بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيمِ
As the readers of this blog as well as those who have been reading my past articles probably know by now, through many of my writings I have attempted to pen my thoughts and in-depth reflections upon different verses of the Quran. Fact is, I have been attempting to analyze the meanings of Allah’s Book since many years.
Over the past few, however, I have been able to better grasp, by Allah’s grace, much deeper insights into the Quran than before, and in this post, I want to elaborate upon the method of pondering upon the Quran among the different methods that I have hitherto used, which varied according to the degree of “newness” of my association with it, which has had the greatest effect on my life.
The fact is that I absolutely love to ponder upon the Glorious Quran and recite it in solitude! However, arriving at this point has been somewhat hard work.
Steps of the journey..
The first method of attempting to understand the words of Allah in the Quran, which I employed mostly during my teen years, involved understanding the very basic meanings of the Quran through Urdu and English translations. This granted me the very preliminary level of understanding what Allah has said to mankind in His Book. However, at this level I still remained an almost complete stranger to the language in which the Quran was first revealed: Arabic – even if I could read it aloud without any comprehension.
The next method I used, by Allah’s Grace, to ponder more deeply upon the Quran, was when I was in my early twenties. I was no longer satisfied with just reading the translation, because it felt like someone was decoding Allah’s words for me (which is what a translation does, of course). Hence, I was pining for a way to be able to understand the Arabic of the Quran directly, so that I could understand the Quran when I, or someone else, recited it.
And so commenced the second “method” of my connecting with and understanding the Quran, which involved studying it under a more learned person, a scholar, who explained its word-meanings and contextual exegesis, all the while relating its time-independent message, content and commandments to practical life from the point of view of the educated, urban Pakistani woman. This method of Quran study involved writing down its word-to-word translation and exegesis while my teacher delivered her lectures, and reflecting methodically upon its verses via structured discussions live, in person, with other students in the Quran class.
After that exhilarating, but unfortunately temporary, experience, the third method that I used to connect in more solitude and exclusivity with Allah’s Book involved reciting it early in the morning after performing the Fajr (pre-dawn) prayer, through quiet contemplation and deep reflection upon its verses, followed by dua’s for further guidance and clarity into its meanings. I undertook this method in order to stay closely connected to Allah’s Book even after my life’s daily routine no longer involved regular, structured studies via classes taken under a scholar or teacher.
Of all the above methods, by far it was the third one that has had, in the long term, the most profoundly humbling effect on my heart – the kind that I have described in detail in the last post on this blog.
Sometimes, the verses of the Quran would suddenly become clearer to me in the form of an epiphany, as a hitherto unknown aspect of their meaning would strike me out of the blue. At other times, digging deeper into the meanings of some of the Arabic words would reveal fresh insights and new angles.
A Quran that is “witnessed”
In the Quran itself, Allah calls the Quran recitation in prayer at the time of Fajr, a recitation that “is witnessed”:
أَقِمِ الصَّلاَةَ لِدُلُوكِ الشَّمْسِ إِلَى غَسَقِ اللَّيْلِ وَقُرْآنَ الْفَجْرِ إِنَّ قُرْآنَ الْفَجْرِ كَانَ مَشْهُودًا
“Establish regular prayers – at the sun’s decline till the darkness of the night, and the morning prayer and reading: for the prayer and reading in the morning carry their testimony.” [17:78]
The question arises: what “testimony” does the “Quran Al-Fajr” (Quran reading/recitation before dawn) carry?
According to Tafsir Ibn Kathir, the term “Quran Al-Fajr” means the Salah of Al Fajr i.e. the first obligatory prayer of the day.
It further states, “According to the version recorded in the two sahihs from Abu Hurayrah, the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم said: “The angels of the night and the angels of the day come amongst you in successive groups (in shifts). They meet at the morning prayer (Fajr) and at the mid-afternoon prayer (‘Asr). Those who stayed among you at ascend, and their Lord asks them, although He knows best about you, “How did you leave my servants” They say, “We came to them when they were praying and we left them when they were praying.”
`Abdullah bin Masoud said, “The two guards meet at Salat Al-Fajr, and one group ascends while the other stays where it is.”
These were the comments of Ibrahim An-Nakha`i, Mujahid, Qatadah and others on the tafsir of this verse.
End quote Tafsir Ibn Kathir.
This hadith in Sahih Al-Bukhari has an additional line by the narrator Abu Hurairah at its end:
It is related that Abu Hurairah said, “I heard the Messenger of Allah say, “The excellence of the group prayer is twenty-five times that of the prayer of one of you alone. The angels of the night and the angels of the day meet during the Fajr prayer.” Then Abu Hurairah said, “If you wish, recite إِنَّ قُرْآنَ الْفَجْرِ كَانَ مَشْهُودً – “…for the recitation of Fajr is witnessed.””
The verse of the Quran above and the relevant ahadith supplementing it indicate clearly that the time of pre-dawn is especially blessed because the angels witness the Quran that is recited in Fajr prayer.
This is because Allah has singled out the Quran recited in the obligatory “Al-Fajr” prayer, giving it a special mention in the verse above. I think that this mention itself vouchsafes for the excellence of the time of Fajr in relation to the recitation of the Quran.
Early morning hours are blessed
What we can conclude is that the time before sunrise is a great opportunity to bond with the Quran, first by reciting as much of it from memory as we possibly can in the Al-Fajr obligatory prayer, and then by further reciting it separately from the mushaf.
We can follow this by reading its meanings and exegesis silently, and then pondering upon them in the quiet morning time that follows Fajr prayer. All this should not take a lot of time, as early morning time is very blessed and distraction-free.
In worldly terms also, the hour before dawn is one of the quietest and most productive times of the day, when people are only beginning to rise from slumber after a long nocturnal rest.
The day’s work and household chores have not yet begun; therefore, a person’s mind is not just fresh and alert after receiving consecutive hours of night sleep, but it is also comparatively uncluttered, free from the daily schedule-related worries and distractions that occupy it during the day.
Many successful people, therefore, cash in on the hours before breakfast to pursue beneficial activities and productive habits, or to perform other tasks geared towards helping them get ahead in personal development, or to achieve career success.
Examples of such tasks mentioned in the article to which I have linked above, include – working out and exercising; reading a book, newspaper, journal, or online correspondence (such as emails); making or reviewing a to-do list for the day, or goals for the near future; taking an online class, meditating, or studying a religious text. Even modern-day media and television have acknowledged the special crisp freshness of the early morning hours, cashing in on the availability of their ‘early-bird’ viewership by broadcasting special morning shows and “breakfast news” bulletins.
There is no doubt about the fact that the early morning hours carry special blessings. This has even been endorsed by the prayer and sleep schedule of Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه و سلم and his companions:
Sakhr Al-Ghamidi said: “The Messenger of Allah said: “O Allah, bless my ummah in the mornings.’ Whenever he sent out troops or an army, he would send them at the beginning of the day.’” Sakhr was a trader, and he used to send out his caravans at the beginning of the day, and he did well as a result and made money.”
[Abu Dawood, Al-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah]
Sammak Ibn Harb, who said: “I asked Jabir Ibn Samurah, “Did you used to sit with the Messenger of Allah?” He said, “Yes, frequently. He would not get up from the place where he had prayed Subh until the sun rose. When the sun rose, he would get up. They used to talk about things that had happened during the jahiliyyah (pre-Islamic ignorance), and they would laugh and smile.””
[Sahih Muslim (1:463)]
My personal “spiritual fix”
The reason I am highlighting the excellence of Quran recitation at the time of Fajr is that, this activity has been a part of my daily routine for more than a decade, and has brought many blessings into my life, not the least of which is the understanding of Deen and an improvement in my tajweed skills. Most of the articles that I have already written, and the ideas for topics to write on in future, are largely a product of my contemplation upon verses of the Quran at the time of Fajr. لا حول ولا قوة الا بالله – all source of my guidance and steadfastness is solely Allah.
More than ten years ago, I wanted to direly improve my tajweed, pining to be able to recite the Quran correctly, effortlessly and melodiously. Allah guided me to sit down every day after Fajr prayer, for only ten to fifteen minutes at the most, and recite a couple of pages of Quran.
This seemingly small effort, of bonding with Allah’s Book for a short period of time in the early hours every morning, brought enormous fruits and self-actualizing results in my life and persona over the years. It helped me get closer not just to my Creator but also to His creation, improving my relationships with others and guiding me to focus on correcting my own shortcomings, keeping my heart clean, practicing patience in the face of adversities, and forgiving others.
Soon, it became much more than an effort to improve my tajweed. It became my “weakness”; a daily “fix” – something I needed to thrive spiritually; something I could no longer do without.
Incidentally, as I said, the ideas for most of the articles that I have written, including those that culminated as the content of my book, were a result of these early morning “Quran reflection” sessions of mine. And all benefit is solely from Allah.
So I invite those of my readers, who do not yet recite the Quran at the time of Fajr (long recitation within the obligatory Fajr prayer, or separately after prayer) to also start and continue with this habit as a part of their daily morning routine.
Insha’Allah, you will see an immense improvement in your relationship with Allah within no time, not to mention, feel more at peace and serene inside, as you navigate through life’s challenges with the verses of the Quran illuminating your heart and intrinsically guiding your actions.
The trick is to “start small” and continue with consistent little “baby steps” on a daily basis towards establishing this activity as a lifelong routine.
You can start by reciting a few verses or just one page of the Quran daily, sticking diligently to this routine for a few months or years, until it becomes a die-hard habit. Quite soon, it will become an indispensable part of your life; a necessity that you will not be able to do without, insha’Allah.
Over the years, picking up the Quran early in the morning after Fajr prayer for recitation and reflection, followed by dhikr and supplications, has become second nature to me, alhamdulillah, – all guidance and good is solely from Allah.
The day I do not recite the Quran in the morning, I feel like I have missed something truly important, and I feel deprived. By Allah’s Grace, I then return to it the next morning with even more vigor and enthusiasm! لاحول ولا قوة الا بالله
Besides reciting it aloud oneself, one can also bond with the Quran at the start of their day by putting it on aloud and listening intently to a portion of its recitation as it plays, reading and pondering upon its meanings by displaying this portion of the Quran on a smartphone/iPhone, desktop computer or laptop. This alternative routine can be availed during the monthly cycle of menstruation, for example.
Sometimes, I use the helpful website QuranFlash that displays a Quran mushaf on the screen, allowing me to navigate the Quran just as I would a physical mushaf.
Tasbeeh and Istighfar
Allah has also mentioned 2 other praiseworthy actions in the Quran that His righteous slaves do early in the morning: glorifying and praising Allah (tasbeeh) and seeking forgiveness for sins (istighfar):
فَاصْبِرْ عَلَى مَا يَقُولُونَ وَسَبِّحْ بِحَمْدِ رَبِّكَ قَبْلَ طُلُوعِ الشَّمْسِ وَقَبْلَ الْغُرُوبِ
“..And celebrate the praises of your Lord, before the rising of the sun and before (its) setting.” [50:39]
وَبِالْأَسْحَارِ هُمْ يَسْتَغْفِرُونَ
“And in the hour of early dawn, they (were found) praying for forgiveness;” [51:18]
Hence, we can conclude that the time early in the morning every day is a golden opportunity for us to avail for bonding with Allah via different forms of worship, starting preferably with standing in late night devout prayer (also known as tahajjud or qiyam al-layl).
We can follow this with seeking forgiveness and making earnest dua’s or supplications, until the time of Fajr commences. Then we should pray the obligatory Fajr prayer with as lengthy a recitation of Quran from memory as we possibly can, followed by more recitation and reflection upon the Quran from the mushaf. Finally, we can end this morning “worship session” of ours with more dhikr, such as the masnoon dua’s for the morning and evening, which incidentally also include tasbeeh and istighfar.
So start picking up the Quran at Fajr!
I hope that you will endeavor to recite, read, and try to understand Allah’s Book with the intention of acting upon it by utilizing the early morning hours; the way Allah guided me to do. May Allah grant me steadfastness and further levels of guidance.
I never thought that one day I would write about my reflections on the Glorious Quran! Truly, this Quran is a blessing that cannot be cherished, appreciated or praised enough in words! It is better than any wealth that anyone, or all of mankind together, can ever amass:
يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ قَدْ جَاءتْكُم مَّوْعِظَةٌ مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ وَشِفَاء لِّمَا فِي الصُّدُورِ وَهُدًى وَرَحْمَةٌ لِّلْمُؤْمِنِينَ
“O mankind! There has now come unto you an admonition from your Sustainer, and a cure for all [the ill] that may be in men’s hearts, and guidance and grace unto all who believe [in Him].
قُلْ بِفَضْلِ اللّهِ وَبِرَحْمَتِهِ فَبِذَلِكَ فَلْيَفْرَحُواْ هُوَ خَيْرٌ مِّمَّا يَجْمَعُونَ
Say: “In [this] bounty of God and in His grace – in this, then, let them rejoice: it is better than all [the worldly wealth] that they may amass!”” [10:57-10:58]
I am not perfect…
As I leave you until the next post, I would just like to add here a disclaimer of sorts: please do not think after reading this post that I am some superwoman who does tons of work in the mornings. I am still struggling to get to that point (a point at which my teacher and friend Farhat Hashmi already is, and has been, for years, masha’Allah. Her productive early morning routine is well-known among her circle).
I am not an early riser and active morning person yet – to the extent that I manage to stay awake and not go back to sleep after sunrise. Our family still struggles with trying to sleep an hour earlier than we do, and as yet we are not succeeding.
Hence, I know that if I stay awake constantly from the time of tahajjud onwards, I will be dozing off at 10 a.m at my desk, and losing my mid-morning productive spurt of reading/writing/emailing work.
Therefore, more often than not, I go back to bed to take a nap after sunrise (nowadays masha’Allah, there is a baby in the picture as well, who still awakes during the night) i.e. I sleep for another 2-3 hours after the sun has risen. Although I am happy to report that ever since I entered my thirties, I have been sleeping less per 24-hours than I did when I was younger i.e. during my teen years and twenties (I could sleep 12 hours a day back then!)
So now, when I do go back to take my post-sunrise morning nap, I at least feel good about the fact that I have already got my necessary spiritual “fix” for the day – my daily dose of the “Quran Al–Fajr” – and hence, I usually go to sleep happy, and enjoy sweet dreams. 🙂
An edited version of this blog post appears as a chapter in my 13th book, Into the Qur’an.