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Reading the Whole Qur'an

Two: Read, first, the whole Qur an, from beginning to end, comprehending the direct, literal meaning. If you do not know Arabic then use a translation.

Indeed you should make a special project of completing the first reading of the Qur'an in one month. This should not take more than two hours a day. After that you can settle down to a slower pace as may be convenient for you. But you must continue with such overview reading throughout your life, at whatever pace suits you, as you have already come to know under the rules of reading.

An initial reading of the whole Qur'an is very important before you embark on a deeper study. This will give you the general overall message of the Qur'an, some idea of its style and diction, argument and rhetoric, and a view of its teachings and injunctions. Reading it regularly, You become familiar with the Qur'an; you feel its cohesive unity and begin to look at it as a unified whole; you are in less danger of interpreting something outside the general framework of the Qur'an. Those who go to the Qur'an through concordances, instead of their own familiarity with its Contents and contexts, are quite liable to fall into error in their interpretation.

Keeping company with the text of the Qur'an regularly is an essential key to understanding it as a whole; it will be of immense help, too, in understanding even single words and Ayahs. By prolonged and sustained company You will find that many a time you will come across a text which will suddenly seem to speak to you and answer your questions.

Indeed, at any one time, you may be making your way through the Qur'an in a variety of ways to achieve different aims. You may be engrossed in a rapid reading, to finish it in a definite period of time. Or, you may be spending hours to locate the meaning of one single word or one single verse. You may be reading one passage, again and again, sometimes rapidly, sometimes slowly, to ponder over its meaning. Or, you may be flipping through the pages-once you have become familiar with the whole ground to find guidance on a particular issue or theme. You may be thinking on your own, which may take less time; or you may be making a comparative study of short and long tafsir works, which may make you stay with a small portion for a long time.

 

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Chapter 4

Rules of Reading

Prolonged companionship with the Qur'an must become one of your most cherished desires and occupations. Read it, therefore, as often and as much as you can. Spend as much time with it as you can find, especially the hours of night. In this manner were the souls of the Prophet, blessings and peace be on him, and his Companions schooled in the way of Allah, to prepare them to shoulder the huge and weighty task that the Qur'an placed upon them.

There are a few guidelines and rules in this reward that you must bear in mind.

Every day you must read some of the Qur'an. In fact do not consider a day complete unless you have spent some time with the Qur'an. It is better to read regularly, even if it be only a small portion, than to read long parts, but only occasionally.

Allah likes things which are done regularly, even if little, said the Prophet, blessings and peace be on him (Bukhari, Muslim). He also warned especially that you must attend to the Qur'an regularly, otherwise you may easily lose your gains. The parable of the companion of the Qur'an is like a tethered camel; a man holds on to it so long as he attends to it, and it escapes if he lets it loose (Bukhari, Muslim).

 

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How Much to Read?

There can be no fixed answer. It will vary from person to person, and from situation to situation. The guideline must be what Allah, after taking into account all human factors, has said: 'Read whatever you can with ease' (al-Muzzammil 73:20).

The practice of the Companions and those who followed them varied considerably. Some used to finish the whole Qur'an in two months, some in one month, some in ten days, some in one week, some even in one day. You should, however, bear in mind the following Hadith as the governing criteria:

One who reads the Qur'an in less than three days does not understand it (Abu Da'ud, Tirmidhi).

Once, when Ibn 'Umar upon being asked by the Prophet, blessings and peace be on him, to read the Qur'an in one month insisted on doing so in less time, he told him: Read it in seven days and do not increase on this (Bukhari).

That the Qur'an is divided into 7 hizb (groups) and 30 juz' (parts) gives some indication of what is considered desirable.

In this respect al-Nawawi's advice is very sensible: One who can discover deeper meanings by contemplation should read less, similarly one who has to devote time in pursuits like education, affairs of government, or important tasks entrusted by Islam may read less (Kitab al-Adhkar).

The quantity of reading will very much depend on the purpose of reading. If you just want to spend time with the Qur'an, or get a quick overview, you may read much faster and, therefore, more. If you want to ponder and reflect, you may read much slower and, therefore, less. This is what al-Ghazali means when he quotes someone as saying 'I complete the reading of the Qur'an sometimes on every Friday, sometimes every month, sometimes every year. And (in one type of reading) I have been trying to complete it for the last thirty years but have not yet done so' (Ihya').

Under our present circumstances, I think, most of us should aim to finish a general reading of the whole Qur'an at least once every eight months. This should not take more than 5-15 minutes every day, depending on whether you understand the meaning directly or through a translation.

But, at least on a few occasions in your lifetime, you should also attempt to finish one reading in seven days. Or, in one month, especially in the month of Ramadan. Some time should also be devoted to reading slowly, with pondering and reflection, though not necessarily daily.

 
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When to Read?

No time of the day or night is unsuitable for reading the Qur'an, nor is there any physical posture in which you may not do so. Allah says:

Remember the name of your Lord at morning and in the evening and part of the night (al-Dahr 76:25).

Those who remember God when they are standing, and when they are sitting and when they are lying (Al 'Imran 3:191).

Reading the Qur'an is certainly the best way to remember Him. The Companions and those who followed them, says al-Nawawi, used to read it during all hours of the day and night, whether they stayed in one place or were travelling.

Yet there are some specific times which are more desirable as they are recommended by the Qur'an and the Prophet, blessings and peace be on him; those moments are more rewarding and fruitful. So too there are certain recommended postures.

The most excellent time to read is at night, and the most desirable posture is to stand in Prayer. In Qne of the earliest Surahs, al-Muzzammil, as in numerous other places, the Qur'an tells us so (Al 'Imran 3: 113; al-Isra' 17: 79; al-Zumar 39: 9). It also explains why. Reading the Qur'an during night-Prayers enables your heart to remain with your reading and strengthens your will in surrendering yourself to Allah's guidance and fulfilling the mission He has entrusted to you.

To do so, however, requires that you should (a) memorize some portions of the Qur'an, and (b) remain awake for some time during the night. All of you may not therefore be able to do so all the time for various reasons; the Qur'an recognizes such limitations. It, therefore, permits you to read 'whatever you can do with ease' which means 'whatever portion', at 'whatever time', and in 'whatever position'.

The great need and immense benefits of reading the Qur'an in Prayer during the night however remain. Hence you should assign at least some time, however little, even a few minutes with some regular frequency, however long, say weekly or even monthly, for this purpose.

To keep as near as possible to the ideal way, it may be desirable if you read the Qur'an after or before Fajr and 'Isha' Prayers, or at dawn, or before going to bed. Reading the Qur'an at dawn is especially commended in the Qur'an (alIsra' 17: 78).

To read the Qur'an while sitting on a chair, resting against a pillow, lying in bed or on a couch is not desirable, but is not prohibited. But never do so without excuse, nor make it a habit. However, if one totally misses reading the Qur'an only because one cannot afford to sit in a proper posture, one loses something more precious.

 

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Reading Correctly

You must read the Qur'an correctly. At least vowels and letters should be pronounced correctly, even if you are unable to learn the whole art of tajwid. The Arabic language is such that very slight mistakes in pronouncing vowels while reading may drastically alter the meaning, sometimes totally distorting it. On some occasions, you may be saying things which could amount to Kufr.

An hour a day of sustained learning for a month or so should be enough for an educated adult to acquire the minimum essential rudimentary skills in this respect.

No one can be absolved of trying sincerely to learn to read the Qur'an correctly. But while you are learning, the fact that you cannot do so should not be a reason to forsake your reading. A non-Arab may never master the art of correct reading. Or, you may have no opportunity to learn. The Prophet was aware of such difficulties when he told Jibra'il, 'I have been sent, Jibra'il, to a people who are unlettered, among whom are old women and old men, boys and girls, and men who have never read a book' (Tirmidhi). You should, therefore, remember his reassuring words in this respect, though do not make them an excuse to shun or slacken your efforts to learn.

One who is skilled in reading the Qur'an is with the noble, virtuous angels who bring down the revelation; one who falters while reading it and finds it hard to read correctly, will have a double reward (for reading and for exerting) (Bukhari, Muslim).

Next to reading the Qur'an correctly, it is desirable to learn the art of qira'ah in order to read it beautifully, in a sweet, pleasant, and melodious style and voice. There are many Hadith which point in this direction:

Beautify the Qur'an with your voices (Abd Da'ud).

God does not listen to anything as He does to a prophet with a good voice who recites the Qur'an aloud (Bukhari, Muslim). He who does not chant the Qur'an is not among us (Bukhari) .

But remember that the real beauty is the beauty that comes with the fear of God in one's heart:

His recitation and voice is most beautiful that when you hear him you think he fears God (Darimi).

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Listening Attentively

Listen attentively, and fall silent, whenever the Qur'an is being recited.

This is what the Qur'an itself commands: 'When the Qur'an is read, listen attentively, and fall silent, so that you may be blessed with mercy' (al-A'raf 7: 204). Obviously when God is speaking you must fall silent, but the Arabic word used for 'listening' denotes not merely an act of 'physical hearing' but also a particular state of attention and acceptance.

Consequently, nothing contrary to this instruction should be done; talking or speaking while the Qur'an is being read; playing qira'ah cassettes and then using it as 'background music' to do other things; talking and whispering, while the Qur'an is being recited, and opening meetings and functions with the Qur'an recitation while no one is paying any attention to it.

Some Fuqaha' even forbid performing your Prayer while the Qur'an is being read loudly near you.

This rule also entails that one who is reading the Qur'an should lower his voice or read silently if his reading aloud places demands on those who are nearby which they will find inconvenient or impossible to meet. This is part of one's duty of being good to one's neighbours; moreover the 'listening' should not be imposed on others unless they so desire.

Asking others, especially those who can read it correctly and beautifully, to read the Qur'an and, then, to listen to it is also very desirable. The Prophet, blessings and peace be on him, used to ask his Companions to read the Qur'an to him.

You should bear in mind what the Prophet, blessings and peace be on him, has said in this regard:

Whoever listens to even one verse of the Qur'an will be given double the rewards; and for the one who reads, it will become light on the Day of Resurrection (Ahmad).

 

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Completing the Reading (Khatm)

The time when you have completed reading the whole of the Qur'an, no matter how often you may do so, is a time for joy, celebration and prayer. Al-Nawawi mentions certain rules in this regard, drawn from the practices which were usually observed by the Companions and their followers. Although they are not obligatory, they are nevertheless very desirable; observe as many as often as you can.

One: It is better to begin reading on a Friday night and end on a Thursday night. Some preferred to begin at dawn on a Monday. Others picked different times, so that no moment is left without the blessing, and each bears witness on the Day of Judgement.

Two: Read the last portion in Prayer, especially if you finish while you are alone.

Three: Gather other people at the time of finishing, and supplicate together.

When Anas Ibn Malik, the Companion of the Prophet, used to complete the Qur'an reading, he gathered his family and supplicated (Abd Da'ud). Hakam Ibn 'Utaybah is reported to have said: 'Once I was sent for by Mujahid and 'Ubadah Ibn Abl Lubabah who said to me: We have invited you because we intend to finish the Qur'an, and the supplications at the time of finishing are answered.' In another version they are reported to have said: 'Mercy of God descends at the time of finishing the Qur'an.'

Four: Fast the day when you intend to complete the Qur'an reading.

Five: Begin the next reading of the Qur'an immediately after you have completed the last, i.e. read Surah al-Fatih, and a few verses of Surah al-Baqarah after you have finished Surah al-Nas. This will, in one sense, comply with the Hadith narrated by Anas Ibn Malik:

Among the better of deeds is to [arrive and] settle down and to depart [continue the journey].

When asked what this meant, he replied: 'To end the Qur'an and to begin it.'

Six: Supplicate and pray at the time of completion of the Qur'an. It is the time when your supplication is answered and when mercy descends from God. This practice has been very forcefully stressed.

One who reads the Qur'an and then supplicates, thousand angels say Amin! (Darimi).

Pray with humility, fearfulness, hope, softness and insistence. Pray for your person, but indeed pray for everything, particularly for the important collective affairs of the Ummah, for its dignity and honour, for the betterment of its rulers, for its safety from hostile forces, for co-operation and unity among Muslims on matters of goodness and taqwa, for their standing by the Truth.

 
 
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Memorizing

Memorize as much of the Qur'an as you can.

The Qur'an is unique in demanding to be preserved in memory, the hifz.

The word hifz itself, though now used in the limited sense of memorizing, includes both understanding and practice. In fact there is no English word which can accurately reflect its true and full meaning.

Hifz is an essential way of making the Qur'an penetrate you. It is not a mechanical, ritual act; it is an act of high spiritual and devotional importance. Only through hifz can you read the Qur'an in Prayers and ponder over its meaning while you stand in the presence of the Speaker. But apart from that, it makes the Qur'an flow on your tongue, reside in your mind, dwell in your heart: it becomes your constant companion. Also as you memorize more you will find it easier to make your inner self participate in its reading and your mind study and understand its meaning.

The Prophet, blessings and peace be on him, has stressed it in various ways:

Memorize the Qur'an, for God will not punish the heart which contains the Qur'an (Sharh al-Sunnah).

One who has nothing of the Qur'an inside him is like a desolate/ruined house (Tirmidhi).

So allocate part of your time for the Qur'an for this purpose. Go about it in a systematic way. Set your targets over a period of time. All those parts should form part of your list, which the Prophet, blessings and peace be on him, used to recite during Prayer, or at particular hours of the day and night, or which he instructed his Companions to so recite, or whose excellence he expounded. Some other portions will attract you automatically as you read the Qur'an regularly, and you should proceed to retain them in your memory.

 
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Chapter 5:

Study and Understanding

Importance and Need

You cannot gather the full and real blessings and treasures of the Qur'an unless you devote yourself to understanding its meaning, unless you know what your Creator is saying to you.

This is not to deny, as we said earlier, that even those who cannot understand it may partake of its blessings. Obviously an overwhelming majority of Muslims do not know Arabic, and many do not possess any translation in their language. But, if they read the Qur'an with sincere devotion, reverence and love, they should not fail to share in some of its riches. For, being in the company of the one you love, even if you do not know his language, certainly deepens your relationship with him. Yet immensely greater will be the blessings and stronger will be the relationship if you also understand what he is saying.

On the other hand, merely understanding the meaning may also be of no avail. Many listened to the Qur'an from the lips of the Prophet, blessings and peace be on him, and understood every word of it; yet they went further astray. Millions of people for whom Arabic is their language understand the Qur'an; yet it makes no impact upon their lives. Scores of scholars, Muslims as well as non-Muslims, spend a lifetime studying and reading the Qur'an, and their scholarship can hardly be faulted; yet they remain impervious to its touch.

Yet, despite this, the urgent need to devote yourself to understanding the Qur'an remains. The Qur'an has come as a guide, reminder, admonition and healing. It is not merely a source of reward (thawab), a sacred ritual, a sacrament, a revered relic, or a holy magic. It has come to radically change you and lead you to a new life and existence. Understanding it is no sure guarantee of finding that new life, but without it the task of fulfilling the real purpose of the Qur'an and inviting mankind to it must remain extremely difficult.

Why have we to devote ourselves to understanding the Qur'an, on our own, and to thinking, pondering and reflecting upon its meaning? Is it not enough that we read or hear its exposition by the learned? It is most certainly not, even though that too is essential.

You must exert yourself to absorb and discover what the Qur'an has to say, mainly for one very important, crucial reason. The Qur'an is not merely a book of knowledge, or a collection of do's and don'ts. It does not merely inform about God and what He wants of you. It also wants to take hold of your person and bring you into a new living and pervasive relationship with Him. Hence, it should increase and strengthen your faith (Iman), your will (iradah), your steadfastness (sabr). It should purify you, form your character, and mould your conduct. It should continually inspire you and elevate you to greater and greater heights.

All this can be accomplished only if you enter into a personal relationship of study, meditation, and understanding with the Qur'an. Without pondering over its messages, your hearts, your thoughts and your conduct cannot respond to them. Without immersing yourself in thinking and reflecting over them, you cannot absorb them, nor can they impinge upon your life. Just think: Why should reading the Qur'an with tartil have been enjoined upon you if not for you to ponder and understand? Why should you be required to pause while reading the Qur'an, and how can you make appropriate inward, physical and verbal responses which the Qur'an so forcefully emphasizes if you do not know what you are reading?

 
 


Edited by a well wisher - 12 June 2009 at 6:38pm
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Argument Against Studying

But, is there not a danger that a person who is not guided by a learned teacher nor equipped with all the necessary tools of study, and who still embarks on the formidable venture of understanding, on his own, the Book of God, that he may go wrong, even astray? Yes, there is; especially when you do not know clearly your own limitations and goals. But the loss is greater, for yourself and for the Ummah, if you do not try to understand at all. While the risks involved in studying on your own can be averted by taking certain appropriate precautions, and ensuring that you never go beyond your limitations and goals, the loss incurred by forsaking such study cannot be made up.

Does not an attempt to understand the meaning of the Qur'an on one's own, some argue, violate what the Prophet, blessings and peace be on him, has clearly laid down: 'Whoever interprets the Qur'an by his own opinion shall take his place in Hell' (Tirmidhi)? But this Hadith, obviously, means only such studies as are undertaken to employ the Qur'an to support and prove one's personal opinions and preconceived notions rather than abandoning oneself, with an open mind, to its guidance. Or to attempt to interpret something for which one does not possess the necessary knowledge. Otherwise, as al-Ghazali forcefully argues, the Prophet would not have exhorted his Companions to exert themselves to understanding the Qur'an, nor would they have done so (as they did), nor would they have given meanings which they had not heard from him (as they gave), nor would there have been disagreements between their interpretations (as there are).

Fearful of the consequences, many religious leaders forbid even reading a translation of the Qur'an without the help of a learned teacher. Or, they lay down conditions for studying alone which only a handful of people, after long, laborious learning, can fulfil. Such counsels, despite their good intentions, in fact end up depriving you of the great riches that the Qur'an has to offer every seeker. While their fears are genuine, their prohibitions have no logic or basis.

Just think: Can they also prohibit an Arab from understanding the literal meaning of the Qur'an? Why, then, should a non-Arab not read a translation? Again, can they prevent any person from trying to find the meaning of whatever he reads and seeks to understand? Why, then, prohibit attempts to study the Qur'an and find its meaning? And finally, what about the first addressees of the Qur'an, Kafir as well as Muslim? They were illiterate merchants and bedouins, with no scholastic tools in their possession. Yet even some Kafirs were converted by only listening to the Qur'an, without the help of any learned exegeses, and indeed at the first hearing.

Of course, they had the unique and supreme advantage of 'seeing' the Quranic meaning and message in the lives of the Prophet, blessings and peace be on him, and his Companions, who were living the Qur'an by going through the crucible of Iman, Da'wah, and Jihad. We do not, and cannot, have that privilege. Yet even that should not discourage us. There is no reason why the Qur'an should not open its doors to us once we fulfil the necessary conditions, and most importantly, as emphasized again and again, we, too, live a life of Iman, Da'wah and Jihad, as the Companions did.

The protection against going astray certainly does not lie in prohibiting every attempt to understand the Qur'an except by sitting at the feet of a scholar; the cure lies in observing the right guidelines.

This is not to deny the essential need for possessing the necessary knowledge of the Arabic language and of various 'ulum al-Qur'an, of reading tafsir, of learning from qualified and reliable teachers, of being conversant with contemporary human knowledge. They are important, but only to the extent of what you desire to achieve from your study of the Qur'an. You must possess tools appropriate to your aims, but you cannot dispense with any attempt to understand the Qur'an because you do not possess all such tools, or because you are unable to go to a teacher.

Imagine that you are on an 'island'; you do not know Arabic, nor have you any opportunity to learn it; you do not have resources like a good teacher or a good commentary, nor can you acquire one. No doubt you should, under such circumstances, recognize the need of acquiring appropriate capabilities to understand the Qur'an correctly, make every possible effort to do so. But, even so the Qur'an remains the guidance for you from Allah.

Fortunately none of us lives on such an 'island'. Such 'islands' come to exist only in our perceptions, mainly due to our lethargy and laziness, inattention and inaction, or our lack of conviction that companionship with the Qur'an for understanding it is as essential to the nourishment of heart and mind as food is for the body. What is important to remember is that whether or not one really lives on an 'island' with only a copy of the Qur'an in one's hands, the literal meanings of which one can somehow understand, or whether or not one has mastered all the Quranic disciplines, the need and demand to devote oneself to personally pondering over the Qur'an remains.

 

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The Quranic Emphasis

The Qur'an is a guidance for every person, his teacher and mentor. Understanding it is therefore vital; otherwise it will remain no more than a sacrament. The crucial centrality of endeavours, personal endeavours, to open hearts and minds to the messages of the Qur'an is made abundantly clear by the Qur'an itself. We are confronted with the utter folly of keeping our hearts locked against our understanding of the Qur'an:

What, do they not ponder the Qur'an? Or, is it that there are locks on their hearts (Muhammad 47:24).

Therefore the invitation to bring reason and understanding to the Qur'an is spread on almost every page of it: Why you hear not? Why you see not? Why you think not? Why you reason not? Why you ponder not? Why you understand not? Why you take not to heart? To whom are these invitations addressed if not to every human being who possesses the faculties of hearing, seeing and thinking?

It is also emphatically declared that the Qur'an has been sent down to be understood:

A Book We have sent down, [it is] full of blessings, that men may ponder over its messages, and those who possess understanding may take them to heart (Sad 38: 29).

Likewise, the Qur'an praises as the true 'servants of the Most-merciful' (Ibadu 'r-Rahman) those:

Who, when they are reminded of the revelations of their Lord, fall not thereat deaf and blind (al-Furqan 25: 73) .

Conversely, it castigates as worse than animals those who do not use their hearing, sight and hearts to listen, see and understand:

They have hearts, but they understand not with them; they have eyes, but they see not with them; they have ears but they hear not with them. They are like cattle; nay they are further astray. It is they who are the heedless (al-A'raf 7: 179).

You cannot gather the real blessings and treasures of the Qur'an unless you know its meaning, unless you understand what Allah is saying to you, unless you exert yourself personally to find that out.

The Hadith which discourages reading the Qur'an in less than three days also makes the need for understanding clear: you will not, then, understand it. One who does not understand the meanings or who does not reflect over them is in no need of this directive. Al-Ghazali, in his Ihya', gives many examples of how the Companions and their followers devoted themselves to this task.

Anas Ibn Malik once said: 'Often one recites the Qur'an, but the Qur'an curses him because he does not understand it.' The sign of faith, according to Abdullah Ibn 'Umar, is to understand the Qur'an: 'We have lived long ... a time has come when I see a man who is given the whole Qur'an before he has acquired faith; he reads all the pages between al-Fatihah and its end, without knowing its commands, its threats, and the places in it where he should pause he scatters it like the scattering of one fleeing in haste." Aishah once heard a man babbling over the Qur'an and said: 'He has neither read the Qur'an nor kept silent."Ali said: 'There is no good in the Qur'an reading which is not pondered over.' Abu Sulayman al-Darani said: 'I recite a verse and remain with it for four or five nights and do not pass on to another verse unless I have ended my thinking on it.'

Obviously, if the Qur'an is a book of guidance for every man, the 'man on the island' is as much entitled to receive its guidance as the man immersed in scholarship. If there are no teachers and no books, still you must know it clearly, still devote your time, individually and collectively, to its understanding, to pondering over it, to finding its meaning for your life and finding out what it says to you.

 

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Risks of Personal Study

The risks inherent in such a venture, however, need to be clearly recognized and appropriate measures need to be taken to guard against them. Observing a few guidelines should ensure that you avoid these risks.

Firstly, remember that understanding the Qur'an is a vast, multi-dimensional process, comprising many types, aspects, degrees and levels. You should know them all. Understanding to nourish the heart will be of a very different order from understanding to derive legal precepts.

Secondly, evaluate yourself and recognize very clearly your limitations and capabilities. For example, evaluate your understanding of the Quranic framework of guidance, your grasp of Arabic, your familiarity with Hadith and Sirah, and your access to sources.

Thirdly, understand your objectives precisely, and set specific goals for your study. Never attempt to do anything beyond what your limitations and capabilities allow.

For example, if you do not know the Arabic language, do not delve into grammatical and lexical issues. Confine yourself to direct, literal meanings. If you have no knowledge of things like tanzil (revelation), nasikh-mansukh (abrogation), and the works of the earlier jurists, you should not begin to derive your own fiqh from the Qur'an, or criticize and support any particular view.

Fourthly, never take as conclusive nor start propagating any of your findings which are different from or against the general consensus of the Ummah. This is not to bar you from holding your views nor to deny that the opinion of the learned may be wrong, but to controvert or go against them you must possess an equal learning, if not more. Nor does this absolve you from the responsibility to do what you find from the Qur'an to be morally right and avoid what you find to be morally wrong.

Fifthly, whenever in doubt about your own conclusions, which you may often be in view of your limited knowledge, keep your views 'in suspension' unless you have made a full comparative study or discussed them with a reliable, learned scholar of the Qur'an.

 

La ilaha ill-Allah, Muhammadur Rasulullah
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Rating: 0 of 0 votes Quote a well wisher Replybullet Posted: 16 June 2009 at 2:30pm

Categories of Understanding

Broadly speaking, we may divide the study of the Qur'an into two categories: Tadhakkur and Tadabbur, after the Quranic verse: 'That men may ponder over (li yaddabbaru) its revelations and ... may take them to heart (li yatadhakkara)' (Sad 38: 29).

Tadhakkur, used extensively in the Qur'an, has been translated variously as receiving admonition, deriving advice, remembering, taking heed, and taking to heart. It can therefore be taken to signify the process whereby you try to grasp the general messages and teachings being conveyed by the Qur'an, to find out what they mean for you and what demands they make upon you, to take them to heart, to bring forth corresponding responses of heart and mind and attitudes, to have the will to act in accordance with whatever you find, and, finally, to determine what message you have to deliver to your fellow human beings.

Tadhakkur is a category of understanding which, in its essential nature, should not require any sophisticated tools of scholarship. You may not know the meaning of every word, you may not be competent enough to explore the full meaning of all the important and key words, and you may not understand every verse, but the general, overall message, especially the message for you-how to live-should come out clearly and radiantly.

After all, the people who understood the Qur'an most and benefited from it the greatest were its first hearers they were city merchants, farmers, shepherds, camel riders and nomads. They did not have at their elbows lexicons, tafsir books, treatises on style, diction, cadence, rhetoric nor did they possess all the knowledge of philosophy, history, geography, archaeology, anthropology, or of the social and physical sciences. Yet they were the most successful in understanding the Qur'an. For, they took the message of the Qur'an to their heart and began to live it. Hence this category of understanding ought to be and is available to every person who fulfils the necessary condition for it in this respect. The degree and intensity of what he receives will depend on his effort and capacity. Of course, tools of scholarship may add new dimensions, lend added weight, give new insights, to this process; but they are not a must.

It is in the sense of Tadhakkur that the Qur'an categorically states that it is easy to understand, it is available to every sincere inquirer if he only comprehends what he is reading and ponders over it. It is to this Tadhakkur that the Qur'an invites everyone who can hear, see and think, to be guided by it. It is in this sense that it says:

Indeed we have made this Qur'an easy for understanding and remembering (dhikr). Is there any, then, that will take it to heart (muddakir) (al-Qamar 54: 17).

Indeed we have made it [the Qur'an] easy [to understand] by your tongue [O Prophet] so that men might take it to heart (yaTadhakkuran) (al-Dukhan 44: 58).

Indeed We have made propounded unto men all kinds of parables in this Qur'an, so that they might understand (yatadhakkarun) (al-Zumar 39: 27).

In this there is indeed a reminder (dhikr) for everyone who has a heart, or will give ear while he is a witness [present with his mind] (Qaf 50: 37).

Tadhakkur is not some lower category of understanding; it is the basic essential purpose of the Qur'an. You will have to strive all your life in order to gain the light and guidance and healing through Tadhakkur and through this process you, personally, must continue to gather an unlimited number of gems.

Tadabbur is the other category of understanding. It signifiesL that you try to find the full meaning of every word, Ayah, and, Surah, that you explore the fuller meaning behind those words, metaphors and parables, that you discover the textual cohesion and underlying unity, that you determine the central ideas, delve into lexical intricacies, tanzil, and historical background, and that you undertake a comparative study of different tafsir. Then, that you discover all the implications for the relationship between man and his God, his fellow human beings, his own self, and the world around him; that you derive laws and morals for individuals and society, rules for state and economy, principles for history and philosophy, and implications for the current level of human knowledge.

Such a study would require a greater and deeper knowledge of various 'ulum al-Qur'an (the Quranic disciplines), depending on your goals and aims.

Tadabbur and Tadhakkur are not entirely separate nor mutually exclusive categories of understanding, they overlap.

La ilaha ill-Allah, Muhammadur Rasulullah
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Rating: 0 of 0 votes Quote a well wisher Replybullet Posted: 17 June 2009 at 3:38pm

Your Aims

What should your aims be? Obviously aims will vary from person to person and, even for a person, from time to time. Tadhakkur, in my view, is obligatory for every Muslim who is or can become capable of understanding the Qur'an.

Hence, as an average-educated Muslim, who is trying to fulfil his commitment to Allah in the light of his capabilities and limitations, Tadhakkur should be your first aim, and the most important one. You will stay with it forever; you will never reach a stage where you may dispense with it.

In Tadhakkur, remember, you essentially set out to nourish your heart and mind, to increase your faith, to discover the message that the Qur'an is giving to you, to take it to heart, to remember it. Through all your labours you should be able to hear God's voice: what He wants you to be and to do.

Your understanding of the Qur'an may have various levels and take different forms.

Firstly, that you comprehend its simple, literal meaning, as when you read a book in a language you know, or as an Arabic-knowing person would understand the Qur'an.

Such comprehension must be the bare minimum requirement, the key to all other stages, but it is not enough.

Secondly, that you find out how the learned have understood it, either by hearing their expositions or reading their exegeses and other sources.

Thirdly, that you study and ponder, on your own, to discover and absorb its meaning, to attain Tadhakkur and, if you have the capability and need, then Tadabbur as well.

Fourthly, that you discover its meaning by obeying its messages and by fulfilling the duties and mission that it entrusts to you.

 
 
La ilaha ill-Allah, Muhammadur Rasulullah
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Rating: 0 of 0 votes Quote Al-Cordoby Replybullet Posted: 18 June 2009 at 8:57pm

Basic Requirements

There are certain basic requirements which you should fulfil in order to make your endeavours fruitful.

Arabic

One: Try to learn at least as much Arabic as will enable you to understand the meaning of the Qur'an without the help of a translation. This is the first step, the most essential prerequisite.

It may seem an arduous task, but I have known semi-illiterate persons accomplish this within a few months, once they took to it seriously and devotedly. With the help of a teacher, or even a suitable book, you should not require more than 120 hours of study to learn enough Arabic to Comprehend what the Qur'an is saying.

But do not postpone your endeavours to study the Quran till such time as you learn Arabic. Take a good translations or the best available, and start your pursuit. This is still better than reading the Qur'an without any comprehension.

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