Tuesday, November 10, 2015

How to connect to the Qur'an

[ Note: This speech was delivered at the spirituality session at Toledo Masjid on November 9th, 2015. This is an edited version.]

We live in a digital age, spending much time in front of computer screens, communicating through text messages, viewing websites on our phones and the like. We have even reached the point in history where traditional print media- such as Newspapers and magazines, are at risk of becoming extinct. In addition to this reality, we all live very busy lives. Work and family occupy our every waking moment, making it difficult to offer the five daily prayers on time, let alone having time to read.

Books, for many of this generation, can no longer capture our attention. This difficulty is magnified with regards to the Qur'an, a scripture with 114 chapters, written in a language most of us don't understand. Thus, being connected to the Qur'an is a daunting challenge.

The word Qur'an [      القرآن        ] comes from the root Qa-ra-a [     قرأ     ] which means "He read". Al-Qur'aan is something that is to be read or recited repeatedly.

Despite this reality, the sad truth is that in our age, there is a disconnect  from the Book of Allah.

This "disconnect" was predicted by the Prophet Muhammad himself. He, upon whom be peace and blessings, said that in the last age "Nothing of the Qur'an will remain except its symbols" [Bayhaqi, Shu'b al Imaan]. Moreover, the Qur'an tells us that the on Judgement day, the Prophet will complain

"And the Messenger will say 'O My Lord. indeed, my people have taken this Qur'an as a thing to be abandoned." [Q 25:30]. 

So the Qur'an being abandoned in terms of being a relevant force is one of the signs of the end.

If this is the case, is hope useless?

"Say: O My Servant who have brought harm to their own souls. Do not despair of the Mercy of God." [Q 39:53]

So, even in our mistakes and sins, we should never lose hope. God is Merciful and Compassionate. Mercy is in itself a pillar by which the Universe is operated [Q 40:6].

The Qur'an itself is a Mercy to Mankind, so we should never despair or give up hope in God.

Some practical ways to approach and stay connected to the Qur'an

[1] Prayer: Salaat and Qur'an are closely connected. Reciting Al-Faatihah is an obligation, and in keeping with the Prophetic tradition, we recite other verses/Soorahs in the Salaat. Compile a list of verses or Soorahs to use in your Salaat, and use them in your Salaat. Consider switching Soorahs, or choosing particular Soorahs for particular Salawaat [Plural of Salaat]. All of us may work, so on work days we usually recite Short Soorahs in our prayers, being conscious of time constraints. However, on our days off, consider reciting longer texts, particularly in Maghrib or Fajr prayers.

[2] Technology: access to recordings of Soorahs, recited in a correct way, are now available at little or no cost, via SmartPhones, DVDs, CDs, etc. Ideally a live physical teacher would be better, but if none is available, learning the text is still accessible.

[3] Read ten verses daily at bed time. If unable to do this, ten verses weekly.

[4] Keep a notebook handy. For studious people, for memorization and study purposes, this is a very good method for retaining information. Note down verses that are interesting or that generate questions. This also allows one to note questions and perhaps research into outside sources [The Seerah, Fiqh, history, language etc..]

[5] The position of Arabic cannot be emphasized enough. The vocabulary of the Qur'an is deeply nuanced, and such nuances cannot be captured in translation. So it is vital to learn Arabic, especially if one wishes to engage in a scholarly study of the Quranic text.

Purification of the Heart

These practical steps also help in terms of keeping the heart pure and clean. A correct mentality is vital for our spiritual health.  Thus, there is wisdom in the practice of making Wudoo' before reading it. It's true that there is no Quranic verse or hadeeth that commands it, but nonetheless it is agreed among the schools of jurisprudence of Ahlus sunnah wal Jamaa'ah.

The making of Wudoo' brings a mental preparation for an important act, just as it does when we make Wudoo' before offering our prayers.

In addition, Allah says repeatedly "So when reciting Qur'an, seek refuge with Allah from Satan, the rejected." [Q 16:98]

We are to want what Allah wants us to have, rather than simply a validation of our whims.It's also helpful to read without background noise.


Our interest in the Qur'an is beyond academic. the Book of Allah is guidance for those with Taqwaaa, and cannot benefit those hearts are absent of it. This is spiritual and mental.

All of us are products of our environments, experiences, secular education and upbringing. We are all influenced by influences both good and bad. Nonetheless, Allah has made the Qur'an the ultimate filter, distinguishing between what is harmful and what is beneficial [Q 25:1].

So while we want paradise and God's favors, the guidance is to affect us in the here and now. It is to make our hearts healthier. The Prophet is reported to have said "Consult your heart".

The healthy heart is the one which can make healthy decisions, but that requires keeping the heart healthy with spiritual exercise, staying in shape and avoiding the "junk food" in terms of "Junk influences". Keep the heart healthy by remembering Allah, by reciting his names and his scripture.

Problematic texts?

The disconnect in this age between the Qur'an and the consciousness of mankind [Muslims included] has led to misapplying and explaining wrongly certain texts. Thus, people talk about "war verses". They talk about expressions such as "Allah is the best of plotters". All of these concerns can be easily addressed with just a little bit of study, but we also must remember that all of the Quranic contents are there to protect and enhance Taqwaaa, to bring overall relief and benefit to humanity.

Using this Scripture to create a picture of Tyranny, Egotism, and arrogance is to do a disservice to the text but also to mankind. It's even a disservice to the doer himself!

Allah mentions that there are those with sealed hearts, with barriers that prevent them from understanding the Qur'an. Those barriers exist because of- essentially- corrupted hearts. So we should not heed such people when they talk about Islam.

Final advice

Don't consume too quickly. Take your time in this religion. Learn how to swim before jumping at the deep end of the water.

Allah says "So read [we can understand this as also meaning 'implement'] what is easy for you of this Qur'an" [Q 73:20]

So be patient with this Deen, with the Sunnah and with this Qur'an. Be patient with it, just as God has been patient with you. Patience is something which will bring the fruits this scripture has to offer.



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