بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيمِ
I flip the pages of my Quran mus-haf forward, checking with some concern how many total marked portions of each remaining juz are left before I reach my target.
Why, you might wonder?
It was back in April this year that excessive vomiting, dehydration and fatigue made me, for the most part, bed-ridden during the first trimester of my third pregnancy. As a result, I was unable to continue my daily dose of Quran recitation, much to my chagrin and mounting guilt.
It is highly desirable to be in the habit of reciting the Quran aloud daily after Fajr prayer (وَ مَا تَوفِيقى اِلَّا بِاللَّهِ).
This activity has manifold benefits, such as facilitating deep reflection, even though when I started it many years ago, it was intended more as an autonomous effort to improve my mediocre tajweed skills.
Reciting the Quran early in the day gives one a chance to ponder on the Divine verses in complete privacy, when the house is silent and when domestic duties and chores do not need to be done, allowing a person to concentrate fully on Allah’s words at a time of the day when their brain cells are most alert and receptive.
Not to mention, for me, it has proved to be a fool-proof methodology of improving my tajweed skills over time, because the larynx is rested after the night and can be easily pressured and strained to produce the correct pronunciation of each Arabic letter of the Quran (its “makhraj” – مَخرَج) while reciting.
When my first trimester passed this year, and I gradually eased back into “normal” life, الحَمدُ لله, I resumed my daily Quran recitation regimen again – لَا حَولَ وَلَا قُوَّةَ اِلَّا بِاللَّه. And as I did, I noted down the date of resumption and the place in the Quran from where I was resuming recitation. It was the beginning of Surah Al-Rum, in juz 21.
I was keeping meticulous track because, at this point, my reason for resuming Quran recitation was twofold – it was no longer just to remain connected to the Quran every day, or to be able to go through it a few times a year, or to ponder on its verses in quiet seclusion, or to hone my tajweed skills. Nay, besides all these reasons, there was now another, more binding motive:
I wanted my unborn baby to listen to the entire Quran in its mother’s voice before it came into this world, just as my last two had listened to it.
At several places in the Quran, Allah mentions the creation of a human being in its mother’s womb. In almost all of these verses, He always mentions creating the human ability to hear or listen first, before the rest of the human organs/bodily systems:
إِنَّا خَلَقْنَا الْإِنسَانَ مِن نُّطْفَةٍ أَمْشَاجٍ نَّبْتَلِيهِ فَجَعَلْنَاهُ سَمِيعًا بَصِيرًا
“Lo! We create man from a drop of thickened fluid to test him; so We make him hearing, knowing.” [Quran – 76:2]
وَاللّهُ أَخْرَجَكُم مِّن بُطُونِ أُمَّهَاتِكُمْ لاَ تَعْلَمُونَ شَيْئًا وَجَعَلَ لَكُمُ الْسَّمْعَ وَالأَبْصَارَ وَالأَفْئِدَةَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ
“It is He Who brought you forth from the wombs of your mothers when you knew nothing; and He gave you hearing and sight and intelligence and affections; that you may give thanks to Allah.” [Quran – 16:78]
وَهُوَ الَّذِي أَنشَأَ لَكُمُ السَّمْعَ وَالْأَبْصَارَ وَالْأَفْئِدَةَ قَلِيلًا مَّا تَشْكُرُونَ
“It is He Who has created for you (the faculties of) hearing, sight, feeling and understanding; little thanks it is you give!” [Quran – 23:78]
ثُمَّ سَوَّاهُ وَنَفَخَ فِيهِ مِن رُّوحِهِ وَجَعَلَ لَكُمُ السَّمْعَ وَالْأَبْصَارَ وَالْأَفْئِدَةَ قَلِيلًا مَّا تَشْكُرُونَ
“But He fashioned him in due proportion, and breathed into him something of His spirit. And He gave you (the faculties of) hearing and sight and feeling (and understanding); little thanks do you give!” [Quran – 32:9]
قُلْ هُوَ الَّذِي أَنشَأَكُمْ وَجَعَلَ لَكُمُ السَّمْعَ وَالْأَبْصَارَ وَالْأَفْئِدَةَ قَلِيلًا مَّا تَشْكُرُونَ
“It is He Who has created you (and made you grow), and made for you the faculties of hearing, seeing, feeling and understanding: little thanks it is you give.” [Quran – 67:23]
Scientific research has also proven that, during the second trimester of pregnancy, most of the internal organs and systems of a fetus have become fully developed.
“Prenatal researchers believe that from at least six months of pregnancy onward the preborn baby is aware of and influenced by what’s going on in the outside world.” (“7 Ways to Bond With Your Pre-born Baby” – AskDrSears.com)
One of the first human anatomical systems to start fully functioning is the auditory (hearing) system, just as Allah mentions in the Quran.
Hence, even before hair grows on their scalps, or they open their eyes to see, these little unborn babies can hear. And what is it that they hear first? The sounds inside the mother’s body, as well as those outside.
The sound that they predominantly hear – most loudly and clearly – until they are born, is their mother’s voice, which reaches them from within the body, the sound waves from her voice traveling to reach the baby’s ears through the amniotic fluid in which it is suspended.
In trying to imagine what a baby experiences when it hears its mother’s voice in the womb, I recalled how, when we used to swim in a pool as children, once my brother and I tried to test if we could hear each other underwater. We could.
It is true that sound travels faster under water and can be easily heard. The greatest difference between hearing something in open air and hearing it underwater is that, since the entire body is engulfed in the watery medium, the sound surrounds the hearer from all sides and has a different kind of impact, especially if it originates from a source within the water itself, and not from a source outside.
In fact, another study undertaken by U.S Navy researchers has revealed that underwater, human beings also hear through their bones!
“The study found that humans hear through bone conduction, which bypasses the outer ear and the ossicles of the middle ear.
Instead, sound comes through the mastoid, or the bone you can feel if you put your fingers behind the ear.
By using bone conduction, the human ear can actually receive sounds at frequencies way higher than most people would have expected.”
(Jenifer Goodwin, ‘Underwater, Humans Hear Through Their Bones‘ – Medicinenet.com)
Notwithstanding the fact that scientific studies and their results should be taken with a pinch of salt, the fact remains that if an expectant mother recites the Quran, her unborn baby will hear the divine sound.
And this is no ordinary sound; it is the spoken word (كلام) of Allah, who spoke directly to Prophet Musa. This spoken word has been called a light (نور), guidance (هُدًى), mercy (رَحمَةً) and a means of healing (شفآء), in the Quran itself.
Is there a better sound than the Quran for a baby to hear? Especially during a phase when it has an exclusive, extremely close physical bond with its mother?
So in an era when people are coming up with products that can be taped to a pregnant woman’s abdomen to facilitate early brain development and future intellectual advancement of the baby; and expectant parents are being encouraged to talk directly to their unborn child as much as possible, and to sing nursery rhymes to it; and parents of unborn babies are encouraged to make the latter listen to specific kinds of music, I wanted to write this post to entice and encourage all women to not just learn to recite the Quran aloud to themselves with correct tajweed, but to also make sure that they make their unborn baby listen to it in its entirety – at least once – if and when they get pregnant.
Once the baby is born…
Its not just during pregnancy that modern-day parents are encouraged to make babies listen to music.
Newborns in some hospitals around the world are made to listen to music from right after birth as a form of “therapy”; a supposed “stimulus” for their brains; even though related research has not concretely proven any direct effect of this activity on the babies’ subsequent intellectual advancement or brain development.
The effect on a child who listened to Quran recitation in the womb
Since I have personally witnessed the effect of fetal Quran melody/recitation on my first two children, I’d like to share here what I have observed over the past 4-6 years, in their behavior towards Allah’s كلام, as well as in their other general, natural inclinations:
- An inherent and deep love of listening to the Quran, whenever it is played on tape or recited out loud before them.
- An affinity towards trying to recognize Allah and His attributes through questions, observation, curiosity and wonder.
- Strong inclination towards performance of salah.
- High sense of morality, viz. an acute sense of right and wrong, exhibited primarily by an eagerness to apologize/repent after a transgression.
- Inborn modesty in dress, conduct and gaze, e.g. refusal to wear short and skimpy clothing, especially in front of others, from an age as young as 2 years.
- Excellent memory.
- High level of intelligence.
- Creative imagination.
- Eloquence; articulate oration.
I know that some of the latter points can be directly attributed to genetics and other factors. However, the fact remains that the Divine words of Allah have their special blessings that yield positive benefits and results even in this world, on both, those who recite them and on those who listen to them.
The mutual exclusivity of music and the Quran
Here, I would like to point out something extremely important.
The reason why I have quoted from and linked to articles in this post that provide references to modern practices that use music as a means of imparting supposed “positive” effects on human babies from their early development in life, is not because I am advocating these activities or approving of them.
Rather, the references were provided as proof of the fact that the spoken word or an audible melody does have an impact on human babies, and hence, I wanted to stress how we, as parents, should ensure that our littles ones get to listen to the Quran as soon as they start to hear.
I know that the topic of music makes many tempers flare. I am therefore not going to initiate a jurisprudential discussion on the evidence of its impermissibility here. I believe that intentional listening to music is prohibited in Islam.
It was narrated that Naafi’ (رَحِمَهُ الله) said: “Ibn ‘Umar heard a woodwind instrument, and he put his fingers in his ears and kept away from that path. He said to me, “O Naafi’, can you hear anything?” I said, “No”. So he took his fingers away from his ears, and said: “I was with the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) and he heard something like this, and he did the same thing.””
However, I must admit that at this point in my life, its not just because of this fundamental reason – of listening to even a flute being impermissible in Islam – that I avoid listening to music. There is a worldly reason for it as well.
That reason is that I have experienced time and again in the past ten years that when I listen to music unintentionally, such as in a public place where it is blaring, my heart starts to almost physically constrict; my soul gets agitated, and I want the “noise” to just go away. This happens whether it is an instrumental melody or a hard rock song; a pop number or a so-called soul-stirring, classical ghazal.
The reason for my aversion towards music – which, I assure you, wasn’t there at all before I studied the Quran in-depth eleven years ago – is that الحَمدُ لله – during these eleven years, I have found something to listen to that is much, much more beautiful, sublime, and powerful in its effect on my heart, mind, body and soul. So much so that any other kind of man-made music or melody sounds no less than absolute crap in comparison. Please excuse the crass-but-emphatic lingo. 🙂
I have noticed that when I do end up listening to music, it produces a decidedly detectable negative effect on my heart. The music tries to nestle into the latter and as a result, endeavors to push out the glorious words of the Quran that reside there.
The fact is: music and the Quran cannot reside together in one heart.
Try to understand this with an analogy: if you won’t get rid of the weeds and parasites in a soil, you will not be able to successfully seed, water and nurture a healthy plant in it; the filth in the soil will counter and negate the positive effects of water and sunlight needed to nourish the tender seedling to make it grow.
Or, if you won’t clean a utensil before eating food from it, no matter how fresh and great-tasting the food that you place in it might be, you will not be able to enjoy eating it because of the filth that still contaminates it.
I have heard many people who come towards Deen complain and lament that, no matter how much they try, they just “cannot” give up music. Also, they complain how, when the Quran is recited before them, they do not feel anything; that is, their hearts do not get aflutter, and their eyes are not moved to emotional tears.
The reason for this is that, as long as they do not give up listening to music, the melodies and words that this music comprises of will continue residing firmly in their hearts, and will prevent the glorious verses of the Quran along with its Divine effects to enter the latter.
That is the precise reason why they do not feel anything in their hearts when they hear the Quran being recited or the beautiful adhaan (call to prayer) sounding five times a day.
When they hear a favorite musical song, though, their ears are enticed, their hearts immediately feel inclined towards it, and they start to not just hum it, but also feel their soul attracted to it. The musical songs reside in their hearts, keep replaying in their minds, and are hummed on their tongues as they go about their daily work.
Eventually, they start to believe that the Islamic restriction of not listening to music is too “harsh” and unobservable; that music is the “food for the soul”; and that they “cannot live without music”.
Fact is, the one who has never ‘tasted’ gourmet food will continue to consider unhealthy junk food as the ultimate gastronomical pleasure!
On the other hand, the humbling and soul-stirring effect of listening to the melodious verses of the Quran, on the hearts, skins, and eyes of sincere believers, has been mentioned in the Quran itself:
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…” [Quran – 39:23]
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 posterity of Adam, and of those who We carried (in the Ark) with Noah, and of the posterity 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.” [Quran – 19:58]
So the choice is yours – if you want your child to reap the benefits of the glorious Quran, the spoken word of Allah, in their adult life, you as their mother, have to start work on your babies early – while they are still in your womb.
I personally know a few smoking women who gave up smoking cigarettes completely whenever they got pregnant, for the sake of their baby’s physical health. Non-Muslim women who drink alcohol also give up drinking during pregnancy as per doctor’s orders, for the same reason.
If these women successfully curtail an otherwise addictive negative habit for the sake of getting worldly benefits for their progeny, why can’t you, O Muslim mother, curtail listening to music and instead, endeavor to recite the entire Quran melodiously, with proper tajweed, to your baby in your own voice during the last 4-5 months of your pregnancy?
An edited version of this blog post appears as a chapter in my 13th book, Into the Qur’an.