As soon as the crescent of the new moon, announcing the ninth month, can be seen, the month Ramadan starts; the time of fasting for Muslims. These weeks, a small table has appeared in the newspaper, with sun positions for the mayor cities in Kenya. According to tradition, in this month the Quran was first revealed to Muhammed, while he was meditating in a cave.
Even when this book does not have religious value for us, we can enjoy the poetry. That is one of the reasons why Kader Abdolah wrote his onorthodox translation of the Quran in Dutch. So in this blog no world problems or daily routines; a taste of the Ramadan.
An interview in Trouw newspaper (2008) with Kader Abdolah:
Is Allah ‘lief’ [Dutch word, translates with ‘sweet’ but stems from the word ‘love’]? Kader Abdolah shrugs somewhat timidly „Yes, that is what it says. Bismillah, ar-Rahman ar-Rahim. It is mostly translated as: In the name of Allah, the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful. But those are outdated, meaningless words. They do not express the core of the personality. The core of Allah is: He is lief. He gives. He forgives. And here it is Kader Abdolah who translates the Quran. This is my poetry. Mind you: I am not saying myself that Allah is lief. But that is what it says in the Quran.
There are 114 Suras. They all have titles like ‘The Cow’, ‘The Spider’, The ‘Wind-Curved Sandhills’, ‘The Pleading Woman’. The Quran starts with Al-Fatihah (The Opener):
In the name of Allah , the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful.
[All] praise is [due] to Allah , Lord of the worlds -
The Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful,
Sovereign of the Day of Recompense.
It is You we worship and You we ask for help.
Guide us to the straight path -
The path of those upon whom You have bestowed favor, not of those who have evoked [Your] anger or of those who are astray.
Again Kader Abdolah:
As a child I lived in the house of the mosque. The Quran was the book of the house. It was read every day. My uncle Aga Djan, now 94 years old, whom I have always considered my father, has read the Quran perhaps seven hundred times, in the morning, the afternoon, the evening, every day. He hummed the text aloud. The Quran flowed like a river through the house, the whole day long. When I was six, seven, eight years old, I could read the book myself. But I did not understand it. One of my favorite suras is about the pen. ‘By the pen, and by that which you write with it”. Allah swears by the pen. Those oath of Allah, oh they are brilliant. He swears by honey, he swears by the olive, he swears by all the good food. Wonderful.
The Sura that was revealed the first is Al-Alaq (The Cloth):
Recite in the name of your Lord who created -
Created man from a clinging substance.
Recite, and your Lord is the most Generous -
Who taught by the pen -
Taught man that which he knew not.
In our modern age we can understand revelation by using the metaphor of poetry. As one Muslim philosopher has put it: revelation is higher poetry. Poetry is a means of knowledge that works differently from science or philosophy. The poet feels that he is informed by a source external to him; that he receives something. And poetry, just like revelation, is a talent: A poet can open new horizons for people; he can make them view the world in a different way.