“Whoever receives the Qur’an, it is as Allah has spoken to him.” In this statement, Muḥammad ibn Kaʿb al-Qurẓī (d. 108/726) expresses one of the most important objectives in revealing the Qur’an: to personally connect with it. At Yaqeen, we want to cultivate this reflective connection, or tadabbur, with the Qur’an by exploring the profound meaning and history of its divine text. To facilitate these discussions, the Qur’anic Studies Department has launched a new podcast called “Qur’an Convos.” In the first season, we talk about tadabbur and how you can maintain a focused and deep connection with the Qur’an.
Each episode, hosted by Sh. Suleiman Hani and special guests, explores how you can engage your inner self when reciting Qur’an. The topic was inspired by al-Ghazālī’s work, Iḥyāʾ ʿulūm al-dīn. Embarking on his own journey and reflecting on the practices of righteous scholars before him, al-Ghazālī identified ten necessary acts for a focused and meaningful engagement with the Qur’an:
1. Appreciate the source of the speech
First and foremost, we should realize that we are not worthy of communicating with Allah. If it was not for Allah’s subtleness and kindness, He would not have made His speech (kalām) manifest to us in a human language. At times, it may be difficult to understand the meanings of the Qur’an, but the fact that understanding is possible is a blessing in itself that is worthy of endless gratitude.
2. Praise Allah, the One Who revealed the Qur’an
Studying language, theology, legal theory, and other Qur’anic sciences is not the sole prerequisite to understanding the meanings of the Qur’an. An essential way to bring tranquility to your heart is by glorifying the sacredness of the Book and indulging in its spiritual quality. As eloquently described by al-Ghazālī, “The one who glorifies the speech he recites receives glad tidings from it, finds serenity in it, does not get heedless of it.”
3. Keep your heart present
Before attempting to unlock the meanings of the Qur’an, make sure your heart is ready. Regain focus by dismissing all irrelevant thoughts and distractions. “Hold fast to scripture” is not just a command from Allah to His Prophet. It is a perpetual command for every one of us seeking to connect with Allah’s sacred words. Meaning will reveal itself if your heart is present.
Reflection (tadabbur) is not the presence of the heart. It is the state resulting from it. The word tadabbur in Arabic is related to the concept of “thinking of the consequences.” Think of tadabbur from this lens: it is something beyond listening, pronouncing, or even bringing the heart into your recitation. It is to feel the meanings and embody them in your daily life. The word tadabbur, moreover, implies other meanings like: reflecting until reflection becomes a habit, exerting tireless efforts until it happens, doing it gradually, and transforming the tadabbur into an elevated spiritual rank. The lifelong journey of connecting with the Qur’an demands all of these aspects.
5. Try to understand
Do the first four acts in order and you’ll position yourself to receive guidance from the Qur’an. Appreciation, praise, an open heart, and reflection all prepare us to return to Allah spiritually and, in turn, allow us to truly understand and receive reminders from the Qur’an. Understanding the Qur’an is an endless pursuit of tools that unravel the marvels and mysteries of the book while maintaining introspection. Learn, wonder, inquire, check, discuss, and refer to authorities in seeking to comprehend the multi-layered meanings and significations of each verse. Part of the miraculous nature of the Qur’an is that “it does not become worn out by repetition and its wonders do not come to an end.”
6. Remove the barriers to understanding the Qur’an
Many roadblocks will constantly get in your way of understanding the Qur’an. Among the roadblocks al-Ghazālī highlighted are: 1) being obsessed with the verbal articulation of words at the expense of looking into their deeper meanings (proper tajwīd is mandatory but it was never intended to make understanding the meanings secondary), 2) blind following of a doctrine, opinion, or sect that results in fanaticism (fanaticism blinds one from finding the truth), and 3) persistence on sinning, arrogance, or following self-whims, which are the major causes of darkening the heart (the more consuming and recurring desires are, the more obscure meanings will become).
7. Make it personal: imagine that Allah is speaking directly to you
The Qur’anic message is universal. While the context of its revelation is important, the Qur’an itself often reminds us to personally relate to it and to find ourselves in every single verse. When you come across glad tidings, warnings, commands, or prohibitions, position yourself as the intended addressee. This mindset is a recognition that the Qur’an is a message to all of us. It is replete with stories of historic events with everlasting purposes for us to learn from.
8. Be emotionally invested in what you are reading
Different verses will affect you in distinct ways. Welcome emotional states of sadness, fear, joy, and hope suitable to each meaning you internalize. Intimidating and fearful moods, for example, are prevalent in the Qur’an. Even verses that talk about mercy and forgiveness will make them conditional on qualities we often lack:
“My mercy encompasses all things. So I will decree it for those who fear Me and give zakat and those who believe in Our verses” [Qur’an, 7:156].
The serious challenge is to avoid being a mere narrator of what you are reading. If you recite, “I fear, if I should disobey my Lord, the punishment of a tremendous Day” and you are not genuinely “afraid” of that, you are just narrating a statement rather than applying it to yourself. Allah condemned those who do not know the Scripture except hearsay or through mere recitation [Qur’an, 2:78].
9. Strengthen your connection with the Qur’an
Strive to elevate your rank of connection. Read the Qur’an as if you are standing before Allah, talking to Him and knowing that He watches and hears your recitation. This should cause you to be intimidated and to call upon Allah for mercy. Building this connection should increase your attention and thoughtfulness in reading and motivate you to glorify Allah.
10. Stay humble
Do not approach your relationship with Allah with overconfidence or self-satisfaction. As long as you believe in your purity and nobility, you will not reach the ultimate station of love; selfish love of yourself and the love of Allah cannot subsist together in one heart. When you read the verses that praise the pious, do not include yourself among them but hope that Allah will include you among them. When you read the verses that condemn the wrong-doers, assume that they talk about you and ask Allah to protect you from infidelity and sin.
Tune in to Qur’an Convos every week, as we explore how to engage in the many aspects of reflection, from fighting distractions to finding echoes of ourselves within the stories of the Qur’an. Take the show on the go by listening here or on your favorite podcast platform.If you prefer to watch the show, check it out here or on our YouTube Channel.