For all articles up to and including this one, click “Ramadan Reflections: The Daily Journey”
Alhamdulillah that Allah has allowed us to reach another blessed month of Ramadan, a month in which the gates of Paradise are opened wide and the gates of the Hellfire are shut, a month wherein we get closer to Him by fasting through the day and praying in the night, a month which contains a night more virtuous than a thousand months, a month whose good is such that the one who is deprived of its blessings is truly deprived. Alhamdulillah for the Qur’an, a magnificent recital which was revealed to our beloved Messenger Muhammad (saas) in this excellent month so that we might read and ponder the words of our Lord Most High. And in honor of this great month we devote more time to His message to human-kind by reading it and practicing the Sunnah of completing at least one full reading within the month. Yet, although so many Muslims are anxious to complete the entire recital of the Qur’an in this month, they in turn also neglect one of the most important aspects of the Qur’an – to reflect and ponder upon its meanings so that our hearts, manners, statements and actions fall in line with the pleasure of Allah. As Allah has stated in His Book:
وَقَالَ الرَّسُولُ يَا رَبِّ إِنَّ قَوْمِي اتَّخَذُوا هَذَا الْقُرْآنَ مَهْجُورًا
Then the Messenger will say: “O my Lord! Truly my people deserted this Qur’ân (neither listened to it, nor acted on its laws and orders). [25:30]
أَفَلَا يَتَدَبَّرُونَ الْقُرْآنَ أَمْ عَلَى قُلُوبٍ أَقْفَالُهَا
Do they not then earnestly seek to understand the Qur’an, or are their hearts locked up by them? [47:24]
In an effort to ensure that this Ramadan doesn’t pass us by without us acting upon the command of Allah to understand and consequently implement the Qur’an in our lives, a series will be written everyday reflecting upon the meanings and applications of the Qur’an – a small, concisely written daily reminder one juz’ (1/30th of the Qur’an) at a time to help us come away from this Ramadan with real and lasting changes in our relationship with Allah and His Book. They will be written so as to be read in a few minutes and thus cannot be so comprehensive, but insha’Allah using only what will drive home the point in the easiest and most efficient manner so as to allow Muslims to read them daily and act upon them insha’Allah. The major difficulty in this endeavor shall be what selection to use – how to select one or two ayaat from every juz’ to discuss, but with Allah is all success and insha’Allah each selection will provide its benefit. May Allah bring benefit and guidance from this effort and allow our hearts to come back to the beauty, wisdom and light of His words so that we become from among His righteous slaves and those who will inherit the highest Gardens on the Day when we meet Him – ameen.
Part One – Surat al-Fatihah and Baqarah
Building on the message in the introduction to this series, Allah makes mention of the matter of who truly benefits from the Qur’an in the opening to surat al-Baqarah, saying:
ذَلِكَ الْكِتَابُ لاَ رَيْبَ فِيهِ هُدًى لِّلْمُتَّقِينَ
This is the Book; in it there is no doubt, it is guidance to those who have taqwa; [2:2]
Commentators on the Qur’an have understood the meaning of His statement, the Book, to mean that this is the Book the way that someone today would say, “This is the real deal.” This is no ordinary book, not a book you casually gloss over while lounging on the couch or waiting for the doctor. This book is a serious matter because its matter is guidance – it deals with that which will save you on the Day of Judgment and will bring you eternal bliss.
To that end, Allah issues one of many challenges found in the Qur’an, and in fact often pertaining to the Qur’an itself – there is no doubt in it. A bold statement for sure, but a challenge nonetheless for those who wish to sift through it ayat by ayat, word by word, letter by letter – there is no doubt in it and thus you can be secure. It is no coincidence that the word Imaan – often loosely translated as faith or belief – comes from the Arabic root word amana which means to be secure. Thus true “faith” in Islam is founded upon security and certainty and can never be a “blind faith”. This leads us to the final words in this glorious ayah – it is guidance to those who have taqwa.
So we have a wondrous book, unlike any other. In its pages you will find no doubt, but instead it leads to true security of the soul. And this book is guidance; but not to anyone – only to those who have taqwa. The root meaning of taqwa is to avoid what one dislikes, or to shield yourself from that which you fear. Its usage in Islam means to protect or shield yourself from the punishment of Allah. The illustrious Companion and scholar Ibn ‘Abbaas explained that those who have taqwa as being, “They are the believers who avoid associating partners with Allah and who obey Him and His commandments.” Ibn `Abbaas also said that they are, “Those who fear Allah’s punishment, which would result if they abandoned the true guidance that they recognize and know. They also hope in Allah’s mercy by believing in what He revealed.”
In this clear description, Ibn ‘Abbaas illustrates for us a very important concept regarding the state of taqwa: it is always linked to worship (‘ibaadah) in the Qur’an. Worship can be defined as, doing what Allah has commanded and avoiding what He has prohibited. Worship has also been defined including all actions that Allah loves and approves of, whether they are actions of the heart, the tongue or the body.
Thus, benefiting from the Qur’an requires sincerity and determination from the Muslim. Once again, it is not any book and cannot be read as you read any book. It must be read in a way similar to the way a person reads a map when he is lost and on the verge of death. Such a person will throw all of his focus into reading the map before him in hopes of rescuing himself from disaster, and in the same way we approach the Qur’an with seriousness to avoid falling into heedlessness and consequently misguidance which leads to Hell. One must then approach the Qur’an with a heart ready to understand and ready to implement the guidance it discovers – otherwise what would separate this reading from any other? Certainly a beautiful and melodic voice is not the distinction that is needed, but the attitude is the real key. To that end, we find another ayah building on this issue:
إِنَّ فِي ذَلِكَ لَذِكْرَى لِمَن كَانَ لَهُ قَلْبٌ أَوْ أَلْقَى السَّمْعَ وَهُوَ شَهِيدٌ
Verily in this is a Message for any that has a heart and understanding or who gives ear and earnestly witnesses (the truth). [50:37]
This ayah emphasizes the above mentioned meanings by informing the reader that only with comprehension and attentiveness does a person benefit from the Qur’an. Ad-Dahhak, one of the great scholars of Qur’anic tafsir, commented on this ayah, “The Arabs would say that someone has given ear when he hears with his ears, while his heart is present and not absent.” And Ibn Qutaibah said: “Listen to the book of Allah whilst your heart and mind is attentive, not neglectful nor distant.” Yet many will recite verses with their hearts distant, such that their eyes fall upon verses of punishment yet they are not affected or stopped, whereas the Companions would follow the Sunnah of our beloved Messenger Muhammad (saas) by pausing at these verse – sometimes to weep, other times to ask Allah for His protection and forgiveness, but always to ponder their meanings and consider their own actions in this light.
So we end this selection from the first day of Ramadan by remembering the practice of the Companions of the Prophet regarding their approach to the Qur’an.
Abu `Abd al-Rahmaan al-Sulamee states that whenever the people who taught them (them – the Successors/Tabi’een) the Qur’an like `Uthmaan ibn Affaan, `Abdullaah ibn Mas`ood and others (rA) that they learned ten verses of the Qur’an from the Prophet (saas) and they did not proceed further unless they had understood these verses with what they contained of regulations and injunctions. They used to say: “We learned the text of the Qur’an and studied its ideas and injunctions all together.” This explains why they spent such a long time in learning a chapter (surah). Anas (rA) has said: “We used to hold in great esteem the one who learned the two surahs of the Qur’an: al-Baqarah and Aali-‘Imraan”.
Ibn `Umar (rA) spent many years, and according to Maalik, a complete eight years, in learning these surahs (Usool at-Tafseer by Ibn Taimiyyah) when today some students memorize them (of course without understanding) in a few months. Hence, their serious and sincere approach to the Qur’an – seeking its guidance as Allah intended – caused them to take the Qur’an in a manner different from us today.
The take-home point today then is that our approach to this magnificent book must change, our attitude must fundamentally change if we are to become among the people of taqwa and thus those who will benefit from the Qur’an. We should return to the manners of our predecessors by remembering that this Qur’an is the word of Allah spoken and sent down to us from above the seven heavens so that we can attain guidance. Our attitude when reading it must be one in which the goal is not finishing the page or the juz’ as much as it is understanding what we read with the sincere intention of acting upon it – implementing it if it is a command and avoiding it if it is a prohibition. If this limits us to only a few ayat per day then remember that we are not better than the Companions who also took a similarly long time yet benefited and were guided so much more than us. Let us end by remembering the wise words of al-Khateeb al-Baghdaadi who said,
“Do not be pleased with knowledge that has no action to accompany it, nor with action that has no knowledge to guide it; but instead marry the two together by acting upon knowledge even if the result of that is that you attain less of them both.”
May Allah accept our fasting and help us to become among the people of the Qur’an, those described by the Prophet (saas) in the authentic hadith as those who act upon the Qur’an – ameen.
See Also: MM’s Ramadan Coverage