بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيمِ
Ramadan is once again almost upon us, الحمد لله. It is the month in which the Quran was first revealed. Muslims the world over unite in their efforts to bond with this Book during these blessed and spiritually-charged 30 days involving day-and-night, round-the-clock worship.
Have you ever wondered why Allah did not reveal the Quran upon Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم) in its entirety, in written form, the way He sent down the Torah for Prophet Musa (عليه السلام) in the form of tangible tablets (الواح)?
Even though, physically, the Quran now exists in the form of a bound and printed book, it actually originated as the spoken word of Allah, which was revealed verbatim upon the heart of Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم) via Archangel Jibreel, over the span of more than two decades:
وَإِنَّهُ لَتَنزِيلُ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ
نَزَلَ بِهِ الرُّوحُ الْأَمِينُ
عَلَى قَلْبِكَ لِتَكُونَ مِنَ الْمُنذِرِينَ
“Verily it is a revelation of the Lord of the Worlds,
Which the True Spirit brought down
Upon your heart, [O Muhammad] so that you may be among those who preach.” [26:192-26:194]
Fact is, that even for others besides Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم), the experience of connecting with the word of Allah, the Glorious Quran, in any way, is one that deeply involves and directly impacts the heart – the heart that believes in Allah.
The Quran leaves a discernible and distinctly positive effect on all three components of a believer’s nafs (نفس) – the body, the heart and the soul – an effect that I will try to explain in more detail below. For the Quran to have this desired effect, it is very important that the reciter recite it with feeling and emotion, understanding the language and message/content of its verses. It is also immensely important for the listener to be able to understand, at least at some basic level, the Arabic language of the Quran.
That is the reason why Allah did not reveal the Quran all at once — so that this “weighty” word of Allah (قَوْلًا ثَقِيلًا – 73:5) could be gradually received, believed in, embraced and practically incorporated into individual and communal Muslim life.
The Quran was also revealed over a long period of time in order to, once again, establish the heart of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) firmly upon it, and to allow the Muslim ummah to gradually become steadfast upon its commandments and laws:
وَقَالَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا لَوْلَا نُزِّلَ عَلَيْهِ الْقُرْآنُ جُمْلَةً وَاحِدَةً كَذَلِكَ لِنُثَبِّتَ بِهِ فُؤَادَكَ وَرَتَّلْنَاهُ تَرْتِيلًا
“Those who reject Faith say: “Why is not the Qur’an revealed to him all at once?” Thus (is it revealed), that We may strengthen your heart thereby, and We have rehearsed it to you in slow, well-arranged stages, gradually.” [25:32]
وَقُرْآناً فَرَقْنَاهُ لِتَقْرَأَهُ عَلَى النَّاسِ عَلَى مُكْثٍ وَنَزَّلْنَاهُ تَنزِيلاً
“And (it is) a Quran that We have divided, that you may recite it unto mankind at intervals, and We have revealed it by stages.” [17:106]
The Quran – a companion
The Quran has an invigorating, uplifting and refreshing effect on a person who believes in Allah and wants to become closer to Him, just the way spending time in the company of a righteous, sincere and loving friend does.
When the Quran is recited, whether in salah or aloud on its own, or when its recitation is keenly listened to with full concentration involving a present mind and an engaged heart, or when a discussion of its verses, meanings, exegesis and analyses is undertaken in the company of Allah-fearing, learned, scholarly and intellectual people, the Quran leaves an indomitably positive impact on the heart, soul, thoughts and psyche of the rapt, desirous-of-seeking-knowledge listener.
A person who stringently maintains daily contact with the Quran relishes a close, growing bond with it. Such a person not just enjoys but also often craves solitude in order to reflect deeply upon the words of the Creator, never feeling lonely or “bored”.
The Quran thus becomes his or her omnipresent “companion”, pervading the heart and involving them in constant communion with, and remembrance of, Allah – beautifying every waking moment of their life in which they are free from engrossing worldly entanglements.
The requisite etiquette for listening
In order for the believer to glean maximum possible benefits from the recitation of the Quran, they must be tuned in to it fully, sans distractions. This is according to the command of Allah that the Quran itself has conveyed clearly to mankind:
وَإِذَا قُرِىءَ الْقُرْآنُ فَاسْتَمِعُواْ لَهُ وَأَنصِتُواْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُرْحَمُونَ
“When the Qur’an is read, listen to it with attention, and remain silent, that you may receive mercy.” [7:204]
Notice how the command to believers to listen intently to the Quran comes first, before that of remaining silent? This is because the intention and action of listening closely, attentively and intently to the Quran when it is being recited, automatically causes a believer to maintain deliberate silence for the purpose of listening further, with full focus and concentration.
At another point in the Quran, Allah praises the actions of some jinns who heard the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) reciting the Quran. Allah mentions in this verse how, when these jinns were present during the recitation, they told each other to hush up i.e. be quiet, so that they all could listen. After they had listened to it intently, they returned to their people and conveyed its message as warners i.e. they became Muslim after listening to the recitation of the Quran.
وَإِذْ صَرَفْنَا إِلَيْكَ نَفَرًا مِّنَ الْجِنِّ يَسْتَمِعُونَ الْقُرْآنَ فَلَمَّا حَضَرُوهُ قَالُوا أَنصِتُوا فَلَمَّا قُضِيَ وَلَّوْا إِلَى قَوْمِهِم مُّنذِرِينَ
“Behold, We turned towards you a company of Jinns (quietly) listening to the Qur’an: when they stood in the presence thereof, they said, “Listen in silence!” When the (reading) was finished, they returned to their people, to warn (them of their sins).” [46:29]
It is therefore quite pertinent to claim that remaining silent when the Quran is being recited is not just a requirement because it is Allah’s command that should be obeyed no matter what, but also because this deliberate, attentive silence facilitates faith and belief in Allah that is nurtured, and which grows in the heart as a result of this enraptured listening to the Quran.
Remaining silent whilst the Quran is being recited is also indicative of taqwa i.e. the presence of consciousness of Allah, coupled with the desire to obey Him and to abstain from angering Him.
Analyze this with the help of an analogy: most of us have attended classes at school or college. Recall how, when you were not interested at all in what the teacher was saying, you’d feel the urge to secretly start talking in hushed tones, or passing scribbled notes, to your friends in class.
Conversely, if and when you were engrossed in the lecture, your mind fully engaged, really interested in what the teacher was saying, you would not feel the urge to talk to anyone; nay, you’d outright ignore or hush your friends when and if they tried to grab your attention or distract you.
The same analogy can be applied to the believer who immediately becomes conscious of Allah when the Quran starts being recited. When he or she will observe the prerequisite etiquette of listening intently to, and remaining silent during, the Quran recitation, will it become a source of Allah’s mercy for him or her.
This mercy is felt as an all-enveloping sense of peace, serenity, tranquility and innate calm that can really not be aptly and satisfactorily described in words.
It just has to be actually felt to be fathomed!
Another verse in the Quran describes how the recitation of the Quran regarding the punishments meted out to bygone nations that persisted in flagrant disobedience of Allah despite being repeatedly warned by His messengers, is beneficial only for the believer who not just listens intently to it, but is also “present” (شَهِيدٌ):
إِنَّ فِي ذَلِكَ لَذِكْرَى لِمَن كَانَ لَهُ قَلْبٌ أَوْ أَلْقَى السَّمْعَ وَهُوَ شَهِيدٌ
“In this, behold, there is indeed a reminder for everyone whose heart is wide-awake – that is, [every one who] lends ear with a conscious mind.” [50:37]
The Arabic word شَهِيدٌ translates as “witness”. How is a witness different from a mere listener? The answer is actually very interesting, if you ponder a bit more upon it.
Listening to something can be done via the phone, or through e.g. a radio broadcast. However, witnessing an incident is done live, by being physically present in a situation, and feeling and experiencing it with all bodily senses: watching it happen with the eyes, hearing it with the ears, and taking it all in with its full effects (either good or bad) upon the heart. The more shocking and spectacular the scene (e.g. a fireworks display, or an awesome natural phenomenon, such as a cyclone), the more a person is enraptured with it into a stunned, still, hypnotic, trance-like state of attention and engagement.
Bring an analogy to mind: if you watch live footage of a massive tragedy, such as a fatal plane crash, on the news on television, you will get affected and traumatized by it at a certain level. This level of trauma and anguish would be different i.e. much higher than, say, if you read about the tragedy in a newspaper the next day, or heard about it from a third person on the phone, without watching any live footage of the event.
However, it is indisputable that the greatest effect of such a tragedy would be on the body, persona, psyche, mind, heart and soul of a person who actually witnessed it happen, right at the very place and time when and where it occurred i.e. they saw the plane crash right before their eyes; saw and heard the blazing machine get torn apart under all-consuming smoke and flames; and saw bloody or charred body parts, corpses and debris flying out everywhere from it as it did.
Honestly ask yourself: out of the above three scenarios, which would have the greatest impact on a person?
The answer is clear — upon the witness.
Now apply this analogy to the person who is listening to the Quran when it is being recited correctly and melodiously.
The listener who is “present” as a witness in full, – in body, mind, heart and soul, – is able to so vividly picture the details of torment and rewards that the Quran narrates; envision the enlightening scenes played out in the stories of bygone Prophets and their erring nations, and feel upon his heart and soul the enormous impact of the Arabic words that were originally spoken by his Creator, that it leaves him shaking out of fear, love and consciousness of Him: humbled, broken, subjugated and totally floored into submission and slavish obedience.
There really is no feeling quite like it.
One of the effects of the Quran on a believer’s physical body is that it causes his or her skin to tremble.
اللَّهُ نَزَّلَ أَحْسَنَ الْحَدِيثِ كِتَابًا مُّتَشَابِهًا مَّثَانِيَ تَقْشَعِرُّ مِنْهُ جُلُودُ الَّذِينَ يَخْشَوْنَ رَبَّهُمْ ثُمَّ تَلِينُ جُلُودُهُمْ وَقُلُوبُهُمْ إِلَى ذِكْرِ اللَّهِ ذَلِكَ هُدَى اللَّهِ يَهْدِي بِهِ مَنْ يَشَاء وَمَن يُضْلِلْ اللَّهُ فَمَا لَهُ مِنْ هَادٍ
“Allah has revealed (from time to time) the most beautiful Message in the form of a Book, consistent with itself, (yet) repeating (its teaching in various aspects). The skins of those who fear their Lord tremble thereat; then their skins and their hearts do soften to the celebration of Allah’s praises. Such is the guidance of Allah. He guides therewith whom He pleases, but such as Allah leaves to stray, can have none to guide.” [39:23]
First, I’d like you to think about how verbal words and statements besides the Quran, viz. those spoken by mere human beings, also have an impact on their recipients or on other listeners present. For example, after someone either insults or flatteringly compliments you, do you not feel a negative or positive effect on your mood and on your body?
Some people, when praised, blush very obviously as color rushes to their face, their heart starts to beat faster, and they become so flustered that they find it difficult to speak or look up. Others, when someone makes them angry by saying hurtful words, glare menacingly with their eyes, raise their voices, and start to perspire, breathlessly churning out defensive, retaliative, emotional rhetoric towards their “aggressor”.
Others might actually tremble out of fear, nervousness or anxiety before delivering a public speech or performance (e.g. before appearing to speak in front of a large audience), or when reprimanded by a person in authority e.g. a child may cry, tremble and loose control of her bladder while being bullied by a bigger child, or when being roughly and publicly scolded by a school teacher.
Physical bodily human reactions to verbal stimuli vary greatly. Goosebumps appear on the skin, the heart skips a beat, tears gush forth, the voice trembles and becomes hushed or raised, and in severe cases of extreme verbal and emotional abuse, the victim or recipient can even faint or pass out as a result of another person’s destructive or terrifying verbal onslaught.
Many people can literally feel a “chill” of terror run down their spine and a tremor shake their skin when they receive a shock e.g. when I was a child in school, I sometimes experienced this feeling right before a major examination, when I could feel my skin crawl as soon as I realized that I had forgotten to cover a certain important topic for the exam (yes, I was quite a nerd).
Suffice to say, spoken words in every day settings, may have an impact on the skin of the listener. The same applies to the words of Allah in the Glorious Quran – the most magnificent spoken words that ever were!
They cause the skins of those who fear Allah to tremble, and after that, both – their skins as well as their hearts – soften towards the remembrance of Allah. The Arabic word used to describe this softening is “لِين”, which means: soft, smooth, plain, delicate, tender, pliant, pliable, lax, malleable or flexible (Lane).
In short: according to this verse above, the Quran physically soothes and calms the believers’ bodies, causing their skins to relax and become lax due to inner serenity and freedom from anxiety, and their hearts too, become pliant and flexible, their initial hardness (caused by an ignorance of, and a distance from, the Quran) giving way to a submissiveness and eagerness to remember and obey Allah more earnestly and fervently.
Above I mentioned the verse of the Quran that describes the softening of the hearts of those who fear Allah as a result of reading or listening to Allah’s Book. Besides softening, the hearts of believers experience another effect of the Quran.
In the verse of the Quran quoted below, Allah describes a quality of the sincere believers to be that, when they are reminded of Allah or remember Him on their own, their hearts feel a tremor out of fear:
إِنَّمَا الْمُؤْمِنُونَ الَّذِينَ إِذَا ذُكِرَ اللّهُ وَجِلَتْ قُلُوبُهُمْ وَإِذَا تُلِيَتْ عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتُهُ زَادَتْهُمْ إِيمَانًا وَعَلَى رَبِّهِمْ يَتَوَكَّلُونَ
“For, Believers are those who, when Allah is mentioned, feel a tremor in their hearts, and when they hear His signs rehearsed, find their faith strengthened, and put (all) their trust in their Lord;” [8:2]
Additionally, when these believers listen to the verses of the Quran being recited in front of them, whether in prayer (salah) or otherwise, their hearts also experience another intangible effect: an increase in both, faith (ايمان), as well as trust in Allah (توكل), as shown by the highlighted words in the verse above.
To sum up: sincere, Allah-fearing believers’ hearts soften towards, or become more pliable to, the remembrance of Allah; they feel a tremor of fear whenever He is mentioned, and increase in faith and trust upon Allah as a result of listening to the Quran or reciting it themselves.
An important point to note here is that not all hearts experience these effects after listening to the Quran, especially those that are devoid of or lacking in faith, darkened by sins, hardened due to ignorance, or plagued with diseases of the heart, such as nifaq (نِفَاق), envy (حَسَد), avarice (حرص), or love of the world (حُبُّ الدنيا).
Only fortunate, sincere believers experience the desirable effects of the Quran on their hearts.
Falling down in submission, crying tears
أُوْلَئِكَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِم مِّنَ النَّبِيِّينَ مِن ذُرِّيَّةِ آدَمَ وَمِمَّنْ حَمَلْنَا مَعَ نُوحٍ وَمِن ذُرِّيَّةِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَإِسْرَائِيلَ وَمِمَّنْ هَدَيْنَا وَاجْتَبَيْنَا إِذَا تُتْلَى عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتُ الرَّحْمَن خَرُّوا سُجَّدًا وَبُكِيًّا
“Those were some of the prophets on whom Allah did bestow His Grace,- of the seed of Adam, and of those who We carried (in the Ark) with Noah, and of the seed of Abraham and Israel of those whom We guided and chose. Whenever the Signs of (Allah) Most Gracious were rehearsed to them, they would fall down in prostrate adoration and in tears.” [19:58]
After mentioning the praiseworthy actions and traits of some Prophets, Allah describes how they used to fall down into prostration when the verses of Al Rahman were recited upon them, crying with tears.
The Arabic word خَرَّ means “He or it fell down, making a sound to be heard at the same time. Water ran vehemently; it flowed, trickled down, leaked, or oozed out, making a murmuring, rumbling or gurgling sound.” (Lane)
Another rendition of the same root word (يَخِرُّونَ) appears in the verses quoted below, which describe how people who were granted knowledge of past Divine books fall down into prostration when the Quran is recited upon them:
قُلْ آمِنُواْ بِهِ أَوْ لاَ تُؤْمِنُواْ إِنَّ الَّذِينَ أُوتُواْ الْعِلْمَ مِن قَبْلِهِ إِذَا يُتْلَى عَلَيْهِمْ يَخِرُّونَ لِلأَذْقَانِ سُجَّدًا
“Say: “Whether you believe in it or not, it is true that those who were given knowledge beforehand, when it is recited to them, fall down on their faces in humble prostration.” [17:107]
وَيَخِرُّونَ لِلأَذْقَانِ يَبْكُونَ وَيَزِيدُهُمْ خُشُوعًا
“They fall down on their faces in tears, and it increases their (earnest) humility.” [17:109]
The above verses sum up the four-fold effect of the Quran on Prophets and others who hear it with belief in their hearts:
(1) خَرُّوا or يَخِرُّونَ – Falling down
(2) سُجَّدًا – Prostration (faces/chins touching the ground)
(3) بُكِيًّا or يَبْكُونَ (Crying)
(4) يَزِيدُهُمْ خُشُوعًا (Totally humbled and submissive)
The picture we get is quite clear. Listening with focus to the Quran being recited causes the Allah-fearing, sincere person to fall – physically – into prostration in a way that their faces and chins (mentioned specifically as أَذْقَانِ) actually touch the ground, with tears falling down their cheeks, and their hearts increasing in the feeling of absolute humility and subservience before their Lord.
The Quran’s effect on the hearts is, as I said before, such that it produces physical manifestations – in this case, falling down into prostration and crying tears.
I am extremely grateful to Allah to have personally experienced this glorious reaction to the moving recitation of Quran. It happened during night prayer in Ramadan, whilst praying behind an imam who would recite the Quran correctly and with complete understanding of its content, causing him to be overridden with emotion himself whilst reciting.
It was actually my first such experience that made me finally decide, whilst I was sobbing uncontrollably on the ground in the position of prostration (سَجَدَة), to take the leap and revert completely to my Deen, come what may. I was 21 years old, and it was the 27th night of Ramadan, in January 2000. The person who lifted up her head from that heart-turning-prostration was a completely humbled, broken, subserved, changed, and 180-degree-turn-reverted Sadaf Farooqi.
The experience of listening to the soul-reaching verses of the Quran and feeling them hit you in a manner that causes you to prostrate to Allah with your heart trembling out of love and fear for Him; your face awash with tears flowing like torrents, and your nose and face rubbing the ground, is one that has to be practically experienced to be truly understood and identified with.
Fortunate indeed are those who have experienced this, and who’ve been humbled totally before Allah as a result.
Healing and Mercy
Believe it or not, the Quran has a miraculous healing effect on the hearts, souls and bodies of believers as well! The verse below describes how it brings both cure and mercy upon the believers:
وَنُنَزِّلُ مِنَ الْقُرْآنِ مَا هُوَ شِفَاء وَرَحْمَةٌ لِّلْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَلاَ يَزِيدُ الظَّالِمِينَ إَلاَّ خَسَارًا
“We send down (stage by stage) in the Qur’an that which is a healing and a mercy to those who believe; to the unjust it causes nothing but loss after loss.” [17:82]
The Quran is a healing and cure for diseases, those that affect the body, as well as those that afflict the heart, causing mental illness and emotional distress to the soul.
Nowadays, mental illnesses are almost as, if not more, diverse and varied as physical illnesses. As contemporary researchers and other medical experts will tell you, the body and the soul are so closely intertwined that a sick or diseased heart or soul will cause the body to fall sick or show symptoms of physical illness, whereas a sick body will also put a damper on the spirit, heart and soul of a person.
The Quran becomes a source of cure and healing for both the intangible nafs (the human mind, heart and soul), as well the physical body. Whether it is recited aloud in prayer or separately, or its message is pondered upon and attempted to be understood with the intention of obeying its commands and obligations to please Allah, or it is recited and blown over the body that is afflicted with any disease, the verses of the Quran can have an almost miraculous effect of immediate cure: eliminating vice, illness, disease, filth and evil, and replacing it with good health, joy, blessings, holistic benefits, and well-being.
“But the Quran is a book that is too difficult for me to understand….” – A LIE!
وَلَقَدْ يَسَّرْنَا الْقُرْآنَ لِلذِّكْرِ فَهَلْ مِن مُّدَّكِرٍ
“And We have indeed made the Qur’an easy to understand and remember: then is there any that will receive admonition?” [54: 17, 22, 32, 40]
The fact that the above verse of the Quran is repeated
6 4 times in it is ample testament to the fact that Allah has stressed: He has deliberately made the Quran easy for “الذكر”: reminder and remembrance of Allah; admonishment that results in correction of action, and for the process of memorization as a literary text that the human mind can easily store in its memory for future recollection and replay.
At the end of the verse, Allah asks the reader if there are any takers? I.e. He encourages us to do just that i.e. read and recite His “easy” Book, the Quran, to achieve its motive of الذكر i.e. admonition; taking its cautionary, kind and sincere warnings effectively by rectifying our actions according to it.
So I too, will end this post by asking my readers: now that you know the almost miraculous effects of the Quran on Allah-fearing believers, will you not attempt to bond with it more closely and intimately; listen more to its recitation and explanation in silence and with full focus; endeavor to recite it correctly and properly yourselves; ponder more upon its verses carrying parables and other hidden messages to dive into its awe-inspiring depths and extract precious jewels carrying life-changing lessons, so that you, too, can become among the fortunate chosen ones who experience the wonderful effects of the Quran that are described above?
فَهَلْ مِن مُّدَّكِرٍ؟
Because if you haven’t sobbed uncontrollably whilst listening to the Quran, with your heart trembling out of love for Allah, …… you haven’t lived.