Yesterday I attended Shaykh Ahmed Saad al-Azhari’s lecture on “Building a Spiritual Connection to the Qur’an” at the University of Toronto – Mississauga , and I am so grateful to the Muslim Chaplaincy, the SeekersHub and the MSA for making this lecture possible. It’s been a difficult week, and I came to the class in need of spiritual rain and respite and relief from my own thoughts.
Alhamdullilah, I’m so glad I made the journey! Shaykh Ahmed gave us excellent, practical advice on how to develop a connection to the Qur’an, and his joyful, gentle state, and palpable love for the Book of Allah gave us the encouragement we needed to strive to implement his advice. The class was a reminder that the Qur’an is the medicine our hearts sorely need, and that developing a relationship with the Qur’an is what will heal our hearts. Happiness and contentment is only through proximity to Allah, His Book, and following the way of His Beloved, peace and blessings be upon him.
My notes from last night are not extensive as I listened more than took notes, but you can hear the lecture in its entirety here through the Muslim Chaplaincy Soundcloud page. (I highly recommend listening to the lecture in its entirety – the stories Shaykh Ahmed told us during the class were so so beautiful!) If you’re in the Toronto area though, do make sure to check out Shaykh’s Ahmed’s remaining lectures while he is still in town. He speaks tonight (the 15th) at the SeekersHub, and this weekend at the ISNA Canada Convention. Such gatherings of goodness soften the heart and should not be missed.
The Miracle of the Qur’an
- The Qur’an is the biggest ni’ma (blessing) that Allah has given us. Every Prophet, peace be upon them all, was given a miracle that was enough for people to follow him. Musa peace be upon him, had a stick that turned into a snake. And our Prophet peace and blessings be upon him, told us that what he was given was not a physical miracle, it was the Qur’an. The Qur’an is not time-bound. It proves the message by the content of the message.
- The Quran is an accessible book. Every book is structured with an audience in mind. A primary school book is not written the same as an academic book. The Qur’an is a book that addresses everyone.
- The Quran has always been at the centre of the ummah.
- Allah tells us, “We have made the Qur’an easy for remembering. Is there anyone who wishes to remember?
- The scholars are particular about every sound of the Qur’an and how it is pronounced. They wouldn’t be particular in the same way about spoken Arabic, but this isn’t just spoken Arabic, it is Qur’anic Arabic. It’s not dialectical variation. The scholars even discuss the validity of the prayer for someone who makes a mistake in recitation.
Stories of people who had a spiritual connection to the Qur’an
- There was a Companion who was on night duty in Madinah, and was reciting the Qur’an in his prayer, and as he was praying, he heard some noises, and saw some lights. In the morning, he asked the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him about what he saw. And the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him said that those were angels who came down to hear his recitation, and if he had continued till morning, people would have seen the angels on earth.
- I have always wondered: what was different about his recitation that it brought angels to earth, and our recitation doesn’t hit our hearts? That we don’t even have presence of heart in our recitation?
- Abdullah ibn Mas’ud – he was asked to recite to the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him and his recitation brought tears to the eyes of the Prophet. What was unique about his recitation that it invoked the tears of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, the person who actually received the Qur’an? He was reciting the Qur’an to the person who received the Qur’an, the person who already knows everything that is in the Qu’ran. Was it just the sound of his voice?
- Very few of the Companions were asked by the Prophet to recite the Qur’an to him.
- There was another companion who had a beautiful voice, and the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him would sit for hours outside his tent listening to his prayers. And one day he came out and saw the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him there, and he was surprised. He asked, “Oh Messenger, how long have you been sitting there?” And the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him said “You have a beautiful voice like Dawud alayhis salaam”.
- Why did the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him mention Dawud alayhis salaam, when all the Prophets had beautiful voices? Allah has mentioned the voice of Dawud alayhis salaam in the Quran, and told us that when he recited, the whole universe was listening and chanting with him. The mountains and birds were chanting with him, the animals were accumulating to listen to him. Allah subjugated the mountains to him, and they would praise Allah.
- After 40 years of marriage, The father of Imam Jazari did not have kids. And then he went for Hajj, had a lot of ZamZam water and prayed for a child who would be a great scholar. 9 months later, Imam Jazari was born, and he was someone who was separated from his kids, stopped from doing Hajj, went through incredible persecution, and throughout it all, he was writing and teaching texts about the Qur’an. He had an unimaginable connection and devotion to the Qur’an. He even taught his kidnappers, so much saw that they delayed his release in order to get ijaza from him. And Imam Jazari is to the sciences of Qur’an the way Imam Bukhari is to hadith.
- The best of you is the one that learns and teaches the Qur’an. – Hadith.
- Why? The Qur’an has always been central to the ummah. The Qur’an cuts khilaf (difference). When you have a Qur’an teacher, you care about their knowledge of recitation, not about other issues of difference.
- The Qur’an is the strong rope of Allah that binds us together.
Q: How can we maintain a connection to the Qur’an (How do we maintain connectivity in an age of Facebook)
- Reciting the Qur’an makes you a person of Allah
- This deen doesn’t associate you with who you are, your family background, it associates people more with knowledge, action and good deeds
- We get credit by what have we done. What we have done for the people of the ummah?
- ahl means family, people.
- And your family are the people you take care of, preserve, maintain. And so when Allah talks about ahl-Quran, the people of the Qur’an, he is telling us that in a metaphorical sense, these are people He will specially care for, maintain, protect.
- For every letter of the Qur’an, there are 10 rewards. Just think, how many hours are you on your phone? On FB? On Twitter? How many letters are there in that? On Twitter, you have to be concise, you only have 140 characters and so you have to limit yourself otherwise you can’t say anything. But with Qur’an, the more you recite, the more you read, the more you are rewarded.
- Start building up your habits. Can you commit to 5 lines a day? 5 verses a day? Three lines a day? Whatever you can do, let not a day go by without reciting something of the Qur’an.
- Shaykh Ahmed Saad’s father : would recite the Qur’an every three days. 2.5 hours on the train in the morning, 2.5 hours on the train on the way back.
- Beauty is the language of the soul. It addresses our soul. Nobody likes something that is ugly. We like good features, good smells.
Tips to connect with the Qur’an
Tip 1: Love the Qur’an. Connect spiritually with it.
- If you cannot commit 5 minutes daily, do not claim that you love the Qur’an. If you love your family, then even if you’re in another city or country, you will always be in contact with them. You’ll call them every day, every other day. You’ll be in contact through phone, Whatsapp. Facebook. If you love someone, you are in touch.
- Nowadays people are so unfamiliar with the idea of memorising a holy book. When I tell people of other faiths that I have memorised the Qur’an, they look at me as if this is a very strange thing.
- The Qur’an has rights upon us. We don’t want the Qur’an to come on the Day of Judgement, and say this person has deserted me.
What does it mean to desert the Qur’an?
- When you take out the mushaf and it is dusty
- When we read the Qur’an only in Ramadan, or when our recitation is limited to only specific occasions
- When we touch the mushaf only when we need something. When someone dies, when we have a need of our own
- We shouldn’t be people who only remember Allah when they need something. At the mosque, there are often only people 60+ at Fajr time. But Fajr is for all Muslims, its not that all Muslims have four prayers, and then the people who are older and retired have an extra prayer. No. Fajr is for everyone. When there are 5/6 lines at Fajr time of younger people, then it means that it’s final exam time and people are praying hard for tawfiq from Allah. And then some people continue until the results come out, and they come back the next exam season. We shouldn’t be seasonal Muslims.
- Don’t be seasonal slaves of Allah. They knock only when they need something. You wouldn’t want someone to have a relationship with you only when they need something. We wouldn’t call that love. Don’t be like that. Connect daily.
- Replace iPod, iPhone with some Qur’an
Tip 2: Pray with what you have memorised
- Story of Uqba ibn Amr. A man who was very keen to learn, but was a simple man, with average ability to learn. He came to Madinah with another 11 companions to learn Islam, but his companions thought he was very simple, and so left him with the camels while they visited the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him Then he thought, everyone else is with the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him, and I am here with the camels. So he took the camels and went to Madinah, left them outside and went to the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him. And the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him said, “this man is a real lover.”
- He accepted Islam, and the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him said to the other 11 companions, “you go study Islam, leave this man with me”. The Prophet peace and blessings be upon him saw potential, and saw that though this man is very simple, he has potential and can learn a lot of things. Then the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him started having Uqbah in his company all the time. The Prophet’s peace and blessings be upon him, habit when he travelled was to have someone in his company all the time.
- When we travel alone, we are more likely to be lazy, to forget. The Prophet peace and blessings be upon him advised that when people travel, they travel with others. That we should travel together. And so when the Prophet travelled with Uqbah, the Prophet peace and blessings be upon him said they should take turns leading the camel and riding the camel. And when the Prophet led him, he, recited 2 of the “Quls” for 5 km Then at Fajr time, he asked Uqbah ibn Amr to lead them in prayer, and to recite the two surahs he had just heard.
- Upbah ibn Amr went from being a very simple man left with the camels that people didn’t even think was worthy of meeting the Prophet, to the governor of Egypt. He even wrote out a mushaf for the people of Egypt. This is capacity -building through the Qur’an.
Tip 3: Have adab with the Qur’an
- This is a religion of etiquette. There are etiquettes of serving tea and coffee. There are etiquettes of meeting people, of sitting, there are etiquettes of everything. Our deen is the deen of etiquettes, the deen of adab. Our deen is the deen of taste, of dhawq. How to deal with people, how to deal with children, how to deal with the universe, everything is covered in our deen.
- The one who has a lot of etiquette, people draw them close, want to teach them.
Adab with Qur’an.
a) Sincerity – come to the Qur’an and recite the Qur’an for the sake of Allah.
b) Come to the Qur’an with spiritual and physical purity..
- If you’re on a path, need to focus on destination
- Don’t come with different distractions. “The distracted is never delivered.”
- There are levels of listening. There is listening and listen attentively.
- Come to the Qur’an with an empty heart.
- People are unable to cut themselves off from distractions.
Tip 4: Deal with the content of the message.
- Need a good signal and good reception. Got to prepare the heart. Read the translation of what you’re going to recite.
Tip 4: Return to Allah and try and apply what you have learnt
- Final etiquette is striving to apply what you learnt. If learn about speaking softly, strive to speak softly. Combine good character with Qu’ran.
- Have presence and consistency.
- Books don’t give knowledge, if they did, there would be no need for universities. Commit once or 2x a week to a Qur’an teacher. Nowadays there are so many options, in person, online, Skype.
- “Our problem is not in the facilitation of knowledge, it is the problem of himma. It’s not a problem of means, it is a problem nafs, will, discipline, desire.
- Avoid exaggeration and waste. Virtue is a middle path between two bad things. (Courage is between haste and cowardice).