The world’s largest Qur’an was unveiled in Kabul
yesterday in the presence of senior clerics and government officials, who hailed it as a ‘great achievement’ for Afghanistan and Muslims around the world.It took over 5 years to finish; 218 pages, with gilded letters and varied, intricate calligraphy designs on 7 feet long pages.
For five years, a calligrapher and his students toiled to produce a considerable work of art. It is beautiful and admirable by itself.. but strikes me as patently immoral and wrong given the larger picture.
It’s the same nagging feeling I get when I see the Catholic Pope wearing a golden hat, sitting in his golden throne inside his giant palace, while preaching the words of a carpenter’s son. I also feel the same when I’m inside a mosque with grand domes, high ceilings, plush carpets, and golden chandeliers.
Does this ostentatious display of extravagance and – in cruder terms, dick measuring – have anything to do with piety? How tall does a minaret have to be to impress God?
When you’re in a war torn nation mired in corruption and violence, with Muslims killing each other and raping young boys.. you can’t hail a giant book as an example of Islam.
It reminds me of the resonating words of one of the earliest Sufi poet saints, Rabi’a of Basra:
I carry a torch in one hand
And a bucket of water in the other:
With these things I am going to set fire to Heaven
And put out the flames of Hell
So that voyagers to God can rip the veils
And see the real goal.
First published on 13th January 2012