Ramadhan. We Muslims will be passing through “Laylatul Qadr” during this week in which the first revelation came down to our most steemed Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) through Angel Gabriel. Most of us will be busy praying and reciting a Meccan Surah, that is, Surah Al-Qadr (The Night Of Power) as follows:

We sent it down
on the
Glorious Night !

And what
will make thee know
the Glorious Night is? !

The Glorious Night
is the benediction of
a thousand months:

Therein do Angels
and revelations
waft down
by the grace of their Lord:
In every way

‘Tis full of peace
until . . .
the rising of . . .
the . . . Dawn!

Surah: Al-Qadr or The Night of Power
Chapter: 97

My fellow Muslims, I have taken liberty to jot down the English translation of Surah Al-Qadr from “The Student’s Quran” by Hashim Amir Ali owing to one single pressing question, “What an Euclidean impossibility is expressed in the second Verse?” and raises doubt as follows:

“Oh, what can make you comprehend how blessed the night of illumination is?” “Yes, how is it possible for others, ordinary men and women, bound by their plodding, reasoning minds, involved in the little problems of their small egos, how is it possible for them to comprehend that which the illuminated consciousness of the deserving alone can experience at the zenith of their enlightenment?” The question of the day is, WHERE IS THE ILLUMINATED CONSCIOUSNESS?”


Surely, being an incorrigible optimist, I do firmly believe that enlightenment is possible if we stir our responsive minds to differentiate between right and wrong; enlightenment is possible if we set aside our egos, be it small or big; enlightenment is possible if we care to extract the wisdom from our secular Islamic scholars most of whom have already departed from this planet Earth. Responsibility for failing to illuminate consciousness in the minds of Muslims lies fairly and squarely on the shoulders of the Muslim Kings, Sultans, and the so-called Islamic philanthropists who never bothered to contribute even a small portion of their vastly accumulated wealth to enable learned people to compile “Anthologies” of the writings of our true scholars and humble poets who persistently preached nothing but secular and humane spirit of the Holy Quran. Simply put, such reading would bring forth the much needed “Enlightenment” in the Islamic Ummah.

Finally, may I humbly ask, “What better time to take a colossus leap in order to bring back the spiritual greatness of Islam?” It is only after rendering our prayers in humility during “The Night of Illumination, will make those amongst us who possess the spirit of a soldier and the courage of a hero to come out to help reform our Islamic civilization back to an age of enlightenment and spiritual glory. Insha-Allah.

May Almighty Allah guide us all to “The Straight Path. “Sirat al-Mustaqim. Ameen.

Very sincerely yours,

Mohammed Rafiq Lodhia

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