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MISSION AND PROFESSION

The Book of God is a book of guidance. It gives people the kind of guidelines that make them able to receive the blessings of God when they follow them in letter and spirit. But in the latter days, the divine book has become the central symbol of a religious community. With this second phase, a new dimension has been added to the divine book, that is, the commercial factor. For the generation of latter times, the Book of God has become a source of pride—a kind of market commodity, an easy device by which to secure the respect of others. In the first period, the Book of God was strictly a book of guidance but, in the later period, it became a book of material interest.

Taking the Book of God in its first sense then is a mission. It means that you do not attach any material interest to the Book of God and do not want to derive any commercial benefit from it. You have involved yourself with the divine book for the sake of God and not for the sake of anything else. This kind of involvement with the Book of God is a mission. It will bring you great reward from God Almighty.  But if your main concern is your own agenda, you have not studied the book sincerely to find out what the Qur’an really requires, and are simply following what is in your mind and doing so in the name of the Book of God, then it is a profession. It is like commercializing the Book of God. It is like making the divine book a trading commodity rather than taking it as a source of true guidance. The Book of God is a book of guidance. It gives people the kind of guidelines that make them able to receive the blessings of God when they follow them in letter and spirit.

It is this latter use of the Book of God that is mentioned in the chapter Al-‘Imran (The Family of Imran) with reference to the children of Israel. It is also applicable to the Muslim community. The translation of these verses is as follows: God made a covenant with those who were given the Book to make it known to people and not conceal it. But they cast it behind their backs and bartered it for a paltry price: what an evil bargain they made! Those who exult in their misdeeds and love to be praised for what they have not done should not suppose that they are secure from punishment; they shall suffer a grievous punishment. (3:187-188)

This Qur’anic verse mentions that kind of practice when a community takes the Qur’an as its profession rather than as its mission, when it tries to secure material benefits from the Book of God, not only in monetary terms but also in terms of fame, popularity, leadership, image building, etc. This kind of behavior—a profession rather than a true mission—is not acceptable to God. It is like taking credit for a deed that one has not done. Professionalization of the Qur’an is no better than totally abandoning it.

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