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.


  1. I agree with your post that understanding
    the Quran is more important than the memorization. You have to understand the
    meaning of the verses that you recite instead of just memorizing it. The
    example of Boko-harm that you give is more of a descriptive statement that only reciting the Holy Quran and knowing simply meanings of words does not make you a Quran literate. They need proper understanding of Quran and Muslim scholars must teach them.

  2. Sultan- I love reading your writing. I HOPE that what you say, "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," is untrue. I am hoping that there are more imams out there with life experience and wisdom than you give the world credit for! ;-)
    That said-- I am quite certain that your assertion that there is deep meaning in the Quran-- and that the pursuit of that meaning is what is important in the study of Quran-- NOT rote memorization--is 100% on target. You have been immeasurably useful to me in providing a forum where this is what is done with Quran...meaning is sought out and a pursuit of a "life of excellence," as you put it, is brought to the fore. It has opened up not only the Quran but Islam, more generally, for me. My abiding thanks for that. :-)
    Thank you!

  3. جزاكم الله خيرااا