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VI. NATURE, CULTURE, SOCIETY AND ECONOMY: CENTRING POLITY

INTEGRAL GROUND: HOLY QUR'AN: START SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

INTRODUCTION

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE CENTRE GROUND

In this final section of our book we move toward the geographical centre ground, that is to the Middle East, the birth place of the world's three great monotheist religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. While, on the one hand, the region today remains a troubled part of the world, in such countries today as Syria, Libya and the Yemen, on the other hand this is the time of the so-called Arab Spring. Meanwhile Islam (1) which predominates in the Arab world, of all three monotheist religions, is the one that most purports to occupy the centre ground (2), that is in between not only Judaism and Christianity, but also Eastern holism and Western pragmatism, Northern rationalism and Southern humanism. At the very heart of Islam is the Muslim's holy Qur'an.

THE HOLY QUR'AN IN OUR CONTEMPORARY TIME

The Pakistani born futurist Ziauddin Sardar (3) – arguably the leading post-modern Muslim scholar of our time – wrote his seminal work (4) in 2011, Reading the Qur'an, from his particular, contemporary perspective. The significance and meaning of the verses of the Qur'an, for Sardar, have to be rediscovered by each generation in the context of its own time. It is in that light that he explores the holy Qur'an, the very grounding of the Muslim religion and worldview, in relation to individual and community, politics and society, science and technology, art and imagination, ethics and morality, and ultimately humanity and the environment.

LEARNING AND KNOWLEDGE CREATION: THE GENE-IUS OF THE QUR'AN

The Qur'an, to begin with for Sardar, teaches through the use of a diversity of material. Apart from the Prophet Mohammed and his community, it refers to stories from the lives of previous prophets, such as Musa (Moses), Ibrahim (Abraham), Nuh (Noah) and Lot as well as Isa (Jesus), familiar from the Torah and the Bible. It frequently refers to history and the rise and fall of empires. In its own version of our release of integral GENE-ius, it:

• refers to the creation of the Universe and uses examples from the natural world (our grounding),

• employs parables (our emergence), metaphors and allegories,

• to explain (part of our navigation) moral principles, and

• concerns itself with the practicalities (our effect) of how society should reform and organize itself internally as well as in its relations with other people to advance in ethical behaviour and righteousness.

Learning, for Sardar, involves a great deal of thinking: and the Qur'an constantly urges its readers to think, ponder and reflect. When the Qur'an, moreover, urges us to seek understanding, it is not simply the understanding of the world around us. It is also the understanding of our inner world of feeling and experience, love and emotion, self and the soul. When the Qur'an asks us to look at the cosmos and reflect, it is suggesting we look at the interconnectedness of things, how everything is connected to everything else. Sardar then takes us through the way of tradition, themes and topics, and contemporary issues, all in the Qur'an.

BY WAY OF TRADITION

OPENING CHAPTER OF THE QUR'AN: AL FATIHA IN OUR TIME

Sardar's personal journey is an attempt to engage directly with the Muslim's holy book. His objective is to search beyond the impasse of an idealized but unrealized understanding and discover how the Sacred Text speaks to the pressing concerns of our time and the predicaments of the world in which we live. When the principles and some of the methodologies are released from the embalming crust of tradition and applied to contemporary circumstances, they generate different ways of achieving a purpose and a meaning which are, for Sardar, enduring.

Mother of the Book: Rabb: Sustainer of the worlds

Praise be to God, the Sustainer of the Worlds.

Al-Fatiha, the opening chapter of the Qur'an, establishes the basic meaning of religion. Revelation, firstly as such, is God's self-declaration to humanity, and the God who speaks to us in the Qur'an, is the Sustainer of the Worlds. The key word used here is Rabb, which has connotations of nurturing, fostering and sustaining a thing from inception to final completion.

Rabb, as such, is "lord of the worlds", with an emphasis on plurality, that is on human diversity as an intentional and purposeful part of God's creation, a central message of the Qur'an.

Of the 99 attributes of God cited, two are the most frequently mentioned: Rahman and Rahim: Merciful to all, and Compassionate to each.

• "Rahman" has the meaning of a womb (Chinese "yin" from the tao), as well as kinship, loving kindness, mercy and nourishing tenderness.

• "Rahim" is the active connotation (taoist "yang"): it is the beneficence that has to be earned through good deeds.

 
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