The Ayat al-Qursi, or Throne Verse, is Qur’an 2:255:
Allah! There is no god but He, the Living, the Self-subsisting, Eternal. No slumber can seize Him nor sleep. His are all things in the heavens and on earth. Who is there can intercede in His presence except as He permitteth? He knoweth what (appeareth to His creatures as) before or after or behind them. Nor shall they compass aught of His knowledge except as He willeth. His Throne doth extend over the heavens and the earth, and He feeleth no fatigue in guarding and preserving them for He is the Most High, the Supreme (in glory).
According to Islamic scholar Mahmoud Ayoub, this verse is “regarded by Muslims as one of the most excellent verses of the Qur’an. It has therefore played a very important role in Muslim piety.” Muhammad approves of a statement about its power, “Whenever you go to your bed, recite the Verse of “˜Al-Kursi” (2.255) for then a guardian from Allah will be guarding you, and Satan will not approach you till dawn” and of another about its being the “greatest verse in the Book of Allah.” Qurtubi reports that “when the Throne Verse was revealed, every idol and king in the world fell prostrate and the crowns of kings fell off their heads,” and recounts a saying by Muhammad in which Allah tells Moses of the many blessings that people will receive if they recite the Throne Verse.
But do not — do not — put it on a music CD.
I will doubtless get the usual flood of emails from Muslims saying, “You approve of blasphemy,” “You have no respect for religion,” etc. But in fact, this is not a question of whether or not one approves of blasphemy. One may consider this CD blasphemous without thinking it necessary to issue a bomb threat. One may consider Cry Lehlaka a blasphemer who is headed for hell, but that concerns his soul, and need not require a response from anyone else. The assumption that many Muslims have — that they are the executors of Allah’s wrath in this world — is a source of many of the problems they face in dealing with a pluralistic society. Unfortunately, the concept of “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord” — that is, the Lord’s and not any agent of his on earth — does not exist in the Qur’an.
Producer Cry Lehlaka only realised the serious error of judgment which DJs Tea and Kay had made on their latest hit house mix when he received a bomb threat.
The sound of the Muslim prayer known as the Ayat-ul-Qursi had “simply appealed” to them, so they had lifted a version of it and used it as part of their new House Therapy compilation.
But it wasn’t long before Lehlaka, operations manager at the popular House Therapy production house in Pretoria, was taking calls from Muslim fans furious at the apparent blatant exploitation of a sacred verse.
“There was only one person who threatened me with a bomb,” Lehlaka said, “but most people who phoned were angry. We honestly didn’t realise how serious the lyrics were, so we immediately promised to take the song off the CD, which is what we have done.”
Lehlaka has since been on community radio station Channel Islam to set the record straight, and was scheduled to go on SABC1 last night to emphasise the unbiased position of his production house to Muslim house music fans – and the Muslim community.
“We had gone to see an Islam expert and he explained that we were not supposed to use the prayer in this way,” Lehlaka said on Friday. “Now the people have been very understanding and we’ve removed all the offending lyrics.”
The debacle has cost House Therapy dearly, as the company has had to recall hundreds of discs. But it appears both potential legal action – and bombings – have now been averted.
Suraya Dadoo, of the Media Review Network, said: “We accept that they did not realise that this was an important verse from the Qur’an.”
Phew. Good thing, eh? Next thing you know someone will name a teddy bear Muhammad!