“Read!” Angel Jibrîl commanded Muhammad ﷺ one day as he was worshipping in the cave of Hira’. The Prophet replied, “I do not know how to read.” The Prophet added, “The angel caught me (forcefully) and pressed me so hard that I could not bear it any more. He then released me and again asked me to read and I replied, ‘I do not know how to read.’ Thereupon he caught me again and pressed me a second time till I could not bear it any more. He then released me and again asked me to read but again I replied, ‘I do not know how to read (or what shall I read)?’ Thereupon he caught me for the third time and pressed me, and then released me and said, Read in the name of your Lord, who has created (all that exists) and has created man from a clot”[Sûrat Al-ʿAlaq, 96:1-2]. (Bukhâri)
This famous hadîth is one that we all know and have read numerous times. It so vividly tells the story of the first âyah that was ever revealed to Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. It came as a very easy command: “Read!” The Arabic command “Iqra!” means recite or read [a text]. Allah knows that duties and requirements on humankind are difficult; hence, He wanted to present the first revelation not as hardship and compulsion, but as a mere commitment to Him through reciting or reading His revealed Text.
Allah commands us to read the Quran because the Quran is light (nûr), healing (shifâ’), and mercy (rahma). Allah says in Sûrat Al-Isrâ’:
And we send down of the Quran that which is healing and mercy for the believers… [Sûrat Al-Isrâ’, 17:82]
The benefits of reading the Quran are numerous and we attain mercy just by listening to it. Allah says in Sûrat Al-Aʿrâf:
And when the Quran is recited, listen and be quiet so that you will attain mercy! [Sûrat Al-Aʿrâf, 7:204]
So why was the Quran revealed? The Quran was revealed as a guide for humankind; it was revealed as a manual for life, and we should use it as so. The Holy Quran should not just merely be a book that sits on our top shelf collecting dust until someone falls ill. It shouldn’t be that book that is only taken out and appreciated when someone passes away. We should live with that book and make it a part of our daily lives. We should come to it for guidance, comfort, hope, and safety. It is not a coincidence that Allah says in the Quran:
Verily in the remembrance of God do hearts find rest. [Sûrat Al-Raʿd, 13:28]
Ibn al-Kathîr writes in his tafsîr in regards to why the Quran was revealed; he says:
Just as Allah causes the Quran to bring life to hearts that were dead from disbelief, he also brings the earth to life after it has died by sending down water from the sky.
The writing style of the Quran is a miracle in and of itself. In the time of the Prophet ﷺ, the Arabs were amazing poets. They composed poetry and speeches and competed with one another. Even till this day Arabic poetry is admired and analyzed; people are still in awe of its magnificence. The Quran was revealed in past time to serve as a miracle to mankind; it will remain unchanged until the end of time. It also served as a miracle for Prophet Muhammad ﷺ in that he, an illiterate orphan, was chosen to deliver this linguistically flawless message to humankind.
The topics the Quran discusses include creation, religious doctrine, criminal and civil law, the People of the Book, social values, morality, confirmation or correction of history, affirmation of our science, stories from past prophets –and the list goes on. The Quran at times repeats certain verses and themes, shifts topics, and often relates narratives in a condensed form. Here are two reasons for this characteristic. First, in some cases it serves a linguistic purpose and is one of the powerful rhetorical techniques of classical Arabic. Second, the repeated mention may give a different angle to the same subject. Furthermore, all themes of the Quran, no matter how varied, are wrapped around one common concept running through the entire book: all types of worship rendered to others besides or alongside God are false, and that obedience to Him and His prophets is obligatory.
So, whether the Quran is discussing the healing properties of honey or the life of prophet Mûsa, the particular topic is not an end in itself, but each is related in one way or another to the central message –the unity of God and the unity of the prophetic message. So regardless of what the topic may be, it always refers the dialogue back to this central theme.
So why would I call this article ‘The Quran: My Best Friend’?
Usually friends give back to you in some way, or offer you gifts or help of some sort. Some of the not-so-obvious benefits we receive from reading the Quran are that the Quran will serve as an interceder for us both in our graves and on the Day of Judgement. It was reported in a hadîth narrated by Muslim that the Prophet ﷺ said:
Read the Quran, for verily it will come on the Day of Judgement as an intercessor for its companions. (Muslim)
The Quran will also raise your level in Paradise. It was reported that ʿAbdullâh ibn ʿAmr ibn Al-ʿÂs heard the Prophet ﷺ say:
It will be said to the Companion of the Quran, ‘Read and elevate (through the levels of Paradise), and beautify your voice as you used to do when you were in the dunya! For verily, your position in Paradise will be at the last verse you recite!‘ (Abû Dâwûd)
In addition, you receive rewards with every letter you recite. It was reported in an authentic hadîth in Tirmidhi that the Prophet ﷺ said:
Whoever reads a letter from the Quran he will have a reward; and that reward will be multiplied by ten. I am not saying that alif, lâm, mîm is one letter, but that alif is a letter and lâm is letter and mîm is a letter. (Tirmidhi)
Last but surely not least, the Quran will become your lifestyle. Many of us have read the hadîth that describes the Prophet’s character:
His character was the Quran. (Muslim, #17156)
But what does this actually mean?
We all know that Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was chosen by Allah and he was the best of creation because he possessed the noble qualities that the Quran preaches: honestly, trustworthiness, courage, generosity –just to name a few. He was known as ‘the honest one’ and ‘the trustworthy one’ even before he was granted prophethood. So if we were to spend time with the Quran, we too can have qualities like our Prophet ﷺ.
To illustrate this in a different way, take the example of feral children, children who were raised by animals. They never knew humans when they were infants or growing up, they only knew the animals that raised them. So over time, they consequently became like them. They ate like them, made noises like them, maybe even walked on all fours like them. And when they were reunited with humans after years of this animal interaction, they did not know how to communicate with other humans or to sit with them. Many were scared and tried to run away and escape. The feral children adopted the characteristics of the animals they had spent their time with.
Now imagine someone being isolated most of his/her life and ‘brought up’ only by the Quran as their sole source of information to live by and their only resource of guidance to deal with their surroundings. How would you expect that person to behave?
If we sacrifice some of our time to spend with the Quran and to read it with our hearts, we too can be people of the Quran who possess the noble characteristics it addresses. We will think twice before we tell a lie or attempt to cheat on an exam. We will remember that the companion we spend so much of our time with tells us not to do these things and will become better people because of our companionship with the Quran. If you read the Quran with only your tongue, you will find repetition, but if you read it with your heart, you will find depth and wisdom.
So what feasible steps can we take before and during Ramadan to become closer to the Quran?
- Pick a specific time every day when you can regularly read the Quran, and if possible a specific place at home, or in the masjid or at work. If you tend to forget, try to read after a certain prayer like Asr or Maghrib. Chose a time when you will not be rushed and when you know you will be able to relax during that period. Try to make it part of your routine, something that you need to do in order to continue your day.
- Keep the time frame for reading the Quran short at the beginning. (Especially if you are not used to reading the Quran everyday). It may be hard at first, so do not get discouraged. The best deeds –the deeds most beloved to Allah– are those that are continuous, even if they are small (Bukhâri, #6465). Start out with just five minutes, then work up to ten, then twenty…
- Organize a Quran study circle or halaqa. Have some friends come over once a month to read and recite together. Go over a simple tafsîr and talk about the sûrah you are reading. Reflect on the Quran together.
- Ask Allah for help and guidance. Allah is the only One who asks us to ask Him for help. He promises us that if we make duʿâ’ to Him, He will answer us.
Just as novels take us away into enchanted lands and make our imaginations soar, the Quran too can and should do this and so much more. The benefits of reading the Quran are enormous and the pleasure one gets from doing such a simple task is incredible. With Ramadan quickly approaching, let us all make a sincere effort to create a close relationship with the Quran. Start taking it with you to school, work, or even on the bus. If you make time for the Quran just as you make time for your family and friends, you will see abundant blessings come your way. The Quran will become your friend, too.