كِتَابٌ أَنزَلْنَاهُ إِلَيْكَ مُبَارَكٌ لِّيَدَّبَّرُوا آيَاتِهِ وَلِيَتَذَكَّرَ أُولُو الْأَلْبَابِ
“This is a blessed Book which We revealed to you, that they may reflect upon its verses, and those with understanding may take heed.” (38:29)
The Qur’ān is the eternal book of guidance. It is a cure for every disease – be it spiritual or physical. It is a light which illuminates the path of truth amidst the darknesses of falsehood. The Qur’ān contains legal rulings for a human to live on Allah’s earth, as His subservient slaves. It is a book of blessings and eternal wisdom; a warner and a giver of good news.
Accordingly, reciting the Qur’ān or memorising its words is in itself not enough. Although both of these acts are essential, they must be accompanied by reflection and a deep commitment to ‘live’ the Qur’ān.
We find that the majority of the Muslims today have limited themselves to repeating the words (of the Qur’ān) and chanting it melodiously in funerals, graveyards and homes, and to carrying muṣḥafs or abandoning them in the homes. And they forgot – or appeared to forget – that the greatest blessing of the Qur’ān is in fact in reflecting upon its verses, seeking to understand it, embodying it as one’s character, acting upon its commands and staying away from its prohibitions.” (al-Zurqānī raḥimahullāh)
Allah says, “Do they not, then, ponder upon the Qur‘ān? Had it been from someone other than Allah, they would have found in it a great deal of discrepancy” (4:82). and “This is a blessed Book which We revealed to you, so that they reflect upon its verses, and those with understanding may take heed” (38:29).
Imām al-Qurtubī (raḥimahullāh) writes, “And this āyah contains the proof for the obligation of knowing the Qur’ān’s meanings; and a proof that reciting slowly is better than reciting fast, as tadabbur cannot be performed correctly with fast recitation.”
Al-Saʿdī (raḥimahullāh) explained, “Allah has commanded His servants to reflect on His Book, to ponder on its meanings, and to ponder deeply on its principles and lessons, along with pursuing whatever is necessary to achieve this noble aim. Reflecting on the book of Allah is the key to knowledge and all sciences. It is the source of all good and the fountain of all the sciences. It increases the īmān in one’s heart and makes it firmly rooted in it.
The Qur’ān gives the slave the maʿrifah (knowledge and deep awareness) of his Lord; how all attributes of perfection belong to Him, and how He is pure from all deficiencies and shortcomings. It sets out the path that leads to Him, describes the characteristics of the people who are treading this path and what they will attain when they come to Him in the hereafter.
It informs about the real enemy, the path which will lead to punishment, the characteristics of the people who are treading this path, and how they will be justly punished. The more the slave ponders upon the Qur’ān, the more he will increase in knowledge, good deeds and insight.”
For the Messenger of Allah ﷺ and the pious predecessors, tadabbur was not a practice limited to Ramaḍān. It was their way of life. It was how they prayed.
For without tadabbur, there is no ṣalāh.
Reflect: The Qur’ān and You
How would you describe your relationship with the Qur’ān?
When you recite the Qur’ān, do its words pierce your mind?
Do its meanings penetrate your heart?
Does its beauty mesmerise you?
What does the Qur’ān mean to you?
‘From the greatest of voluntary acts through which Allah’s Love is earned, is reciting and pondering upon Qur’ān.’ Ibn Rajab (raḥimahullāh)
Once Abū Bakr (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) said to the Prophet ﷺ, “O Messenger of Allah, you have become old.” He ﷺ said, “(The sūrahs) Hūd, al-Wāqiʿah, al-Mursalāt, ʿAmma Yatasā’alūn and Ithā al-Shamsu Kuwwirat have aged me’” (Tirmidhī).
Imām al-Munāwī (raḥimahullāh) mentioned that these sūrahs took a toll on the Prophet ﷺ because they contained descriptions of the horrors of the Day of Judgement and the punishments meted out to earlier nations. They prematurely aged him because he feared similar punishments afflicting his ummah.
Therefore, the Qur’ān cannot just be recited or chanted only for the sake of blessings. Rather, it has to be read with reflection and contemplation. The above ḥadīth demonstrates that the Qur’ān did not just enter the heart of the Prophet ﷺ, but that its impact was so profound that it physically affected him.
Why Your Heart Needs Tadabbur
Ibn al-Qayyim (raḥimahullāh) wrote, “There is nothing more beneficial for the heart than reading the Qur’ān with contemplation and reflection. This is what inspires love and longing for Allah. It generates fear of Him and hope in Him. It makes one turn in repentance to Him and rely on Him. It causes one to fully submit to him, leave matters in His Hands and be pleased with His Decree. It inspires patience and gratitude and is a means of acquiring all of the characteristics which give life to and perfect the heart.
If people knew what recitation of the Qur’ān with contemplation contains, they would devote themselves to it at the expense of anything else. When one reads with reflection and comes across an āyah that he needs to cure his heart, he repeats it. He may repeat it a hundred times, or even throughout the entire night, as was reported about the Prophet ﷺ and the early predecessors. Hence, reciting a single āyah of the Qur’ān with contemplation and reflection is better than reciting the entire Qur’ān without any contemplation or reflection.
This is more beneficial for the heart, more likely to increase one’s īmān and leads one to taste the sweetness of īmān and the Qur’ān. This was the habit of the early predecessors, whereby one of them would repeat the same āyah throughout the night until morning came. Likewise, it has been reported that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ stood repeating one āyah till morning came.”
Abū Dharr (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) said, “The Prophet ﷺ stood reciting an āyah and repeating it until morning came. The āyah was, ‘If You punish them, they are Your slaves, and if You forgive them, indeed You, only You, are the Almighty, the All-Wise’ (5:118)” (Ibn Mājah).
“Do not scatter the Qur’ān (i.e. read it hurriedly) like poor-quality dates are scattered, and do not recite it quickly like poetry is recited. Take a pause at its wonders, move the hearts with it, and do not let your concern be to (merely) reach the end of the sūrah.” (ʿAbdullāh b. Masʿūd raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu)
Tadabbur: The Route to Discovering the Secrets of the Qur’ān
Spending long hours with the book of Allah and reflecting on it will help us discover its amazing meanings and hidden insights.
Ibn ʿĀshūr (raḥimahullāh) wrote, “Tadabbur is reflection and pondering, through which a person gains knowledge of the intended meanings. This only occurs in speech which is concise, yet comprehensive in meaning; so that the more a person reflects, the more he discovers meanings which were previously not apparent to him.”
As for the one who does not reflect, ponder and is not blessed with Allah’s help in this regard, he will remain ignorant of the amazing secrets mentioned in this Magnificent Qur’ān.” (Imām al-Rāzī (raḥimahullāh)
‘I have not seen anything that nourishes the mind and soul, protects the body, and guarantees success more than constantly engaging with the Book of Allah.’ Ibn Taymiyyah (raḥimahullāh)
Tadabbur and ‘Living’ the Qur’ān
Tadabbur is not merely about extracting amazing gems from the Qur’ān. Rather, it should directly lead us to implementing the commandments of Allah and the sunnah of His beloved ﷺ.
Imām al-Ājurrī (raḥimahullāh) describes the companion of the Qur’ān: “His concern when he begins reciting a sūrah is, ‘When will I take heed of what I recite?’ And his objective is not, ‘When will I complete the sūrah?’ Rather, his objective is, ‘When will I understand the message from Allah? When will I restrain myself? When will I take a lesson?’ This is because the recitation of the Qur’an is an act of worship, and worship cannot be performed heedlessly.”
Sometimes we only focus on making our children memorise the Qur’ān, but we neglect to inspire and teach them the message and the meanings of the Qur’ān. Al-Ḥasan al-Baṣrī (raḥimahullāh) said, “Certainly, slaves and children recite the Qur’ān and they have no knowledge of its meaning. They memorised its letters but neglected its commands, to the extent that one of them will say, “By Allah, I have recited the entire Qur’an without missing out on any letter.” By Allah, he has missed out on all of it! For there is no effect of the Qur’ān on his character and actions. By Allah, it is not about memorizing its letters, and then neglecting its commands!”
“O Bearers of the Qur’ān! What has the Qur’ān planted in your hearts? For indeed the Qur’ān is the spring and irrigation of the hearts.” – Mālik b. Dīnār (raḥimahullāh)
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