“And We have sent down to thee the Book explaining all things, a Guide, a Mercy, and Glad Tidings to those who have surrendered themselves to God” (16: 89)
As it should be with all religious actions that we perform, we must ask ourselves for what purpose and with which objective in mind do we recite the Quran. Moreover, we must contemplate over what it is about the Quran that attracts us to revere it so highly.
As obvious as these questions may seem, many people do not question themselves over them and do not revisit their answers from time to time. The seriousness of this omission is highlighted in a tradition from Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (pbuh) which states that:
The question over whether the Quran is a work of literary brilliance, a fascinating read, or a source of divine guidance does not preclude it from being all three. In fact, whilst the Quran is a most engaging read and its use of language is unparalleled and unique, the real attraction to the Quran is the guidance which emanates from it, as stated above in verse 89 of surat al-Nahl.
However, we find often that the most popular form of guidance that people are seeking from the Quran is in the form of augury (istikhara); when one is in the state of uncertainty over a decision and, after having engaged in intellectualisation and contemplation, and after having sought the advice of wise and experienced people, they ultimately turn to the Quran to resolve the dilemma.
Whilst there is merit in this, the Quran is not just an advisor in this situation. On the contrary, Allah says that the Quran has been sent to explain all things, but if we only read the Quran to gain benefit (thawāb) or blessings (baraka), we will not be open to receiving its comprehensive guidance.
Therefore, we must contemplate over the aspects of our life in which we are lacking guidance, and then approach the Quran with an attentive intellect (aql) and open heart (qalb) to receive guidance and respond to it by acting upon it immediately. In this way we will develop much more of an affinity and attachment to the Quran.
For instance, if a father is concerned over what advice to give his son, he should seek guidance from Luqman’s (pbuh) instructions to his son. On the other hand, if a son is concerned with how to deal with his father, he should seek guidance from the Quranic parable of Ismā’īl (pbuh) and his father Ibrahīm (pbuh) when the latter informed his son about his dream.
It is said that if you want to talk to God, supplicate to Him, and if you want to listen to God, read the Quran. In order to listen properly, we must pay attention to whom we are listening to, the intent of their words, the goal they wish to achieve through communicating and how their speech relates to our situation. Contemplation is one of keys to opening up the Quran and without it, one will not be able to appreciate and benefit from the Quran.
1. Quoted in Rayshari, M. Muhammadi, The Scale of Wisdom, ICAS Press (2009), p. 686