Today we live at a time where the recitation of the Qur'an has become widespread - we are now able to listen to the Qur'an on the television, computer, radio, CD's and portable players. Even our phones now, with a simple touch of a button not only show different Qur'anic scripts but also give us access to the Qur'anic tafsirs and translations via the internet. And praise to Allah (Alhamdulillah) we're also now seeing a progressive change in Islamic classes and centres as they exert significant attention to providing Qur'an memorisation (hifdh) programs for us and our children in various parts of the world. Through this accessibility the Muslim grows while hearing the words of Allah and its recitation in its prescribed manner.
The Qur'an has become so commonplace that we now hear it in the shopping stores and streets especially in the Muslim countries. Yet this reality has come with an unforeseen disillusion, hiding from us a grave and important matter that many people have been ignorant of. And this matter, my sisters, the sahabah gave great importance and concern to as we see when reading about how their relationship with the Qur'an was.
This matter, my sisters, is tadabbur (deep contemplation & understanding) of the meanings of the Qur'an.
As dawah carriers, it goes without saying that the Qur'an is the basis of our ideology which we hold proudly before the whole world. Our ideology comes from the revealed word of Allah سبحانه وتعالى with which we are made to worship Him سبحانه وتعالى. Since our goal is to work toward the implementation of His سبحانه وتعالى's laws on earth, should we not exert effort to understand the words of the very Qur'an we aim to implement? Yes, it's even more important for 'us', the carriers of this dawah to revive the Qur'an in our hearts and minds in order to revive it on a state level.
The Qur'an charges the believer with this amazing energy which revives the idle souls and turns them into dispositions that can trivialise hardships and are not tempted by worldly pleasures for the sake of gaining the pleasure of Allah سبحانه وتعالى and the bliss of Jannah. It is this Qur'an that makes us absolutely certain that victory is from Allah سبحانه وتعالى and that we have no other hope but in Him سبحانه وتعالى. So why should we not be eager to take provisions from the source of the Qur'an, ponder over its meanings and acquaint ourselves with its aims?
Now, back to describing our reality: we live in a time where the Qur'an reciters are many but only few are engaging in studying and seeking the guidance of the Qur'an and acting upon its rulings.
In an ayah that talks about Ahlul Kitab (People of the book), Allah سبحانه وتعالى says:
وَمِنْهُمْ أُمِّيُّونَ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ الْكِتَابَ إِلَّا أَمَانِيَّ وَإِنْ هُمْ إِلَّا يَظُنُّونَ
"Some of them are illiterate ('Ummiyyun), knowing nothing of the Book but wishful thinking. They only speculate." [Al-Baqara, 2:78]
This ayah says that among the people of the book, there are illiterates (in terms of not understanding the book of Allah), they have the book with them but they have no clue what the book is talking about. All that they learn from the book is what fits their worldly interests. They were selective in what they would learn. If something would benefit them in their dunya then they would learn it, otherwise they would leave it aside.
Furthermore, Ibn Taymiyyah (rh) says about this ayah:
'Ibn Abbas and Qatadah interpreted the meaning of the word 'ummiyyoon' (illiterate) as meaning, "they do not understand the meaning of the book. They learn it, they memorize it, and they recite it without understanding it. The meaning of 'illiterate' in this verse does not mean that they cannot read or write. They read it, memorize it and teach it yet they don't understand what the book is talking about. They are satisfied by only reciting it."
Imaam Ahmed narrates that the Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم said 'something' and then he صلى الله عليه وسلم said, 'That would happen when knowledge is lost. One of the Sahabah (Ibn Lubaid) said, 'O Messenger of Allah, how can knowledge be lost when we have studied Qur'an, we are teaching it to our children and our children will teach it to theirs?' The Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم said, 'Woe to you! I thought you were one of the most learned men of Madinah. Can't you see the Jews and Christians are not benefiting even though they have their scriptures (Torah and Injeel) right with them.'
The Qur'an is not to be put on the shelf, decorated and covered. Abu Darda (ra) said, "Whenever the time comes when you will decorate your mosques and your mushafs, that is the time when you will be destroyed because that is an indication you are favouring symbols over substance."
At the time of Abu Darda Qur'an was written on a collection of bones, leaves and pieces of leather. These days the Qur'an is decorated so much that people are afraid to touch it let alone read it because it looks so good! In our days, if people were to see the Qur'an written on bones or other pieces, they would be quick to say that such a thing is disrespect to the Qur'an. Yet people do not think that not following the Qur'an is disrespect to it.
Allah سبحانه وتعالى says:
كِتَابٌ أَنْزَلْنَاهُ إِلَيْكَ مُبَارَكٌ لِيَدَّبَّرُوا آيَاتِهِ وَلِيَتَذَكَّرَ أُولُو الْأَلْبَابِ
"It is a Book We have sent down to you, full of blessing, so let people of intelligence ponder (liyaddabbaru) its Signs and take heed." [Saad, 38:29]
In this ayah the word, liyaddabbaru is used – which means have to have 'taddabur' (deep contemplation)
Allah سبحانه وتعالى says:
أَفَلَا يَتَدَبَّرُونَ الْقُرْآنَ أَمْ عَلَىٰ قُلُوبٍ أَقْفَالُهَا
"Will they not then ponder the Qur'an or are there locks upon their hearts?" [Muhammad, 47:24]
Allah سبحانه وتعالى is not only asking us to recite the Qur'an, rather He is asking us to ponder and contemplate over the Qur'an.
You may be thinking, "but I don't understand Arabic?" Yes, one should make an effort to learn the language of Qur'an. But we should not wait until we learn the language (Arabic) in order to understand the Qur'an; we should still try and read whatever we can in the languages we know in order to understand as much of the Qur'an as possible. Even if you don't understand the meaning you will be rewarded for reading it. But you have to make every effort to understand it to be able to live it and receive its full benefit.
Reward for reciting the Qur'an is one thing, and applying the Qur'an is another. The problem is when one does not make an attempt to know what the Qur'an says and apply it. The application can be done without the language. However the contemplation in the meanings of the Qur'an is something that can be done by reading the translation. But it will always be less and more shallow than contemplating from the language the Qur'an was revealed in (Arabic).
Therefore attempts need to be made by people to learn the language of the Qur'an. If so much effort is put into learning the language of Dunya (English) shouldn't more effort be put into learning the language of the Akhirah? Allah سبحانه وتعالى will reward you for your intentions. As Ibn al-Jawzee (rh) says, "Maybe Allah will reward you for the intentions more than the reward of the action itself." So if you put the effort and try that is what Allah wants from you.
A question was asked to Imam Anwar Alawlaki (may Allah have mercy over his soul) his answer was very concise and worthy of mention. Q. What are the steps to take in contemplating the Qur'an and applying it in our lives, how would we go about doing this?
Number One: The intention to change the method we approach the Qur'an is an important step! Just the decision and will to recite the Book of Allah with understanding is a GREAT step- intending that 'Oh Allah I want to understand your Book and I am going to attempt to do so', this in itself will open up the doors for you. Because there are elements beyond our understanding since this is the Word of Allah سبحانه وتعالى.
Allah سبحانه وتعالى says,
وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ ۖ وَيُعَلِّمُكُمُ اللَّهُ
"Have taqwa of Allah and Allah will give you knowledge." [Al-Baqara, 2:282]
When we have Taqwa, Allah will open up our hearts and give us light from His Knowledge.
Number two: whenever we are reciting the Qur'an, we should not focus on finishing the surah, finishing the juz', finishing the Qur'an but we should focus on thinking about what we are reciting.
Number Three: Establish a connection with the Qur'an and do no neglect it on the shelves. The more we read the more opportunity we have to ponder over the words of Allah. We need to live the Qur'an and apply its rulings.
قال عثمان بن عفان رضي الله عنه وأرضاه: "لو طهرت
قلوبكم ما شبعت من كلام ربكم"
Uthman bin Affan (ra) says: 'If the hearts are pure, they will never satisfy their hunger from the Book of Allah.' If we love the Book of Allah, we will never be able to have enough of it.
However, we need to be careful. How many times do we read while our mind is drifting elsewhere? Especially if it is a surah you have memorised or a surah you read habitually on a regular basis such as Surat Al-Kahf every Friday - there is a risk that one ponders less if it's something they regularly read. Now, imagine that every Friday you read the same surah (Surat al-Kahf) and gave it an equal or greater amount of concentration each time – how much would your understanding of it increase and consequently your reward Insha'Allah?
Here's a few tips to apply when reading the Qur'an from here on (note: these are simply tips for 'concentration when reading 'generally - then modified for the purpose of Qur'an recitation).
1. They say: Always give yourself a reason for reading and ask yourself, "Why am I reading this text?"
As Muslimeen, we are familiar with this as setting a firm intention. A big improvement is common, and most will find that they focus all their attention on a page without any intentional effort because they are reading with purpose.
For example – set your intention that you are reading this surah in order to gain knowledge which will aid you in the revival of Islam. As per the hadith:
Allah's Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم said, "He whom death overtakes while he is engaged in acquiring knowledge with a view to reviving Islam with the help of it, there will be one degree between him and the Prophets in Paradise." [At-Tirmidhi Hadith 249. Narrated by Al-Hasan al-Basri by Darimi]
2. Set a focus. Ask yourself a question and prepare to answer it after reading – for example this week while reading Surat Al-Kahf I want to ponder over who 'The people of the cave' were? What is the significance of the story and the main points from it?
Think about it: Why is it that when we read other texts we can summarise the main points/details? But we are unable do so after reading a page of the Qur'an?
3. After three or four verses stop and ask yourself whether or not you understand the meanings of the ayaat.
You might need to reread the ayaat in order to:
• Mark the words/terms you didn't understand (and look them up in a tafsir)
• Find some key words (for example, in the ayah we read previously we found "liyataddabaru" as a key word)
• Find main/specific points (perhaps write them down in a note book – so that multiple senses are being used, keeping you more alert.)
4. Observe the etiquettes of the Qur'an. Tahara, facing the Qibla, using a siwaak, beginning with the ista-aaza to ward off the shaytan.
5. Prevent concentration stoppers while reading e.g. phone calls, interruptions etc. This is a very simple tip that we are given for studying or working – this is even more important when reading the words of The Most High.
Finally, there is a hadith where Rasul Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم said:
"Groups of people will emerge from my Ummah who will drink the Qur'an as they drink milk." (Tabarani)
In commenting on this hadith, Al-Munawi says in his Fayd al-Qadir: "... that is, they will raise their voices with their tongues without contemplating and reflecting on its meanings and pondering over its rulings; instead it (i.e. the Qur'an) passes over their tongues as milk which they drink passes over them quickly."
The Qur'an is our guide, our ideology, our remedy, our inspiration and our intercessor on the Day of Judgement. It sharpens the determination of those who have set their hearts and minds toward making the phrase "la ilaha illa Allah Muhammad rasul Allah" reign supreme. We need to remind ourselves of the importance of contemplation, reflection and pondering over the meanings and rulings of the Qur'an, and making sure that it is read in a way that penetrates our hearts and leaves a lasting and permanent impact. The result of this kind of reading is the development of a dynamic Islamic personality where a Muslim embraces the Islamic Aqeedah, making the Shariah the code of conduct for their lives allowing them to engage in the da'wah to revive the Islamic way of life at a state level.
We ask Allah سبحانه وتعالى to give us fiqh (understanding) of His Religion and to allow this understanding to aid us in our call, Ameen.
The above is a transcript of a talk given by Sister Alissar
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