By Shaikh Ahmad Kutty
The Qur’an is Allah’s ultimate gift to humanity. It is the miracle of miracles testifying to the prophet-hood of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) and an eternal source of divine guidance, healing, light, and mercy. It brings Glad-tidings for the God-conscious and is a warning for the heedless. It contains inexhaustible wisdom; it is the quintessence of knowledge for both the ancients and modern, the Decisive Criterion; Spirit from Allah, and a revelation from on High to the Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace). Finally, it is our rope of salvation, a pleader for or against us on the Day of Final Reckoning. For all these reasons, it is necessary that we engage and respond to the Divine Word in a manner befitting its status.
Here are a few tips to help us benefit from the Qur’an:
1. Visualize the grandeur of the Word and the majesty of its Speaker. In order to properly benefit from the Qur’an, it is imperative that our mind and heart be filled with a deep sense of reverence and awe for the Mighty Word and its Author, the Creator and Sovereign Lord of all beings. It is the Word, about which Allah says, “Had We sent down this Qur’an on a mountain you would see it humbling itself, breaking asunder for awe of Allah.” (Al-Hashr: 21)
2. Approach it with mindfulness. We cannot expect to benefit from the Qur’an unless we pay undivided attention to it; so dispel all other potential distractions. Take the necessary steps to induce proper concentration, such as purifying oneself both physically and inwardly, sitting comfortably in a relaxed manner, creating the proper ambiance etc.
3. Reflect: Since the main purpose of reading the Word is to reflect on the message, reflect upon it intently. `Ali said, “There is no good in worship without knowledge; there is no good in reading without reflection.” This is why we read in the sources that the Prophet, his Companions, and the Salaf al-Salih (righteous early Muslims) would often continuously repeat the same verses in order to better reflect upon their deeper meanings.
4. Remove proverbial veils and obstacles. At times, one may find it difficult to reflect because of the many veils and obstacles that stand in the way of truly appreciating the Qur’an. These veils can include the following:
- an obsession with the external rules of recitation/articulation of sounds to such an extent that one is totally preoccupied with them and is thus distracted from pondering the meaning of what is being read
- blind imitation of a particular sect/school/ideology and being fanatically attached to it so that one’s own preconceived biases prevent one from perceiving its deeper meanings
- persistence in sins (including pride) whereby the mirror of one’s heart becomes rusted and is incapable of gaining true spiritual insight
- clinging to a particular work of Tafseer so dogmatically that one holds the false notion that the author has exhausted all possible meanings in his exposition; for no matter how articulate and profound a Tafseer may be, the Qur’an is inexhaustible in its depth.
5. Identify and relate to the meanings of the verses read and respond to them sensitively. When reading the verses about attributes of Allah, bring to mind Allah’s incomparable nature and absolute uniqueness. When reading the verses that speak of Allah’s creation, think of the manifestation of divine power as revealed in His work and creation (i.e., the oceans) to recognize Allah’s might and glory. When reading the verses describing Paradise, cherish such desire for it that you spontaneously seek Allah’s mercy. When reading descriptions of Hell, tremble with fear and pray that Allah keeps you safe from it.
6. Visualize that Allah is speaking to you directly through the Qur’an. As the late Dr. Iqbal said, “No advice from anyone benefited me as much as the advice of my Mother who told me, ‘My son, when reading the Qur’an, visualize in your mind that Allah is speaking to you through it!’” This is why Muhammad ibn Ka`b Al-Qurazi, one of the scholars from the generation after the Companions of the Prophet said, “Whoever has received the Qur’an, Allah has certainly spoken to him!”
7. Be sensitive to it. Imam Al-Ghazali says: In order to benefit from the Qur’an, three of our faculties must participate in the act of recitation, namely, the tongue, mind, and heart. The tongue articulates the Qur’an’s sounds, the mind translates its meanings, and the heart senses and receives its admonitions and counsel.
8. Develop the qualities of the Servants of the Merciful. The ultimate objective of the revelation is to transform our inner personalities in such a way that we personify the ideals and ethics of the Qur’an. This is why the Prophet (peace be upon him) was described by `A’ishah as a walking Qur’an. So not only should we read and reflect on its message, but most importantly, we must act according to it. This was the practice of Companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) who thus combined knowledge with practice.
9. Send salutations on the Messenger, the medium of the Word. We cannot detach the Message from the Messenger, for he alone is the interpreter par excellence of the Word and its living exemplar. Therefore, we ought to consistently send salutations of peace and blessings on him. For without a deep love for the Messenger, we cannot truly appreciate the revelation sent by Allah through Angel Jibreel.
May Allah continue to shower His blessings and peace on His Servant and Messenger Muhammad, his family, and his companions. And may He grant us all the honor of joining their privileged company after we depart this transient world. Amen.