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:
- The right to be believed in. This is wajib (compulsory)
- The right to be recited correctly in Salah (wajib)
- The right to be recited regularly outside the fard salah (Sunnah)
- The right to be studied and understood (Sunnah)
- The right to be reflected upon (Sunnah)
- 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.