A parable is often made over how we Muslims today may treat a letter, a text, or perhaps a message on social media, from a loved one. One could be walking down a busy road or in the middle of an assignment at work or college when this eagerly awaited message suddenly arrives, prompting him/her to stop everything at once and attentively read its contents, possibly repeatedly doing so a number of times.
The message captures the heart and mind and may even occupy the receiver’s attention for the rest of the day.
Contrast this with the message from the One who loves us the most, and the One most deserving of our own love. Allāh sent down His Book for us as guidance and mercy for mankind, so that we may reflect over it and implement its teachings in our lives. We all have this 600-page message at our fingertips, yet how many of us interact with this message in the same way we do when we receive one from a loved one?
There are a number of factors that might drive this neglect, starting with the whispers of Shaytān and general heedlessness. It could be that the blessing of having easy access to the Qur’ān is taken for granted; unlike our Uyghur brothers and sisters in China who are forcibly deprived of such privileges. Whatever it may be, let us take steps to make amends.
Some time ago, we discussed the notion of reflecting over the Qur’ān (tadabbur); learning about its importance in our lives and explaining how those who don’t know the Arabic language can, and should, still benefit from such reflections. We learnt that scholars traditionally hold that it is obligatory upon every Muslim to at least have some level of Qur’anic reflection in our lives.
In this brief article, we will consider some additional steps one may take in bringing to life the messages of the Book of Allāh.
1. Read the Qur’ān as if it is addressing you
The Qur’ān is a message to all of us, for all times and places. Therefore, we ought to read and understand it knowing that it is indeed a message to us, the individual readers, and reflect accordingly.
For example, when we read about the people of Jannah or any verses on this topic, reflect as if we will be from amongst its inhabitants and make du’ā to Allāh to grant us this ultimate success. Conversely, if we read about the Hellfire or its inhabitants, imagine this reality coming to us and seek refuge in Allāh. The promise of the fruits of Jannah are promises to us, and likewise the threat of punishment is for us as well.
Consider Sūrah al-Takāthur, when Allāh says:
“Competition [in worldly affairs] increasingly diverts you. Until you visit the graveyards [death]. No! You are going to know. Then no! You are going know. No! If you had only knew with knowledge of certainty, you will surely see the Hellfire. Then you will surely see it the eye of certainty. Then you will surely be asked that Day about pleasure.”
We are all engulfed in our daily affairs, seeking worldly gain, and of course we will all ultimately meet our end; the relevance of this to our lives is obvious.
Relating to the last verse however, there was an incident in which the Prophet (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wassallam) went out at night and came across Abū Bakr and ‘Umar (radiy Allāhu ‘anhumā). He asked, “What has brought you out of your houses at this hour?” They said: “Allāh’s Messenger, it is hunger”, to which he (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wassallam) confirmed that his case was the same.
Thereafter they went in search of food, eventually ending up at the house of an Ansāri, who joyously received them and served them a bunch of ripe dates, dry dates and fresh ones too, before going on to slaughter an animal to serve them a meal. Once the Prophet (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wassallam) and his companions had eaten to their fill, he (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wassallam) said to them: “By Him in Whose Hand is my life, you will certainly be questioned about this bounty on the Day of Judgement. Hunger brought you out of your house, then you did not return until this bounty came to you.”
If this is the case for them, during a time of poverty and hardship, what then for us when most of us those living in the West eat to their fill every single day and enjoy countless privileges and bounties from Allāh? Without doubt, we should be reading these verses as the ones being directly addressed and reflect accordingly.
2. Live through the verses
A follow-on from the first tip, is that we seek to live through the verses we read. That is for example, to imagine the circumstances ourselves. When Allāh says “Do you not see” before painting us a picture, reflect over the fact that the Prophet (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) did not actually see these things himself either. Therefore, we too should be picturing them in our minds and contemplating these scenarios.
3. Read the sīrah of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wassallam)
Being familiar with the sīrah is of utmost importance in enabling one to reflect over the Qur’ān as it allows the reader to piece together the picture in which certain verses were revealed and therefore provides a deeper insight into them. It allows the reader to see how the Prophet (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) reacted to revelation and teaches us to do the same in our lives.
It is one thing knowing certain verses as Makki or Madani, but knowing what these labels imply is far more insightful – and this comes with knowledge of the sīrah.
4. Learn the reasons for revelation
Closely connected with the third tip; understanding why verses were revealed at their specific times and places, naturally allows one to ponder more accurately and deeply over the verses. These reasons are generally covered within the various tafāsīr we have available to us, as well as the sīrah.
5. Read the Qur’an in a distinguished manner
That is, for example, if we read a verse in which Allāh is addressing someone, recite in a strong voice. If we come across the statement of a slave speaking to Allāh Himself, recite with humility and respect. Establishing this practice helps to further bring the verses to life; and if one does not understand Arabic, reading the translation of each verse before reciting it will furthermore add to the experience.
As part of this, which has been discussed in a previous article, it is important to recite slowly and loudly, allowing the Qur’ān to enter the heart via the tongue and ears.
6. Stop at the end of each verse
When reading the Book of Allāh, or its translation, do not be in a hurry. Rather, we should take our time and stop regularly to reflect over what we have just read. Think about why this verse has come at this point, think about the overall context and wording used, think about how this verse affects us individually and what lessons or action to take from it, and so on.
7. Study in a circle
Make time to study the Qur’ān in a gathering, in a halaqah in your local masjid for example. Getting together in a house of Allāh to study the Book of Allāh is blessing upon blessing and is a gathering that will receive Allāh’s sakīnah. The power of many different minds together, shaped by different backgrounds and experiences, will naturally lead to a more in-depth discussion about the words of the Qur’ān. A weekly gathering of this sort will be one which bears many fruits, including increasing pondering over the Qur’ān but also building brotherhood / sisterhood amongst many other blessings.
8. Listen to beautiful recitation
Lastly for now, when we are unable to recite ourselves perhaps, we are fortunate to have access to countless recordings now of the top reciters in the world. Take advantage of this but make sure we listen attentively, seeking to understand as much as we can – possibly having a translation to hand so that we can follow verse by verse.
With these eight suggestions above, perhaps it may seem too much to adopt them all at once throughout our recitation of the Qur’ān. Therefore, let us take a few to begin with, or even apply them all but just to a handful of lines per day, and then slowly build upon this initial step to increasingly reflect over the Holy Qur’ān.
I pray that Allāh makes us all from the people of the Qur’ān—His select, chosen people. Āmīn.
- Also reads:
Largely based on a lecture by Shaykh Adnan Abdul Qadir at At-Towbah Islamic Centre in Leeds:
 Al-Qur’ān, Sūrah at-Takāthur, 102:1-8
 Sahīh Muslim 2038