28 Dec Stepping Stones On A Well-Lit Path
Assalaamu ‘alaykum wa Rahmatullah,
This article was published earlier in the year by SISTERS Magazine. It focuses on the power of the Qur’an & the importance of acquiring Qur’anic knowledge & understanding:
In the pre-dawn prayer in a Cairo masjid, Haafidha Rayhaanah Omar finds herself embraced by the intensity of the Qur’anic recital and affirms the journey that had brought her here.
Were we late? Shocked into wakefulness by the fear of missing suhoor, I frantically grabbed my bedside clock. Blurry-eyed and in a panic, thinking of my then 7 year old son’s enthusiasm for fasting in the heat and length of a Cairo summer’s day, I anxiously looked again and paused
“It’s all right, Rayhaanah, there’s still time,” my husband gently reassured me. It was 2:30am and we had just napped for thirty minutes, yet it felt like hours had passed since the late night prayers at Masjid Fatima Zahra. In rapid preparation, we quickly made our way over to the masjid, eager to join the congregation.
The Imam recited from the earlier verses of revelation, from Surah Al-Mudathir. And in the ebb and flow of his intonation, I found myself embraced in the intensity of the Qur’an’s power.
Then, nourished with food for the soul, I was ready to face the long fast ahead.
Generation upon generation from the time of Allah’s beloved Prophet SAW have been mesmerised by the beauty, eloquence and rhythm of the Qur’an.
I am often reminded by my husband of this incident illustrating the power of the Qur’an, even to those who do not understand Arabic and therefore do not understand its meaning. It’s customary for Egyptians to commence official meetings with the recitation of the Qur’an. And in a prior instance, the world renowned reciter, Shaykh Abdul Basit Abdus Samad, began reciting at an event with non-Muslim Russian delegates. Upon hearing the Qur’an they wept, “We don’t understand what it means, yet these words touch our hearts.” Indeed, since revelation began, listeners of the Qur’an have been visibly moved by it, without necessarily understanding it or even believing in it.
The Qur’an is easy to memorise, making so many around the world inheritors and protectors of Allah’s Word. Living in the Middle East, I often meet Arab scholars who constantly voice their admiration for memorisers for whom Arabic is neither their spoken language nor their mother tongue: “Strange, amazing, miraculous indeed!” they say.
But what is more significant than reciting and memorising the Grand Word of Allah? Understanding it. Truly understanding the Qu’ran.
Do we wish to be counted amongst those of the past for whom books were revealed but who made no effort to understand the guidance they held?
“The likeness of those who were entrusted with the (obligation of the) Taurat, but who subsequently failed in those (obligations), is as the likeness of a donkey which carries huge burdens of books (but understands nothing from them). How bad is the example of people who deny the signs of Allah? And Allah guides not the people who are Dhalimun (disbelievers)” (Al-Jumu’ah: 5).
Abdullah ibn Umar RA, the son of the leader of the Muslims, Umar bin al Khattab RA, played an important role in the transmission of Prophetic traditions. He was part of the chain of narrators referred to by Imam Bukhari as ‘The Golden Chain’. Abdullah ibn Umar RA completed the memorisation of Surah Al Baqarah over a period of fourteen years.
Whilst one could easily memorise it over a period of three months, he took fourteen years. This was the practice of the Prophet’s SAW companions: They recited the revealed verses first, then they affirmed complete faith in it, then they memorised the verses and lastly, they followed the injunctions and prohibitions mentioned therein.
Although Arabic is the chosen language of the Qur’an, understanding the Qur’an does not mean simply understanding the literal meanings of the Arabic language. It includes a deeper grasp of its idioms, expressions and context. Through the context of the verses or the reasons for revelation, we begin to understand the intended meanings within the Qur’an.
Allah Most High tells us, “And We send down of the Qur’an, that which is a healing and a mercy to those who believe…”
But the verse then continues with a warning to those who refuse to accept the commands:
“… and it increases the Dhalimun (wrong-doers) in nothing but loss” (Al-Israa’: 82).
These verses are a healing and a mercy only if we open ourselves to them.
So, how can you open yourself to the Qur’an and begin to understand it?
Here are some stepping stones to guide you upon this well-lit path:
• Purify your intention, make a concerted decision and have a willingness to understand;
• Embark on a journey towards understanding Arabic;
• Focus on the verses and ponder over their meanings;
• Focus on understanding the chapters, not simply completing them;
• Utilise resources to increase your Qur’anic vocabulary.
And so it was that, just 8 months later, my family and I arrived in Egypt, the land of mystical beauty that is home to 1400 years of Islamic history and academia. I always yearned to learn how to live the Qur’an, so that my character and actions would reflect the message of the Qur’an. And I had long since realised that this could only come through understanding. Egypt has long been regarded as home to some of Islam’s most recognised Qur’anic scholars, and the opportunity to benefit from their traditional circles of learning had brought my family and I to the Land of the Qurraa’ (reciters). We had never dreamed of a Ramadhan like this! The whole of Cairo shifted into a spiritual mode. We tasted the sweetness of the love of Qur’an at every ‘tea-room’, supermarket, shawarma rotisserie and even the hip, young clothing outlets. Everyone played the Qur’an – or recited it.
This was why I was here. And the continuous ambiance of the mesmerising, rhythmic word of Allah Most High just affirmed it.
“If the hearts are pure, they will never satisfy their hunger from the Book of Allah.” (Uthman ibn Affan RA [Hayaatus-Sahaaba]
Haafidha Rayhaanah Omar is an international motivational speaker for the empowerment of Muslimaat. She is an award-winning radio personality & the founder of a mentorship company on tahfeedhul Qur’an.