A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

the cure of hearts.

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on November 1, 2006

I get the same question from scholars, practicing Muslims, and Islamophobes alike: have you read the Quran?

well, no – not in its entirety. I’ve read the marquee suras, pored over various 100 hadith qudsi collections (serious ones – not just the ‘Muhammad and onions’ type), translated (poorly) a few asbab al-nuzul, and dipped into the sira. but I’ve never picked up the Quran and read it ‘cover to cover’ – nor am I convinced that I would get as much this way as from a more focused reading project. However, I did agree that more, and better, reading was in order.

I do well with emailed readings, so I searched online for some type of ‘sura a day’ or ‘Quran in context’ email program. (Meanwhile I decided to broaden my interest in deepening my knowledge of the faith to include the ahl al-kitab, and found a bible verse and scripture email service as well. My gmail account now brims with as many religious emails as news alerts.) I found one I liked on google: http://groups.google.com/group/understandquran. Like many da`wa and faith deepening outreach initiatives in the Muslim world, this one is undertaken by Muslims from the sub-continent.

For me, the downside of this short course in understanding the Quran was that it was a sequential program, rather than an ongoing series of faith and knowledge deepening lessons. I joined at lesson 22, I believe – five from the end. The upside was the five lessons I did receive – and especially the loving, compassionate letters written by the course’s instructor.

last week’s lesson, lesson 27, was accompanied by a letter and a turn of phrase I found particularly evocative. The letter began:

Dear Brothers/Sisters!


Muslims in general have a big confusion about guidance contained in the Qur’an. They equate it with rules and regulations, such as those of prayers, zakat, hajj, inheritance, or in general, the Islamic system of life. But rules do not constitute even 10% of the Qur’an. What then does the remaining 90% talk about? It is addressed to the mind and more importantly the heart. It is the heart that needs to be guided. “And if any one believes in Allah, (Allah) guides his heart (aright) [64:11]. Qur’an is the cure of hearts [10:57].

One of the scholarly truisms sometimes martialed to characterize differences between Islam and Christianity is that Islam, like Judaism, is a religion that prioritizes praxis over faith. follow the rules, adhere to the bodily practices – food proscriptions, societal regulations, prayer – and you are a good Muslim or a good Jew. Christians on the other hand privilege faith – Christ made all things clean for them, but requires that they believe in his resurrection as the son of God.

This letter suggests that the distinction drawn above is not merely un-nuanced – it is wrong. Instead, it insists, the Qur’an and the religion deriving from it are there to succor humankind – a much more human view than that of a checklist of praxis requirements.

I love the phrase ‘the cure for hearts’. the author of this letter must love it too, as it is a paraphrase rather than a direct quote. The sura itself is less direct, as the Arabic and the lovely Yusuf Ali translation (the standard source for English language scholarship) below indicate:

57. Ya ayyuha alnnasu qad jaatkum mawAAithatun min rabbikum washifaon lima fee alssudoori wahudan warahmatun lilmu/mineena

57. O mankind! there hath come to you a direction from your Lord and a healing for the (diseases) in your hearts,- and for those who believe, a guidance and a Mercy.


in Arabic, “heart” is qalb – plural, quloub. 9Sudour, the word used here, means “breasts”, with the same double meaning – the breasts of men and women’s breasts – as in English. I like this idea, that in Islam it is the Qur’an that has charms to soothe the savage breast, by curing the diseases of pride and greed and ignorance that lurk in all of us.

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