Islamic Experience on Russell Square

Posted on 10/10/2010



Arabic notation of "Gregory" (written down by a Muslim artist) juxtaposed with the telling eyes of Virgin Mary. In Muslim tradition Miriam is a mother of Isa (Jesus), an important prophet.

LONDON, a city where people preach on the streets. While I was returning from a supermarket, a leaflet advertising Islamic fair was presented to me. “Meet your neighbours” – says the leaflet. “Free admission” – has it. Well, despite not promising the free meal it convinced me. Why not to have Islamic experience?

In the middle of the Russel Square garden they raised a white tent. Just by the entrance a desk with a booklet “Islam – a brief tour” – (about Muslim contribution to the world culture) and a variety of leaflets containing essays on Muslim contribution to the natural sciences. They are filled with Quranic fragments covering the importance of medicine, biology and chemistry. I collect them all.

Ah – another one – the light blue title page featuring the reflexes of the sunlight tries to attract the attention of the reader. “Who is Allah?” – asks the white font. Let’s see. As I read all five columns of the leaflets, the image of a magnificent, peaceful, truth-loving God emerges, which is almost indistinguishable from what I was taught about Christianity. One of the sections, entitled “What does Allah look like” (sic!) speaks about the lack of any need to picture Him and concludes that the exact details are known “to Allah alone”. Then I read about God as “all-knowing Creator”. Seems familiar. Just a few months ago I read the 800-pages long masterpiece of Toynbee, who claimed Islam merged some tenets of Judaism and early Christianity (monophysitism). There must be serious amount of truth in this statement…

Suddenly, a kind boy in a fluorescent cloth approaches me. On my uttering I am interested in their culture he disappears behind the paper wall featuring Islamic exhibition just to return with a bag filled with reading materials and… a copy of Quran. He then adds that – should I be interested – their fair is also present near the tube station, where the suicide bombings took place some time ago. They also offer Quran for free in that place – to show the TRUE and not the WICKED face of their religion. Why not to place another Holy Book on my bedside table? I thankfully accept the gift.

My new Quran is translated by Yusuf Ali. But wait a second. Had not some Muslim friend told me once that translating Quran is forbidden? I find an answer to this question on page 2: “[Quran] is beyond any translation to render all [its] richness of expression in another language. Yet, the Qur’an is primarily a book of guidance and must, therefore, be accessible to those who seek the truth contained in it. Whilst a translation cannot be an authoritative replacement of the original, it can make the meaning of its verses available to a non -Arabic speaking readership”. Good – now I understand why the book I hold in my hands is called “The Meaning of THE HOLY QUR’AN” and not just “Quran”. What we have here – I said to my spirit – is a trick to obey the spirit of the law without obeying its letter. But then – my spirit keeps nagging me – is “The Meaning of Qur’an” IN FACT a proper “Quran”? Well – yes. Well – no. It’s formally an interpretation, not Quran itself, but it serves as a proper Quran for millions of non-Arabic speaking people. I finally reach the conclusion that – philosophically speaking – the translation keeps Quranic syntax and approximated semantics, but denotation and proper semantics remain different (and incomparable). My spirit murmurs: “weird”.

After studying the exhibition featuring the whole biography of Muhammad (hmm… no single mention about violent part of His life) I had my name written in Arabic and I was introduced to five pillars of their faith. After I got particularly interested in the black irregular circle accompanying many religious names, I was told that EVERY time they mention Muhammad or other religious leaders, they add a phrase “peace and blessings be upon Him” next to their name. In historical religious texts, where these names appear thousands of times – they also obey this rule. And to make text readable they use a graphic font-circle that contains the whole phrase (written in small font calligraphic Arabic).

During the whole event dozens Muslim children were running around, caring mothers watching them. When I was leaving, my spirit told me – “it’s VERY INDICATIVE as to which culture will prevail in the post-Western Europe”.


“Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon Him)” = “Prophet Muhammad (@)“.

Welcome to the New Middle Ages!

I czytajcie “Pressje”.

Posted in: World religions