Pounding on an open door

Filed in Society & Beliefs by on November 8, 2013
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.


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