May 18, 2006

Beauty & Meaning

Several months ago, I heard that the Council of American-Islamic Relations was offering to send a copy of the Qur'an to anyone who asked. I thought to myself, "Why not?" and sent in my request via email. I got a reply that said demand was high, causing delays, but that I would receive my copy when it became available.

No big deal. I wasn't expecting much; just a cheap paperback copy, perhaps. I hadn't paid a cent, after all. If it were a Christian group sending out Bibles, I'm sure they'd make them as cheaply as possible, in order to get them into as many hands as fast as they could. As the weeks went by, I all but forgot about it.

Last week, it arrived, and let me tell you: it's no cheap paperback. In fact, its actual monetary value is probably more than any Bible I've ever owned. The binding is strong, the cover sturdy, and the paper is high-quality. Nearly every page has a color illustration featuring Arabic calligraphy, usualy in the margins, but sometimes taking up a whole page.

The reason for this, I learned, is that "the calligraphy ... is part of the message, a major art form in itself, and to copy it by hand is a form of prayer" [from the contemporary "prologue"]. Also, with my Qur'an, there was a letter, requesting that I treat it with respect, that I not leave it lying on the floor, etc. I plan to honor that request.

As a pastor, I tend to place less importance on the words of scripture, and more on the meaning behind them; how the words appear on the page is less important than how they appear in one's life.

Yet, I can't help but be drawn to the beauty of the Qur'an I have received. Its beauty, I realize, adds to its meaning. I have been inspired by God as revealed through Islam, even though I have yet to read even one page of the Qur'an. All I've done is look at it.

I doubt anyone could say that about a $1.98 Bible.

It's big, too;  note the pen for comparison.


Guido said...

you know, as i think about the bibles I hand out they are cheap bulk discount bibles from ABS. They are not leather bound bibles that i have on my desk. there is s sense that this Bible will have a short shelf life and that if a person loses it there is not much loss.

if you happen to lose that Qu'ran, there will be a sense of loss. there is more value to it.

i am not sure which way is better, but it is different.

fearless joy,

Keith said...

This is so cool. I just signed up for my free Qu'ran. Y'all are right about the Bibles. Even when I worked in the prison, the free Bibles were junk: KJV in miniscule print. You'd have to be in prison to want to read it.