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3 Reasons Why You Are Still Failing The Qur’an – Sidi Tushar Imdad

Rajab is traditionally the month where Muslims start seriously mentally preparing for the greatest month of our calendar.

Part of this mental preparation is the believer’s natural reflection on their relationship with the Qur’an. Every Ramadan we have an annual opportunity to focus on this relationship and strive to improve it.

Before we decide how to improve our relationship, we must evaluate where we are now. That’s the purpose of this article.

The Qur’an has many rights over us, some compulsory to maintain and others Sunnah. I’ve summarized six of them:

  1. The right to be believed in. This is wajib (compulsory)
  2. The right to be recited correctly in Salah (wajib)
  3. The right to be recited regularly outside the fard salah (Sunnah)
  4. The right to be studied and understood (Sunnah)
  5. The right to be reflected upon (Sunnah)
  6. The right to be acted upon (wajib & Sunnah)

Now, leaving out rights 1, 2 and 6 as actions taken in the realm of aqeeda, tajweed and fiqh, we are left with three core habits which Muslims should be striving to uphold.

‘Ulema sometimes describe these three habits in a hierarchy:

Level 1: Recitation

Traditionally, in maktabs and madrasas around the Ummah and throughout history, Muslim children are first taught to recite the Qur’an. For perhaps 80% of the Ummah, this is without understanding of the meanings. Nonetheless, it’s still a mighty act of worship and a powerful form of dhikr.

A popular aspiration for many Muslims is to read at least a juz of Qur’an within Ramadan and up to half a juz in other months (as many of the Tabi’een did).

Level 2: Study of the Qur’anic Sciences

The Qur’an is a book of guidance and is intended to be read and reflected upon. How is this possible without knowing Arabic?

Imagine an urgent message in Chinese was written to you. Since you couldn’t even read the language, you first learned how to decipher the symbols. Then – as you believed it to be praiseworthy – you learned how to recite the words aloud (this could help you pass the message onto family and friends.) But imagine if you didn’t learn to understand the meaning of the actual message, the actual words. And imagine if the message was something to the effect of: ‘You must leave the city within 10 days as you will be attacked by enemy forces.’ How pointless would be all the reading and reciting!

Without going into the more detailed sciences of the Qur’an, the lay Muslim should at least aspire to:

a)Actively learning Qur’anic Arabic so to understand the spirit of the verses

b)Learn the meanings of commonly recited surahs like the Fatiha, last 20 surahs, etc.

c)Read the translation In your native language cover-to-cover

d)Study the tafsir (commentary) of the Qur’an, both in book form and with scholars.

Level 3:  Deep Reflection

Tadabbur or reflection is highly encouraged by Allah Most High:

Will they not then ponder (ya-ta-dabbaruna) on the Qur’an?” (4:82)

This practice is really the fruits of all the other rights of the Qur’an. When there is firm belief, action upon the Qur’an’s injunctions (by respecting all halal and haram), regular recitation and study, then the soil for nurturing reflection is healthy. However, it is only watered through sincere intention, unwavering focus and a heart that is conscious of Allah.

An illiterate, ignorant, humble woman reciting the Qur’an with fear of Allah and love of His Book is far, far superior than a ‘professor’ of Quranic studies who reads with pride and heedlessness. Indeed, the former is much more knowledgeable than the latter.

If knowledge of the Qur’an does not increase the reader’s fear, reverence and Iman then it is not true knowledge at all:

“The believers are only those who, when Allah is mentioned, their hearts become fearful, and when His verses are recited to them, it increases them in faith.” (8:2)

How we are Failing

Returning to my bold assertion in the title of this article, I believe there are at least three ways we are failing the Qur’an.

#1 – Neglecting one of the Level 1 or 2 rights  

Sadly, it is not an exaggeration to say that many – if not most – Western Muslims are grossly deficient in fulfilling even the wujub (obligation) of reciting with correct Tajweed. Similarly, if you have not studied fiqh of worship and all other fard al-‘ayn topics, then this is disobedience of the Qur’an’s injunction to ‘Obey Allah and His Messenger (s.a.w.)’.

And what about Arabic? I could – and perhaps will – write a whole article about the importance of making this a major part of our life.

If you have not spent several years of concerted effort in attempting to learn the language of the Qur’an, then, frankly, you are negligent.

Arabic should be our second language.

The Qur’an is designed to be experienced every time it is recited. In our glorious past – when Islam was at its zenith in the politcal and spiritual realms – learning and knowledge of Arabic was assumed necessary for all educated Muslims, much like English is deemed important now.

Courses, like that offered in SeekersGuidance, help remedy these rights. If you are deficient in Tajweed or Arabic, enrol on a course after finishing this article. I challenge you!

#2 – Failure to make our Quranic reading a solid habit  

Many of us grew up witnessing parents and elders recite a healthy portion of Qur’an every morning without fail. For our generation – with our workday hustle and evening exhaustion – such a simple practice seems miraculous!

In our youth we easily managed to recite half a juz a day. After marriage and kids, it can be a challenge to steal a page or two, reciting when we get a chance.

Reciting Qur’an regularly isn’t the proper wird (daily spiritual habit) that it should be.

#3 – Not making the Qur’an our favourite book in the world

Even if we have mastered level 2, why are we so mediocre with our study of the greatest book in existence? We spend our intellects on degrees, dissertations and professional training; we decode complex textbooks, pass challenging exams and analyse famous literature.

And yet how little time have we spent – in comparison to all that – on the book authored by God Almighty?

I realize this article is a little downbeat, but I make no apology. The Qur’an warns as well as gives good news; threatens punishment and promises reward.

Likewise, a coach sometimes must scold, look you in the eye and tell you how it is.

Feel bad, make tauba and reflect on your shortcomings. It’s a massive part of our Deen and the prerequisite for true change.

Then from next week, you’ll be ready to hear some innovative solutions.


Biography:
Tushar Imdad (aka Tushar Mohammed Imdad-ul-Haque Bhuiya) is an Islamic Time Management Coach and Educational Entrepreneur. Professionally trained as a high school English teacher, Tushar has taught or managed prominent Islamic schools in Leicester, UK, between 2007-2016. With a flair for managing multiple roles, Tushar is also a GCSE English examiner, a teacher trainer for AMS UK; professional proofreader; former lead instructor at Madrasa Manara; and is currently the Director of Shaykhspeare’s Online English Academy and High Impact Tutors.  
 A long-term student of knowledge, Tushar has studied a range of Islamic sciences at the feet of scholars such as Shaykh Nuh Keller, Umm Sahl, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, Maulana Ilyas Patel and Ustadh Tabraze Azam. In 2015 he completed Level 5 of the Classical Arabic Program from the prestigious Qasid Institute, Amman.   
Throughout his varied career, Tushar has always been driven by a passion for time management. Starting in 2009, he has delivered a mixture of workshops, webinars, web-coaching and client visits, attracting delegates as varied as CEOs, corporate professionals, housewives, dentists and scholars from places spanning the UK, US and Middle East. Tushar has published articles and delivered training for ProductiveMuslim.com, SeekersGuidance.org and Qibla.com (now Kiflayn). In recent years he has immersed himself in  productivity systems, learning from world-class experts such as Demir Bentley, the authors of The One Thing, Leo Babuta and James Clear. His recent courses have included  ‘Principles of Islamic Time Management’, ‘Time Tactics 101’ and ‘The Breakthrough Habit’.

Why Habits Eat Willpower for Breakfast – Sidi Tushar Imdad

One of the most common excuses I hear for not completing big goals is ‘I just don’t have the willpower’ or the common variant: ‘I need to have more discipline.’

Even if people don’t verbalise these beliefs aloud, their actions speak for them: they are waiting until they feel motivated or are hoping that, somehow, they can summon up willpower later. Then they’ll get onto fulfilling their dreams.

A surprising find of modern research is that willpower is overrated. As James Clear, in Atomic Habits, has noted:

“When scientists analyze people who appear to have tremendous self-control, it turns out those individuals aren’t all that different from those who are struggling. Instead, “disciplined” people are better at structuring their lives in a way that does not require heroic willpower and self-control. In other words, they spend less time in tempting situations.”

So that sister you see going on a jog every morning, or the brother who consistently makes Fajr, probably are no more ‘disciplined’ than you. They’ve managed to establish a habit – which requires hardly any willpower to maintain.

If you think about your own life, I guarantee there is at least one habit which you do regularly that others find extremely hard.

Don’t believe me? Try driving. I have relatives – both male and female – who are in their thirties and still can’t drive. For them, the thought of paying for and taking dozens of lessons, preparing for the theory and practical exam, etc., is like a mountain of willpower they need to overcome.

But if you are one of the thousands of drivers reading this, it’s no sweat at all. Driving – which is an incredibly complex skill if you think about it – is completely second nature for us.

Much more important than willpower in breaking or making habits, is environment.

Here’s a powerful proof of this assertion.

During the Vietnam War the American public were shocked to find that up to a whopping 20% of soldiers and service users were addicted to heroin. This caused consternation and immediate government intervention, with the setting up of organisations and research initiatives. One of the startling findings was that 90% of these addicts managed to eliminate their habits overnight.

But how? They came home.

Conventional wisdom preached that these soldiers must have been morally corrupt or undisciplined.

But the truth was that the constant stress of war and the particular friendships made on the battlefield all created triggers for heroin use.

Once the soldiers returned to the USA they were removed from the environment. Remove the cues/triggers and you remove the habit.

What was supposed to be a permanent, irreversible condition got treated in one day.

Islamically, we can call this the power of our suhba – which is both the company we keep and environment.

Think of the famous hadith of the man who murdered 100 people (if you don’t know it, or need a reminder, you can read it here: https://sunnah.com/bukhari/60/137) before finding a monk who wisely advised him to travel to a certain village. He passed away before reaching his destination, but Allah, in His mercy, accepted this serial murderer’s repentance and forgave him!

SubhanAllah, let’s think about this hadith in the context of our discussion on habits. This man was saved due to the advice to change his environment, change his suhba. He wasn’t advised to spend time in isolation, work on himself or to do this deed or that deed.

He was directed to completely change his environment, as that is one of the most powerful ways to uproot your habits and replace bad deeds with good ones.

The Qur’an itself encourages one to seek a positive environment in the strongest terms. In Surah Nisa (4:97) we read a powerful dialogue between the angels and the sinners whose souls they are taking (Allah, cause us to die in a goodly state! Amin!). The sinners complain, ‘We were too weak and oppressed on earth.’ But the angels reply:

‘Was God’s earth not vast enough for you to migrate to some other place?’

In my own life, and with many of my friends, I’ve seen this principle played out through witnessing countless sincere Muslims making ‘hijra’ (emigration for Allah’s sake). Many moved to the Middle East to be in a Muslim country where they could hear the azan resounding and reminding five times a day; others moved to live with their shaykh and his community of students. Even my beloved city, Leicester Sharif, is fondly known as ‘The Medina of England’ and attracts many practising Muslims who move here for the quality of Hifz and Islamic education, abundant masajid and active scholarly community.

Another surpassing wisdom of our Deen is the encouragement – and with men, the near obligation – of praying our salahs in the masjid. Allah knew in His infinite wisdom – before science caught up to confirm – that we need to be constantly buffeted by an environment of Dhikr (remembrance) and that’s why places, like the masjid, or Makkah Sharif,  or houses of remembrance, are one of the most sanctified places in our life.

In today’s article I’ve scratched the surface on the power of habits to transform our lives. We’ve explored how one’s environment and suhba can easily overpower willpower. Building up to Ramadan, my series of articles termed the ‘Pre-Ramadan Runway’ will explore other aspects of habit forming that we can utilise in the holy month, and in life generally.

For now, if you ever start thinking that you’re not disciplined enough or are short on willpower, ask a different question. How can you improve your environment or suhba?


Biography:
Tushar Imdad (aka Tushar Mohammed Imdad-ul-Haque Bhuiya) is an Islamic Time Management Coach and Educational Entrepreneur. Professionally trained as a high school English teacher, Tushar has taught or managed prominent Islamic schools in Leicester, UK, between 2007-2016. With a flair for managing multiple roles, Tushar is also a GCSE English examiner, a teacher trainer for AMS UK; professional proofreader; former lead instructor at Madrasa Manara; and is currently the Director of Shaykhspeare’s Online English Academy and High Impact Tutors.  
 A long-term student of knowledge, Tushar has studied a range of Islamic sciences at the feet of scholars such as Shaykh Nuh Keller, Umm Sahl, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, Maulana Ilyas Patel and Ustadh Tabraze Azam. In 2015 he completed Level 5 of the Classical Arabic Program from the prestigious Qasid Institute, Amman.   
Throughout his varied career, Tushar has always been driven by a passion for time management. Starting in 2009, he has delivered a mixture of workshops, webinars, web-coaching and client visits, attracting delegates as varied as CEOs, corporate professionals, housewives, dentists and scholars from places spanning the UK, US and Middle East. Tushar has published articles and delivered training for ProductiveMuslim.com, SeekersGuidance.org and Qibla.com (now Kiflayn). In recent years he has immersed himself in  productivity systems, learning from world-class experts such as Demir Bentley, the authors of The One Thing, Leo Babuta and James Clear. His recent courses have included  ‘Principles of Islamic Time Management’, ‘Time Tactics 101’ and ‘The Breakthrough Habit’.

Rethinking How Our Actions and Habits Affect Our Children, by Ustadha Shireen Ahmed

When adults, and parents in particular, fiddle with their smartphones are every given opportunity, what example does it set for the children watching us? It is that we know no better way to fill our time when we’re bored. Ustadha Shireen Ahmed uses this example and others to remind us how important it is to examine our habits and actions in front of those who look up to us.

How to be real men, by Habib Ali Al-Jifri

“He was like one of us, until the time for prayer came – then it was like he did not know us, nor did we know him.”

Men who feel it is beneath them to lift a finger to help their wives and families at home, should look to the life and habits of the best of creation, Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, counsels Habib Ali al-Jifri. This is a short excerpt from a course delivered in London, United Kingdom, organised by the Radical Middle Way.

Translated by Shaykh Walead Mossad.