Answered by Shaykh Ahmad al-Ahmad
What are the guidelines for contemplating the Quran?
All praise is due to Allah.
Contemplating the Quran, reflecting upon it, and delving into its meanings are acts that are religiously recommended. Allah (Most High) says, “Do they not then reflect on the Quran?” [Quran, Sura al-Nisa, 4:82], and He also says, “˹This is˺ a blessed Book which We have revealed to you ˹O Prophet˺ so that they may contemplate its verses, and people of reason may be mindful” [Quran, Sura Sad, 38:29].
However, this contemplation is not arbitrary or based solely on an individual’s perception or understanding; it is guided by specific principles and Islamic rules to make it valid and acceptable. These guidelines include:
Learning the Arabic Language
Understanding the Arabic language, the meanings of its words, expressions, and the methods of its expression is essential. The Quran was revealed in Arabic, as Allah says, “Indeed, We have sent it down as an Arabic Quran” [Quran, Sura Yusuf, 12:2]. Without knowledge of Arabic grammar, rhetoric, and linguistic tools, one cannot fully grasp the depth of the Quran’s meaning.
Studying the Life of the Prophet
Understanding the life, character, and qualities of the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) is crucial. The Prophet explained the Quran through his words and exemplified it in his actions and character. Allah says, “Indeed, in the Messenger of Allah you have an excellent example for whoever has hope in Allah and the Last Day, and remembers Allah often” [Quran, Sura al-Ahzab, 33:21]. It is narrated that when Aisha (Allah be pleased with her) was asked about the Prophet’s character, she replied, “His character was the Quran itself.”
Understanding the Context of Revelation (Asbab al-Nuzul)
Knowing the historical background and context in which verses were revealed helps in understanding their meanings. The Quran addresses specific incidents, questions, or objections, and understanding these circumstances aids in comprehending the Quran and its relevance.
Referring to Exegeses (Tafsir)
Seeking knowledge from reliable tafsirs (exegeses) written by scholars is important. These tafsirs provide insights, explanations, and interpretations of the Quran based on the understanding of scholars who possess deep knowledge of the Quran, Hadith, and Arabic language.
In conclusion, Muslims are encouraged to contemplate the Quran, but it should be done with a strong foundation in the Arabic language, an understanding of the Prophet’s life and character, awareness of the Quranic context, and the guidance of reputable tafsirs. This approach ensures that the contemplation is valid and enriching, allowing individuals to benefit from the Quran’s wisdom and guidance fully. May Allah make us among those who deeply contemplate His words and act upon them. He is the One who enables this.