Monday, May 12, 2014

Understanding the Quran versus Its Memorization

Sura 47 Aya 24        أَفَلَا يَتَدَبَّرُونَ الْقُرْآنَ أَمْ عَلَىٰ قُلُوبٍ أَقْفَالُهَا
“Do they not then earnestly seek to understand the Quran, or are their hearts locked up by them?”

This aya asks us to earnestly seek to understand what is in the Quran, because wisdom is not grasped by superficial reading. The Arabic word ‘tadabbur’ is used in the aya, which means to think and understand deeply.

Note that there is no instruction in the Quran for people to memorize it.
Memorization like a parrot dulls the mind and it does not produce understanding.

A major reason for social and spiritual stagnation in the Muslim world is rooted in the belief that recitation of verses you don’t understand brings you closer to God.
 People repeat memorized suras that have no personal meaning for them, and believe they are earning credit in salat.
Note that people engaged in violent sectarianism and groups like the Taliban and Boko-haram believe they are very religious because they continuously recite memorized suras and dzikr phrases.

In most mosques the imam is someone who has memorized the Quran, but has little understanding of how life works, and many people ask him for guidance in solving their problems.

In the early days memorization was the only way to preserve the text so Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) encouraged people to memorize. But there is no need for it now because we have printing.
In any case, it is a mistake to believe that that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) wanted people to memorize the Quran without thinking about what is in it, as is the common practice now.

If some people memorize an engineering textbook without deeply analyzing and understanding its contents, a bridge they try to build will collapse.

 The Quran teaches how you and I can raise ourselves to a life of excellence. This is not possible if we memorize some or all of it and keep reciting what we memorized. It becomes possible if we make an earnest and sustained effort to understand the amazing insights it gives to uplift our lives.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

A misunderstanding that prevents people from understanding the Quran

There is a very common misunderstanding that blocks people from understanding the Quran. It is the assumption that the Quran is a continuous reading.

We all know that the Quran was revealed over a period of 22 years. Five short ayas were revealed when Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was forty years old. Many months passed before the second revelation came and it is in a different sura. Afterwards revelations came when the Prophet (pbuh) needed guidance or inspiration. Each revelation has a different purpose and a different insight. And they came at irregular intervals.
But now we have the Quran as a Book and it feels natural to read it in sequence. You can open the Book and read from page 1 to page 15 in half an hour. When we re read like this we get confused because there is a different insight after every few lines.

You can overcome this difficulty by focusing on only one or two ayas and think about them. Pick ayas that appeal to you. Ask yourself “What is this aya telling me”? “How does this relate to my life”?, or “What is the benefit in this teaching”?. You may have to think like this for a long time. But in due course you will find answers to your questions and your understanding of life will grow.