THE PROJECT that I have been working on for quite some time is basically simple in nature. It is essentially an effort to classify the verses of the Qur`an in a topical manner following more or less the usual classification of scientific themes we know of today. By comprehending the general picture of the contents of the entire Al Qur`an, I finally came out with ten topical classifications. Some are in the realm of physical sciences, some in social and cultural sciences, and some in humanities. The ten classifications by which each form a separate volume are on collections of verses that are related to (1) Physics and Geography, (2) Biology and Medicine, (3) Botany and Zoology, (4) Eco-nomics, (5) Law, (6) History, (7) Social Ethics, (8) Theology, (9) Eschatology, and finally (10) a collection of the verses of Du’ā` (Prayers). As a note one of course is free to add up or ramify further if one wishes depending on how one perceives the need to it.
Thus far I have completed and published five volumes, and five more volumes to go. All, however, are in Indonesian version, in that, the translation of the Arabic text as well as the introduction, the glossaries and the index, are all in Indonesian. The Arabic text of the Qur`an is laid side by side with the Indonesian translation following the usual arrange-ment of chapters or surahs from the beginning to the end. The English version is still a plan in mind, though inquiries to do the work and the library research have been taken while my stay here at the University of Michigan.
The already completed and published volumes are on Physics and Geography, on Biology and Medicine, on Botany and Zoology, and then on Economics and on Law. Of the other five that I still have to complete and work on, I have completed and ready for publication volume on the collection of Prayer verses. I have also collected all the verses that are related to history (qishshah), minus glossaries and indexing that I still have to add up to. The one that I am working on now is the volume on Eschatology, i.e. the Qur`anic pictures of the hereafter and the day of judgment as well as the heaven and the hell. I am already in the final stage of completing the Index of the volume.
I wish I could stay here a bit longer with you so that I could complete the whole script. Nonetheless, I have been involved also in politics in my country. I have to rush home by the end of this month to do the campaigning for the seat in the newly promulgated House of Regional Representatives (DPD: Dewan Perwakilan Daerah), similar to the Senate here. In fact, for the last four or five years, I have been, and now still, member of the upper house of the Indonesian parliament, called MPR (Majelis Permusya-waratan Rakyat; Council of Peoples Consultative), representing the region of West Sumatra. As an ordinary member now my only obligation is to attend the annual meeting of the General Assembly, normally in August or September each year. In between, I am free to go anywhere I want and do anything I want. And that’s why I can be here now with you. I used to sit in the Working Committee for more than two years by which I had to attend the WC sessions regularly almost every working days.
The remaining two volumes, namely on Ethics and on Theology, are still intact in the Qur`an, meaning that I still have to start afresh when the other volumes that I have been working on are already completed. It is also my desire to do two big steps further: one, a rendition of the Compendium volumes into English version, so that the work can be widely made use of, and two, to put them available in CDs and in the internet website as well.
Now the questions are, why did I take such a cumbersome, tedious and time consuming effort? How did, or do, I do it? And what were the objectives of such work?
The story actually goes back to the period when I was still a student at the Institute of Islamic Studies, McGill University, Montreal, Canada, in the late fifties – almost half a century ago — working for my masters in Islamic Studies. One of the courses that I took was on the Library Research, and the instructor who was also head of the Institute Library taught us how to do the library research. We were instructed not only how to make use of the library, the catalogues, the reference books, but also how to find words and verses in the Qur`an by using books of Qur`anic concordances, dictionaries, indexes, etc, available in the Institute library at that time. (Of course in those days no computers were already in existent).
One of the most widely used books of Qur`anic indexes is called Fatĥur Raĥmān, with which one can search and look for verse or verses through the word entry (kalimah) one knows. However such book is a Book of Index of Qur`anic “words,” and not of contents and topics. The one which is quite near to what I am now doing is Le Koran Analyse by a French orientalist: Jules la Beaume, and translated into Arabic by Muĥammad Fuād ‘Abdul Bāqī (Tafshīl Āyāt al Qur`ān al Ĥakīm, Beyrut, Dārul Kitāb al ‘Arabī, n.d.). The same ‘Abdul Bāqī also composed Al Mu’jam al Mufahras li alfāzhil Qur`ān (Compendium of Qur`anic Verses; Beirut, Darul Fikri, 1987). The systematics of the above works follow more less like what we have now available in the internet distributed by Al Muĥaddith from London. The editors, according to the acknowledgments made, came from this University of Michigan. The words in the above works are arranged alphabetically and in topical manner. When the same words are found in different contents or topics, they are then subclassified accordingly. Unlike the one that I have been doing, the topics are not classified according to the scientific disciplines we know of today but simply follow the alphabetical order.
I asked myself while I was at McGill where and what are the references if one wants to know about the contents or substances of the Qur`an in an equally comprehensive manner and yet divide or classify the verses according to the divisions of sciences as we are familiar with nowadays. Let’s say what are the verses that have to do with, or related to, economics, law, history, geography, physics, botany, zoology, biology, medicine, and for that matter to theology, ethics, eschatology, etc.
Ever since, I have been imbued with the same question every time and every where I went. I always asked and inquired whether such works exist and in what form. I happened to have indulged in extensive journeys to many parts of the world, in the East and in the West (including Mecca, Medina, Ankara, Istanbul, Leeds, London, the whole Europe, the USA, and Southeast Asia), and at home in Indonesia. In all universities and libraries I have been to, I always asked the same question, again and again. Even here at the University of Michigan, I did the same thing. And the answer has always been: no. No one has ever done like what I have done with my works thus far. If partially yes, such as Al Aĥkāmul Qurān on Qur`anic law. But it is with interpretations, not just a compilation of verses of Qur`anic law. And then the ones by Jules la Beaume and by ‘Abdul Baqi as cited above.
As a Compendium it is merely a reference for the topics. All the verses that have to do and are related to such topics are collected and arranged according to the normal arrangements of the Surahs in the Qur`an. To facilitate the reader with quick resumé of the said verse or related verses, glossaries of the verses are given. And from there, the derived pertinent words are compiled as Index separately. The index I am organizing is more like a concordance rather than merely a list of words in alphabetical order and then the page numbers. Through such Index or Concordance one can gather the context of the verse (āyah) or compound of related verses. The same word may appear in different verses and chapters and in different contexts. One can therefore run through the Index to look for the context through the word or words one has in mind.
Since it is only a Compendium, no interpretations or commentaries whatsoever are given. I said to myself, let others do the work. Let the users utilize such topical compendium for their varied purposes. The Compendium is essentially useful for those indulging in the respective fields of sciences, and of course for the general readers, wanting to know what the Qur`an as book of Allah says about such and such.
And now why did I feel and attracted to do the work?
The Qur`an as everyone knows is a revealed book of Allah as believed by the Muslims. It is the last of the series of the revealed words of Allah sent down to the Prophets: The Taurah to Musa (Mozes), the Zabur to Dawud (David), the Injil to ‘Isa (Jesus) and the Qur`an to Muhammad, peace be upon them. The Qur`an as also the previous holy books is in no way a book of sciences which explains in the scientific manner the geneses, the causes, the effects and the phenomena of organic and unorganic beings, as well as social and cultural behaviors of human beings. As the Qur`an itself says, it is a Guide Book for those who believe in Him and are obedient to Him (Al Baqarah 2:2). And yet many a verse of scientific nature explain or prophesize the natural phenomena which could not be comprehended in those days during the time of the revelations; and not until way to the modern sciences appeared and developed in the West by non-muslim scientists since the last two centuries.
Let’s take an example. The popular belief has been that the metal iron [Fe] is a physical matter that is buried in the womb of the earth, but the Qur`an says it is descended by God from above the earth. “Wa anzalnal ĥadīda fīhi ba`sun syadīdun wa manāfi’u linnāsi,” meaning: “And We sent down Iron, wherein is mighty power, as well as many benefits for mankind” (Al Ĥadīd, 57:25) In fact the whole chapter wherein the verse is located is called “Al Ĥadīd,” meaning Iron.
To elucidate, let me cite a bit of the work by a shaykh of the Naqshbandi Sufi in America, Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani, who was also a scholar in chemistry and medical studies as well as Islamic law, in his book: The Approach of Armageddon? (Islamic Supreme Council of America, first edition, June, 2003). Kabbani says, “Islamic scholars in the past, and even recently, explained ‘anzalnā’ (We caused to descend, revealed) as khalaqnā (We created), as in the cited verse. They knew iron was mined out of the depths of the earth, and could not conceive that iron descended or was brought down from above the earth.
“Scientists have uncovered the iron is found not only on earth but in the sun, in many types of stars, and throughout the universe. Moreover the Muslim scholars learned that it is not possible for even a single atom of iron to be created on earth or even with the extremes of energy inside the earth. To produce one atom of iron (ĥadīd) requires energy greater than that of the sun. According to the theory of nucleosynthesis, the only place in the universe that is sufficiently hot to produce iron is in a supermassive star which then explodes, spreading the iron through the universe. This confirms that iron was not created here on earth, but, as Allah says, descended, or was sent down to the earth from above.” And for such elucidation he in turn cites the work of Donald Clayton, The Origin of Elements and Life of a Star, Clayton Univ, 1999, and others.
The Qur`an also mentions about the string network of matter in the universe, the Big Bang, oceans meet but do not mix, rows and rows of rifts or apertures along the ocean beds from which came out the burning fire mixed and befriended with sea water, the earth being round encircling the sun, probability in the Qur`an, and so on and so forth, to which all of such natural misteries or prophesies you could gaze, but I could not due to my utter ignorance in such fields. And the Qur`an even challenges the readers to find the faults and mistakes in the verses or to write such book with their own hands. The thing that usually matters is that every time new discovery is unearthed in the field of sciences such finding does not disprove but contrarily prove the propehesies and the truth of the words of God in the Qur`an. In fact: the Qur`an reveals, the sciences verify.
Since I am disqualifying myself to talk further about the matter, or the contents of the Qur`an as a whole, let’s return to my main major work of classifying the verses of the Qur`an topically.
The verses of the Qur`an are not arranged as to what we see with the ordinary books of today. The Qur`anic verses (āyāt) are grouped into chapters (Sūrah), and there are 114 surahs altogether, long and short. Though the Qur`an was sent down bit by bit and gradually for the period of 23 years during the Meccan and the Medinite periods, the surahs are not arranged chronologically nor are they arranged topically. The surahs are, rather, arranged according to the length of the collective verses, with the scheme that the longer the earlier and the shorter the latter. The longer ones are normally of the Medinite period whereas the shorter ones are of the Meccan.
Since the two periods differ in tones of the messages – the Meccan period is combustible with the creeds for the oneness of God, and thus the verses are short, full of vibrant vitality, and yet highly poetical, whereas the Medinite, the roads are open for filling the needs for a new civil life in a new world of Islam. The verses are then longer, rich in tones and nuances and intercepted with stories or qishshah of the previous peoples and prophets right from Adam and Eve and down to Muĥammad. Consequently one cannot detect right away where are the verses that are connected to a certain topic or issue. You simply have to find them and bind them together.
The contribution I made with my work – if there is — is in the help to provide the readers of the Qur`an with the groupings of the verses according to the classifications of the scientific traditions we acknowledge today. It so happens, to the best of my knowledge, my work is the first of such nature; it is comprehensive and exhaustive in manner in the form of a Compendium.
As such, it is open for critiques, assessments and corrections. It serves the readers to find the verses of the Qur`an related to the subjects in hand. My work necessarily stops there and I leave them to you and the readers to go further and to surf in the Qur`anic ocean. ***



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