How to read the Quran effectively

Reading the Majestic Quran is the best way to connect with Allah

I love the practice of Quran reading and all that it leads to; feeling close to Allah, relaxation, the opportunity to lose oneself in thoughts of the Almighty. Or maybe Quran Reading is pleasant because it temporarily sets me free from other tasks. It’s time when I have the liberty to leave familiar surroundings and go into another age, to the time of beloved Messenger (peace be upon him). I relish everything about reading the Quran, the quiet time, the morning breeze, the engrossment in a melodious narrative, and the bright colours of my soft prayer mat. Quranic reading is pure pleasure and enjoyment. I read it for reward, for reflection and enlightenment as well as for the joy of it.

The metaphor of a bee and butterfly is a good one for many of us who read the Quran daily. The butterfly hovers everywhere, but the bee makes a lot of honey. That’s because the butterfly just flies over the flowers, but the bee sits on each flower and stays there long enough to suck the sweet nectar. That is the difference between hurriedly reading the Majestic Quran and taking time to think and meditate on what you’re reading. It isn’t something difficult and secretive, which only scholars and ‘spiritual’ people do. It’s reading melodiously with tune, taking your time, reading the translation, repeatedly and even memorising the passages, asking yourself questions and reflecting on it.

Some young people have described the experience of reading Quran translation like eating grapes, you are just moving the hand from the bunch to your mouth, each grape is tasty but at the end you don’t feel full, you feel hungry. They say that reading Quran translations gives them the same feeling. The problem is not just the archaic language, the word for word translations, but the poor presentation of the translation, no organisation of the verses into sections, so it appears disjointed, and that’s like eating grapes and feeling undernourished.

This is a disservice to the book of Allah, which is eloquent and effective in communicating its message. Yet, the Majestic Quran is a gem of guidance, that elaborates the human condition, the way of succeeding in life, the fortunes of saints, fate of sinners, and the happiness of the faithful. The Majestic Quran is a light to direct you, food to nourish your heart and mind, and reassurance in times of crisis. The Majestic Quran is the traveller’s road map, the seeker’s compass, and the warrior’s weapon, a deep mine of amazing teachings, a fast-flowing river of treasures. The beloved messenger (peace be upon him) is its major subject, your successful destiny its plan, and Allah’s glory its end.

So, what’s gone wrong? When any writing is stripped of its context, the teaching point loses its impact and value. That’s the key problem with most of English translations of the Quran.

How to read the Quran effectively

When the word of Allah is recited pleasingly and thoughtfully it moves the heart, you learn wisdom, found in His Words. Shaykh Mohiuddin Ibn Arabi, the scholar and saint attributed everything he knew to the reading of the Majestic Quran, spending hours each day alone with Allah. ‘He read it as a lover would read a letter from an absent beloved’, How well do you know Allah? How much do you yearn for Him? The Quran said, “Seek Your Lord’s face,” are you seeking Him? The best time to read the majestic Quran is early morning after a good night’s sleep. Your purpose of studying the Quran should be to spend time with the author of the Majestic Book, being with Him.

Here are five ways to read the Majestic Quran to draw closer to Allah. Give yourself time, space and freedom from your busy schedule:

1. Reading the Majestic Quran can be a treat in our hectic and stressful life, a pleasant way of resting. It is a spiritual exercise, an effective antidote to a worldly lifestyle. Before opening the Quran recite “I seek the protection of Allah from the wretched Satan.” This prepares you for the spiritual exercise. Just recite, take your time, recite the whole passage in Arabic with tune, then read the English translation on the opposite page, are there any words or phrases that jump out? Are there any thoughts that make you sit up?

2. Now reflect and understand the translation, keep reading the passage focusing on the phrase or the subject matter of that passage. Ask Allah to open your mind to its deeper meanings, the inner mysteries and the layer upon layer of meanings that is buried in it. This reflection on Allah’s word is the cure for moral and spiritual sickness, for a life with no focus, for a lack of intimacy with Allah, for chronically weak faith that causes you to fail and keep missing Allah’s best. So, open your Majestic Quran, read it, and pray, ‘Allah, what are You saying to me?’ Then listen to His answer.

3. Respond to what the Quran is saying this can be done by saying, yes or no to the question posed, or praying for protection from the Satan and the horrors of hellfire. A display of being present, and seeking Allah’s help and guidance. This was the habit of the Messenger (peace be upon him), he was in conversation with the Lord whilst reading it. If you like highlight or underline phrase that move you. The famous Sufi, and Godly philosopher Shaykh Mohiuddin Ibn Arabi (of Andalusia, Spain), gives an effective piece of advice on how to recite the Quran, he says “Read the Qur’an slowly, when a verse asks a question, reply, a verse that reminds, heed it’s reminder, a verse that gives an instruction follow it. When told to seek God’s protection, recite ‘I seek Allah’s protection’, where it asks you to seek forgiveness seek forgiveness. When you find the qualities of God-fearing people ask yourself which of these do I possess? And which you need to develop, be thankful to Allah for those you have, and those you lack, strive to achieve them. Similarly, when you come across verses describing the disbelievers, examine yourself, do you have any of these traits? If you do, then rid yourself of them. This is the best way to recite the Quran.

4. From the passage select what you will practice, so you live by the message that you have read. The emphasis is always on doing and being, not just reading and thinking. Knowledge without application is useless. Freedom from worldly chores requires feeding daily on the Quran, and applying what you learn to your life.

5. Now share the message you have learnt, tell others what you have learnt, family, friends and colleagues. This is the best way to learn and understand Allah’s word.

Conclusion

The Quran has a simple but an important mission; to move humanity closer to Allah, that is the ultimate flourishing of life, and this is what is meant by ‘the word of Allah gives life’. The Majestic Quran is a treaty between people and their Creator, whilst Allah fulfils his part of the treaty do we fulfil our part? Read the Majestic Quran for gaining wisdom, have faith in it to be safe from the terror of the world and the Hereafter, live it for spiritual well-being and mental health. Read it often with spiritual yearnings, so your heart and mind are filled, until it drives every movement.

In a world swamped by noisy social media, the daily solo reading of the Majestic Quran is helpful for individual growth. I believe the time is right for promoting the message of the Quran in English, for all, Muslims and non-Muslims. The Quran contains nuggets of wisdom, it is brimming with Allah’s transforming power, why don’t you tap into it? My new translation ‘The Majestic Quran’ in plain English will be your faithful companion. Insha-Allah.

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