Despite Islamic knowledge being readily available, why did I feel distant from my faith? Why was I deprived of the benefits and great wisdoms that Allah (SWT) revealed? Why did the Qur’an sit collecting dust on my bookshelf, whilst my heart and life remained empty of its benefits and wisdoms?
I would often question how people stagnate in the pursuit of learning – despite being very eager to learn at one point. Some people may have memorised many parts of the Qur’an, yet their characters hadn’t improved. As ‘Muslims’ why don’t we benefit from what we read?
Read, think and reflect
Although reading leads to greater awareness, increases our knowledge and opens our minds to new ideas and vocabulary, I have come to the realisation that it is how we read that is important. By this I mean that the assumptions and attitude we begin with affects the outcome and belief in what we are reading.
The Qur’an contains the most powerful words and messages, and is from the Owner and Creator of the entire universe. When we read it with that realisation, it has the ability to transform our characters and lives.
When I approached the Qur’an with the realisation that it is directly from my Creator, I was incredibly touched and enlightened by it. I was also very sad though, because it meant that all my previous life had passed without this certainty. Even though I was born into a Muslim family and knew many ahadith and recited Qur’an frequently, that day when I truly realised and believed was a turning point in my life. For the first time I knew what was at stake, and I knew I had to make changes if I wanted to taste true success. With no real research or effort conducted to ascertain and choose this faith, I didn’t appreciate its magnificent value and remained deprived of its benefits.
Being born to Muslim parents can sometimes lead to a false feeling of security and comfort for us because we may believe we are automatically under the umbrella of Islam and salvation, just out of our mere existence. Being born to Muslim parents is a blessing from Allah (SWT) that many have, but take for granted. For many Muslims today having a Muslim name or calling ourselves ‘Muslim’ because that’s what we were taught to do to fit into our family or community has become rhetoric or habit. But, our efforts and actions matter. The ‘Muslim’ label or identity in the sight of Allah (SWT) needs to be earned and proven by our belief, actions and by following the example of the final Prophet (SWT).
Muhammad (SAW) used to spend time thinking and reflecting, and as a result Allah (SWT) guided him to the truth and gave him the status that no other man during his time in Arabia could have even dreamt of. Ibrahim (AS) has a great status and his search for greater meaning led him to be guided by Allah (SWT). Allah (SWT) guided them because they wanted to know the truth and made an effort to seek it.
The reason why we do something is important. To improve our understanding and lives, we have to critically analyse and assess ourselves.
So, why do you read the Qur’an? Is it to enjoy the recitation, gain reward from it, or learn something from it? Striving to think and understand what we are learning can be humbling and empowering, if we do it with a sincere, correct intention.
Many of us waste our precious time in useless activities that bear no real success in the long term. Our prayers may feel like a chore because they don’t affect our hearts. Without strong belief of this religion being the truth, we are unable to submit or understand, because the foundations of our faith are shaky and weak.
There are many deviations, temptations and strategies that Shaytan uses to waste our time and keep us away from thinking and reflecting. We are warned:
“…and follow not the footsteps of Shaytân (Satan). Verily! He is to you a plain enemy” (Al- Baqarah:208)
“[Iblîs (Satan)] said: “By Your Might, then I will surely mislead them all, “Except Your chosen slaves amongst them (faithful, obedient, true believers of Islâmic Monotheism).” (Sad: 77-78)
5 STEPS TO HELP US REFLECT
1. Make time for thinking
We may skim, scan and turn pages thoughtlessly and stay deprived of the gems, examples and parables mentioned in the Qur’an and ahadith. Any book we read has to be read with wanting to learn from it – if we want to benefit from it. Do we prioritise making time for thinking and benefiting from what we read?
We are encouraged by our Creator to reflect on what we see and think and look for answers. In the Qur’an He tells us:
“And on the earth are signs for those who have faith with certainty, And also in your ownselves. Will you not then see?” (Adh-Dhariyat :20-21)
“He brings the night as a cover over the day. Verily, in these things, there are Ayât (proofs, evidences, lessons, signs, etc.) for people who reflect.” (Ar-Rad: 3)
Reciting and listening to Qur’an is a good thing, but we should also strive to focus on its meaning and teachings. Reaching paradise through the mercy of Allah (SWT) is the ultimate goal for every Muslim, and it depends on the sincerity of our efforts and the accuracy of our knowledge.
Reflecting upon what we read in the Qur’an can take our reading to another level. How do we reflect though?
2. Personally relate and interact
With every ayah, ask how does this ayah apply to me and what do I learn from it? What is Allah I teaching me through this ayah? In the Arabic language this reflection is called Tadabbur and this concept is mentioned in ayah of the Qur’an:
“Do they not then consider the Qur’ân carefully?” (An-Nisa:82)
3. Questioning our self and deducing lessons
Within every ayah is a message from our Creator to each one of us. Analytically pondering on what we read and deducing lessons takes our understanding to a much higher level. Every time there is a question or story, we can extract the lessons and message it teaches us and apply it to our lives.
4. Use tafsir (scholarly interpretation)
In the case where we are confused and can’t deduce the message behind an ayah, we find out from tafsir. Where there is a will, Allah (SWT) provides a way for those that make sincere effort. In order to interpret correctly, we must understand the context behind the ayah and the situation in which it was revealed. We can ask the mufassireen (people who specialise in tafsir) for guidance.
5. Make du’a
Guidance and knowledge is a provision from Allah (SWT), so we should invoke and beg Allah (SWT) – our Provider – in our prayers for help in achieving the correct understanding – never giving up on our quest for the truth.
Being happy with Allah (SWT) as our Lord, and Muhammad (SAW) as our prophet and Islam as our religion and way of life can only come after learning what each of those things mean. After truly believing in Allah (SWT), as well as, knowing and understanding His commands, we can move towards obeying Him in the way He deserves to be obeyed and therefore reap the comfort and peace of our beautiful faith. No matter what age or stage we are at, we should strive to learn so that we can improve our understanding and have stronger belief in the truths surrounding us, inshaAllah.
May Allah (SWT) guide all of us in our quest for knowledge and truth, and grant us the ability to reflect, Ameen!
Hina is a wife and mother from the UK currently residing in the UAE. She blogs at http://parenting4paradise.wordpress.com and also enjoys writing about social and societal issues from an Islamic perspective. Her fields of interest include Clinical Biochemistry, Biopharmaceutical Analysis, education, parenting and the gaining and spreading of authentic Islamic knowledge.