Certain basic states and attitudes of the heart and mind are necessary prerequisites to any fruitful relationship with the Qur’an. Develop them as much as you can. Make them part of your consciousness, keep them ever-alive and active. Integrate them in your actions. Let them penetrate the depth of your being. Without the help of these inner resources you will not receive your full measure of the Qur’an’s blessings. They will be your indispensable companions too, throughout your journey.
These inner resources are neither difficult nor impossible to find. Through constant awareness and reflection, through appropriate words and deeds, you can acquire and develop them. The more you do so, the closer you will be able to come to the Qur’an. The closer you come to the Qur’an, the greater your harvest will be.
- Faith: The Word of God
Come to the Qur’an with a strong and deep faith that it is the word of Allah, your Creator and Lord.
Why should such a faith be a necessary prerequisite? No doubt such is the power and charm of the Qur’an that even if a man takes it up and starts reading it as he would an ordinary book, he will still benefit from it, should he read it with an open mind. But this book is no ordinary book, it opens with the emphatic statement: (This is the Book [of God], there is no doubt in it) (Al-Baqarah 2:2). Your purpose in reading and studying it is no ordinary purpose. You seek from it the guidance that will transform your whole being, bring you and keep you on the Straight Path: (Guide us on the Straight Path) (Al-Fatihah 1:5) is the cry of your heart to which the Qur’an is the response.
You may admire the Qur’an, even be informed by it, but you cannot be transformed by it unless its words soak in to awaken you, to grip you, to heal, and to change you. This cannot happen unless you take them for what they truly are, the words of God.
Without this faith you cannot come to acquire all the other inner resources you will need to reach the heart of the Qur’an and absorb its message. Once it comes to reside in your heart, you cannot but be filled with the qualities and attitudes such as sincerity of purpose, awe and reverence, love and gratitude, trust and dependence, willingness to labor hard, conviction of its truth, surrender to its message, obedience to its commands, and vigilance against dangers which stalk to deprive you of its treasures.
Think of His majesty and glory and power, and you will feel awe and reverence and devotion for His words. Reflect on His sustenance and mercy and compassion, and you will be filled with gratitude and love and longing for His message. Know His wisdom and knowledge and kindness, and you will become willing and eager and ready to obey His commandments.
That is why the Qur’an reminds you of this important truth again and again: in the very beginning, in the opening verses of many surahs, and frequently in between.
That is why even the Messenger (peace and blessings be on him) is instructed to proclaim his own faith, and all believers must join him: (The Messenger believes in what has been sent down to him by His Lord, and all believers too) (Al-Baqarah 2:285).
You must, therefore, always remain conscious that each word that you are reading, reciting, hearing, or trying to understand has been sent for you by Allah.
Do you truly have this faith? You do not have to look far for an answer. Just examine your heart and behavior. If you have it, then where is the desire and longing for companionship with the Qur’an, where is the labor and hard work to understand it and where is the surrender and obedience to its message?
How do we obtain this faith, and how can it be kept alive? Although there are many ways, I will mention only one here. The most effective way is reciting the Qur’an itself. This may look as if we are moving in a circle, but this is not really the case. For, as you read the Qur’an, you will surely recognize it as being the word of God. Your faith will then increase in intensity and depth: (Believers are only those who, whenever God is mentioned, their hearts tremble with awe; and whenever His revelations are recited to them, they increase them in faith) (Al-Anfal 8:2).
- Purity of Intention and Purpose
Read the Qur’an with no purpose other than to receive guidance from your Lord, to come nearer to Him, and to seek His good pleasure.
What you get from the Qur’an depends on what you come to it for. Your niyyah (intention and purpose) is crucial. Certainly the Qur’an has come to guide you, but you may also go astray by reading it should you approach it for impure purposes and wrong motives.
(Thereby He causes many to go astray, and thereby He guides many; but thereby He causes none to go astray save the iniquitous) (Al-Baqarah 2:26).
The Qur’an is the word of Allah, it therefore requires as much exclusiveness of intention and purity of purpose as does worshiping (in prayer) and serving Him.
Do not read it merely for intellectual pursuit and pleasure, even though you must apply your intellect to its fullest for the task of understanding the Qur’an. So many people spend a lifetime in studying the language, style, history, geography, law, and ethics of the Qur’an, and yet their lives remain untouched by its message. The Qur’an frequently refers to people who have knowledge but do not derive benefit from it.
Nor should you come to the Qur’an with the fixed intention of finding support for your own views, notions, and doctrines. For if you do, you may then hear an echo of your own voice in it, and not that of God. It is this approach to the understanding and interpreting of the Qur’an that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) has condemned. (Whoever interprets the Qur’an by his personal opinion shall take his place in the Fire) (At-Tirmidhi).
Nothing could be more unfortunate than to use the Qur’an to secure, for your own person, worldly things such as name, esteem, status, fame, or money. You may get them, but you will surely be bartering away a priceless treasure for nothing, indeed even incurring eternal loss and ruin. Indeed, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: (If anyone studies the Qur’an seeking thereby a living from people, he will rise on the Day of Resurrection with his face as a fleshless bone) (Al-Baihaqi). He also said that one who learns, recites, and teaches the Qur’an for worldly acclaim will be thrown into the Fire (Muslim).
You may also derive other lesser benefits from the words of the Qur’an, such as the healing of bodily afflictions, psychological peace, and deliverance from poverty. There is no bar to having these, but again, they should not become the be-all and end-all that you seek from the Qur’an nor the goal of your niyyah. For in achieving these you may lose a whole ocean that could have been yours.
Reading every single letter of the Qur’an carries with it great rewards. Remain conscious of all the rewards, and make them an objective of your niyyah, for they will provide you with those strong incentives required to spend your life with the Qur’an. But never forget that on understanding, absorbing, and following the Qur’an you have been promised much larger rewards, in this world and in the Hereafter. It is these which you must aim for.
Not only should your purpose be pure, but you should also, once you have the Qur’an with you—both the text and its living embodiment in the Sunnah—never go to any other source for guidance. For that would be like running after mirages. It would mean a lack of confidence, a denigration of the Qur’an. It would amount to divided loyalties.
Nothing brings you nearer to your Lord than the moments you spend with His words. For it is only in the Qur’an that you enjoy the unique blessing of hearing His ‘voice’ addressing you. So let an intense desire to come nearer to Allah be your one overwhelming motive while reading the Qur’an.
Finally, your niyyah should be directed to seeking only your Lord’s pleasure, by devoting your heart, mind, and time to the guidance that He has sent to you. That is what you barter when you surrender yourself to Allah: (There is such as would sell his own self in order to please Allah) (Al-Baqarah 2:207).
Purpose and intentions are like the soul of a body, the inner capability of a seed. Many seeds look alike, but as they begin to grow and bear fruits, their differences become manifest. The purer and higher the motive, the greater the value and yield of your efforts.
So always ask yourself: Why am I reading the Qur’an? Tell yourself constantly why you should. This may be the best way to ensure the purity and exclusiveness of purpose and intention.
By Khurram Murad*