In Ramadan, we usually focus on reading and making as many khatmah as possible, yet the Quran was sent down as a book of guidance. It was sent down as a whole before the piece-meal revelation in the sacred month of Ramadan, so the Quran, as a book of guidance is even more significant in Ramadan.The Prophet saw would revise the Quran with Jibril every Ramadan, but the last Ramadan of his life (saw), he revised the Quran twice with Jibril. The Arabic word used in this hadith is yudarrisu which means not just reading or reciting, but studying, and that implies focusing on understanding. Thus, we shouldn’t just focus on reading and reciting but also on understanding and extracting the guidance that this book was sent for.In this ayah, Allah tells us to reflect on the verses. The word yaddabbaru originated from the word dubur. It means going through something all the way to the end of it, thus leaving nothing unturned. It’s basically a comprehensive approach to going through something. كِتَابٌ أَنزَلْنَاهُ إِلَيْكَ مُبَارَكٌ لِّيَدَّبَّرُوا آيَاتِهِ وَلِيَتَذَكَّرَ أُولُو الْأَلْبَابِ
[This is] a blessed Book which We have revealed to you, [O Muhammad], that they might reflect upon its verses and that those of understanding would be reminded. [38:29] Sahih International
There are other words that Allah uses in the Quran that is usually translated in English as reflect/ponder/think. One of them is tafakkur. It means reflecting in bits and pieces, not in a comprehensive manner as the word tadabbur implies. For example, one may reflect on the miracle of the Quran, or on the stories, or on the linguistic aspect of the Quran. Tadabbur however, is comprehensive reflection.
In Ramadan, we should do both. Quran is special in Ramadan, and we spend time with it more for :
Most people engage with it for barakah by listening to it, playing it, reciting it, etc. Yet, we need to engage with it for the other 3 reasons too.
The objective of the Quran is GUIDANCE. So how do we engage with it in such a way this Ramadan so that we reach this objective?
Designate a Quran journal just for this purpose this Ramadan.
Every day, after spending time with the Quran, jot down your reflections on what you have just read. It is an exercise of capturing those ‘moments of guidance’ as you engage with this book. These jottings will be about something you didn’t know before.
Maybe there are things you already know, but had forgotten that you encounter in your interaction with the Quran in your daily readings. Jot this down too. They will serve as much needed reminders.
The Quran is a cure. We may have harbored ill feelings, anxiety, worries etc. When you come across ‘healing moments’ in your daily readings, pen it down. Capture it so it can affect you in a way that requires you to be an active patient on the journey towards healing.
Some people derive utter pleasure in focusing on the intellectual aspects of the Quran, which you can say are miracles of the Quran in a way. This is somewhat a more academic approach in reflecting on the Quran. For example, it may be on the linguistic aspect of the Quran, if you know Arabic, or it can be more of a philosophical aspect that you may relate to life in general. Capture that reflection.
Life For the Soul
Allah called the Quran Rooh. Ibn Qayyim had said,
“Just like the soul is life for the body, the Quran is life for your soul.”
In order to function properly as a human being, we need to strengthen both body and soul. We were created from two components.
- earthly component (dirt)
- heavenly component (soul)
In order to nurture the earthly component, we feed it with food and water that we practically get from the earth itself.
Ibn Masood narrated the hadith:
The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ), and he is the truthful, the believed, narrated to us, “Verily the creation of each one of you is brought together in his mother’s womb for forty days in the form of a nutfah (a drop), then he becomes an alaqah (clot of blood) for a like period, then a mudghah (morsel of flesh) for a like period, then there is sent to him the angel who blows his soul into him and who is commanded with four matters: to write down his rizq (sustenance), his life span, his actions, and whether he will be happy or unhappy (i.e., whether or not he will enter Paradise). By the One, other than Whom there is no deity, verily one of you performs the actions of the people of Paradise until there is but an arms length between him and it, and that which has been written overtakes him, and so he acts with the actions of the people of the Hellfire and thus enters it; and verily one of you performs the actions of the people of the Hellfire, until there is but an arms length between him and it, and that which has been written overtakes him and so he acts with the actions of the people of Paradise and thus he enters it.” [Bukhari & Muslim]
The fact that it was mentioned in the hadith, ‘then there is sent to him the angel who blows his soul into him,’ shows that the heavenly component in our creation came from above. So in order to nurture this heavenly component, we need to feed heavenly material; the Quran.
The closer we are to the Quran, the more our bodies are at ease because we are not stressed out, and the opposite is also true. The further away we are from the Quran, the more strained and weak our bodies are because of the stresses.
How Do We Get These?
In order to get to know someone more, we usually begin with knowing basic things such as that person’s family, what kind of person s/he is, etc. It’s important to have at least a general understanding about the Quran itself in order to discover its treasures. Thus we need to understand its format, language, and style of the Quran.
Format of the Quran
In most masaahif (mushafs) the number of the ayah is written at the end of the ayah. Ayaat are determined by the Prophet saw, obviously from Allah. The Prophet saw would tell the scribes to place an ayah or ayaat that was/were just revealed between ‘this’ ayah and ‘that’ ayah. The majority of ayaat were revealed in completion, while there are some that were revealed in bits and pieces. Some ayah will encompass a whole/full meaning, whereas others are part of a bigger context. Generally, in short surahs, the entire surah is probably the bigger context, so each ayah might not carry a full meaning by itself. We have to look at the whole surah to understand each ayah. In long surahs, an ayah might carry the full meaning, but if you can’t understand it by itself, you will have to zoom out and look for the bigger context it’s a part of.
Surahs vary in length. The Quran is not meant to be a story, as it is primarily a book of guidance. If we see disparate seemingly disconnected passages in the Quran, this is the reason. As it is a book of guidance, the focus is not on the story. Rather, it focuses on giving the reader moments of guidance which may come in a story then followed by explanation or then by commands. The beginning and end of a surah are determined by Allah and not the scholars or the Sahabah.
3. Names of Surah
Some of the surah names come from the Prophet saw, and some came about as a result of common knowledge of the sahabah as they name a surah by its first word or the like. Unless the Prophet saw specified a name of a surah, it most probably came from the sahabah. An indication that a surah name came from the Prophet saw is when the Prophet saw instructed his scribes to place this ayah between this surah and that surah.
Surah Al Baqarah was named such, but the instance in which the cow was mentioned was not even a substantial part of the whole surah which spans two and half juz. Why was it named The Cow then? There must be a significance to the story, which is for us to look for and reflect on.
4. Order of the Quran
There are two opinions on this matter.
- ijtihaad of the sahaabah
- it came from the Prophet saw (the proof being that he (saw) revised it twice in his last Ramadan. The assumption here then is that it must have been revised in the same order).
5. Juz and manzil
This came from the ijtihaad of the scholars of Quran some time in history. The purpose of the division of the Quran as we see it today is for ease in memorization and keeping track. Juz is a division of the Quran into 30 parts. Each juz is roughly 20 pages in the standard mushaf. Each juz is divided into 8 quarters which are called a hizb. Manzil is a division of the Quran into 7 equal parts. As this is not a divine division, either is fine. The division is not done based on meaning, but purely mathematical, as a hizb doesn’t necessarily even stop at a logical position meaning-wise.
Language of the Quran
In surah Yusuf, Allah says,
إِنَّا أَنزَلْنَاهُ قُرْآنًا عَرَبِيًّا لَّعَلَّكُمْ تَعْقِلُونَ
Indeed, We have sent it down as an Arabic Qur’an that you might understand. [12:2] Sahih International
The Quran was addressed to the original Arabs at that time where Arabic was in its golden age.
Arabic is an ancient language that goes all the way back to Ismail a.s. and some say it’s even before that. It was said that that Arabic is a combination of Aramaic which Ismail a.s. knew from his ascendants from Iraaq and Shaam area, and the Yemeni which became his new community in Makkah.
How we can tell if a language is ancient is from its script, which generally resembles drawing. Ancient people used to write by carving in stone. If you hold a pick in your left hand and a hammer in your right hand, it’s easier to move from right to left or top to bottom (as in Chinese writing).
The Arabs back were illiterate, so as a result, they mastered the spoken language. Their grasp of the language was heavily dependent on memory since they couldn’t write it down or read it. In order to commit it to memory, they resorted to poetry because rhyming makes it easier to memorize. They thus became masters of poetry.
In poetry, things are mainly summarized, where an abstract idea/word conveys depth and breadth of meaning. The Quran surpassed this, and astounded the Arabs who were masters of Arabic poetry.
In Arabic, there is a huge correlation between the pronunciation of a word and its meaning. Sometimes, the Arabs would choose a name of an object based on the sound it makes.
In short, Arabic is a very logical and structured language. It’s one of Semitic languages that have tri-letter word root. This tri letter word can sprout into many other words, and this is the science of morphology or SARF.
The Quran surpassed every single level of poetry the Arabs had mastered. They weren’t used to it, and it was something new to them. They were blown away just like the magicians were when Musa a.s. flung his staff at the show-down. The magicians, masters of the art of magic at that time, knew for sure that the miracle Musa a.s. carried, wasn’t magic. Likewise, the Arabs at the time of the Prophet saw, masters of Arabic, knew that Quran was not poetry. It was something much more amazing.
The Quran defied the rules of their poetry. As for grammar, the Quran is the main reference of Arabic grammar, even today.
Style of the Quran
Stories in the Quran have no beginning and no end, because the Quran is open guidance for everyone. What is meant for us do with stories in the Quran, is to extract lessons. Some stories are repeated so many times, for example, the story of Musa a.s. but each time, the angle or focus may be different, so we can take the appropriate lesson from each retelling. Stories of Musa a.s. may show his conversation with his brother, others may show his conversation with Bani Israel, and such.
As human beings, we relate to something we are familiar with and so Allah gives us parables in the Quran to make us understand it better or in a different light. Allah gives us parables using animal, people, plants, non living things.
Question and Answer
In the Quran, we can see questions that the sahabah asked the Prophet saw. These give us historical context on how the sahabah learned the religion from the Prophet saw.
Allah swears by certain things and we can find this in the Quran.
Repetition and Mathani
Allah repeats certain things in the Quran, and we should note the comparisons in them and extract reflections for ourselves.
The Quran, a Book of Guidance
Scholars typically divide the types of guidance encompassed by the Quran into these categories.
1. Aqeedah (faith-related), Fiqh (worship-related), History (we need to extract lessons from)
2. Book of manners and values
Some scholars would place this category under Aqeedah/fiqh as they believe that manners and values are a substantial part of iman (faith) and worship, so they wouldn’t put this as a separate category of guidance.
My Ramadan Program
1. What is khatmah?
It is highly recommended to complete reading the entire Quran as frequently as possible, yet the essence of khatmah is understanding. So we should reach for this this Ramadan. Some scholars do ‘silent khatmah’ where they would read the Quran in their head, silently just like we would normally read a book. Obviously this would be for someone who understands Arabic. This can be done 1 ayah at a time or 1 page at a time.
If you don’t understand Arabic, you can do a silent English khatmah or whatever language you are better versed in. The whole purpose of a khatmah is to reflect, understand and apply.
These are my meager notes from Sh Yaser’s Ramadan Marathon series May 3, 2017. Please let me know if there are any corrections or additions to be done. May it be of benefit to help us prepare for the upcoming Ramadan.
For those who want to acquire Quran vocabulary in preparation for increased understanding of the Quran in Ramadan, here are some links to 80% vocabulary of the Quran.