Humans are naturally predisposed towards contemplation. But we need a guide to steer our minds out of the narrow straits of the ego and turn its direction to the truth and good. The most dependable guide is the Holy Quran, the Almighty’s word, and its embodiment and physical clarification, the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace-.
For believers of heart, the Holy Quran is a majestic gateway to the depths of the realm of contemplation, a vast horizon of reflection. It is the language of the heavens and earth. With the words of wisdom it provides, spirit’s only food, it is an endless treasure of inspiration, a miracle of eloquence given to human beings.
The Holy Quran is the elucidation of man and the universe. The universe, man and the Quran are three interconnected planes that shed perfect light on each other. A person steeped in the Quran starts to read the Divine blessing both in himself and in the universe and begins to turn the pages of the book of wisdom. Many Divine secrets become manifest to him, many windows open up in his heart to beyond.
The remedy to curb the desires of the ego that push humanity onto the path of destruction is in the Quran; it is also the cure for moral depravity that renders man lower than beasts and the measure for preventing feelings of justice from turning into uncompromising oppression. In short, the most potent medicine for happiness, for which human beings stand in need under all circumstances, is only in the Holy Quran.
Allah taught the Holy Quran
The Holy Quran is the greatest gift to humankind from the Almighty’s own presence. It states:
“The Beneficent. Taught the Quran. He created man. Taught him the mode of expression.”(ar-Rahman, 1-4)
Teaching the Holy Quran as an enormous manifestation of His eternal mercy, the Almighty has thereby provided human beings access to much wisdom and the answer to many mysteries. Humanity is therefore required to learn the Quran and first develop ones inner world, then strive towards becoming the Quran come-to-life with all ones actions and behavior and finally toil to communicate it to the rest of humankind in the most effective manner.
All Books are for OneBook
Thousands of books written in the Islamic world over the past 1400 years have been for the aim of understanding and plumbing the depths of one ‘Book’ and gaining a closer acquaintance with one ‘Man’ and becoming less like ones self, and more like his person. If all the trees in the world were to serve as pens and the seas as ink, it would still be impossible to enumerate the wisdoms and truths contained in the Holy Quran. Within it are the codes of all knowledge and wisdom, as well as the keys to happiness in life both in this world and in the Hereafter.
The Holy Quran always leads the way, while the sciences follow in its wake. Each scientific discovery confirms and sheds light on the truths of the Quran.
Allah, glory unto Him, declares:
“We will soon show them Our signs in the Universe and in their own souls, until it will become quite clear to them that it is the truth. Is it not sufficient as regards your Lord that He is a witness over all things?” (Fussilat, 53)
Continuing research into the Quran will continue to manifest its hidden miracles anew. The Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- has in fact informed that scholars can never have enough of reading the Quran, that it never loses its freshness in spite of continuous recital and that its aspects which reduce man to speechless admiration are inexhaustible.
Reading the Quran Contemplatively
Muslim scholars have defined the purpose of reciting the Holy Quran as contemplating its meaning, inner wisdom and then acting in accordance with what it demands.
For the stimulation of thought, there is nothing better than reading the Quran, since it is the word of the Almighty who infinitely knows the intricacies of the human condition. In other words, the Holy Quran holds a mirror to each person, enabling him to recognize himself just the way he is. Every Muslim must therefore frequently recite the Quran and reflect on what it exactly is that the Almighty requests with each verse.
Since each word of the Quran comprises immeasurable secrets, a contemplative read of a single verse in this manner is preferable to a careless read of the Quran entire. Only a purified heart and a refined soul gained through delicate contemplation, high morals and righteous deeds can grant one access to the truth of those mysteries.
Allah, glory unto Him, states:
“A surah (chapter) which We have revealed and made obligatory and in which We have revealed clear communications that you may be mindful.”(an-Nur, 1)
“A Book We have revealed to you abounding in good that they may ponder over its verses, and that those endowed with understanding may be mindful.”(Sad, 29)
“Do they not then reflect on the Quran or are there locks on the hearts?”(Muhammad, 24)
The Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- was once asked about the best tone of voice and manner of recitation (qiraah) for reading the Quran.
“The recitation by he, whose voice, upon hearing it, makes you feel he fears Allah”, he replied.(Darimi, Fadail’ul-Quran, 34)
Reading the Quran is one of the foremost activities exposed to the whispers of Shaytan, for a person who reads the Quran and reflects on its promises, warnings, clear signs and explanations will offer righteous deeds with greater enthusiasm. He will refrain from the impermissible and the doubtful with greater dedication. As reading the Quran is among the most virtuous of all the righteous deeds, Shaytan leaves no stone unturned in trying to keep people away from the Word of Allah, glory unto Him. It has therefore been commanded to seek refuge in the Almighty before beginning to read the Quran, by saying « أَعُوذُبِاللّٰهِمِنَالشَّيْطَانِالرَّجِيمِ ». As the verse declares:
“So when you recite the Quran, seek refuge with Allah from the accursed Shaytan.” (an-Nahl, 98)
How did the Prophet of Allah read the Quran?
The Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- used to recite the Holy Quran slowly, with a depth of feeling. He would contemplate the meanings of each verse, immediately putting into practice their commands. Upon reciting a verse commanding to glorify (tasbih) the Almighty, he would say subhan’Allah, negating the Creator of all deficiencies. Upon reciting a verse suggesting prayer, he would pray the Almighty. Reading a verse speaking of seeking refuge in the Almighty, seek refuge is what he would do.
At times he would focus on single verse so intently that he would pray and contemplate it until daybreak.
Abu Dharr –Allah be well-pleased with him- recounts:
“The Messenger of Allah –upon him blessings and peace- once kept on repeating the following verseat ritual prayer until morning:
‘Should You punish them, then surely they are Your servants; and should You forgive them, then surely You are the Mighty, the Wise.’(al-Maida, 118)” (Nasai, Iftitah, 79; Ahmed, V, 156)
The Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace-, after reading the above verse, once added the following:
“My Lord! Surely they have led many men astray; then whoever follows me, he is surely of me, and whoever disobeys me, You surely are Forgiving, Merciful.”(Ibrahim, 36)
Immediately afterward, he lifted his hands aloft and began pleading, “My Allah…My followers, my followers!” shedding tears at the same time.
Allah, glory unto Him, thereupon commanded Jibril –upon him peace- to, “Go and ask why Muhammad is crying, so humans know the reason, although Your Lord of course knows why he is.”
Jibril –upon him peace- returned, informing the Almighty that His Messenger was crying over concerns for his followers. Allah, glory unto Him, then once again commanded the Archangel to, “Go to Muhammad and give him Our glad tidings that ‘We shall please him regarding his followers and never distress him.”(Muslim, Iman, 346)
Such was the Prophet’s –upon him blessings and peace- compassion and keenness for his followers. We need to thoroughly reflect on the above and honestly assess our degree of love for the Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- and how much we are able to practice his sunnah as a testimony of that love.
Abdullah ibn Masud –Allah be well-pleased with him- narrates:
“One day the Messenger of Allah –upon him blessings and peace- asked me, ‘Can you read me some Quran?’
‘How can I read you some Quran when it is you to whom the Quran is revealed?’ I responded.
‘I like hearing the Quran from others, too’ said the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him). Thereupon I began reciting chapter an-Nisa. When I came to the verse that says:
‘How will it be, then, when We bring from every people a witness and bring you as a witness against these?’(an-Nisa, 41), he said:
‘That will suffice for now…’
When I fixed my eyes on him, I saw tears flowing freely from both his eyes.” (Bukhari, Tafsir, 4/9; Muslim, Musafirin, 247)
Aisha –Allah be well-pleased with her- recounts a scene that provides a glimpse of the Prophet’s –upon him blessings and peace- sensitivity of heart and depth of contemplation:
“One night, the Messenger of Allah –upon him blessings and peace- said to me, ‘If you allow me, Aisha, I wish to spend the night worshiping my Lord.’
‘I would surely love to be with you’, I said, ‘but would love even more anything that makes you happy.’
He then got up, took a thorough ablution and began his ritual prayer. He was crying…So much that it soaked his clothes, beard and even the ground on which he fell prostrate. Still in that condition, Bilal came to call him to the ritual prayer of fajr. Seeing him overflowing with tears, Bilal wondered:
‘Why do you cry, Messenger of Allah, when Allah has forgiven your past and future sins?’
‘Shouldn’t I be a thankful servant to his Lord?’ replied he. ‘Such verses were revealed to me this evening that shame on him who reads them without contemplating.’ He then disclosed the revelation:
‘Most surely in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of the night and the day there are signs for men who understand. Those who remember Allah standing and sitting and lying on their sides and reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth: Our Lord! You have not created this in vain! Glory be to You; save us then from the chastisement of the fire!’(Ali Imran, 190-191)” (Ibn Hibban, Sahih, II, 386; Alusi, Ruh’ul-Maani, IV, 157)
The night in which these verses were revealed, the Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- shed tears of pearl until daybreak, as if to make the stars in the sky jealous. Tears shed by believers when contemplating the manifestations of Divine Might and Splendor will, with the blessing of the Almighty, adorn passing nights, radiate the dark grave and reappear as dews in the gardens of Paradise.
In expression of the necessity and rewards of reading the Quran in a thoughtful and inquiring manner, the Blessed Prophet (peace be upon him) has said:
“If a group of people gather in a house among the houses of Allah, read the book of Allah and talk about it amongst each other, serenity will descend onto them, they will be encompassed with mercy and be surrounded by angels. And Allah, glory unto Him, will mention those people in His presence.”(Muslim, Dhikr, 38; Abu Dawud, Witr, 14/1455; Tirmidhi, Qiraah, 10/2945)
“One who completes reading the entire Quran in less than three days cannot properly understand it and properly contemplate on it.”(Abu Dawud, Witr, 8/1390; Tirmidhi, Qiraah, 11/2949; Darimi, Salat, 173)
“Recite the Quran in a way that it will hold you back from evil! If it does not hold you back from evil, then you have not really read it.”(Ahmed ibn Hanbal, Zuhd, p. 401/1649)
The Companions’ Reading of the Quran
The Companions put all their focus on contemplation in order to understand the Holy Quran and meditating on the Word of Allah, glory unto Him, they read it in a way conducive to practice.
A perfect example of this, are the words of Omar –Allah be well-pleased with him-:
“I completed chapter al-Baqara in twelve years and sacrificed a camel in gratitude.” (Qurtubi, I, 40)
Similarly, Abdullah, the son of Omar –Allah be well-pleased with both- is reported to have studied chapter al-Baqara for an entire eight years, in order to put its commands to practice. (Muwatta’, Quran, 11)
They read the Quran, properly learning each of its commands and prohibitions in the process. A depth of contemplation on each verse of the Quran made it possible to put each into practice.(Kattani, Taratib, II, 191)
A man once went to Zayd ibn Thabit –Allah be well-pleased with him- and asked him his opinion regarding a complete reading of the Quran in a single week. “It would be good” replied the Companion, adding:
“But I take greater enjoyment from completing the Quran in fifteen days, or even twenty. If you ask why, it is because that way I can thoroughly reflect on the Quran and better understand its meanings.”(Muwatta’, Quran, 4; Ibn Abdilbarr, Istidhkar, Beirut, 2000, II, 477)
Abdullah ibn Masud -Allah be well-pleased with him- says:
“Whoever seeks knowledge should contemplate on the meanings of the Quran, focus on its interpretation and recital; for Quran contains the knowledge of both past and future.”(Haythami, VII, 165; Bayhaki, Shuab, II, 331)
A Bedouin had once heard the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- recite:
“So he who has done an atom’s weight of good shall see it. And he who has done an atom’s weight of evil shall see it.”(az-Zilzal, 7-8)
“The weight of a grain, Messenger of Allah?” he asked, astounded.
“Yes”, responded the Prophet –upon him blessings and peace-. Suddenly growing pale, the Bedouin began to moan, lamenting, “Then shame on me for my faults!” which he repeated many times, repeating the verse of the Quran to himself over and over, he then left the scene.
From behind him, the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- commented, “Faith has trickled into his heart!”(Suyuti, ad-Durr’ul-Mansur, VIII, 595)
The Righteous’ Reading of the Quran
Fudayl ibn Iyad –Allah have mercy on him- had said, “The Quran was revealed to be practiced. But humans have only adopted its reading as practice.”
“How does one put the Quran into practice?” he was then asked.
“By accepting what it declares as permissible and impermissible, putting them to practice, complying with its commands, avoiding its prohibitions and pausing to think over its awe-inspiring expressions.” (Khatib al-Baghdadi, Iqtida’ul-Ilm’il-Amala, p. 76)
Even a single verse of the Holy Quran is comprised of a vast array of meanings. Imam Shafii –Allah have mercy on him- in fact says:
“Just chapter al-Asr would suffice if people were able to adequately contemplate and reflect upon it.”(Ibn Kathir, Tafsir, ‘al-Asr’)
Asmai, a great Muslim scholar, recalls the following account with regard to contemplating on the Quran:
“A Bedouin had turned up next to Caliph Hisham ibn Abdulmalik. ‘Give me some advice’, the Caliph said upon which the man, directing the Caliph’s thoughts to the Quran, said:
‘The Quran suffices as an adviser. I seek refuge in Allah from the expelled Shaytan. In the name of Allah, the Compassionate and the Merciful:
‘Woe to the defrauders! Who, when they take the measure (of their dues) from men take it fully! But when they measure out to others or weigh out for them, they are deficient. Do not these think that they shall be raised again? For a mighty day; the day on which men shall stand before the Lord of the worlds…’(al-Muttaffifin, 1-6)’
The Bedouin then went on to say, ‘This is the punishment, my Caliph, for those who cheat when scaling and measuring for others. It is for you to estimate the punishment for those who completely seize others’ possessions!’”(Ibn Abdirabbih,Bedevî Arapların Özdeyiş ve Âdetleri, Istanbul 2004, p. 57)
The famous Ottoman scholar Muhammed Hadimi states:
“The only way to be saved from all kinds of troubles, tribulations and misfortunes lies in embracing the Quran and actualizing it in life. Persist in deeds of worship, especially in reading the Quran slowly and contemplatively, with discretion, which is among the best of deeds! Reading the Quran in such manner is like speaking with Allah, glory unto Him.”(See, Hadimi, Majmuat’ur-Rasail, p. 112, 194, 200)
Examples for Contemplation in the Holy Quran
Contemplating the Knowledge of Allah, glory unto Him
In many a verse, the Holy Quran touches upon the infinite knowledge of Allah, glory unto Him, and invites human beings to contemplation. Stated in one such verse:
“And with Him are the keys of the unseen treasures – none knows them but He; and He knows what is in the land and the sea, and there falls not a leaf but He knows it, nor a grain in the darkness of the earth, nor anything green nor dry but (it is all) in a clear book.”(al-Anam, 59)
Upon hearing the above verse, a believer should pause and think: There are so many treasures which are unknown, the keys of which are with the Almighty only; never before opened, not yet existent and ever out of reach of human comprehension. Nobody except for Allah, glory unto Him, knows about them. Together with possessing an infinite knowledge of these mysteries of the unknown, the Almighty also has knowledge of every single being, up to their minute details. Never does a leaf fall outside the Almighty’s knowledge, who knows when and where it fell and how many times it turned in the air before it actually hit the ground.
The Almighty knows when a grain that has fallen to the earth is to flourish and by whom it will be eaten. All that is seen or unseen, felt or unfelt, large or small, known or hidden, every event that has happened or is waiting to happen are within the knowledge of Allah, glory unto Him, with all their complexities.
Reading the above verse allows one’s imagination to spread its wings. It opens new horizons and unseen realms; it wanders in the unknown corners of the land, into the bottomless depths of seas. With every experience, the mind beholds the knowledge and art of Allah, glory unto Him, in every corner of the vastness of space and beyond the visible universe. It gazes at the countless number of leaves that fall off from each and every tree on Earth, fully aware that the Almighty is seeing one leaf dropping here and another falling there. It appreciates that not a single grain, no matter how deeply hidden in the ground it may be, can elude Divine Sight and that every single particle, be it wet or dry, moves according to His command.
This journey through life fills the mind almost to the point of being overwhelmed, with awe. It is an expedition to the frontiers of time, to the most distant horizons of space, to the depths of worlds, known and unknown. The distance to be covered by the journey is tremendously long, the area immeasurably vast. If truth be told, the imagination is utterly helpless in perfectly invoking this area; for it is beyond measure. Still, this perfect scene has thoroughly, yet flawlessly, been depicted in the above verse in just a few words.(Sayyid Qutub, Fi Zilal, II, 1111-1113, al-Anam, 59)
As one continues to contemplate on the Holy Quran in this manner, he begins to realize a glimpse of the Almighty’s knowledge and power. One detached from contemplation, on the other hand, continues to be dragged relentlessly in the ego’s torrent, deprived of Divine wisdoms, and majesty, hidden and yet there for all to see.
Sadi Shirazi says:
“For persons of wisdom, each leaf of a green tree is a book of Divine wisdom. As for the ignorant, all the trees do not add up to a single leaf.”
In another verse, the Almighty avows:
“He knows that which goes down into the earth and that which comes out of it, and that which comes down from the heaven and that which goes up to it; and He is the Merciful, the Forgiving.”(Saba, 2)
With a read of the above verse, the vision of innumerable objects, motions and shapes rush into the mind. It is even impossible for the imagination to accommodate all these visions. Even identifying and counting a split second portion of the phenomena alluded to in the above verse is out of the question. If all of humankind was to come together for this task and devote their entire lives for its accomplishment, in the end they would be left exhausted as they came to terms, in resignation, with their sheer helplessness in counting the number of objects raised to the skies and the number of those that tumble down in a single moment.
What exactly are those things that make their way into the ground? What sorts of seeds fall into the Earth’s bosom? What kinds of species of bugs, insects and animals abide under ground? Who knows of the amount of water, gas molecules and radioactive rays that infiltrate the seemingly endless soil? Indeed, many things crawl their way underground; all with the command and permission of Allah, glory unto Him…
On the other hand, what kinds of things make their way out of the ground? How many plants sprout forth? The Holy Quran declares:
“Do they not see the earth, how many of every noble kind We have caused to grow in it?”(as-Shuara, 7)
“That We pour down the water, pouring it down in abundance. Then We cleave the earth, cleaving it asunder. Then We cause to grow therein the grain. And grapes and clover. And the olive and the palm. And thick gardens. And fruits and herbage. A provision for you and for your cattle…” (Abasa, 25-32; also see Qaf, 7-11)
Again, are the springs not without number? How many a volcano erupts, spilling forth its lava? How many varieties of gas are vaporized? How many an insect creeps out onto the surface of Earth from its hidden nest? How astounding it is that when fallen snow covers the entire ground, countless beings seek refuge in the bosom of the earth and, by Divine protection, remain there safe and sound for weeks or months. The Almighty has made earth a virtual cradle for their well being. When the snow eventually melts, we never see piles of corpses belonging to those insects. They make their way above the surface of earth like nothing happened and once again resume their existence as before.
Again, if we pause for a moment and think of the forces, angelic and spiritual, as well as voices and prayers which rise to the skies…Many things, perceptible and imperceptible, living and nonliving, human beings know very little of, with the remainder entirely outside the limits of their knowledge.
What comes down from the skies, one wonders? Raindrops, meteors, flaming and illuminating rays on the one hand, arrows of destiny, predestined decisions and breezes of Divine mercy on the other. Some are inclusive of all beings, while others are wafts of mercy exclusive only to some.
All of these take place in the blink of an eye. Could human understanding grasp such happenings, occurring worldwide in a split second? A myriad of life spans would not be enough to count these happenings. Yet, the infinite Divine knowledge, which immeasurably goes beyond human cognition, recognizing no limit whatsoever on the way, encompasses all these happenings, whenever and wherever they may take place. It is therefore necessary to always bear in mind that every heartbeat, with its hidden intentions, is under the surveillance of Allah, glory unto Him. (See, Sayyid Qutub, Fi Zilal, V, 2891-2892, Saba, 2-3)
We know that it is vital to deeply reflect on each verse of the Holy Quran. But here, we will only focus on some verses from the chapter al-Waqia, an-Naml and ar-Rum as cases in point.
The Almighty begins chapter al-Waqia by depicting the dread of the Day of Judgment, a day in which some will be elevated and others debased. After having been called into account, human beings are to be separated into three groups.
Then with a spellbindingly eloquent depiction, the Almighty explains the blessings that will be given to the servants, who led the way in life in all things good, and the righteous who received their book of deeds from the right side. This is followed by an illustration of the sad and horrid punishment that will be inflicted on those who receive their book of deeds from the left. By depicting hair-raising scenes of torment, the Almighty thereby deters His servants from committing sins. To steer clear of falling into this lamentable state, He then warns His servants by inviting them to contemplation, stating:
The Creation of Mankind
“We have created you, why do you not then assent? Have you considered the seed? Is it you that create it or are We the creator?”(al-Waqia, 57-59)
What a tremendous work of Divine art it is that from a mere speck of water the intricately detailed yet harmoniously organized human body is formed.
Death and Resurrection
“We have ordained death among you and We are not to be overcome. In order that We may bring in your place the likes of you and make you grow into what you know not.”(al-Waqia, 60-61)
This is the reality of death, the inevitable from which nobody can run. If the Almighty wills, He could destroy the deniers all at once and generate a brand new batch of people.
“And certainly you know the first growth, why do you not then mind?”(al-Waqia, 62)
Having perfectly created human beings once already, the Almighty doubtless has the power to recreate them. It is vital to contemplate on this fact and prepare for the resurrection, the inescapable rebirth after death.
Seeds and Plants
“Have you considered what you sow? Is it you that cause it to grow, or are We the causer of growth? If We pleased, We should have certainly made it broken down into pieces, then would you begin to lament: ‘Surely we are burdened with debt; nay – we are deprived!”(al-Waqia, 63-67)
We must look at the surrounding crops, trees and other plants with a perceptive eye and admiringly gaze at the Almighty’s blessings and inimitable art of creation. Without the working of Allah, glory unto Him, all efforts of human beings count for nothing; we could not even grow a single weed.
Let us imagine, for a moment, that all the greenery around us suddenly dried out. How bleak would our lives would be then!
“Have you considered the water which you drink? Is it you that send it down from the clouds, or are We the sender? If We pleased, We would have made it salty; why do you not then give thanks?”(al-Waqia, 68-70)
Fresh water brought down by the clouds is an enormous treat of the Almighty. Had it been bitter, nobody could have been able to sweeten it. Or if there was a severe drought…who would have had the power to gather the clouds together and make them to spill a single drop of rain?
“Have you considered the fire which you strike? Is it you that produce the trees for it, or are We the producer? We have made it a reminder and an advantage for the wayfarers of the desert.”(al-Waqia, 71-73)
Worthy of reflection is the question of who it is that created fire, which is of tremendous use for humanity, and trees, which are its fuel?
Just look at the might of Allah, glory unto Him, that He produces fire from green trees! And let’s consider the nature of fire. How does it produce light and heat as it burns?
Travelers in the desert seek refuge in fire, from the cold and dark of night. For them, fire is an indispensable means of heating, cooking and light. Fire is no doubt an essential need for all human beings also. Living without fire is almost impossible. Fire, as remarkable as it is, is therefore also an essential need, much like earth, water and air. The Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- has said:
“Muslims are partners in three things: Water, greenery and fire.”(Abu Dawud, Buyu’, 60/3477)
Gazing at fire, on the other, ought to remind us of Hellfire. How significant it is that standing under us is a giant layer of magma, an incredible ocean of flames, while over us is the Sun, a great ball of fire. No amount of thanks we give to our Lord for granting us a pleasant life amid a two raging fires could possibly be enough!
In return for all these blessings, one must frequently glorify (tasbih) the Almighty:
“Therefore glorify the name of your Lord, the Great.”(al-Waqia, 74)
Our tongues should be occupied with the Quran and enjoining the good. That is its tasbih.
Our hearts should give thanks, immersed in a depth of feeling. That is its tasbih.
Our bodies, too, should continue their tasbih through voluntary prayers, fasts and deeds of goodness.
Stars or Revelation
“But nay! I swear by the falling of stars; and most surely it is a very great oath if you only knew!”(al-Waqia, 75-76)
The infinity of Divine Splendor…The Almighty directs our contemplation to infinity.
Space is virtually a sea without a pillar, a boundless ocean…
These verses draw attention to dawn, which begins after the stars disappear from sight, and to deeds of worship offered by believers at night.
Again, vowed upon in these verses are the revelations given to the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace-. Each revelation would consist in one or more verse or it would be an entire chapter, for which reason each revelation has also been called najm or a star.
The Holy Quran
“Most surely it is an honored Quran. In a book that is protected. None shall touch it save the purified ones.”(al-Waqia, 77-79)
It is necessary to show great respect towards the Holy Quran. Even touching the outer cover of the Quran without ablution is considered impermissible. Unless a person has ablution, he or she may not hold the Quran even if it be with the tip of her clothing. It is a grave ignorance to behave in a disrespectful manner towards the Holy Quran, as it is:
“A revelation by the Lord of the worlds. Do you then hold this announcement in contempt? And to give (it) the lie you make your means of subsistence.” (al-Waqia, 80-82)
That we have been made subjects to the Holy Quran is one of the greatest blessings we have been given. Giving due thanks to this blessing requires us to appreciate its worth and conduct our lives accordingly.
“Why is it not then that when it (soul) comes up to the throat…and you at that time look on.”(al-Waqia, 83-84)
When the time comes and, with the Almighty’s command, death arrives, man can not do anything to turn it away.
“And We are nearer to it than you, but you do not see. Then why is it not- if you are not held under authority. That you send it (not) back– if you are truthful?”(al-Waqia, 85-87)
Such is the might of Allah, glory unto him and the helplessness of man…Humankind in all its entirety is bound to succumb and surrender to Divine Decree, willingly or unwillingly. At that moment of truth, conceited oppressors who spent their lives rebelling against Divine Command will not be able to do so much as to raise their voices. Relieved of the countless drapes of ignorance veiling his understanding, man will finally see and fully realize at that moment, once and for all, that it is to Allah, glory unto Him, that true sovereignty belongs.
Awaiting the Deceased is One of Three Situations
“Then if he is one of those drawn nigh (to Allah). Then happiness and bounty and a garden of bliss. And if he is one of those on the right hand. Then peace to you from those on the right hand. And if he is one of the rejecters, the erring ones. He shall have an entertainment of boiling water; and burning in hell.” (al-Waqia, 88-94)
Nonbelievers and corrupt Muslims are included in that final group.
“Most surely this is a certain truth.”(al-Waqia, 95)
Seeking Refuge in the Almighty
“Therefore glorify the name of your Lord, the Great.” (al-Waqia, 96)
This chapter begins by affirming that the Quran is sent by the Almighty, the infinitely Wise and Knowledgeable. The majesty of Allah, glory unto Him, is beyond measure and imagination. It says that the miracles and aids He grants his prophets are invincible. It goes on to give the good news that the sending of the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- as the final messenger is means for a tremendous advance of humankind, touching upon the experiences of prophets Musa, Dawud, Sulayman, Salih and Lut –upon them all be peace- to make the case clear.
These historical accounts are proofs of the power and perfection of the Almighty. As the idolaters did not come around to believing them, the Almighty challenged them with more general proofs addressing their ability to understand:
“Nay, He Who created the heavens and the earth, and sent down for you water from the cloud; then We cause to grow thereby beautiful gardens; it is not possible for you that you should make the trees thereof to grow. Is there a god with Allah? Nay! They are people who deviate.”(an-Naml, 60)
Immediately after reciting this verse, the Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- would say:
“Nay; Allah the Almighty is (infinitely) better, longer-lasting, wiser, more generous and sublime, and greater than what they hold partners to Him.” (Bayhaki, Shuab, II, 372)
Inviting us to a contemplation of beings and events, marks of Divine power, the chapter continues:
“Or, Who made the earth a resting place, made in it rivers, raised on it mountains and placed between the two seas a barrier? Is there a god with Allah? Nay! Most of them do not know! Or, Who answers the distressed one when he calls upon Him and removes the evil, and He will make you successors in the earth? Is there a god with Allah? Little is it that you mind! Or, Who guides you in utter darkness of the land and the sea, and Who sends the winds as good news before His mercy? Is there a god with Allah? Exalted by Allah above what they associate (with Him). Or, Who originates the creation, then reproduces it and Who gives you sustenance from the heaven and the earth? Is there a god With Allah? Say: Bring your proof if you are truthful.”(an-Naml, 61-64)
Allah, glory unto Him, again calls His servants to contemplation:
“Do they not reflect within themselves: Allah did not create the heavens and the earth and what is between them two but with truth, and (for) an appointed term? And most surely most of the people are deniers of the meeting of their Lord. Have they not travelled in the earth and seen how was the end of those before them? They were stronger than these in prowess, and dug up the earth, and built on it in greater abundance than these have built on it, and there came to them their messengers with clear arguments; so it was not beseeming for Allah that He should deal with them unjustly, but they dealt unjustly with their own souls. ”(ar-Rum, 8-9)
A few verses later, proofs of the unity, infinite power and majesty of Allah, glory unto Him, are mentioned, one after another:
“He brings forth the living from the dead and brings forth the dead from the living, and gives life to the earth after its death, and thus shall you be brought forth. And one of His signs is that He created you from dust, then lo! You are mortals (who) scatter. And one of His signs is that He created mates for you from yourselves that you may find rest in them, and He put between you love and compassion; most surely there are signs in this for a people who reflect. And one of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the diversity of your tongues and colors; most surely there are signs in this for the learned. And one of His signs is your sleeping and your seeking of His grace by night and (by) day; most surely there are signs in this for a people who would hear. And one of His signs is that He shows you the lightning for fear and for hope, and sends down water from the clouds then gives life therewith to the earth after its death; most surely there are signs in this for a people who understand. And one of His signs is that the heaven and the earth subsist by His command, then when He calls you with a (single) call from out of the earth, lo! You come forth. And His is whosoever is in the heavens and the earth; all are obedient to Him.”(ar-Rum, 19-26)
Neglecting the Contemplation of the Verses of the Quran
Categorizing His true servants, Allah, glory unto Him, states:
“And they who, when reminded of the communications of their Lord, do not fall down thereat deaf and blind.”(al-Furqan, 73)
When they are read the Quran or advised with it, believers are all ears; they listen to it with their hearts, think about what they hear and obey what they are called to.
Stated in another verse:
“Those only are believers whose hearts become full of fear when Allah is mentioned, and when His communications are recited to them they increase them in faith, and in their Lord do they trust.”(al-Anfal, 2)
In contrast, those who fail to reap their share of the Quran’s inspiration, remain unaware of its signs and secrets, recoil from delving into the truth of its mysteries and are neglectful in sticking to its commands and prohibitions, are in a state of bitter loss.
The Almighty declares:
“I will turn away from My Revelations those who are unjustly proud in the earth; and if they see every sign they will not believe in It; and if they see the way of rectitude they do not take It for a way, and if they see the way of error. They take it for a way; this is because they rejected Our communications and were heedless of them.”(al-Araf, 146)
The conceited who behave arrogantly towards others, feeling themselves all high and mighty, are unable to reflect on the meanings of the Quran and therefore cannot receive their share of its guiding light, as the Almighty has divested the hearts of oppressors of the opportunity to understand the wisdoms of the Quran and become acquainted with its manifestations of Divine Power. They are deprived of an unrivaled Divine treat, since it is not fitting for the Quran, a treasure of Divine wisdoms and mysteries, to dwell in such swamps of misery. It may only enter the hearts of the righteous, and for them, it becomes a guiding light.
The sad condition of those without the least share of righteousness is due to their lack of contemplating the Quran properly, as a result of which they are debauched by the extravagances of their egos. If they were to conscientiously reflect on the Quran and follow it, they would not find themselves left dumbfounded at the face of Divine commands. On the contrary, they would accept the truth and by adopting a good moral standard, they would begin to reap their share of Divine secrets and wisdoms; and as a result, the gates of eternal peace and happiness would become wide open for them.
Evident from what has been stated so far is that neglecting contemplation and consequently wasting the fortune of life is, for a believer, unthinkable. As a warning against not appreciating the precious value of time and wasting it, the Almighty proclaims:
“By the time. Most surely man is in loss. Except those who believe and do good and enjoin on each other truth, and enjoin on each other patience.”(al-Asr, 1-3)
The look of a righteous believer must therefore be of depth and his silence ought to be of contemplation. He must especially gain depth in contemplating on the Divine truths spelt out in the Quran and strive towards acquiring knowledge of Allah. A believer, again, must perceive the Quran like a letter sent by the Almighty to His servants and embrace that eternal source of happiness with the enduring enthusiasm of faith.
Being in a Constant State of Muraqabah
Muraqabah means to inspect the inner world, to keep it under surveillance and to divert all attention to it. Muraqabah has been defined in tasawwuf as awaiting inspiration or spiritual enlightening, as well as protecting the heart from what is harmful, with the awareness that Allah, glory unto Him, sees one at every moment and peers into the heart. Simpler put, muraqabah is for one to turn to his inner world and constantly reflect on and call to account his own condition; and in that way to acquire an awakened heart and the state of mind needed to properly seek refuge in the Almighty.
The Shortest Way to Allah
The realm of the heart, just like those that we see, provides boundless grounds for contemplation. The below parable by Mawlana Rumi –Allah have mercy on his soul- beautifully underlines the importance of muraqabah, the contemplation of that inner world:
“A Sufi went to an adorned garden, to raise his spirits and to thereby throw himself deep in contemplation. He became infatuated with the vibrant colors of the garden. Closing his eyes, he began his muraqabah and contemplation. An ignorant man passing by thought the Sufi was asleep. Astonished and upset, he scolded the Sufi:
‘Why are you sleeping?’ he asked. ‘Open your eyes and stare at the vines, the booming trees and the greening grass! Gaze at the works of Allah’s mercy!’
The Sufi replied:
‘Know one thing very well, you ignorant man, that the heart is greatest work of Allah’s mercy. The rest are like its shadow. A stream flows amid the trees. From its crystal water, you can see the reflection of trees on both sides. What is reflected on the stream is a dream garden. The real garden is in the heart, for the heart is the focus of Divine gaze. Its elegant and slender reflections are to be found in this worldly life, made of water and mud. Had the things in this world not been the reflection of the cypresses of the heart’s joy, the Almighty would not have called this dream world the place of deception. It is said in the Quran:
‘Every soul shall taste of death, and you shall only be paid fully your reward on the resurrection day; then whoever is removed far away from the fire and is made to enter the garden he indeed has attained the object; and the life of this world is nothing but a provision of vanities.’(Ali Imran, 185)
The ignorant who presume the world to be Paradise and exclaim ‘here is Paradise!’ are those fooled by the sparkle of the stream. Those who are left distant from the true gardens, who are the righteous servants of Allah, incline to that reverie and are deceived. A day will come when this slumber of ignorance will come to an end. The eyes will open, the truth shall be seen. But what is the worth of seeing that sight during the final breath? A great joy to he who has died before death and whose spirit has had a scent of the truth of this garden…”
Muraqabah forms a vital path to reaching the Almighty and acquiring knowledge, wisdom and keys to mysteries. It is one of the most precious and inspirational ways, in tasawwuf, of spiritual progression.
A Muslim who wishes to do muraqabah first prepares his heart to it, and sitting just like in ritual prayer, tilts his head forward towards his knees. Gathering his entire concentration, he then turns to the Almighty, and in that state of mind contemplates on the truth that, ‘Allah constantly sees me all the time; He is with me at all times, closer to me than myself.’ Consequently, the Divine light which encompasses all things begins to trickle into his heart.
The people of love esteem muraqabah as the shortest way to obtain closeness to Allah, glory unto Him. Turning to the Almighty with the heart is definitely more effective and important than turning to Him with the other parts of the body. Anyone can turn their hearts to the Lord at any given time, with ease, whereas moving other parts of the body to offer deeds of worship can become difficult with injury or old age.
Sufis say that “A calm breath of muraqabah for Allah is better than owning the treasures of Solomon.”
As reported by the Prophet –upon him blessings and peace-, some people are to be shaded under the Throne on the Day of Judgment, a day in which there will be no other shade. One of such fortunate people will be those who remember Allah, glory unto Him, all alone in secluded places and shed tears of emotion. (See, Bukhari, Adhan, 36; Muslim, Zakat, 91)
Muraqabah is to reenact the consciousness of ihsan as is defined in the Jibril Hadith:
“Ihsan is to serve Allah as if you see Him. Even if you do not see Him, He surely sees you…”(Muslim, Iman, 1, 5; Bukhari, Iman, 37)
Achieving maturity in Islam and faith depends on acquiring that certain state of ihsan; and in order to live a life of ihsan, with an awareness of being under the Almighty’s constant supervision, we need to run a self-assessment through muraqabah and get our acts together.
The fact that Allah, glory unto Him, is closer to us than ourselves needs to become embedded in our hearts as a steady conviction.
A person has effectively reached ihsan through iman, once his heart begins to pulsate with these feelings. Thereafter, he offers all good deeds with an inspired heart filled with spirituality, becoming immersed in the spiritual zest of contemplating on the Quran, the universe and humanity.
In order to read the entire Quran contemplatively, the disciples of tasawwuf first do an exercise of contemplation on certain verses. Chosen for this are verses which have a greater affect on the heart and reinforce more compellingly the sentiments of feeling the presence of the Almighty and His love. In the Naqshibandi Order, this process of throwing oneself deep into contemplating such verse is called muraqabah.
Muraqabah has four stages:
1. Muraqaba-i Ahadiyya
(Contemplation of the Oneness of Allah)
Contemplated here is the chapter al-Ikhlas and the ahadiyyah, that is the oneness of Allah, glory unto Him, who, ascribed with the most perfect attributes, is free of all kinds of deficiencies. It is believed at this stage that inspiration begins to flow into the heart.
The meanings of the verses are to be pictured in the mind without, however, resorting to analogies or seeking to ascribe physical qualities to the Almighty. One only considers these attributes the Almighty is ascribed with. When the picture becomes vague, the verse is repeated and the contemplation begins anew. As this continues, a Believer’s feelings of ihsan increase, as he begins to receive a share of knowledge of Allah.
What chapteral-Ikhlas essentially reminds us of is this: Allah, glory unto Him, is One and Unique. Unity is exclusive to Him alone.
The Almighty does not manifest His Essence in this world. He has the attribute of mukhalafatun’lil-hawadis, that is He does not resemble creation in any way. Whatever there is in the universe we may think of or imagine, the Essence of Allah, glory unto Him, is of greater distinctiveness and supremacy. Our Lord is transcendent; infinitely greater than however we may conceive Him, and of perfection the understanding cannot possibly imagine. As He has no resemblance or opposite, it is impossible to conceive His Essence.
The Almighty is Samad. He stands in need of nothing, whereas everyone and everything stand in need of Him. All forces in the universe belong to Him. Man ought to reflect on the might and majesty of Allah, glory unto Him, and coming to terms with his own weakness, must surrender his entire existence to his Creator. Shedding his ego, he must seek to become a precinct of the manifestation of the Almighty’s attributes of beauty (jamal).
Ahadiyya, or Oneness, does not allow of any division, segregation into parts or any partnership. The Almighty has therefore not been born and has not begotten; there has never been anything equal to Him. He is not a father, a mother or a son as the Christian creed claims. Belief in the Unity of Allah, glory unto Him, does not permit any notion of partnership or birth, for what is born segregates and what segregates is doomed to perish; it faces the same fate as what it begets. Begetting is an activity that belongs to mortals and pertains to the need of prolonging the human race. A need of this caliber would have been a deficiency for Allah, the One, the Samad, the Necessary Being, who is remote from all kinds of faults and flaws.
The heart, the center of contemplation and spirituality, must feel the manifestations and flows of Divine Majesty and Power deep inside and be in a ceaseless state of gratitude.
2. Muraqaba-i Maiyya
(Contemplation of Divine Togetherness)
Deeply contemplated during this stage is the meaning of “He (Allah) is with you, wherever you may be…”(al-Hadid, 4). A person gains an understanding of whom he should accompany and this state of mind turns into a consciousness in the heart.
Humanity cannot, in any way, remain outside the knowledge and sovereignty of Allah, glory unto Him, even if one was to hide underground or in the deepest end of the ocean. Every beat of the heart, every breath taken, every object seen and every sound heard proves that the Almighty is constantly with His servants. When their times arrive, the Almighty in fact puts an end to their possession of these abilities as they breathe their last.
Allah, glory unto Him, pronounces:
“Do you not see that Allah knows whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth? Nowhere is there a secret counsel between three persons but He is the fourth of them, nor between five but He is the sixth of them, nor less than that nor more but He is with them wheresoever they are; then He will inform them of what they did on the day of Resurrection: surely Allah is Cognizant of all things.”(al-Mujadalah, 7)
The Almighty is man’s dearest friend, closer to him than his closest kin and relatives; a presence which is apparent through His power as such and the work of His angels. Others can only know one’s external conditions. Not only are they not helpful in each and every aspect, they are unable to solve many problems that may trouble one time and again. Allah, glory unto Him, on the other hand, intimately knows every condition one may find himself in and does as He wills, especially during the moment of death. It is then that one truly comes to terms with the fact that all along there has been no other closer to him than the Almighty. The Quran states:
“Why is it not then that when it (soul) comes up to the throat. And you at that time look on. And We are nearer to it than you, but you do not see.”(al-Waqia, 83-85)
To those who forget the Almighty is with them at all times and those who lack this consciousness, the Almighty sends the following warning:
“They hide themselves from men and do not hide themselves from Allah, and He is with them when they meditate by night words which please Him not, and Allah encompasses what they do.”(an-Nisa, 108)
One who is aware of being accompanied by Allah, glory unto Him, at all times and is conscious that all deeds are under Divine surveillance begins to mind what he or she does and thereby avoids temptation and committing evil.
3. Muraqaba-i Aqrabiyya
(Contemplation of Divine Nearness)
“And certainly We created man, and We know what his mind suggests to him, and We are nearer to him than his life-vein,” (Qaf, 16)is the verse contemplated at this level. As suggested by the word aqrabiyya, that is to say ‘closeness’, Allah, glory unto Him, is closer to us than ourselves. He knows our thoughts, intentions and feelings.
Things hidden even to angels entrusted with the duty of recording each and every word spoken, thoughts and decisions that come to the mind, even momentarily, are never secret to the Almighty, for it is He who has created thoughts, like everything else. How can the Creator not know?
It is impossible for one, who properly reflects on this, not to shiver and call oneself to account! Envisioning this verse alone in the heart and the mind would be enough to instill the fear to prevent one from uttering a single word that would displease the Almighty; even from entertaining a malicious thought. This verse is truly sufficient to keep one steady on the path of righteousness and alert with the thought of an impending judgment in the Hereafter.
It is said in chapter al-Anfal that Allah, glory unto Him, enters between a person and his or her heart and regulates ones thoughts and desires if He wills. The Almighty is closer to a person than his or her heart, and closer to and more commanding of the heart than the person is himself. So valid is the power of Allah, glory unto Him, that not only does He enter between a person and others, He also enters between the person and his or her own heart, depriving them, in as little as a moment, of the heartfelt desires he or she may have. Disrupting the will, He may turn a person towards the opposite direction, changing his or her opinions and preferences. When Allah, glory unto Him, therefore raises a curtain between one and his or her heart and invites him or her to death, it is impossible to ignore the call and put up a fight against the command. Human beings can thus never now what awaits them with their next breath.(See, Elmalılı M. Hamdi, IV, 2386-2387, [al-Enfal, 24)
Abu Musa al-Ashari –Allah be well-pleased with him- recounts:
“We were with the Messenger of Allah –upon him blessings and peace- during a journey. As we rose to the hills, we would call out, at the top of our voices, ‘Allah-u Akbar! La ilaha ill-Allah’. Thereupon the Messenger of Allah –upon him blessings and peace- said:
‘Do not force yourselves, Muslims, for you are not calling out to someone deaf or absent. Allah is always with you, closer to you than yourselves.’”(Bukhari, Jihad, 131; Muslim, Dhikr, 44)
As understood by many verses of the Quran and ahadith of a similar nature, the Almighty wants His servants to seek closeness with Him, just as He is ever close to them. It is for that reason the Almighty says, “Prostrate and get closer!”
A person who, through muraqaba-i aqrabiyya, realizes that even the thoughts that cross his mind are known to Allah, glory unto Him, not only tries to keep distant from wrongdoings, but also refrains from entertaining ill feelings and thoughts, striving to keep his intention honest and on a straight path.
As a result of this kind of contemplation, one grows feelings of deep love and closeness with the Almighty.
4. Muraqaba-i Muhabbah
(Contemplation of Divine Love)
Contemplated at this stage is the verse “…He shall love them and they shall love Him”, (al-Maida, 54), as a result of which the love of Allah, glory unto into him, grows in the heart. One, thereafter, perceives entire creation with love, simply for the sake of their Creator. The cat lying by the door, the dog strolling around and the green branch hanging down in the garden suddenly grow dear in one’s eye. One feels jubilant, simply upon seeing a blooming flower, knowing that, too, is the blessing of the Almighty. People of this ilk always remain in a genuine state of gratitude. They never hurt anyone and are always quick to forgive others who hurt them, remembering the countless faults they themselves have in the sight of Allah, glory unto Him. How can I have the face to ask forgiveness from the Almighty for my numerous flaws, they say, if I am not even willing to forgive the slightest harm inflicted upon me?
Deserving the forgiveness of Allah, glory unto Him, by continually forgiving others is an indispensable trait of mature believers.
True victory is where a person forgives the cruelty inflicted upon him by another without the slightest ill-feeling.
Forgiving for the sake of Allah, glory unto Him, is one of the greatest manifestations of Divine love. Without efforts like this, any claim of loving the Almighty is just paying lip service.
By contemplating on the aforementioned verse during muraqabah, each believer receives an inspiration in proportion to their understanding, aptitude and sincerity. The believer continues to strive forth to rise to a level where he or she can read the entire Quran contemplatively.
Consequent upon sessions of muraqabah, a person directs one’s inner world to the Almighty and keeps ones heart clean from being occupied with anything other than Allah, glory unto Him. The believer esteems the Almighty’s command above everything else; his tongue becomes ever busy with Divine remembrance.
A loyal servant of the Almighty is like a child devoted to his toy. The child sleeps excited with the love of his toy and it is the first thing he thinks of and searches for when he wakes up. Such will be the exact case when one suddenly dies and wakes up, before long, from his grave to make his way to the plane of resurrection. One therefore needs to be careful of the kinds of concerns that cross and occupy the mind right before falling asleep. If it is Allah, glory unto Him, who dominates a person’s thoughts in life, then his death as well as his resurrection will take place with Allah, glory unto Him, and according to His will and pleasure.
Stated in some sayings of the Prophet are the following:
“Humans will be resurrected on the Day of Judgment on the state upon which they had died.”(Muslim, Jannat, 83)
“You shall die the way you live and shall be resurrected the way you die.”(Munawi, Fayz’ul-Qadir, V, 663)
If a person’s desire is actuated toward something other than Allah, glory unto Him, such is the way his death and resurrection will be; stranded without an aid on the Day of Judgment.
Exercising in dhikr and contemplation are essential in order to achieve a perfect state of muraqabah. The Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- says:
“Seek Allah so that you may find Him in front of you.”(Ahmed, I, 293)
To fully benefit from muraqabah, contemplation and dhikr, it is necessary to observe their prerequisites and adopt their required manners, which includes looking out for the most peaceful moments for doing them and avoiding moments when the heart is under duress like, when hungry, angry or sleepy.
 See, Luqmân, 27.
 See, Tirmidhi, Fadâilu’l-Quran, 14; Dârimî, Fadâilu’l-Quran, 1.
 See, Muslim, Musâfirîn, 203; Nasâî, Qıyâmu’l-Layl, 25/1662.
 See, Muhammed Hamdi Yazır, Hak Dîni, III, 1947; Abû Hayyân, IV, 145-146, (al-Anam, 59).
 Allah, glory unto Him, manifests with the attribute Khaliq/Creator in the occurrence of both good and bad. When a person intends on committing a bad deed, the Almighty manifest His attribute as Creator and either allows the person to go through with the deed or prevents him from doing it. This is equally valid in good deeds, too. When a person intends on doing something good, the Almighty, again, manifests His attribute as creator, and either allows the person or prevents him. If prevented, the person still receives a reward for carrying a good intention. In short, it is Allah, glory unto Him, who creates good and evil, yet His pleasure always resides with the good.
 See, al-Anfâl, 24.
 al-Alâq, 19.