After two hours of taraweeh and four hours of tahajjud, the Shaykh was crying to Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) in his prostration, pleading with Allah (swt) to forgive him.
This Shaykh would have to stop reciting the Qur’an because he was weeping so much. He would recite verses of the hellfire and you felt that he was witnessing the hellfire; verses of Paradise and it was as if he was in Paradise; he would recite a du`a’(supplication) in the Qur’an and beg with this du`a’ as if he was the only one, amongst thousands of people, making it for his own soul. And then, after losing his voice from hours of recitation and crying, he would go into sujood (prostration), and we could hear him over the microphone weeping, making tawbah (repentance) to Allah (swt).
Why was I not feeling the weight of the Qur’an like he was? Why was I not feeling the weight of my shortcomings like he was? And who could possibly have more shortcomings between the two of us? The most overwhelming feeling that I experienced was that he knew something that I did not. Indeed, Allah `azza wa jal (the Almighty and Majestic) says, “It is only those who have knowledge among His slaves that fear Allah,” (Qur’an, 35:28). And the Shaykh recited this verse over and over.
After Ramadan, I went to his masjid and was blessed to be able to ask him about this.
“Shaykh, I was here in Ramadan— When you recited the Qur’an, I felt that you really understood it. Sometimes you would recite a verse over and over, sometimes you would cry and cry. And even if I understood the meaning of the verse, I would not cry like you would cry. And so I felt you don’t just know the meaning, but you KNOW the meaning. How can I be of those who know?”
He replied, “The means are many:
1. Prepare your heart with the utmost preparation by praying salat al-sunnah (the optional prayer) before the fard salah (the obligatory prayer).
a. Prepare your heart before you enter salah. For example, before Salat al-`Ishaa’ (the night prayer), pray two rak`at (units of prayer) to help your heart feel the Qur’an before the fara`id (obligatory prayer).
2. Recite the Qur’an often. a. When you recite an ayah (verse), recite it over and over—contemplate the ayaat. b. Interact with the Qur’an, one juz (part) a day, so that you can finish the Qur’an within one month, reciting it plentifully.
3. Read the tafsir (explanation) of the Qur’an. a. While reciting the Qur’an, if you realize there is a verse that you do not understand, go to the tafsir. Then go back to the verse and read it with knowledge about how it was revealed, why it was revealed, when it was revealed, the situation it was revealed in, and then think: do I understand it now?
4. Realize Allah `azza wa jal is calling YOU. a. Imagine how it was when the Qur’an was revealed to the Companions. They witnessed the revelation of Qur’an! They knew the reason for the revelation of different verses; they knew the Qur’an was addressing THEM. Imagine how the Companions radi Allahu `anhum (may Allah be please with them) were then affected, when they knew the Qur’an was revealed to them, that the Qur’an was calling them. b. Know this: Allah (swt) is calling you! As an example, say you heard a verse from Surat al-Hujurat: “O you who have believed, do not put [yourselves] forward before Allah and His Messenger, but fear Allah. Indeed, Allah is Hearing and Knowing,” (Qur’an, 49:1). You should think, I am from those who believe. What is Allah asking from ME? What does Allah, the Most Loving, request from me?
5. LIVE these ayaat a. When you read about Jannah, imagine you are SITTING in Jannah, looking at the fruits of Jannah, watching the people of Jannah, smelling the scents of Jannah. b. When you read about the Naar (Hellfire), think about your kitchen, think about how hot it is when you are by the stove when the fire of the stove is on. Imagine how hot it would be if you were to touch that fire—so hot that you cannot stand the heat of the fire on your face. This is the fire of this life! Imagine the Naar! How hot is the Naar?
6. Very important: du`a’. a. Allah ‘aza wa jall is the Only One who will give you this understanding. You will not get it unless Allah (swt) wants you to understand. So when you make sujood, and you are between His Hands subhanah (the Glorious), make a ton of du`a’: “O Allah! You are the Opener! Open this knowledge for me, open the understanding of the Qur’an for me.”
7. Qiyam al-Layl (the night prayer) a. Read the verse, and think about the verse, and read it many, many times, and ponder over the verse. The Prophet ﷺ would read just one verse, over and over, weeping to Allah (swt). b. The reading and contemplation of the Qur’an will move the heart.
8. Lessen the sins and the disobedience to Allah (swt). a. Raan (the stain of sins and evil deeds) are a barrier from feeling and understanding the Qur’an. They create a covering on the heart: “No! Rather, stain has covered their hearts of that which they were earning,”(Qur’an, 83:14). b. Thus you can hear a verse, such a strong, powerful verse, but you are not affected by it because you have this covering on your heart. You need to decrease the sins you commit so that your heart can be affected by the Qur’an.
9. Listen to the Qur’an plentifully. a. When you listen to the Qur’an, think – why does this reciter recite this verse over and over? Why is he crying when he recites this verse? Listen and think about why the reciter is reciting the way he is.
10. Have hope with Allah `aza wa jal. a. Allah (swt) will NEVER leave me to myself. b. Realize Allah (swt) will not leave you to yourself when you ask Him! Make du`a’ to Him! Have hope that He (swt) will answer you! c. Make du`a’: “O Allah! Who am I? Who am I except the companion of sin and disobedience? And You subhanah! You are the Companion of forgiveness! O Allah, open the doors of understanding for me! You are the Only One Who can give me understanding!” d. KNOW that He will answer you and will never leave you.”
Floored, I asked him – “Shaykh, how do you know all this? You answered me with steps, with a plan of how to return to the Qur’an. Is it all just in a book—that I can read and know exactly what to do?”
He replied, “You know, just like if you are in a certain department in college and you want to get the highest grades, what do you do? You read books, you speak to people who learn the material—just like this, I thought, how do I become successful? So I read books and I listened, and when I heard someone reciting and they were weeping, I thought, why are they weeping in this verse? Why are they weeping here?”
And so he searched, with the goal: “Kayf anjah? How do I succeed?”
Perhaps not all of us can jump into implementing all of the above steps overnight. Instead, let us make sure to take care and guard over doing at least two of them until we get them down, and then move on to do more until insha’Allah (God willing) we too are of those who succeed.
Below, please find the I WANT THE QUR’AN! chart. Print it out, put it somewhere you’ll see every day (like the fridge), and mark your progress with the Qur’an.
The Prophet SAW taught us that whoever wants this life, for this person is the Qur’an. And whoever wants the akhira (the next life), for this person is the Qur’an. And whoever wants them both, then for this person is the Qur’an.
From knowledge to dough, whatever you want, cling to the Qur’an! In the end, “…whatever of good (deeds that Allah loves) you send forth for yourselves before you, you shall find it with Allah. Certainly, Allah is All-Seer of what you do.” (Qur’an, 2:110)