One of my friends decided to blow my mind by showing me an entirely new way to read the Quran. Here is the trick. Draw a specific lesson from every verse, regardless of how ‘irrelevant’ it seems. (Of course the story I am about to relate is literal. But a metaphorical interpretation allows hidden benefits to be drawn out.)
Here is a quick example. As I read Surah 18: The Cave, Allah says:
The verse begins the story of Moses (peace be upon him) on his epic quest for knowledge. Here, Moses reaches the intersection of two seas and loses a fish that he had. This was a sign that he had come to the right place and was to meet another, more knowledgeable prophet named Khidr. (an explanation offered in various commentaries).
The previous verse is equally interesting:
So Moses swears he will go to the ends of the earth to find this Khidr. What’s the point? Just exposition? I mean, how could these two verses possibly have any constructive meanings in them? They are just statements of fact. I will do A until B happens. And surprise … B happens. Pretty straightforward.
Or is it?
The adventure begins when Moses boasts that he is the most knowledgeable human being on the planet. God decides to teach him a lesson.
Let us begin by asking: What is this ‘Junction of the two seas’.
I think the two seas are the knowledge of Moses and the knowledge outside his grasp. On this journey, Moses swears that he will cross the sea of his knowledge and plunge into the knowledge that lay outside his grasp, and this is where the second verse comes in. When he arrives at the junction, he loses something.
Suddenly losing something implies a panic attack, a mix of confusion and fear that leaves one momentarily paralyzed.
What does this mean for us? For me and you?
When we approach the boundary of what we know, we are afraid of losing ourselves. This challenge has faced every single human being in existence. It could be learning about evolution in biology class for the first time. It could be you sitting in a class with a mixture of confusion and fear and wondering what you are doing there. It could be being put into an unfamiliar situation that leaves you paralyzed. It is the fear of the unknown.
But the lesson here is this: Moses trudges forward, unabated and unfettered.
“I will not cease traveling until I reach the junction …. or continue for a long period.” he says.
He is not afraid because it is God who has commanded him to go on this journey in the first place.
Sometimes, we might feel dumb when we are trying our best to learn a new skill and our efforts seem to be going nowhere.
That means we’ve reached the junction of our two seas.
Then, be like Moses.
Trudge forward and all help is from God.