Personalising the Qur’an to Yourself
What is Allah SWT Telling Me?
Every time you read the Qur’an, remember that the words are addressed directly to you. Allah SWT has chosen for you to be among those blessed ones who to hear His message. Whether or not you are reading in a methodical way, or at random, each time your eyes fall on a passage in the Qur’an, those were the words that Allah SWT chose for you to read. Those are the very words addressed to you personally. Do not underestimate this, for nothing happens in this world except with the will of Allah SWT.
Hence, make an effort to understand what you are reading. Otherwise, it’s like accepting a doctor’s prescription without taking the medication. Ask yourself often – what is the message that Allah SWT is telling me? Take time, be patient. The meaning may not come to you immediately. Ponder and reflect on the messages behind the words and verses. Think of how they apply to your life and your circumstances, whether it was a warning, an encouragement, a wisdom or a message.
Surprising Fact: You Will See Yourself in the Qur’an
Through the Qur’an, the reader will be introduced to people of past civilisations – the prophets and their people, the believers, the disbelievers, the oppressors and the oppressed, the ones who were elevated and the ones who were cursed.
The more you read the Qur’an, the more you will recognize your own characteristics, and those of the people around you, described in it. Whether you are a man or a woman, rich or poor, intellectual or uneducated, of nobility or of common birth, leader or ordinary citizen, of whatever nationality, you will be able to identify with the personality traits described in the Qur’an, and will see in it your own characteristics, and the characteristics of those you know.
From the dawn of time, from the creation of our father Adam AS and all the civilisations that followed, from issues ranging from disobedience to sibling rivalry, from greed, envy and hate to generosity, love and compassion, death, loss and sacrifice, happiness and victory. Account after account of the rise and fall of civilisations, of personal struggles and of ordinary men who achieved extraordinary greatness. Of people who submitted to the religion of Allah SWT despite the adversities and certain death which faced them, to the arrogance of men who refused to acknowledge the signs of Allah SWT even when the Prophets tried to spread the message. Of supporters in the cause of Allah SWT, and of those who resisted. From the genuine believers to the hypocrites. From the submissive to the disobedient, from merchants to farmers, from parents to children, from the individual to the community, from the strong to the weak, the entire tapestry of humankind is set out in the Qur’an.
If you are sincere, you will be able to recognize and learn who you are, and from there, decide where you are going and who you want to be.
The Qur’an lays out the choice to you in terms of the path you should follow for salvation in your life and the next world, and presents the choice to you, the repercussions or rewards for your behaviour, in this world and the hereafter.
Reading vs Comprehending
Due to the richness and complexity of the Qur’an, with intricate layers of meaning, the significance of a verse might be obscure to you, despite several attempts. This is normal – there is an added element to reading the Qur’an – the comprehension you achieve from the Qur’an is what Allah SWT intends you to understand. In other words, you will comprehend what Allah SWT allows you to comprehend, depending on your purity, condition and sincerity.
Different verses of the Qur’an impact different people in different ways.
So, sometimes, you may understand every single word from an academic and literal viewpoint- but may not comprehend the meaning until years later.
Or, if Allah SWT blesses you with vision, you can comprehend and obtain the meaning of a particular verse immediately.
Or, you can read the same verse at different times, and each time, get a different meaning, depending on your personal circumstances and the state of your heart. Do not be surprised if you suddenly comprehend a verse that you have known all your life, as if it was the first time you were reading it.
Or, if Allah SWT chooses to veil your heart, you can read the Qur’an again and again, but never understand the message or attain true comprehension of its essence and meaning, may Allah SWT save us all from this fate.
The journey of understanding the Qur’an is a personal one. Allah SWT will make you understand the message that is meant for you at a certain point in time if you sincerely seek its meaning. That is why the reading of the Qur’an should be a continuous process, for through it, Allah SWT tells us different things at different stages of our lives. Reading the Qur’an is an ongoing dialogue for those who wish to remain in Allah SWT’s guidance.
The ability to comprehend the message is not related to how intelligent you are, but to the amount of humility, sincerity, vision, awareness and spiritual wisdom you have.
- If the meaning of a verse is hard to understand at first, try reading a few verses immediately before and after. This will put the verse in context and will make it easier to understand. Persevere, and it will get easier the more familiar you are with its contents.
- If you are facing a problem, any problem, make dua and open the Qur’an at random. If you are sincerely looking for the solution to your issue, the Qur’an will guide you to the solution.
- Don’t worry if the translation is difficult to follow. If Allah SWT wants to guide you, He will put comprehension of its message directly in your heart.
- For the serious reader who wishes to understand the Qur’an for the sake of developing his iman or faith, it is recommended that together with the revelatory sequence, to read a reliable biography of the Prophet Muhammad SAW in parallel. The reason behind this is that most biographies will also quote the key revelations which occurred during significant events of the Prophet Muhammad SAW’s life in the course of spreading of the message. This gives the reader a more meaningful background surrounding such revelations and allows the reader to grow and develop his faith and knowledge with each revelation learnt.
- It is always best to recite the Qur’an in Arabic, even if you do not understand it completely, before reading the translation. This way, you will still obtain the benefit of recitation, for apart from its numerous rewards, the sound of the Qur’an being read is soothing to the mind, body and soul and has miraculous effects.
- Use technology to your advantage – there are many free online resources in MP3 format where the Arabic recitation is accompanied by an English narration (and also other languages). Listen to these in your spare time if you are unable to read, or if you are busy with mechanical tasks such as driving and household chores.
Living the Message
The Qur’an enables us to reflect internally and externally, reflect on the larger world affairs, and enables us to act or react according to this reflection guided by the meaning and wisdom of the Qur’an. The more we know and manifest this knowledge in ourselves, the more it enables us to pursue the promises of Allah SWT: the happiness and dignity of this life and the hereafter.
This can be achieved if we genuinely try to live the message of the Qur’an. We have to understand that the Qur’an is not for entertainment, calligraphic decoration or melodious recitation. It is about comprehending and living out the messages within.
It is Allah SWT’s promise that if we elevate the Qur’an (by carrying the message of the Qur’an in our hearts, spreading the message and living the message), Allah SWT will grant us dignity. If we disgrace the Qur’an (by denying the message, or by not implementing it in our lives), we will be disgraced. As narrated by Aisha RA, our Prophet SAW was the Qur’an walking.
The benchmark of comprehension is not how much of the Qur’an you have memorised, but how much you live it.
The Qur’an is a mirror which will allow you to see yourself and the outside world with a clear accurate vision. If you really want to know who you are, where you are, what to do and not to do, and where to head in your life—read the Qur’an.
Remember – Allah SWT has stated – “We have not sent down to you the Qur’an that you be distressed.” [20:2]
May Allah allow us to know the Qur’an, live according to the Qur’an, give us the mercy comprehension, right understanding, baseerah, blessing, noor (light), and wisdom. May the Qur’an be witness to us, and not against us. Ameen.
(Previously published. Modified for Hadith of the Day in collaboration with the author)