Allāh bestowed His last messenger, Muḥammad (Peace be Upon Him), with the greatest book of guidance, al-Qur’ān. He says (Qur’ān 2:2, Ṣaḥīḥ International), “a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion”. Thus, acting upon Qur’ān entails success in both the worlds. Our Prophet (Peace be Upon Him) said (Muslim, 4:1757), “Read the Qur’ān, for it will come on the Day of Resurrection interceding for its companions.”
Allāh has promised to safeguard His book till the end of times (Qur’ān 15:9). The manifestation of its preservation is “its recitation and perseverance in its study by following its rules (ādāb)” (al-Ghazālī, p. 21) i.e. external and internal etiquette, broadly listed under the following headings:
This is one of the most important etiquette of the heart. Like every other form of worship, one should read the Qur’ān sincerely with the sole purpose of gaining Allāh’s pleasure. Prophet (Peace be Upon Him) said (al-Bukhārī, 1:1), “The reward of deeds depends upon the intentions”. Thus, one should shun all worldly objectives such as seeking fame or money, turning people’s heads, etc. by his recitation of Qur’ān. And he (Peace be Upon Him) said (abu-Dawūd, 25:3656), “If anyone acquires knowledge that should be sought seeking the Face of Allāh, but he acquires it only to get some worldly advantage, he will not experience the fragrance of Paradise” (al-Nawawī, pp. 11-13)
Handling the muṣḥaf (a copy of Qur’ān)
One should touch the Qur’ān only when he is in a state of purity. Concerning this, al-Nawawī states, “It is unlawful for someone in a state of minor ritual impurity to touch or carry the muṣḥaf; it is the same whether touching the Book itself, the margin or the cover” (pg. 113). In a narration (Muwattā, 15:1), Prophet (Peace be upon him) wrote to the people of Yemen: “No one should touch the Qur’ān except one who is tāhir (pure).” (Authenticated by Al-Nasā’i, 5718). It has been reported from Salmān Fārisī that he was once asked to perform wuḍu’u for answering a question related to Qur’ān. He said: “Ask me. I am not going touch it. Verily, “None touch it except the purified” (Sunan Al-Bayhaqi Al-Kubrā-1/87; authenticated by Albānī). Mus`ab ibn Sa`d narrated: “I was holding the muṣḥaf in front of Sa’d ibn Abī Waqqās (may Allāh be pleased with him), and I scratched myself. Sa`d said: “Maybe you touched your private part?” I said: “Yes.” He said: “Stand up and go and perform wuḍu’u.” So, I went and performed wuḍu’u and returned.” (Muwattā, p. 2:91; authenticated by Al-Bayhaqi-1/516/309)
Cleanliness of the person and place during recitation
- “He should clean his mouth using a tooth-stick (miswāk) or the like” (al-Nawawī, p. 35) before beginning the recitation. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) said, “Freshen your mouths with the tooth-stick. Verily, they are the pathways of the Qur’ān.” (Shu’ab al-Imān 1948; ḥasan according to Al-Suyūti).
- He should be in a state of purity (tahārah), pure from both minor and major impurity. Ibn Bāz, in his fatāwā, states:
“The person who is Junūb (in a state of major ritual impurity) must not recite the Qur’ān, because it is authentically reported that nothing prevented the Prophet (peace be upon him) from recitation except Janābah (major ritual impurity related to sexual discharge). It is also related by Aḥmad with a good isnād (chain of narrators) on the authority of `alī (may Allāh be pleased with him): “The Prophet (peace be upon him) recited some of the Qur’ān after coming out of the place of answering the call of nature and said, ‘This is for the one who is not Junūb; but the one who is Junūb should not do this, not even one Ayah.’”
- One should recite it in a clean place, preferably sanctified, and avoid its recitation in filthy places like bathrooms, lavatories, etc. (al-Nawawī, p. 39).
- One should recite while facing the qiblah as Prophet said, “The best way to sit is facing the qiblah”; the decreasing order of reward is standing, sitting and then lying down (al-Ghazālī, p. 35).
Starting the recitation with isti’ādhah and basmalah
One should start his recitation with isti’ādhah (saying “I seek refuge with Allāh from the accursed Shaytān”) then followed by basmalah (saying “In the name of Allāh, the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful”). Allāh says (Qur’ān, 16:98), “So when you want to recite the Qur’ān, seek refuge with Allāh from Shaytān, the outcast”. Except for Sūrah al-tawbah, basmalah is to be recited at the start of every sūrah. When Imām Aḥmad (may Allāh have mercy on him) was asked about reciting it at the beginning of every sūrah, he said, “Do not neglect it.” (al-Munajjid, 2001).
Reciting with proper tajwīd and beautify the voice
One should strive to recite the Qur’ān as it was recited by Prophet (peace be upon him), learning and practicing all rules of tajwīd (rules of articulation and characteristics of letters). Allāh says (Qur’ān, 73:4), “Recite the Qur’ān with measured recitation”. It is reported that,
“a man was reciting the Qur’ān to ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ūd and he recited “Innamaṣṣadaqātulilfuqara i walmasākīn”, so Ibn mas’ūd said: “This was not how the Prophet (peace be upon him) recited it to me!” So, the man asked, “How did he read it to you, oh Abā ‘Abd al-Raḥmān?” So, he said “Lil Fuqarā i walmasākīn”, he elongated the word Fuqarā” (Fatimā; Sunan Sa’id ibn Mansūr).
One should read the Qur’ān in such a way that each letter is pronounced distinctly and beautify his voice. ‘Umm Salamah described Prophet’s recitation as “word by word” (at-tirmidhī, 45:3173). Prophet (peace be upon him) used to like and compliment pleasant recitations of Salim, ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ūd, Abū Mūsā al-Ash’arī” (al-Ghazālī, pp. 53-54). It is also reported the he (Peace be upon Him) said, ” Whoever does not recite Qur’ān in a nice voice is not from us” (al-Bukhārī, 9:93).
He should also be adhering to the rights of the verses of Qur’ān with regards to prostration, supplication, seeking refuge, asking for bounties and glorifying Allāh. It has been reported that Prophet (Peace be upon him) would glorify Allāh and beg for mercy and protection from Him during his recitation of Qur’ān (Muslim, 4:1697).
The goal of the reader is to understand and contemplate what his Lord is saying to him “with humility and reflection” (al-Nawawī). Allāh says (Qur’ān, 47:24), “Then do they not reflect upon the Qur’ān, or are there locks upon [their] hearts?” Regarding this, al-Ghazālī says,
“understanding the origin of the speech, then magnification of it, then paying attention to it, then pondering over it, then understanding, then getting rid of obstacles to this understanding, then specification, then influencing the mind, then gradual rising and then the denial of one’s own ability and power” (pg. 56).
It is reported in that ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar took eight years to memorize Sūrah Baqarah (Muwattā). Contemplation necessitates connection with the Words of the Lord, thus paving the way for humility, inciting one to weep. Al-Nawawī (pg. 44) states that “’Umar ibn al-Khattāb prayed the morning prayer in congregation and read Sūrah Yūsuf. He wept until his tears flowed over his collar bone.”
Concluding, the purpose of a person reading the Qur’ān is to ponder upon the message of His Lord so that he may spend his life according to its principles. Thus, this approach needs to be pure and in the same manner as that of the Prophet (Peace be upon him) and his companions as described above. Then only, one may hope to reap the beneficial fruits of salvation in the Hereafter.
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