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April 15, 2012

2

Step by Step – Step 1: You need to understand it…

by Umm Muawiyah

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Assalamu Alaikum

So,  23 people filled out the survey (which is still open), may Allah reward them and one promised to do so soon, which obviously means that I have only 24 readers, alhamdulillah.

I’ve started a series to deal with some of the common problems that I came across in the survey. [It won’t just deal with this though.]

The main problem that I saw was that most of the respondents did not understand much of the Quran.

And this is a problem that is widespread across the Muslim world: people read the Quran without understanding it.

[In fact, this has been mentioned in the Quran and Sunnah with regards to the Jews and Christians i.e. the two nations before us. They read their religious books without understanding it.]

What does this lead to? Lots of problems.

People complain about finding Islam difficult to practice and how they have so many problems. You will find that with many of them, you can narrow the issue down to three things:

1) Not knowing tawheed (worshipping Allah alone)

2) Keeping away from the Quran and not reciting it, or not understanding it if one recites it (this is one of the things that leads to Point No. 1)

3) Not preserving the five daily prayers*

[*Note: This phrase just refers to the obligatory prayers not all the voluntary prayers associated with each prayer.]

If people just worked on these three things, they would see a HUGE difference in their lives.

The first thing that I’m going to focus on is how to go about understanding the Quran. The advice is directed to complete beginners as well as those who are slightly better than that.

Yes, obviously we have to learn Arabic. However, this is a long step and there is another step that one can and should take in the beginning.

What’s that? Well, it’s reading the translation of the Quran.

A question for you, the reader (assuming that you cannot understand Arabic): Have you read the entire translation of the Quran from one cover to the next?

If the answer is no, then don’t you think that this is not befitting for a Muslim?

That may sound harsh, but you know that it’s the truth.

So, where do we start? Well, let me start by telling you how I started.

When I first started practicing Islam, I realised that I hadn’t a clue about the meaning of the Quran. So I took a translation, which had lots of explanatory notes and started to read it.

I would recite the Quran and then read the translation. As I read through it, I started to take notes about points that confused me.

It was a nice translation. However, I later learnt that this translation had many errors.

Somewhere around this time, I also started to listen to a translation of the Quran whilst driving. It had the recitation of Sudais and Shuraim and the translation of Pickthall (rahimahullah). [This one has a few mistakes but overall it is quite good.]

I loved this translation for two reasons:

1) Pickthall uses old English which is richer than the current English, so it of sort helps one to understand the beauty of the Quran much better.

2) The one who read out the translation was absolutely fabulous. [Sorry, I couldn’t think of a better way to put it.]

He had a very clear, commanding voice and he was really into the whole thing. [You’ll understand if you listen to it and then compare it to the other readers. HUGE DIFFERENCE.]

I can’t recall if I finished this one or not, but I did listen to quite a bit of it.

After I had finished reading the first translation (it took me quite a few months), I took another translation. This time, I took the nine volume work of Muhsin Khan and Taqiuddin Hilali (rahimahullah). This is not the one volume work, but rather an extended version of that with more notes, so it’s basically a tafsir (commentary). [It’s available in Darussalam.]

Again, I recited and then read the translation. It took me a year to finish it but it was great. I took notes for this one as well.

After this, I moved on to the Saheeh Internation translation. It was very nice. I can’t remember if I finished it. I think I went through a large portion.

I vaguely remember stopping it for two reasons:

1) There were some printing errors in the Arabic text (in my copy).

2) I found that having the Arabic translation was harming me because I could now understand most of the Quran. I had been studying Arabic and doing hifdh (Quran memorisation) for the last few years and it had all started to come together, alhamdulillah.

For a short time, I also read from a word-to-word translation. It was very nice and my vocabulary increased. I can’t remember how far I progressed.

After this, I started to use a mushaf (i.e. the Quran) which had Tafsir Al-Jalalyn in Arabic, along with some corrections (due to some creedal errors that it contains).

The reason I got this one was because it explains the difficult words in the Quran in simpler Arabic. So, I would recite and if I didn’t understand the meaning of an ayah (verse), I would check its tafsir.

For example, I came across the word “maqaaleed”. I hadn’t a clue what that meant. I checked the tafsir and it said “mafaateeh”. I knew what that meant – keys.

I absolutely loved this tafsir. It was absolutely beautiful. I’ve been meaning to recite it from cover to cover but I haven’t done so yet.

I now use my hifdh mushaf for my recitation as well (easier to carry around), although I think I might switch to another one with tafsir.

So, what benefits did I gain from all this? Well, three very important ones:

1) I got an overview of the whole Quran

2) I came across so many ayaat (verses) that I was amazed to read (“Wow, the Quran has all these stories?” or ‘Wow, the Quran tells us how to behave?”).

[I mentioned some of this in my Quran Journal post.]

3) My Arabic improved.

The more I read of the Quran, the more I became enamoured with it and the more that I wanted to read.

I also finally understood why two of my religious friends, may Allah reward them, kept advising me to read the whole translation.

The Quran really does have a powerful effect on one’s soul and this is exactly why Shaytan (the devil) keeps us away from it.

So, what can you do?

Well, you could do exactly what I did. It worked for me, didn’t it?

“Isn’t there an easier way?”

Well, I came across the statement of an agnostic Jew, in a lecture I attended, where she stated that she wanted to know what was in the Quran (not a truth seeker, just for “knowledge”.) She had already written a book about the sunni-shia divide so she was familiar with Islamic history so she could understand the setting in which the Quran was revealed.

She then took four translations of the Quran along with an English – Arabic dictionary (this is what I recall) and then read the whole translation!

So, no there is no “easier” way. Subhan Allah, if a disbeliever can do all this, we can and should do even more.

The reason that I shared my story was so that 1) you would realise that you’re not the first one to go through this and 2) you know that I am not suggesting something that I read in an article but rather something that I went through personally.

The reason that I shared the Jew’s story was to totally shame you into taking action.

So, insha-Allah, in the next part, I’ll try to give you a few (detailed) suggestions along with the required resources (if available).

[Why wait until Part 2? Because I’m too sleepy right now. Sorry. Please excuse all the editing and spelling errors in this post.]

Any comments, suggestions, doubts, etc? If so, please feel free to share, baarakallahu feekum.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. faizalovesfood
    Apr 16 2012

    Thank you for this post. Yes, I am one of the shameful who hasn’t read the entire translation because when I started I didn’t really understand the translation. This may have had something to do with the translator and I know it had to do with the fact that I wasn’t ready mentally or in my heart to read and understand. I think it is very important that you are receptive to what your reading. Alhamadullilah, I think I am more than ready now, and inshallah intend to do just as you suggested. You are so correct in stating that the more you read the more you want to read, and learn and understand. I was listening just recently to a lecture online about how the Quran not only has lessons/messages but how it is a miracle. But it is only a miracle when read in Arabic and not in the translation. Inshallah one day I will be able to experience that miracle, but I have to start with the translation today. Not tomorrow, but today. Thank you for your efforts and encouragement.

    Reply
    • Umm Muawiyah
      Apr 23 2012

      Assalamu Alaikum.

      Sorry for the late reply.

      Alhamdulillah, it’s a good sign that you’ve come to this realisation. I know many people who don’t feel any shame in not being able to understand what they are reading…

      I hope that it’s going well for you, insha-Allah.

      And I think that I should be the one to thank you for your encouragement, not the other way around.

      Reply

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