Alija Izetbegović (1925-2003)
Translator's note: In this wonderful reflection, the former president of Bosnia and Herzegovina shares his views on how to read the Qur'an. He was not a graduate of an Islamic seminary or a madrasah. Instead, he offers his views on the Qur'an as a well-educated lay intellectual. It shows that, sometimes, having no technical knowledge of Arabic and the Qur'anic disciplines is not a barrier to understanding the Qur'an. One could argue that it liberates a person from the conventions set by the disciplinary boundaries and traditional approaches. Such reading carries certain risks, but it also allows a deeper personal journey into the depth of the Qur'anic meanings. ES
During my life, I have read the Qur’an many times, but I have never really asked myself: how should the Qur’an be read? Your question made me think about it, and here I will present some of my thoughts as they come to me.
Alija Izetbegović (1925-2003)
October 1971, The Preporod (Renaissance) newspapers, Sarajevo
Translator's note: This short essay, written by the first President of the independent Bosnia and Herzegovina and a well-known Muslim thinker, is as relevant today as it was when it was first published. Even though it bears the imprint of its time, at the beginning of the 20th-century Islamic revival in Bosnia, it talks about the many persisting problems in Islamic education. Under the communist rule in Yugoslavia, as under the oppressive regimes in most Muslim-majority countries today, religious education - when it was allowed - was meant to inculcate obedience to the authorities. It created generations of Muslims that are docile, subservient, and incapable of changing the miserable conditions under which many of them live today. This essay is a wake-up call to Muslim parents, teachers, and all those who wish to see Muslims liberating themselves from the yoke of oppression. ES
I imagine this article as a small conversation with our parents and religious teachers. Not too long ago, I found a close friend of mine, who is a good and excitable Muslim, was writing an article about the education of the Muslim youth. I read the unfinished article but its main ideas were already expressed. Having insisted on education in the spirit of the faith, my friend called unto parents to inculcate in their children the characteristics of goodness, good behavior, humbleness, humility, benevolence, forgiveness, acceptance of fate, patience, etc. He especially warned the parents to protect the kids from the street, from Western and thriller movies, useless print press, sports that stimulate aggressiveness and competition, and so on. The most often used word in my friend’s article, however, was the word obedience. At home, a child should be obedient to the parents, in religious school (maktab) to the Imam, in school to the teacher, in the street to the policeman, and in the future to his boss, director, or the superior.