1. “When listening to the Qur’an…”
“Those only are believers who, when Allah is mentioned, their hearts tremble with awe, and when His verses are recited to them, they increase them in faith” (Qur’an 8:2).
The rope of Allah, subhanahu wa ta`ala (the Exalted and Glorified) is protection for the one who clings to it and relief for the one who follows it. Its wonders do not cease, and repetition will not diminish its marvels. Allah (swt) declares, “This is the Book about which there is no doubt, a guidance for those conscious of Allah; Who believe in the unseen, establish prayer and spend out of what We have provided for them; And who believe in what has been revealed to you, and what was revealed before you; and of the Hereafter they are certain [in faith]. Those are upon guidance from their Lord, and it is those who are the successful”
The Qur’an is the fulfillment of the promise of Allah (swt) to Adam, `alayhi salam (peace be upon him) and his descendants—a promise of salvation to those who seek refuge in His Word. It is a constant reminder of our origin and our destiny, our purpose and our obligations, our rewards and our perils. “And when guidance comes to you from Me, whoever follows My guidance – there will be no fear concerning them, nor will they grieve” (2:38). Allah (swt) provides hope for the faithful by promising them His Help in times of adversity and securing serenity for them on that great day when many will be in misery.
Although the Qur’an is the Word of Allah (swt), it is intelligible. Allah (swt) says, “And We have indeed made the Qur’an easy to understand and remember” (54:17). The words of the Qur’an are simple as to not create hindrance in understanding its objective, flow, and guidance; yet its elegance poses a challenge to the most articulate speakers, and proves to be more eloquent than their best works.
Historically, the original recipients of the Qur’an had no doubt that Allah (swt) was directly addressing them. This awareness would compel their bodies to tremble and flood their eyes with tears. They felt each word to be relevant to their own lives and experiences. Thus, each word penetrated deeply into their hearts shaping them at both the individual and collective levels to become the best community to have ever existed. Today, we have access to the exact same words. Nonetheless, hearts remain hard as rocks, eyes as dry as desert sands, and lives almost entirely unchanged. Such outcomes began when the Qur’an ceased to be viewed as an eternal living reality, a tremendous realm of knowledge, and an all-embracing guidance to success. Rather, it became a mere book of rules, regulations and parables.
The realization that the Qur’an is the Word of Allah (swt), the Creator, the All-Mighty, All-Wise, All-Knowing, and Most-Merciful demands awe, reverence, love, longing, and a resulting inspiration to strive in order to bring its words into our life. Once the Qur’an is delved into, the blessings and benefits are limitless but the measure of our taking depends on the capacity and suitability of the receptacle, the heart.
Allah (swt) says, “Truly, it has been sent down by the Lord of all the worlds; the Trustworthy spirit has alighted with it upon your qalb (heart) [O Prophet]” (26:192-194). The Qur’an refers to the qalb not just as a muscle in one’s body, but rather as the center of all feelings, emotions, motives, drives, aspirations, remembrance, and attention. The qalb is referred to many times—“It is the hearts which soften” (39:23), or “harden and become stony” (2:74). The heart’s function is to reason and to understand; similarly, the roots of all outward diseases and inner ills lie within the heart as well.
Therein also resides iman (faith) or kufr (denial). The heart is the center of good and bad, contentment and peace, strength and cowardice, love and hate. Therefore, it is no surprise that it is the heart which is held accountable on the Day of Judgment. Allah (swt) asks mankind, “Has the time not come for those who have believed that their hearts should become humbly submissive at the remembrance of Allah and what has come down of the truth?” (57:16). The Qur’an deserves our undivided attention, utmost concentration, and a sincere and conscious effort; every ayah (verse) should react with our hearts, and our heart responding to every call that the Qur’an makes.
Before approaching the Qur’an, however, one must begin by purifying one’s intention. It is much harder to purify intentions than it is to execute any action. The Prophet, salla Allahu `alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings be upon him), said “Actions are but by intentions, and every person shall have but what he intends” (Nawawi 1). Devotion to the Qur’an is a means by which to purify the heart of all its impurities. As one begins to read, no matter the amount, the heart will begin to soften. Through devotion, the heart will free itself from everything that once made it hard, leaving it free to respond to the call of its Creator.
Moreover, when reading the Qur’an, one must perform wudu (ablution) to enter the state of nadafah (purity). To purify one’s heart, one must begin with purifying one’s body; reading the Qur’an is a form of worship and the Qur’an is no ordinary book. As Allah (swt) speaks to us, it is important to be conscious of our purity—including our body—as a sign of reverence.
In the Qur’an, when the Day of Judgment, the Hellfire, and the punishments of Allah (swt) are mentioned, we are reminded that we are accountable for our every thought and action. Our hearts should not feel serene; rather, we must take the words in full force, our bodies trembling and our eyes filling with the tears of fear. Our hearts should instinctively repent and make the intention to not fall into disobedience and earn the Anger of Allah (swt). When stories of the past are mentioned, we reflect and contemplate. These stories are in the Qur’an not for entertainment purposes, but for valuable lessons to be learned. We long to be like those that have earned the Pleasure and Favors of Allah (swt), and we dread to be like those who went astray and earned His Punishment and Anger. We resolve to respond and renew our commitment and offer our lives for His sake.
When we read about the Mercy, Forgiveness, and Rewards of Allah (swt), we feel a sudden yearning for them. A desire arises within us to work for them; a feeling in our hearts of happiness, joy and hope to attain them with our greatest effort; a realization of the need to work so that we may receive His Mercy, for without His Mercy the deeds of the greatest person would not be enough to enter the eternal bliss of Paradise.
The same characters that existed at the time of revelation still exist today, for the nature of man is still the same. Realizing this truth and approaching the Qur’an as a real part of daily life, with profound relevance for all our present concerns and experiences, will draw us closer to its treasures, inviting its beauty to reside within our hearts. Then, rather than being a mere sacred book, the Qur’an will become a powerful force, instilling, igniting, moving, guiding, and leading us to achieve what we never thought possible, just as it did before. ̹