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 How to Approach the Qur'an (Essential to Read before Reading the Qur'an)

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Obedient Angel

Join date : 2011-04-30
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How to Approach the Qur'an (Essential to Read before Reading the Qur'an) Empty
PostSubject: How to Approach the Qur'an (Essential to Read before Reading the Qur'an)   How to Approach the Qur'an (Essential to Read before Reading the Qur'an) Icon_minitimeSat Jun 18, 2011 2:43 am

Before you read the Qur'an, it is good to skim through these articles:

Tracing Islamophobia in the Oldest Holy Qur'an Translations [The website is currently unavailable unfortunately]

Understanding the Qur'an in English

Qur'anic Dialectics

The Role Played by Qur’an Translations in Steering Public Opinion Against Islam in Non-Muslim Communities [The website is currently unavailable unfortunately]

They will open your eyes to important issues and give you some necessary background.

Here are some guidelines as well:
1. Read the Qur'an from back to front.

 This corresponds more though by no means accurately to how it was revealed. Most of the
 last suras are the suras that were revealed in the first thirteen years of revelation in Mecca
 focusing basically on monotheism. As you move on in this reverse order, you will be
 exposed gradually later to the Medinan revelations discussing the more sophisticated legal
 issues and moral injunctions.

2. Do not expect that you are going to read a poetic rendering like the King James
   Bible nor a book of prose. The Qur'an is neither poetry nor prose. It is a unique

3. Do not expect to read a narrative. What you are going to find in each chapter is
  independent different chunks of ayat (verses) giving information about different
  things like moral injunctions, legal topics, exhortation, apocalyptic predictions,
  descriptions of heaven and hell, descriptions of the natural world, snapshots
  from stories of the Prophets and so on.

4. Many issues are repeated in several suras (chapters), each of which add extra

5. Never depend on one translation because no one is fully reliable, let alone perfect. Pay attention
that many of the translations circulated were intentionally distorted by Orientalists to discredit Islam
and many are tainted by sectarian ideologies. Suggested combination to use while double-checking:

Online Transitions

1. Royal Aal Al Bayt translation

   - For copies to Purchase:

    The Gracious Quran: A Modern-Phrased Interpretation in English    

   The translator adds some extra comments, but they will help you understand as long as  
   you double-check with the others suggested above which contain no comments. This
   translation has many articles as well in the beginning that give some background about Islam and the Qur'an

-  The Qur'an: A New Translation: by Thomas Cleary

 6. The Qur'an is only the Qur'an in Arabic. Start by listening to some chapters of the Qur'an    
   with translated subtitles before you carry on reading. It makes a big difference: reading      
   from a translation does not at all compare to listening.

The Qur'an is only the Qur'an in Arabic and any translation, though indispensable, is merely an approximation of the meanings, an attempt to render part of the meaning conveyed by the original in accordance with the translator's personal understanding or one of the potential interpretations based on tafsirs.

In addition to the problems of the loss of meanings and certain features typical of translating any distinguished works like poetry, etc, the Qur'an is the ONLY book that represents the literal word of God.

The challenge that arises in attempting to translate it is how to express in human language a revelation stamped with the divine imprint. The crux of the matter is to acknowledge that no matter how proficient a translator may be, the product is nothing but a product that bears the human imprint, i.e. imperfection and fallibility.

7. The Qur'an was revealed piecemeal to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) over the 23 years of his Prophetic mission with groups of ayat revealed to him upon the occurrence of different events. It was revealed for guidance, for all times and situations to come. However, various ayat were revealed at a particular time in history and in particular circumstances. It is important to know something about asbab al nuzul or occasions of revelation . The Arabic word sabab (pl. asbab) means reason, cause and 'marifa asbab al-nuzul' is the knowledge about the reasons of the revelations, i.e. the knowledge about the particular events and circumstances in history that are related to the revelation of particular passages from the Qur'an. Some of the revelations occurred during his stay in Mecca and others during his stay in Medina. The ayat (verses) are grouped in suras (chapters) that are not ordered chronologically nor according to subjects in the Holy Qur'an.

The Importance of the Occasions of Revelation

Wahidi (d. 468/1075), one of the best classical scholars in this field wrote: 'The knowledge about Tafsir of the ayat is not possible without occupying oneself with their stories and explanation of (the reasons) for their revelation.' [Asbab al-nuzul, by al-Wahidi al-Nisaburi. Cairo, 1968, p 4]

Knowledge about the asbab al-nuzul helps one to understand the circumstances in which a particular revelation occurred, which sheds light on its implications and gives guidance to the explanation (tafsir) and application of the aya in question for other situations.

In particular, knowledge about the asbab al-nuzul helps one to understand:

v      The direct and immediate meaning and implication of an aya, as it can be seen within its                              
        original context.
v      The imminent reason underlying a legal ruling.
v      The original intent of the aya.
v      Whether the meaning of an aya is specific or of general application, and if so, under              
       which circumstances it is to be applied.
v      The historical situation at the time of the Prophet and the development of the early                
        Muslim community.


'To God belong the East and the West: whithersoever ye turn, there is the presence of God, for God is all-pervading, all-knowing' (Qur'an 2:115).

Without knowing the sabab (reason), one might easily conclude that this revelation permits the Muslim to face any direction when performing prayer, while it is well known that to face qibla is one of the conditions without which prayer becomes invalid. The circumstances in which this revelation occurred explains its implications:

According to Wahidi [op. cit. pp. 20-21] a group of Muslims travelled on a dark night and they did not know where the qibla was, so they later realised that they had prayed in the wrong direction. They asked the Prophet about it and he kept silent until the above verse was revealed. '

Kinds of Reports

There are two kinds of reports on asbab al-nuzul:
v       Definite reports.
v       Probable reports.

In the first kind (definite) the narrator clearly indicates that the event he relates is the sabab al-nuzul.

In the second kind (probable) the narrator does not indicate clearly that the event narrated is the sabab al-nuzul, but suggests this probability.

Kinds of Reasons

There are three kinds of 'reasons' which are connected with revelation of particular passages from the Qur'an:

Revelation in response to an event or a general situation.
Revelation in response to a particular question that has been asked by someone.
Revelation for other reasons, known or not known to us.

Response to an Event

Narrated Ibn 'Abbas:

The Prophet went out towards Al-Batha' and ascended the mountain and shouted: 'O Sabahah', so the Quraish people gathered around him. He said: 'Do you see? If I tell you that an enemy is going to attack you in the morning or in the evening, will you believe me?' They replied: 'Yes'. He said- 'Then I am a plain Warner to you of a coming severe punishment'. Abu Lahab said: 'Is it for this reason that you have gathered us? May you perish!' Then Allah revealed 'Perish the hands of Abu Lahab' (Sura 111: verse 1). [Bukhari, VI, No. 496.]

The Sura concerning Abu Lahab was revealed in response to this event, when Abu Lahab said: 'May you perish!'

Response to a Particular Situation

Sura 2:158 concerning Safa and Marwa was revealed in response to a particular situation in Makka during the time of the Prophet.

Narrated 'Urwa: I asked 'A'isha (regarding the Sa'i between As-Safa and Al-Marwa). She said: 'Out of reverence to the idol Manat which was placed in Al-Mushallal those who used to assume Ihram in its name, used not to perform Sa'i between As-Safa and Al-Marwa (because there were two other idols between these two hills). So Allah revealed: Verily As.-Safa and Al-Marwa are among the symbols of Allah.' Thereupon Allah's apostle and the Muslims used to perform Sa'i (between them). Sufyan said: The (idol) Manat was at Al-Mushallal in Qudaid. 'A'isha added: 'The verse was revealed in connection with the Ansar. They and (the tribe of) Ghassan used to assume Ihram in the name of Manat before they embraced Islam'. 'A'isha added 'There were men from the Ansar who used to assume Ihram in the name of Manat which was an idol between Makka and Medina. They said, O Allah's Apostle! We used not to perform the Tawaf (sa'i) between As-Safa and Al-Marwa out of reverence to Manat. ' [Bukhari, VI, No. 384; also Nos. 22. 23.]

In response to this situation 2: 158 was revealed.

Question to the Prophet

On many occasions the Muslims addressed questions to the Prophet concerning Islamic beliefs and the Islamic way of life. An example of the many occasions when a revelation was revealed in response to such a question posed to the Prophet is Sura 4:11
Narrated Jabir: The Prophet and Abu Bakr came on foot to pay me a visit (during my illness) at Banu Salama's (dwellings). The Prophet found me unconscious, so he asked for water and performed the ablution from it and sprinkled some water over me. I came to my senses and said O Allah's apostle! What do you order me to do as regards my wealth?

So there was revealed 'Allah commands you as regards your children's (inheritance)' (4: 11). [Bukhari, VI, No. 101.]

The verse in question is concerned with inheritance and explains the rules of inheritance for children as follows:

God (thus) directs you as regards your children's (inheritance):
'To the male a portion equal to that of two females: if only daughters, two or more, their share is two-thirds of the inheritance. If only one, her share is half ...' (4:11).

Question by the Prophet

On other occasions, the Prophet himself asked questions. Sura 19: 64 was revealed in response to such a question by the Prophet Muhammad:

Narrated Ibn 'Abbas: The Prophet said to the Angel Gabriel, What prevents you from visiting us more often than you visit us now? So there was revealed: 'And we (angels) descend not but by the command of your Lord. To Him belongs what is before us and what is behind us ...' (19: 64).' [Bukhari, VI, No. 255.]

Particular Persons

Often a general rule which became part of the Qur'anic revelation, was first revealed in response to the circumstances or needs of a particular person, e.g. Sura 2:196:

'... And if any of you is ill, or has an ailment in his scalp (necessitating shaving) he should in compensation either fast or feed the poor or offer sacrifice ...' Ka'b bin 'Ujra said this verse - and if one of you is ill or has an ailment in his scalp, - was revealed concerning me. I had lice on my head and I mentioned this to the Prophet and he said: Shave (your head) and compensate by fasting three days or a sacrifice or feed six poor, for each poor one Sa'. [Muslim, II, Nos. 2735, 2738, 2739; Wahidi, op.cit., p.31. One sa' is a cubic measure of approx. 2.6 kg.]

This is again an example of the Prophet himself explaining the revelation in detail. At other times such revelation could not be applied but to the respective person. The best example of such a revelation is Sura Lahab (111) already referred to above. Other examples are references to the Prophet Muhammad in the Qur’an, such as e.g. Sura 75: 16:

Narrated Ibn 'Abbas (as regards Allah's statement) 'Move not your tongue concerning (the Qur'an) to make haste therewith' (75:16).

When the Angel Gabriel revealed the divine inspiration to Allah's Apostle he moved his tongue and lips, and that stage used to be very hard for him, and that movement indicated that revelation was taking place. So Allah revealed in Sura al-qiyama which begins: 'I do swear by the Day of Resurrection ...'

The Verses: 'Move not your tongue concerning (the Qur'an) to make haste therewith. It is for us to collect it (Qur'an) in your mind and give you the ability to recite it by heart' (75:16-17). [Bukhari. VI. No. 451.]

The Qur'an is Different from the Bible

The Qur'anic style is totally different from the dominantly detailed narrative style of the Bible. It needs a particular skill to read it; a skill which can be developed only over time. In the Qur'an, progress is to be achieved on a horizontal rather than a vertical level. You cannot get a full grasp once and for all of one issue in the Qur'an through reading a single sura (chapter), or even successive suras, and then set it aside and move to another.

You hardly ever find one issue dealt with exclusively at one place. Different suras add different details related to a single issue. The full picture of any issue is like a jigsaw puzzle. To have a comprehensive view, an intelligent reader must collect all the different parts from here and there in the different suras.

In addition, within a single sura, the shift between the variety of issues tackled is sometimes very sudden. For some, the different sub-themes seem incoherent; the underlying link between them is too subtle to perceive for inexperienced readers. Such sudden shifts between the sub-themes is one reason many significant issues in the Qur'an can go unnoticed by novice readers. Their panting over keeping up with the shifts makes it difficult for them to assimilate the details all at once, especially on a first reading.

The Qur'an is too deep to be grasped at one shot. It needs reading and rereading. It is like an inexhaustible treasure; the more you read, the more insights you gain.

Here are some recitations by different reciters with translated subtitles to start
Surah Al-Hashr by Sheikh Abdul-Basit Abdus-Samad

Abdul-Basit--Surat Hud (Verses 41-49)

Sura Maryam 19: 1 - 36 Mishary Alafasy - Part 1

Sura Maryam 19: 27 - 65 Mishary Alafasy - Part 2

Sura Maryam 19: 66 - 98 Mishary Alafasy - Part 3

Surah Yusuf: Mishary Rashid Al-Afasy [Part 1/5]

Surah Ya Sin by Mishary Al Afasi Complete Surah)

This is a recitation of Sura 55 (The All Merciful) without translation, but it is wonderful to listen to (3 parts).

This is the sura being recited in these 3 last links, one of the most pleasant to listen to:

The All Merciful

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful:

The Compassionate One

has taught the Qur’ān.

He created man,

teaching him the [coherent] speech.

The sun and the moon follow a reckoning,

and the grass and the trees prostrate.

And He has raised the heaven and set up the balance,

[declaring] that you should not contravene with regard to the balance.

And observe the weights with justice and do not skimp the balance.

And the earth, He placed it for [all] creatures.

In it are fruits and date-palms with sheaths,

and grain with husk, and fragrant herb.

So which of your Lord’s favours will you deny?

He created man of dry clay resembling the potter’s,

and He created the jānn of a smokeless flame of fire.

So which of your Lord’s favours will you deny?

Lord of the two Easts, and Lord of the two Wests.

So which of your Lord’s favours will you deny?

He has loosed the two waters; [and so] they meet.

Between them there is a barrier. They do not overstep.

So which of your Lord’s favours will you deny?

From [both of] them is brought forth the pearl and the coral.

So which of your Lord’s favours will you deny?

His are the crafted ships [that sail] in the sea [appearing] like landmarks.

So which of your Lord’s favours will you deny?

Everyone who is on it will perish;

yet there will remain the countenance of your Lord, [the countenance] of majesty and munificence.

So which of your Lord’s favours will you deny?

All that is in the heavens and the earth implore Him. Every day He is upon some matter.

So which of your Lord’s favours will you deny?

We will attend to you, O you two heavy ones!

So which of your Lord’s favours will you deny?

O company of jinn and humans, if you are able to pass through the confines of the heavens and the earth, then pass through! You will not pass through except with a sanction.

So which of your Lord’s favours will you deny?

Against you will be unleashed a heat of fire and a flash of brass, and you will not be able to seek help.

So which of your Lord’s favours will you deny?

And when the heaven is split open, and it turns crimson like tanned leather.

So which of your Lord’s favours will you deny?

Thus on that day no man will be questioned about his sin, nor any jinn.

So which of your Lord’s favours will you deny?

The guilty will be recognised by their mark; so they will be seized by the forelocks and the feet.

So which of your Lord’s favours will you deny?

‘This is Hell which the guilty [were wont to] deny!’

They shall pass round between it and boiling hot water.

So which of your Lord’s favours will you deny?

But for those who feared the station of their Lord, there will be two gardens.

So which of your Lord’s favours will you deny?

Both with [abundant] branches.

So which of your Lord’s favours will you deny?

In both of them there are two flowing springs.

So which of your Lord’s favours will you deny?

In both of them, of every fruit there are two kinds.

So which of your Lord’s favours will you deny?
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