Chapter 3: Participation of the Inner Self

Chapter 3: Participation of the Inner Self

Reading the Qur'an, the tilawah, must involve your whole 'person'. Only thus will you be able to elevate your encounter with the Qur'an to the level where you can be called a 'true' believer in the Qur'an (al-Baqarah 2: 121).

 

What is the Heart?

The more important part of your 'person' is your inner self. This inner self the Qur'an calls the qalb or the 'heart'. The heart of the Prophet, blessings and peace be on him, was the first recipient of the Qur'anic message:

Truly it has been sent down by the Lord of all the worlds, the Trustworthy Spirit has alighted with it upon your heart [O Prophet], that you may be one of the warners ... (al-Shu'ara' 26: 1924).

You will therefore reap the full joys and blessings of reading the Qur'an when you are able to involve your heart fully in your task.

The 'heart', in Qur'anic vocabulary, is not the piece of flesh in your body, but the centre of all your feelings, emotions, motives, drives, aspirations, remembrance and attention. It is the hearts which soften (al-Zumar 39: 23), or harden and become stony (al-Baqarah 2: 74). It is they which go blind and refuse to recognize the truth (al-Hajj 22: 46) for it is their function to reason and understand (al-A'raf 7: 179;al-Hajj 22: 46; Qaf 50: 37). In hearts, lie the roots of all outward diseases (al-Ma'idah 5: 52); they are the seat of all inner ills (al-Baqarah 2: 10); hearts are the abode of Iman (al-Ma'idah 5: 41) and hypocrisy (al-Tawbah 9: 77). It is the hearts, again, which are the centre of every good and bad thing, whether it be contentment and peace (al-Ra'd 13: 28), the strength to face afflictions (al-Taghabun 64: 11), mercy (al-Hadid 57: 27), brotherly love (al-Anfal 8: 63), taqwd (al-Hujurat 49: 3; al-Hajj 22: 32); or, doubt and hesitation (al-Tawbah 9: 45), regrets (Al 'Imran 3: 156), and anger (al-Tawbah 9: 15). Finally it is, in reality, the ways of the heart for which we shall be accountable, and only the one who brings before his God a sound and whole heart will deserve to be saved.

God will not take you to task for a slip, but He will take you to task for what your hearts have earned (al-Baqarah 2: 225).

The Day when neither wealth nor children shall profit, [and when] only he [will be saved] who comes before God with a sound heart [free of evil] (al-Shu'ara' 26: 88-9).

You must therefore ensure that so long as you are with the Qur'an, your heart remains with you. The heart not being that piece of flesh but what the Qur'an calls qalb.

This should not prove difficult if you remain conscious of a few things and observe certain actions of heart and body The seven prerequisites described earlier lay the foundation for the fuller participation of your inner self in reading the Qur'an. In addition to these, the taking of a few more steps will greatly increase the intensity and quality of this involvement of the heart.

 

Dynamic of Inner Participation

You should understand the dynamic of inner participation well. For how is your heart seized by Truth? First, you come to know the truth. Second, you recognize and accept it as the truth and as relevant to your life. Third, you remember the truth, as much and as often as you can. Fourth, you absorb it until it soaks into the deepest recesses of your inner self. The truth thus becomes an ever-alive state of consciousness, an enduring posture of the heart. Once a truth so permeates your inner world, it must pour out in the world of words and deeds.

It is also important to remember here that what you do outwardly, by your tongue and limbs, interacts with what you are inwardly. It is possible that words and deeds may be false witnesses to the state of inner self. But an inner state, like faith, must necessarily find expression in words and deeds, which, in turn, must help in engraving your knowledge in your consciousness and turn it into an abiding condition.

The steps suggested here will be effective if you remain mindful of the above dynamics and follow the above principles.

 

STATES OF CONSCIOUSNESS

There are seven states of consciousness which you must try to develop by remembering certain things, absorbing them and by frequently reminding yourself of them.

 

The Qur'anic Criteria of Inner Participation

First: Say to yourself: My Qur'an reading will not be truly tilawah unless my inner self participates in it as Allah desires it to participate.

So what does Allah desire? And how should you receive the Qur'an? The Qur'an itself in many places tells you vividly how it was received by the Prophet, blessings and peace be on him, and by his Companions, and by those whose hearts were gripped by it. Such Qur'anic verses you should try to remember, and, then, recollect and reflect upon them whenever you read the Qur'an. Some of these are: Those only are believers who, when Allah is mentioned, their hearts tremble; and when His verses are recited to them, they increase them in faith (al-Anfal 8: 2).

God has sent down the best discourse as a Book, fully consistent within itself, oft-repeated, whereat shiver the skins of those who fear their Lord; then their skins and hearts soften to the remembrance of Allah (al-Zumar 39: 23).

When it is recited to them, they fall down upon their faces, prostrating, and say: Glory be to our Lord! Our Lord's promise is fulfilled. And they fall down upon their faces, weeping; and it increases them in humility (al-Isra' 17: 107-9).

Whenever the verses of the Most-merciful are read unto them, they fall down, prostrating themselves and weeping (Maryam 19: 58).

And when they hear what has been sent down to the Messenger, you see their eyes overflow with tears because of what they have recognized of Truth. They cry: Our Lord! We believe; so You do write us down among the witnesses [to the Truth] (al-Ma'idah 5: 83) .

 

In Allah's Presence

Second: Say to yourself: I am in Allah's presence; He is seeing me.

 

PARTICIPATION OF THE INNERSELF

You must remain alive to the reality that, while you are reading the Qur'an, you are in the very presence of Him who has sent these words to you. For, Allah is always with you, wherever you are, whatever you are doing. His knowledge is all encompassing.

How do you attain this state of consciousness? Listen to what Allah tells you in the Qur'an in this regard. Remember those verses, and recollect and reflect upon them when you are about to start reading the Qur'an, and during it. But what will help you more, not only in reading the Qur'an but in living your whole life by the Qur'an, is to remember and reflect this reality as often as you can. Alone or in company, silent or speaking, at home or at work, at rest or busy say, silently or loudly: He is here, with me, seeing and hearing, knowing and recording. And remember these verses of the Qur'an:

He is with you wherever you are (al-Hadid 57: 4). We are nearer to him than his jugular vein (Qaf 50: 16) Three men converse not secretly together, but He is the fourth of them, neither five men, but He is the sixth of them, neither fewer than that, neither more, but He is with them, wherever they may be (al-Mujadalah 58: 7).

I am with you two [Musa and Harun], hearing and seeing (Ta Ha 20: 46). Surely you are before Our eyes (al-Tur 52: 48).

Surely it is We who bring the dead to life and write down what they have sent ahead and what they have left behind, everything We have taken into account in a clear register (Ya Sin 36: 12).

More significant is the following verse, which not only forcefully tells, in general, about Allah being present everywhere, seeing everything, but mentions, specifically, the act of reading the Qur'an:

And in whatever condition you may be, and whatever you may be reciting of the Qur'an, and whatever work you may be doing, We are witnessing when you are occupied in it. And not so much as an atom's weight on earth or in heaven is hidden from your Lord. And neither is anything smaller than that nor greater, but is recorded in a manifest book (Yunus 10: 61).

So He himself tells us, 'I am present when you read the Qur'an': never forget this.

Reciting the Qur'an is an act of worship. The way to attain highest excellence is worshipping Allah as the Prophet, blessings and peace be on him, tells us-worship Allah as if you are seeing Him, for even if you cannot see Him with eyes, you can see that He is seeing you (Muslim).

Additionally, remember that not only are you in His presence but that He remembers you as long as you are reading the Qur'an: 'Remember Me and I will remember you' (al-Baqarah 2: 152). The best way to remember Allah, undoubtedly, is to read the Qur'an.

 

Hearing from Allah

Third: Say to yourself: I am hearing from Allah.

As a part of your effort to involve your inner self, you should try to think as if you are hearing the Qur'an from the Sender himself. The Qur'an is the speech of God. For, just as you cannot see Him while He is always with you, you cannot hear Him while it is He who is speaking. Let the printed words and reciter's voices therefore recede and allow yourself to move nearer to the Speaker. This feeling will be generated and greatly strengthened as your consciousness of 'being in His presence' continues to grow.

Al-Ghazali, in his Ihya', tells about a person who said: I read the Qur'an but did not find sweetness in it. Then I read it as if I was hearing it from the Prophet, blessings and peace be on him, while he was reciting it to his Companions. Then, I moved a stage further and read the Qur'an as if I was hearing it from Jibra'il while he delivered it to the Prophet, blessings and peace be on him. Then God brought me to a further stage I began to read it as if I was hearing it from the Speaker.

Such feeling will imbue you with a delight and sweetness that will make your inner self fully enveloped by the Qur'an.

 

Allah's Direct Address

Fourth: Say to yourself: Allah addresses me directly, through His Messenger, when I read the Qur'an.

No doubt the Qur'an was sent down at a specific point in history, and you have received it indirectly through persons, time and space. But the Qur'an is the word of the Ever-living God, it is eternally valid and it addresses every person. So let all these intermediaries recede for a while and allow yourself to read the Qur'an as if it is talking directly to you, as an individual and as a member of a collectivity, in your time. The very thought of such direct reception will keep your heart seized by what you are reading.

 

Every Word for You

Fifth: Say to yourself: Every word in the Qur'an is meant for me.

If the Qur'an is eternally valid, and if it is addressing you today, then you must take every message as something which is totally and urgently relevant to your life and concerns, whether it be a value or norm, a statement or piece of knowledge, a character or dialogue, a promise or a warning, a command or a prohibition.

Such understanding will make your Qur'an reading alive, dynamic and meaningful. There may be some problems in translating messages intended for persons who look so different from you into messages relevant to your person and concerns, but with sincere and right effort it should be possible.

 

Conversation with Allah

Sixth: Say to yourself: I am conversing with Allah when I am reading the Qur'an.

The Qur'an contains God's words, addressed to you and meant for you. Though those words are on your lips and inscribed on your heart, they are yet a dialogue between God and man, between Him and you. This dialogue takes many forms. It may be explicit or it may be implicit in the sense that a response is implied from you or Him.

How does this implicit conversation take place? A beautiful example has been given by the Prophet, blessings and peace be on him, in a Hadith qudsi:

I have divided the Prayer [salat] between Me and My servant, half is for Me and half for him, and My servant shall have what he asks for. For when the servant says 'All praise belongs to God, the Lord of all the worlds', God says, 'My servant has praised Me'. When the servant says, 'The Most-merciful, the Mercy-giving', God says, 'My servant has extolled Me'. When the servant says 'Master of the Day of Judgement', God says 'My servant has glorified Me' ... this is My portion. When he says, 'Thee alone we worship and from Thee alone we seek help', He says, 'This is shared by Me and My servant. He will be given what he will ask.' When he says, 'Guide us on the Straight Path . . .', He says 'This belongs to My servant, and My servant shall have what he has asked for' (Muslim, Tirmidhi, Ahmad) .

You will see later how the Prophet, blessings and peace be on him, used to respond with words to the message and content of various verses. Remaining conscious of thus conversing with your Creator and Master will impart an extraordinary quality of intensity and depth to your Qur'an reading.

 

Trusting and Expecting Allah's Rewards

Seventh: Say to yourself: Allah will surely give me all the rewards He has promised me through His Messenger for reading the Qur'an and following it.

Many rewards are promised in the Qur'an. Assured are the spiritual gifts in life, such as guidance, mercy, knowledge, wisdom, healing, remembrance and light, as well as worldly favours such as honour and dignity, well-being and prosperity, success and victory. Eternal blessings such as forgiveness (maghfirah), Paradise (Jannah) and God's good pleasure (ridwan), too, are reserved for the followers of the Qur'an.

The Prophet, blessings and peace be on him, has told about many more rewards. Take any standard Hadith collection like Bukhari, Muslim, Mishkat or Riyad al-Salihin, read the relevant chapters concerning the Qur'an, and you will find them there. Some of them you will find in this book as well, especially at the end.

For example: 'The best among you is the one who learns and teaches it' (Bukhari). 'Read the Qur'an, for on the Day of Resurrection it will come interceding for its companions' (Muslim). 'No intercessor will be superior in rank to the Qur'an' (Sharh al-Ihya'). 'On the Day of Resurrection, the companion of the Qur'an will be told to read the Qur'an and ascend, as high as the last verse he reads' (Abd Da'ud). 'For every letter that you read you will get a tenfold reward' (Tirmidhi).

Store as many of these promises as you can in your memory and recollect whatever you find relevant, whenever you can. Trust, expect, and seek from Allah their fulfilment in your case.

Observance of such a measure, what the Hadith call imanan wa ihtisaban (believing and counting), greatly enhances the inner value of your deeds. One Hadith tells that there are forty virtues. If a person performs any of these, hoping for the reward and trusting in the promise, Allah will admit him to Paradise; the highest of these virtues is as little as making a gift of some milk to one's neighbour (Bukhari).

 

ACTS OF HEART AND BODY

There are seven actions of heart and body which will greatly help you in immersing your inner self in the reading of the Qur'an. Some of these you may already be doing, but you fail to receive their full impact because either you do not do them properly or you are not conscious of what you must achieve through them. Some you are not doing; these are important and you must learn them.

None of these acts requires any more time than you give to your Qur'an reading now. They only require more attention, greater concentration, and a conscious effort to do things, and to do them properly.

 

Response of Your Heart

First: Let your heart become alive and respond to whatever the Qur'an says.

Let everything you read in the Qur'an react with your heart, and breathe new life into it. Make your heart pass through various corresponding states of adoration and praise, reverence and gratitude, wonder and awe, love and longing, trust and patience, hope and fear, joy and sorrow, reflection and recollection, surrender and obedience. Unless you do so the share you derive from reading the Qur'an may be no more than the movement of your lips.

For example: When you hear God's name and His attributes, your heart should be filled with awe, gratitude, love and other appropriate feelings. When you read of God's Messengers, your heart should have an urge to follow them, and an aversion for those who opposed them. When you read of the Day of Judgement, your heart should long for Paradise, should tremble at the very thought of being thrown into the Hell-fire, even for a moment. When you read of disobedient persons and nations who went astray and earned God's punishment, you should intensely dislike being as they were. When you read of the righteous whom God loves and rewards, you should be eager to be like them. When you read of the promises of forgiveness and mercy, of plenty and honour in this world, of His pleasure and nearness to Him in the Hereafter, let your heart be filled with a desire to work for them and deserve them. And when you read of those who are indifferent to the Qur'an, who turn away from it, who do not accept it, who do not live by it you must fear lest you be one of them, and you must resolve not to be. And when you hear the summons to fulfil your commitment to Him and strive in His way, you should renew your resolve to respond and offer to Him whatever you can.

Sometimes such states of heart will develop spontaneously when some particular word or verse kindles a new spark inside you. Sometimes you will have to make deliberate and determined efforts to induce them. If you do not find an appropriate response spontaneously, pause and repeat what you are reading till you find it. You may find an inner urge to repeat a particular verse many times because your heart demands so, but if you deliberately repeat, pause, and think, you will find your heart quicken.

It is so important to achieve this quality that the Prophet, blessings and peace be on him, once said: 'Read the Qur'an so long as your hearts are in harmony with it, when they are not in harmony you are not reading it, so get up and stop reading it' (Bukhari, Muslim).

 

Response of Your Tongue

Second: Let your tongue express in words the appropriate response to what you read in the Qur'an.

Words, too, should flow spontaneously. For exclamations always flow to reflect your inner feelings as generated by the Qur'an, as they do for other emotions: cries of joy or anguish, words of thanks, love, fear or anxiety. But, again, even if it is not spontaneous, make an effort.

That is the way the Prophet, blessings and peace be on him, used to read the Qur'an during the night. Hudhayfah narrates:

One night I performed my Prayer behind God's Messenger, blessings and peace be on him. He began the reading of the Qur'an with Surah al-Baqarah . . . On every verse mentioning God's mercy he asked God for it, on a verse mentioning His punishment he sought refuge with God. On reading a verse mentioning God's uniqueness and glory, he glorified Him [saying subhanallah] ... (Muslim).

A similar description is given by Abdullah Ibn 'Abbas who once joined the Prophet, blessings and peace be on him, in his night prayers in the quarters of his wife, Maymunah, who was Abdullah's aunt (Bukhari, Muslim).

Some verses should evoke definite responses, as the Prophet has instructed. For example: Whoever reads the last verse of Surah al-Tin [Is not God the most just of judges?] should respond with 'Bala wa ana 'ala dhalika mina 'sh-shahidin (Yes indeed, I am among the witnesses on this)'; and whoever reads the last verse of al-Qiyamah [75] shall say 'Bala (Yes, indeed)'; and whoever reads the last verse of al-Mursalat [77] should say, 'amanna billah (We believe in Allah)' (Abu Da'ud). The Prophet, blessings and peace be on him, is reported to have said that where he read al-Rahman [55] to the Jinn, whenever he read the verse fa bi ayyi . . . tukadhdhiban they said, 'No, not anything of Your blessings, Our Lord, we deny; all praise belongs to You' (Tirmidhi).

These are but a few instances from what we know of the Prophet's example and teachings. With some reflection, it should not be difficult for you to build up your own reSponses of praise, glorification, affirmation, denial, and supplication, in the light of these examples: saying alhamdulillah, subhanallah, allahuakbar, la ilaha illallah, or repenting seeking forgiveness, asking for protection from His displeasure and the Fire, and a place near Him in Paradise.

 

Tears in Your Eyes

Third: Let the response in your heart overflow through your eyes tears of joy or of fear an answer to what you read in the Qur'an.

If your heart is seized by states which accord with the Qur'an you are reading, this must happen. Only with an inattentive heart, or a dead and barren heart, will eyes remain dry. The Qur'an emphasizes this participation of eyes —not always out of fear, but mostly out of joy on finding the truth, on realizing His infinite mercy, on seeing God's promises being fulfilled: 'You see their eyes overflow with tears because of what they have recognized of the truth' (al-Ma'idah 5: 83). 'And they fall down upon their faces, weeping' (al-Isra' 17: 109). Often the Prophet, blessings and peace be on him, his Companions, and those like them who had a real encounter with the Qur'an, would weep when they recited it.

The Prophet, blessings and peace be on him, is reported to have said: 'Surely the Qur'an has been sent down with sorrow. So when you read it, you make yourself sorrowful' (Abu Ya'la, Abu Nu'aym). According to another Hadith: 'Read the Qur'an and weep. If you do not weep spontaneously make yourself weep' (Ibn Majah).

Tears will not take long to well up and trickle down your cheeks once you reflect and think about what the Qur'an is saying, and that it is addressing you. You may make yourself cry, if you think of the heavy responsibilities, the warnings and the good tidings that the Qur'an brings to you.

 

Postures of Your Body

Fourth: Adopt an outward posture that reflects your inner reverence, devotion and submission for the words of your Lord.

The Qur'an tells about such postures in many places: true believers 'fall down upon their faces', they 'prostrate themselves', they 'fall silent and listen when they read the Qur'an, their skins shiver and soften'. The obligation to prostrate oneself (sujud) on reading certain verses of the Qur'an is a sure indication of how your bodily postures should reflect what you are reading.

Why are postures of body important? The 'outward' makes a tremendous impact upon the 'inward' of a man. The 'presence' of the body helps keep the 'heart' present. There ought to be a vast difference in your physical attitude while reading the Qur'an in comparison with an ordinary book. Hence many rules of etiquette and manner have been suggested.

You should, says al-Ghazali, have wudu be soft-spoken and quiet, face the Qiblah, keep your head lowered, not sit in a haughty manner, but sit as you would before your Master. Al-Nawawi, in his Kitab al-Adhkar, adds some more: the mouth should be cleaned thoroughly, the place should be clean, the face should be oriented towards the Qiblah, the body should exhibit humility.

 

Reading with Tartil

Fifth: Read the Qur'an with Tartil.

No single word in English can express the full meaning of Tartil. In Arabic it means reading without haste, distinctly, calmly, in measured tone, with thoughtful consideration, wherein tongue, heart and limbs are in complete harmony.

This is the desired way of reading the Qur'an which Allah instructed His Messenger in the very beginning to follow when he was told to spend major parts of his nights standing in prayer and reading the Qur'an (al-Muzzammil 73: 4). The reason for sending down the Qur'an slowly and gradually, says Allah, was so that: 'We may strengthen your heart thereby' (al-Furqan 25: 32).

Thus Tartil is a significant factor in bringing the heart and the reading of the Qur'an together, in imparting strength and intensity. Tartil, as compared to hasty babbling, manifests reverence and awe, allows for reflection and understanding, and makes an indelible impression upon the soul.

Abdullah Ibn 'Abbas is reported to have said: 'I consider reading Surahs al-Baqarah [2] and Al 'Imran [3] with Tartil better for me than reading the entire Qur'an hastily. Or, reading Surahs like al-Zalzalah [99] and al-Qari'ah [101] with Tartil and reflection is better than reading al-Baqarah and Al 'Imran.'

Tartil implies not only calmness, distinctness, pause and reflection, and harmony of heart and body, but will also lead to the compulsive repetition of some words or some Ayahs. For, once the heart becomes absorbed and one with a particular Ayah, every time you read it you derive a new taste and pleasure from it. And reading again and again, as we have said, brings the state of heart in harmony with what you are reading.

The Prophet, blessings and peace be on him, is reported to have once repeated, 'In the name of God, the Mostmerciful, the Mercy-giving' twenty times (Ihya'). Once he spent a whole night repeating, 'If Thou punishest them, they are Thy slaves; If Thou forgivest them, Thou art Mighty and Wise' (al-Ma'idah 5: 118) (Nasa'i, Ibn Majah). Sa'id Ibn Jubayr once kept repeating the verse, 'Separate yourselves today [Day of Judgement], O guilty ones!' [Ya Sin] and kept weeping and shedding tears (Ihya').

 

Self Purification

Sixth Purify yourself as much as you can

You know that only the 'pure' are entitled to touch the Qur'an (al-Waqi'ah 56: 79). This Quranic verse, interpreted liberally, has been taken to mean ritual cleanliness. That you should be ritually clean, with wudu' (ablution), is established quite well by many Hadith and Consensus (Ijma'). But purity has many more dimensions, apart from the body, dress and space being clean.

You have already seen how important purity of intention and purpose is. Equally important is the purity of the heart and limbs from sins which may incur the anger of the Qur'an's Sender.

No human being can be completely free from sins; but try to avoid them as much as you can. And if you happen to commit some, try to turn to Allah in repentance and ask for His forgiveness, as soon as you can. Also take care that, while reading the Qur'an, you are not eating haram food, you are not wearing haram clothes, you are not living by haram earnings (obtained through means prohibited by Allah). The purer you are, the more your heart will remain with you, the more it will open itself to the Qur'an and understand and derive benefit from it, the more you will be like those who only were entitled to touch 'the noble Qur'an, in a hidden Book' (al-Waqi'ah 56: 77-8).

 

Seeking Allah's Help (Du'a)

Seventh: Ask Allah for His help, mercy, guidance and protection while you read the Qur'an.

And seek it with your heart, with your words, with your deeds. In traversing your path through the Qur'an you must depend utterly and exclusively upon Him. Not only should you be overwhelmed with this sense of dependence, you must express it. You must call upon Him at every step of your journey. You should ask Him to help you in keeping your heart present in understanding the Qur'an and in following it. Also ask for His forgiveness for your shortcomings and inadequacies.

Beware of any trace of indifference to God and self-sufficiency (istighna') in approaching God's words. These are great sins. Humility, not pride (kibr), dependence (tawakkul), not a sense of autonomy, is what you require.

What you ask will be given: this hope, trust and assurance must always remain with you. Without it your Du'a' will not be of much benefit to you. This is one of the most basic teachings of the Qur'an. Look then at the following verses:

My Lord, surely in dire need am I of whatever good Thou shalt have sent down upon me (al-Qasas 28: 24).

And who despairs of the mercy of his Lord except those who have gone astray (al-Hijr 15: 56).

And your Lord has said: Call upon Me and I will answer you. Surely those who wax too proud to worship Me shall enter Hell-fire, utterly abject (al-Mu'min 40: 60).

I am near. I answer the call of the caller when he calls Me; so let them respond to Me and have faith in Me, so that they go right (al-Baqarah 2: 186).

Let us look at some of the words through which you should seek Allah's help.

 

Allah's Protection

I seek refuge with Allah from Satan, the rejected:

a'udhu billahi mina 'sh-Shaytani 'r-rajim.

We have already discussed how crucial is the seeking of refuge from Satan. This has indeed been enjoined by the Qur'an (al-Nahl 16: 98). Only, do not utter these words like a ritual or a magic formula. Realize that great perils face you in your task, that Satan is your greatest enemy who will do everything possible to deprive you of the rewards of your labour, that Allah, and Allah alone, can protect you against him.

Occasionally, you may like to use longer words for seeking refuge as derived from the Qur'an (al-Mu'minun 23: 97), or taught by the Prophet, blessings and peace be on him. Or you may read the last two Surahs: al-Falaq (113) and al-Nas

At times you should also turn to Allah to keep your heart on the right course:

Our Lord! Let not our hearts swerve from [the truth] after Thou hast guided us [to it]. And bestow upon us Thy mercy. Indeed Thou alone art the Bestower (Al 'Imran 3: 8).

While it is obligatory to seek Allah's protection when you begin to read the Qur'an, the Quranic words suggest that it should be a continuing act. But where you need it most and where you must say it often is when you are trying to understand the Qur'an.

 

In Allah's Name

In the name of Allah, the Most-merciful, the Mercy giving.

Bismi'llahi' r-Rahmani 'r-Rahim.

The importance and significance of this, too, we have discussed earlier. This verse appears at the head of all but one of the 114 Surahs. Beginning in His name signifies your gratitude to Him for giving you the Qur'an and your dependence on Him for providing every possible assistance.

 

Seeking the blessings of the Qur'an

There are some other specific Du'a you should try to learn:

O My Lord! Increase me in my knowledge (Ta Ha 20: 114).

Allah instructed the Prophet, blessings and peace be on him, to supplicate in these words while cautioning him to be patient and steadfast in receiving the Qur'an: 'And hasten not with the Qur'an ere its revelation is accomplished unto you.' Seeking support in Allah's name is especially beneficial while one grapples with the meaning of the Qur'an. Only with patience and Allah's help can the knots be untied and one come to practise the Qur'an.

 

Another beautiful Du'a is

O My God! I am Thy slave, son of Thy slave, son of Thy slave-woman. I am utterly in Thy possession, my forehead is in Thy hand, Thy every writ is supreme in my affairs, Thy every decision is just and fair.

I ask Thee by every name that Thou hast, that Thou hast called Thyself by, that Thou hast taught any of Thy creation, that Thou hast revealed in Thy Book, or that Thou has kept secret with Thyself.

Make the Qur'an the spring of my heart, the light of my breast, the dispeller of my sorrows, the eraser of my anxieties and worries (Ahmad).

The following Du'a is usually said when one completes the reading of the whole of the Qur'an, but its contents are so comprehensive that frequently calling upon God through these words is sure to provide great blessings:

O my God! Bestow mercy upon me through the great Qur'an. Make it for me the leader, the light, the guide, the mercy. God! Remind me by it what I have forgotten, and teach me by it what I know not. Enable me that I read it by night and by day. Make it an argument in my favour. O Lord of the worlds.

Also seek His forgiveness (Istighfar) before, during, and after reading the Qur'an, in whatever words you may choose to do so. Three Quranic expressions you will find in Al 'Imran (3: 16), al-Mu'minun (23: 1}8), Al 'Imran (3: 193).

 

General Prayers

Apart from these specifically worded Du'a, you may turn to Allah in your own words and ask Him for various qualities and attitudes you need for benefiting from the Qur'an: Open my eyes; let me see the truth as Truth and the error as error; bless me with Your light that I may know Your way; support me in my endeavour, strengthen my will; grant me humility at the sight of Your words; grant me joy on receiving Your mercy and guidance; give me guidance in all my anxieties, in all my decisions, in all my affairs; give me resistance against all temptations, strength to perform all tasks, remove my laziness and lethargy; let Your words nourish my thought and action, satisfy my every need; let them bring calm while I am restless, comfort while I am in trouble; help me to study and understand, know and learn about You and Your guidance; grant me perseverance; let me not cease unless I succeed; rid me of my prejudices; grant me humility; grant me strength to accept and obey, and live what I learn; enable me to fulfil the mission that the Qur'an entrusts to me.

 

Reading with Comprehension

Last, but not in any way least, by comprehending what you are reading in the Qur'an you will need to involve your inner person. This may be one of the most important and most effective ways to participate.

While it is obligatory on everyone to understand what the Qur'an is saying to him before its message can penetrate into the heart, it is not an absolute condition without which one cannot share at all in the blessings of the Qur'an. There are many who understand every word of it, yet their hearts remain closed to the Qur'an; there are many who understand not a word yet they achieve intense states of devotion, a relationship with Allah, love and longing, nearness to Him, and obedience. This is because the relationship with the Qur'an is dependent on many factors—we have listed earlier seven prerequisites of which understanding is one. There will always be millions who will never learn Arabic nor be able to read a translation nor find time to spend on such pursuits. Yet even they must not despair. So long as they try their best to acquire the means to understand the Qur'an, so long as they approach it with the necessary conditions, so long as they sincerely attempt to live by the teachings of the Qur'an as they come to know of them through other sources, so long as they read the Qur'an even if they do not understand its meaning, they can hope to receive their share of its blessings.

Yet all this can in no way diminish even to the slightest extent the immense importance of understanding what the Qur'an has got to say to you. Here we are using understanding in the sense of knowing directly what the speech says. The further stages of pondering, reflecting, reaching fuller meaning, making it relevant to our concerns, is something we shall take up later.

Why is merely comprehending the direct meaning necessary? Firstly, concentrating on the direct meaning of the Qur'an will greatly help you in keeping your attention exclusively focused on it, in inducing various states of consciousness and inducing acts of the heart and body necessary for bringing your inner self in a pervasive encounter with the Qur'an. Secondly, only by comprehending will you be able to let the words start the process through which you will acquire and intensify the faith, which will in turn lead you to lives lived by that faith, by the teachings of the Qur'an.