The Qur'an and Sunnah
In last week’s continuation of "ten tips for taqwa" series we looked at practical actions we can do throughout our day to help us be mindful of Allah.
“And Allah is the Guarding Friend of the mindful.” —Qur’an 45:19
We aim for taqwa and mindfullness of Allah as something that we can carry with us throughout our day. This can begin with little prayers we intersperse throughout our day to help rectify our intention and bring us back on track. These hopefully draw us back to our purpose and aim in life, to worship, be thankful and mindful of Allah.
“[Those of understanding] who remember God standing, sitting, and lying on their sides.” — Qur’an 3:191
8. Reading the Qur’an - even one verse a day
One of the most simple, effective and powerful ways of drawing closer to Allah is simply through reading the Qur’an. The Qu’ran is the divine word from God, sent down to us and preserved, right at our fingertips for us to engage with.
Nowadays the Qur’an is more accessible than ever thanks to apps and the internet. We always have access to the Qur’an at our fingertips, simply a few taps away.
The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: "Whoever recites a letter from the book of Allah, then he receives the reward from it, and the reward of ten the like of it."
Those of us who aren’t able to understand Arabic can still get reward by listening, memorising and reciting what we hear. Not being able to read Arabic isn’t a barrier for us, the Qur’an is first and foremost recitation revealed to us and passed down through an oral tradition.
I often hear people say how moved they have been by the Qur’an. Even without understanding the Arabic, just through listening to the recitation and being touched by its beauty. The Arabic recitation of the Qur’an is the divine revelation that reaches us from Allah himself and we should strive to engage with it as much as possible.
"We send down of the Qur’ān that which is healing and mercy for the believers"
"وَنُنَزِّلُ مِنَ ٱلْقُرْءَانِ مَا هُوَ شِفَآءٌ وَرَحْمَةٌ لِّلْمُؤْمِنِينَ ۙ وَلَا يَزِيدُ ٱلظَّـٰلِمِينَ إِلَّا خَسَارًا" — Qur’an 17:82
If we don’t know Arabic we should still seek comfort in the words, and soothing recitation of the Qur’an. We will naturally benefit even more if we’re using a "translation" and can reflect on the meanings that reach us. We will often find that when we open the Qur’an to an unplanned page, we will find a verse that resonates with us and is pertinent to our current situation. One more of the miracles of the Qur’an.
Some accessible "translations" in English are:
- Saheeh International Translation - clear English and direct translation
- Dr Muhsin Khan - more lofty English and has footnotes explaining matters by using ahadith
- Abdul Haleem - A modern translation written in simple to understand English aiming to capture the meaning of the Arabic text while still being readable and eloquent in English prose. [OUP]
- The Majestic Qur’an Translated by Musharraf Hussain
- And many others!
For the Qur’an we’re lucky to have so many "translations" in English, but it can be better to think of them as "interpretations" or "explanations", as they always take the inimitable word of God and filter it through a human lens that is imbued with its own context and perspectives. This provides great benefit but also something different from the original.
In this vein, we can use books written explicitly for the purpose of explanation (tafsir) to help us to delve deeper into the meanings. Books of tafsir are available in both English, Arabic and many other languages. They offer a deeper explanation of the Qur’anic text providing context, extra narrations (from hadith and other sources), as well as context around revelation of the Qur’an. Translators that write accompanying works of tafsir will generally expound upon some of their choice-of-words; as well as providing more in-depth translations where a single word isn’t able to capture the meaning of the original Arabic.
Some good works of tafsir in English are:
- The Study Qur’an (with consideration)
- The Majestic Qur’an Translated by Musharraf Hussain
- Ibn Kathir’s Tafsir if you can find a good translation
As my friend used to lament in Ramadan "Some days I spend more time with Facebook than with Allah’s book!". There are so many things vying for our attention in the modern world it can be hard to stay focused on the things that matter. On the positive side of things though we now have such easy access to the Qur’an on our phones, on Spotify, online and in the book itself, we can easily make an effort to introduce it further into our lives.
There are numerous apps we can install and websites we can go to for reading or listening to the Qur’an:
- https://www.quran.com (app + website)
- https://www.quranicaudio.com - Many reciters and downloadable audio-files for each Surah.
- Quran Companion (website + app)
- iQuran (android + iOS)
- IslamHouse.com — High quality PDFs of the Arabic text
- Bayan Quran (android + iOS)
- Golden Quran (android + iOS + website)
Similar to dhikr as mentioned in last week’s post we can set regular reminders on our phones to read at least one verse of Qu’ran a day. This should only take a few seconds and we may find we’re deeply moved by what we read, always proving pertinent, touching and insightful to our day.
"This is the Scripture in which there is no doubt, containing guidance for those who are mindful of God"
"ذَٰلِكَ ٱلْكِتَـٰبُ لَا رَيْبَ ۛ فِيهِ ۛ هُدًى لِّلْمُتَّقِينَ"— Quran 2:2
9. Studying the Seerah (Life of the Prophet ﷺ) — continuously
As we’re trying to grow in taqwa, ultimately we’re aiming to grow in love for Allah and His messenger (ﷺ). It may take us a lifetime but we aim to know and love Allah so deeply that we can’t help but see him in all things.
We aim to love the Prophet (ﷺ) so deeply that we are always reminded of his perfect character; striving to emulate his ways. Does the lover think of any other than their Beloved?
How though can we love someone when we don’t know them? This is our aim through studying the seerah (the Prophetic biography) — to slowly come to know and love the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ); his life, his journey, his character, his miracles, his family, his companions and so much more. It’s a life long journey, but provides the context of the revelation that reaches us today; it is the cradle of our Islamic tradition.
When first studying the seerah, it can feel like a multitude of names, dates and places, very few of which are familiar to begin with. There are many introductory books, lectures and podcasts though that all aim to make the seerah easy to understand. They all aim to make the seerah easily accessible and simple for those who are previously unfamiliar as well as providing insight to those familiar with the narrative. A few that come to mind and have also been recommended by friends are:
- Qalam podcast (23 episodes) - “The Chosen One” by Mufti Hussain Kamani - short and concise but still very moving and aims to capture the emotion of the journey.
- Qalam podcast (200 episodes) by Sheikh Abdul Nasir - Much more detailed and thorough — exploring the emotions and the reality of the Seerah in depth. An amazing series.
- Yasir Qadhi Seerah series - Another huge and detailed work of Seerah that comes highly recommended.
- Qalam podcast - “Heartwork:The Messenger” - Beautiful and touching podcast by Ustadh Abdel Rahman Murphy. Very accessible and engaging, aimed at students and young professionals. (Also available on Facebook + Youtube)
- “In The Footsteps of the Prophet by Tariq Ramadan” - Engaging and concise book on the seerah aiming to capture the emotion of the journey and the key events. Very accessible for people reading the Seerah for the first time
- “Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources by Martin Lings” - a detailed telling of the Seerah based on early sources from the Islamic tradition. Presented in modern English, well written and easy to read. Very detailed and informative but can be a bit hard to keep track of all the details.
- “The Messenger: The Meanings of the Life of Muhammad” - “Really straightforward to understand and insightful at the same time. Encourages you to reflect on the different aspects of prophetic character” recommended by my good friend Dr Haroon
- “Revelation: The Story of Muhammad by Meraj Mohiuddin” — A compilation of other texts of seerah, this book is an excellent study companion that brings a multitude of well-produced diagrams and appendices. Provides an excellent text-book and study companion when reading other texts.
Each, teacher and author I’ve mentioned above aims to convey the emotional and human aspect of the Prophetic biography, capturing the human side to the journey and not just the names, dates & facts.
At its heart the seerah is a story of love and trust between the Prophet (ﷺ) and Allah. We see over the course of 23 years how the Prophet (ﷺ) continuously trusts in Allah’s plan and his promise.
The main lesson we see consistently from the companions of the Prophet (ﷺ) is their continuous trust and sacrifice, stemming from their love for the messenger of Allah (ﷺ). They always make every effort to do things with excellence (ihsan) and to be the best versions of themselves seeking to please Allah. Always acting with love and trust with respect to Allah and his messenger (ﷺ) .
Seeing their mindset and their actions helps me to to put things into perspective for my own life. How easy I have things compared to how much they had to sacrifice on a personal and communal level, in the early days of Islam. Even if our lives aren’t quite as testing, all of us still face challenges. Insha’Allah we are inspired and can learn from their holistic long-term spiritual outlook.
We can aim to apply a similar mindset of sincerity, excellence and perseverance to our own lives and tests.
"Allah does not burden any soul with more than it can bear" — Qur’an 2:286
Given both the breadth and depth of information we have about the Prophet’s life (ﷺ), it would be very hard to read through everything the first time one studies the seerah. The details are so in-depth, that we even have the name of the barber to the Prophet’s children. To begin with I find it’s best to focus on just understanding the pivotal points in the life of the Prophet (ﷺ) as well as the most important and prolific names from the seerah. Having finished reading through once (or listening to a lecture series) one can move on to other texts or lectures to revise what has already been covered. Hopefully hearing it from a new perspective while brushing up on the details.
Continually revisiting the narrative of the seerah helps us to solidify our knowledge of the seerah while continually reflecting on the lessons we find therein. It’s an excercise that should be enjoyable, rewarding and help us to grow in knowledge, inspiration and guidance.
Hopefully through reading of the excellent character of the Prophet (ﷺ) and the sahabah, we can be inspired. We can take motivation from their character and also from their mindset of always going above and beyond to try and serve Allah and do what is most pleasing to him.
More in this series:
- Steps 1-5 (https://www.tawfiq.co.uk/10-tips-for-taqwa-in-todays-times-part-1/)
- Steps 6-7 (https://www.tawfiq.co.uk/10-tips-for-taqwa-in-todays-times-steps-6-7/)
- Steps 8-9 (https://www.tawfiq.co.uk/10-tips-for-taqwa-in-todays-times-steps-8-9/)
- Step 10 (https://www.tawfiq.co.uk/10-tips-for-taqwa-in-todays-times-tip-10/)
- Arabic beginners: https://seekersguidance.org/answers/general-counsel/what-books-do-you-recommend-for-improving-ones-arabic/
- Seerah Song - The Life of the Prophet ﷺ – vocals by Zain Bikkah