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Sumaira Dada discovers the strength of the Companions’ relationship with the Quran and finds lessons for all of us.
If someone would ask you what the Prophet (sa) has left for you, will it take you a while to respond? When Abu Hurairah (rta) told a group of people that the Prophet’s (sa) inheritance was being distributed in the mosque, the people returned lost, unable to find anything. What they missed out on was exactly what we would have missed out on easily. So, what was the Prophet’s (sa) inheritance? In the mosque, they found people performing Salah, others reading the Quran and discussing what was Halal and what was Haram. Abu Hurairah (rta) told them: “Woe unto you! That is the inheritance of Muhammad (sa).” (Tabarani)
Modern life moves at the speed of a bullet train, or perhaps even faster. In this rapid rut of life, we hardly find time to connect with Allah (swt). Unfortunately, Salah for most of us just becomes a combination of mechanical actions that we repeat day in and day out. The spirit in our worship lies in understanding the Holy Quran, which cannot come without the love of Allah (swt). Allah (swt) describes the believers in the Quran: “… But those who believe, love Allah more (than anything else).” (Al Baqarah 2:165)
Such love is evident in the tremendous effort that the Companions put in reading and understanding the Holy Quran. Some used to finish the entire Quran in two months, some in one month, some even in ten days or less. Once, when Ibn Umar (rta) was asked by the Prophet (sa) to read the Quran in one month, he insisted on doing it in less than that, so he was then advised to read it in seven days and no less (Bukhari). A group of such Companions as Usman, Zaid Ibn Thabit, Ibn Masood and Ubayy Ibn Kab (rta) used to complete the reading of the entire Quran every Friday. (Ghazali)
The Companions were a true example of the verse of the Holy Quran, “Those who remember Allah (always, and in prayers) standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides…” (Al-Imran 3:191). They used to read the Quran during all hours of the day and night, whether they stayed in one place or were travelling. (Al-Nawawi)
They read the Quran in a slow and distinct manner (Tartil), as taught by the Prophet (sa). Abdullah Ibn Abbas (rta) said: “That I read Surah of the Cow (Al-Baqarah) and the Surah of the House of Imran (Al-Imran) in a slow and distinct manner, while pondering over them, is better for me than to read the entire Quran babbling.” He also said: “That I read, [the surah beginning with] ‘when the earth is shaken’ (Surah Al-Zilzal) and Surah Al-Qariah, reflecting over them, is better for me than to read Surah Al-Baqarah and Surah Al-Imran babbling.” (Ghazali)
Weeping whilst reading the Quran was also a way of the Companions. The Messenger of Allah (sa) commanded: “Recite the Quran and weep. If you do not weep naturally, then force yourself to weep.” (Ibn Majah) True to this tradition, Abdullah Ibn Abbas (rta) tells us: “When you read [the Quranic verse of] prostration, in which occurs the word, Subhana, do not hasten to prostrate until you weep. If the eyes of anyone of you do not weep, his mind should weep [i.e. be filled with grief and fear of God].”
Some Companions liked to read the Quran silently and others liked to read it aloud. The Prophet (sa) directed them even in this matter in accordance with the Quranic verse: “… And offer your Salat (prayer) neither aloud nor in a low voice, but follow a way between.” (Al-Isra 17:110) Abu Qatadah narrates that the Prophet (sa) told Abu Bakr (rta): “When I passed by you, you were reciting the Quran in a low pitch [in the night prayer].” He replied: “I recite it to Him, Who hears [even my] whispers.” The Prophet (sa) continued: “Raise your pitch a little.” Then he told Umar (rta): “When I passed by you, you were reciting the Quran in a very loud pitch.” He replied: “I awake those who sleep, and make Satan run away.” The Prophet (sa) said: “Lower your pitch a little.” (Abu Dawood and At-Tirmidhi)
The Companions also read the Quran beautifully, thereby following the Sunnah of the Prophet (sa), who said: “Adorn the Quran with your voices.” (Abu Dawood) Reading beautifully meant reading in a slow and distinct manner, by controlling the voice though not with that excessive stretch which changes the prose order (Nazm). (Ghazali) One night the Prophet (sa) listened to the Quranic recitation of Abdullah Ibn Masood (rta), and with the Prophet (sa) were Abu Bakr and Umar (rta). They stood still for a long time [listening]. Then the Prophet (sa) said: “One who wants to read the Quran as fresh as it was revealed should read it following the reading of Ibn Umm Abd.” (Ibn Majah)
Merely reading the Quran was not enough. An important part of recitation was to understand the Quran. The Companions warned the people not to overlook understanding the words of Allah (swt). Anas Ibn Malik (rta) once said: “Often one recites the Quran, but the Quran curses him, because he does not understand it.” The sign of faith, according to Abdullah Ibn Umar (rta), was to understand the Quran. In this regard he said: “We have lived long … a time has come when I see a man who is given the whole Quran before he has acquired faith; he reads all the pages between Al-Fatihah and its end, without knowing its commands, its threats and the places in it where he should pause – he scatters it like the scattering of one fleeing in haste.” Ali (rta) said: “There is no good in the Quran reading which is not pondered over.”
A man once came to learn the Quran from the Prophet (sa), who taught him Surah Az-Zalzalah (99). When he reached the words “So whosoever does good equal to the weight of an atom (or a small ant) shall see it; And whosoever does evil equal to the weight of an atom (or a small ant) shall see it,” the man said: “This is sufficient for me,” and left. The Prophet (sa) observed: “This man has returned as a Faqih (one who has acquired understanding).” (Abu Dawood)
There were also Companions like Usman Ibn Affan (rta) and Abdullah Ibn Masood (rta), who, once they had learnt ten verses from the Prophet (sa), did not go any further, unless they had understood and put into practice whatever they had been taught. That is how they sometimes spent years in learning only one Surah. (Suyuti)
It was the strength of the bond with the Quran that kept the Companions steadfast in their faith, even when the Prophet (sa) was not amongst them. Due to the fine understanding and frequent reading of the Quran, they were able to control their excessive grief at the Prophet (sa)’s death by remembering the Quranic verse: “Muhammad (sa) is no more than a Messenger, and indeed (many) Messengers have passed away before him. If he dies or is killed, will you then turn back on your heels (as disbelievers)?” (Al-Imran 3:144) May Allah (swt) fill our hearts with love for the Quran. Ameen.