How to read the Qur’an

Friday 15 February 2013

Muslims believe that the Qur’an is God’s words that were revealed to Prophet Muhammad through Angel Gabriel (peace be upon them).

The Qur’an is the word of the Ever-Living God. It has been sent down to guide humans for all times to come. No book can be like it. As you come to the Qur’an, God speaks to you. To read the Qur’an is to hear Him, to converse with Him, and to walk in His ways. It is the encounter of life with the Life-giver.

“There is no god but He, the Ever-living, the Self-Subsisting (by whom all subsist). He has sent down upon you the Book with the Truth” (3:2-3).

For those who heard it for the first time from the lips of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), the Qur’an was a living reality. They had absolutely no doubt that, through him, Allah was speaking to them. Their hearts and minds were therefore seized by it. Their eyes overflowed with tears and their bodies shivered.

They found each word of it deeply relevant to their concerns and experiences, and integrated it fully into their lives. They were completely transformed by it both as individuals and as a corporate body into a totally new, alive, and life-giving entity. Those who grazed sheep, herded camels, and traded petty merchandise became the leaders of mankind.

Today we have the same Qur’an with us. Millions of copies of it are in circulation. Day and night, it is ceaselessly recited in homes, in mosques, and from pulpits.

Voluminous exegetical works exist, expounding its meaning. Words pour out incessantly to explain its teachings and to exhort us to live by it. Yet eyes remain dry, hearts remain unmoved, minds remain untouched, lives remain unchanged.
Ignominy and degradation appear to have become the lot of the followers of the Qur’an. Why? Because we no longer read the Qur’an as a living reality. It is a sacred book, but it tells us something of the past concerning Muslims and non-Muslims, Jews and Christians, the faithful and the hypocrites, who, once upon a time, used to be.

Can the Qur’an, 1,400 years later, be a living, relevant force, as powerful for us now as it was then? This is the most crucial question that we must answer if we wish to shape our destiny afresh under the guidance of the Qur’an.
There appear, however, to be some difficulties. Not least of which has to do with the fact that the Qur’an was revealed at a certain point in time. Since then, we have traveled a long way, made gigantic leaps in technological know-how, and seen considerable social changes take place in human society.

Moreover, today, most of the followers of the Qur’an do not know Arabic; and many who do, have little idea of the living language of the Qur’an. They cannot be expected to absorb its idiom and metaphor, so essential to exploring and absorbing the depths of the Qur’anic meaning.

Yet its guidance, by its own claim, has an eternal relevance for all people, being the word of the Eternal God.
For the truth of this claim, it seems to me that it must be possible for us to receive, experience, and understand the Qur’an as its first recipients did, at least in some measure and to some degree. We seem almost to have a right to this possibility of receiving God’s guidance in its fullness and with all its riches and joys.

In other words, despite the historical incidence of the revelation in a particular language at a particular time and place, we should be capable of receiving the Qur’an now (because its message is eternal), capable of making its message as much a real part of our lives as it was for the first believers, and with the same urgent and profound relevance for all our present concerns and experiences.

But how do we do this? To put it frankly, only by entering the world of the Qur’an as if God was speaking to us now and today and by fulfilling the necessary conditions for such an encounter.

First, we must realize what the Qur’an as the word of God is and means to us, and bring all the reverence, love, longing, and will to act that this realization demands.

Secondly, we must read it as it asks to be read, as Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) instructed us, as he and his Companions read it. Thirdly, we must bring each word of the Qur’an to bear upon our own realities and concerns by transcending the barriers of time, culture, and change.

For its first addressees, the Qur’an was a contemporary event. Its language and style, its eloquence and rationale, its idiom and metaphor, its symbols and parables, its moments and events were all rooted in their own setting.

These people were both witnesses to and, in a sense, participants in the whole act of revelation as it unfolded over a period of their own time. We do not have the same privilege; yet, in some measure, the same ought to be true for us.
By understanding and obeying the Qur’an in our own setting, we will find it, as far as possible, as much a contemporary event for ourselves as it was then. The essence of man has not changed; it is immutable.

Only man’s externalities — the forms, the modes, the technologies — have changed. The pagans of Makkah may be no more, nor the Jews of Yathrib, nor the Christians of Najran, nor even the faithful and the unfaithful of the community at Madinah; but the same characters exist all around us.

We are human beings exactly as the first recipients were, even though many find it extremely difficult to grapple with the deep implications of this very simple truth.

Once you realize these truths and follow them, once you come to the Qur’an as the first believers did, it may reveal to you as it did to them, make partners of you as it did of them.

And only then, instead of being a mere revered book, a sacred fossil, or a source of magic-like blessing, it will change into a mighty force, impinging, stirring, moving and guiding us to deeper and higher achievements, just as it did before.

– This article is based on Khurram Murad’s book, “Way to the Qur’an,” published by the Islamic Foundation, Leicester, UK.

1 reply

  1. Whatever is written above is a good thing, a sort of call to come to Quran. Read Quran, understand it and act upon it. All very good advice.
    But there is some bitter truth which cannot be ignored.
    Take the case of present day Muslims. They are terribly divided due to the bad deeds of bad teachers. There is guidance in the Quran. But it needs a teacher too. Not every one can understand it by himself. It is a book from God. A teacher from God can explain its meanings. Every word of it is meaningful.

    Primarily, even though there is guidance in that book (Quran). But there is guidance for the God fearing (Muttaquee), who behave themselves, who believe in the unseen, who establish a system of five daily prayers and those who give out of their wealth in the way of Allah.

    The five daily prayers need an Imam. Do the Muslims have any Imam? There is so much confusion that the Muslims have not been able to decide whether Jesus son of Mary (a.s.) is still alive or he has passed away.
    Great learned men like Maudoodi sahib kept on teaching that Jesus is alive (still living) in the sky. There is, on the opposite side of the spectrum, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan sahib and a big community of Ahmadis (nick named Qadianis), they have perfect belief that Jesus a.s. has died long ago.

    If such things cannot be decided correctly then where will the poor Muslims go!! Quran is not an ordinary book. It has to be interpreted wisely. The trouble is that most of the maulvis do not have the talent or necessary education to understand the Quran. They have made the Quran a means of earning their livelihood. On top of that their arrogance is not allowing any decent mind to interpret the Quran.
    If the maulvis had any decent mind, they would have kept quiet and learned about the Quran gently. It is a time that maulvis should be gentle and peaceful and quiet in many matters of life like the Padres in the churches who have backed off in the face of the intelligent people.

    The religion, Islam, in the hands of the maulvis, has gone down the drain. There are Muslims who give too much importance to hadith over the Quran. There are other Muslims who say that everything is in the Quran and they do not give much importance to the Sunnah or Hadith. Such persons were suggesting that interpretation of the Quran should be left to the Parliament. Their mission was to take it away from the ignorant maulvis.

    There are Shias and Sunnis on opposite poles, Brelvis and Deobandis on opposing sides. On top are ahle Hadith or Wahhabis who do not believe in any reformer or any scholar.

    Aag hay aulaad e Ibraheem hay Nimrood hay.
    Kiya kisi ko phir kisi kaa imtihaan maqsood hay?

    [ There are children of Abraham and the enemy king Nimrod, all are here now. The children of Abraham are again in lot of trouble… !!]

    It is good to come back to the Quran. But how? Will the Muslims be kind in heart? They have not understood and decided about the word Jihad. Some take violent meaning of Jihad, i.e. to take on the world with weapons and to spread the faith (Islam) by sword or any weapon. They have gone so far off on such bad tracks that even if they come back and become peaceful, nobody of non-Muslims will believe them.

    The greatest religious leaders of Indo-Pak continent have done great damage to Islam. Some of them were intentionally misguiding the poor Muslims. Then think of the Quran as being a lesson in spiritual matters. But most of the heads of Muslims parties are political leaders. Where is spiritualism?? Where is zero politics.??
    They have even been teaching that the mission of the prophet Muhammad s.a.w.s. was political. Astaghfirullah !! In other words, they believe that his mission was not peaceful or spiritual and not based on live and let live peacefully. How bad!!

    I had noted that the present day Muslims do not understand the meaning of the basic words Momin, Muslim, Kafir and Murtadd. Then what will they do about the reading of the Quran!!! How to proceed?? I can only give one example of the above words. Most Muslims believe that any one who has not recited the Kalimah is a Kafir. That could never be the true meaning of the word Kafir. Who will help the poor Muslims in understanding the Quran?? When they are not ready to admit any change… (More later, Insha Allah.)

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