My study of Quran was a significant turning point of my life. Till I had read Quran, I was an ardent secularist. I firmly used to believe and propagate that all religions are same and teach same essential message. After all that was what I was fed with in a communist secular regime. My analysis of Indian philosophy and religion had only enhanced this secular thought for I knew deep inside the loopholes of the same.
I first read Quran in 1989. That was the peak of Ram Mandir movement. I was in an extremely ambivalent state with regards to my question of life. I had my seeds of doubts but considered myself too young and immature to pass any judgment on my Hindu way of living. I was a Hanuman devotee and used to recite the Chalisa and Ramrakshastotram with vague hope that they would help me out of death. I wanted to explore Quran and Bible because we were taught about glory of Islam and Christianity in our syllabus. There was a big chapter in school on Islam and Quran. “Chief characteristics of Islam and Quran” was a sure-shot topic in exams for last several years. I was quite impressed by its emphasis on monotheism, peace and love.
The Ram Mandir issue gave me lots of food for introspection. How could followers of a Prophet of brotherhood and love kill and destroy temples? Why do not followers of Ram salute a great legend like Prophet who followed the examples of Lord Ram? Why are Hindus and Muslims fighting each other? It is all tactics of British who wanted to divide and rule.
I felt the urge to study Quran and note down its teachings with exact references and then propagate the same around my friends and mates. My mother was member of Kumarsabha Library – one of the oldest and most reputed Hindi libraries of Kolkata. I convinced the librarian to issue me three different translations of Quran. The usual limit was only two books.
With great excitement I brought the Qurans home late in the evening. The last issue date for any of the three books was at least twenty-six years ago. The oldest of them was published in 1919. I was quite thrilled to be on verge of doing something very historical.
In the night when everyone else slept, I slowly moved out of my bed. I took out the torch and the three books that I had hidden under the cupboard. My brother had a very light sleep so I did not want to disturb him. I went to the corner of the room and opened the first Quran. The language was extremely difficult with too many urdu words thrown around. I could not understand much. I took out the second one, this was simpler. I started reading it but found it much different from the books of Indian religion and philosophy including Purans that I had read so far.
I randomly opened a page and found Allah permitting one to marry one’s daughter-in-law if she is wife of an adopted son!
How Allah orders one to marry a 6 year old baby and have sex with her when she turns 9!
How Allah sends Angels to command you to have sex with your maid-servant when your wife is away!
There were many such shocking verses in the holy book that shook me from deep inside.
I could not accept that women be considered as farms to enter the way one wishes to. And produce as many kids as possible and spread the numbers.
I could not believe that Allah clearly says that all who worship idols and do not consider one person as final prophet will go to Hell after death!
Or that those who do not believe in Prophet be destroyed or hated till they die!
All love only for Muslim man. All hate only for non-Muslim. Muslim woman falls in between. Non-Muslim woman is divine property to be distributed and enjoyed!
I kept browsing the Quran till 3 am. Then I went off to sleep with a confused mind. I kept planning my next steps. I will not give up so easily. I will not lose my faith so easily! Maybe I did not read it properly.
Next day I sat again with the massive Nalanda Hindi Dictionary. I also opened all the three Qurans in front of me. I shall not accept merely what one translator says. I shall verify it with all the three versions that I had. The next two weeks were spent only in analysis of Quran. I dug out meaning of every word, I cross-checked with all the three translations. I cross-checked with other verses in Quran. And finally I understood!
I finally understood why there is communal violence. Why Mughals attacked us. Why Ghoris attacked us. Why Ghazni looted and raped. Why Islam means Peace! I understood a lot about world around from one single book.
Suddenly every news of communal violence made sense. Suddenly I could see why there is no end to it in my lifetime. Suddenly I saw a lot!
My life was changed forever!