WE CONTINUE FROM Part 1, where we introduced the Quranic concept of tadabbur: Heeding the admonitions of the Quran and acting upon them. This practice was central to the practice of our righteous ancestors (salaf), in emulation of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.
Awakening to the Miracle of Tadabbur
Sadly, this tragic state of affairs resulting from lax, imperceptive dealing with the Quran which ʿUmar and Ibn ʿAbbâs warned against (Part 1) has come to pass. For no sooner had the age of the Rightly Guided Caliphs drawn to a close, than heretical sects, such as the Khawârij, made their appearance.
Though these Khârijites (whom the Prophet foretold in a number of mutawâtir ahâdîth)–and like-minded groups—are good at the art of Quran recitation, they fail, as the Prophet ﷺ described them in one ḥadîth, to understand its message or to act upon its injunctions.
Commenting on this sorry situation, the distinguished Tâbiʿi, Al-Ḥasan Al-Ba ṣri said:
This Quran is nowadays recited by people who know not its meanings and have a disorderly approach to it.
Allah said: A most blessed Book have We sent down to you, O Prophet, in this Quran, so that they who hear its tidings may reflect on its verses. And so that those who are endowed with discretion and understanding may heed its admonition and be ever mindful of its commandments. [Sûrat Ṣâd, 38:29]
But none truly reflect on the verses of the Quran other than those who heed its admonitions. What kind of a reflection on the Quran is this that makes one memorize its wordings and disregard its directives? You hear one of these misguided pretenders sing his own praises, saying: “I have memorized the Quran to the last letter!”
By Allah! He has missed all of its letters! For you see no trace of the huda (divine guidance) of the Quran in his manners or works!
By Allah! People of this ilk are bereft of knowledge, devoid of wisdom, and deprived of piety.
Since when have the sincere people of the Quran voiced such shameless bragging? May Allah curb the numbers of such ignorant braggarts!” (Ibn Al-Mubârak, Al-Zuhd, p. 274)
Islam Was Their Way of Life
The keenness of the salaf to understand and act upon the Quran is a function of their submission (islâm) to the commands of Allah and His Messenger —for the truth is that the Book is inspired for the sole purpose of being understood and acted upon.
These our predecessors, the pious men of old, felt the hallowed blessedness of the bearing that this Book had on their very beings, both this-worldly and other-worldly.
- They gleaned it in Allah’s statement: A most blessed Book have We sent down to you, O Prophet, in this Quran, so that they who hear its tidings may reflect on its verses. [Sûrat Ṣâd, 38:39].
- They beheld it in His words: Truly there has now come to you from Allah a guiding light and a clear Book in this Quran. By it Allah guides whomever follows His good pleasure along the pathways of peace. And, thereby, He brings them out from the veils of darkness into light—by His permission. Thus does He guide them to a straight way of salvation. [Sûrat Al-Mâ’idah, 5:15-16]
- They grasped it from His speech put in the mouth of His Prophet ﷺ: This Quran has many manifest proofs that my message is from your Lord, and that it is divine guidance and the way to Allah’s mercy for a people who believe in Heavenly Revelation. So when the Quran is recited, listen to it, O humanity, and give heed, so that you may be shown mercy. [Sûrat Al-Aʿrâf, 7:203-204]
Satisfying One’s Heart
The salaf knew that there was in their hearts a longing which only taddabur of the Quran could gratify, an aching loneliness that could be banished only by living within the ambience of the speech of Allah.
It is the tadabbur of the Quran that opened the eyes of the salaf to the praises which Allah lavished on those of His slaves who are given to tadabbur of His Book, as in His statement:
For only those are true believers who, when Allah is mentioned, their hearts tremble; and when His verses are recited to them, it increases them in faith; and upon their Lord alone do they rely. [Sûrat Al-Anfâl, 8:2]
and also in His statement:
Say to the disbelievers, O Prophet: Believe in it [the Quran], or disbelieve in it. Indeed, those who are sincere, who have already been given knowledge of the Scriptures before it, fall to the chin, bowing their faces down to the ground before Allah, whenever it is recited to them. And they say: Highly exalted is our Lord! Indeed, the promise of our Lord, most surely, is ever fulfilled. Thus do they fall to the chin, weeping, for it is a Heavenly Admonition that increases them in all humility. [Sûrat Al-Isrâ’, 17:107-109]
Do Not Lock Your Heart to the Quran
On the other hand, our pious ancestors knew also the verdict Allah heaps upon the heads of those who abandon tadabbur and who slight the Quran, as in His statement:
Will they not, then, reflect upon the admonitions of the Quran? Or is it rather, that on some hearts there are locks of their own [making]? [Sûrat Mu ḥammad, 47:24]
and also in His statement:
Now, Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah, has said: O my Lord! Indeed, the disbelievers among my people have taken this Quran as a thing to be shunned! [Sûrat Al-Furqân, 25:30]
The Salaf Embraced Guidance
This superbly tuned-in approach to receiving the Gracious Quran exerted an utterly profound impact on the lives of that pioneer generation. It colored and shaped their interactions, behavior, transactions, speech, attitude, their conduct of war, and their way to peace. In a word, the spirit of the Quran governed every move they made.
Describing that magnificent generation, Asmâ’ bint Abî Bakr said:
When the Quran was recited to the Companions, tears would well up in their eyes and their skins would shiver out of veneration for their Lord. (Al-Qurtubi, Al-Jâmiʿli Aḥkâm Al-Qur’ân, 15:249).
Embracing the Stories of the Salaf
In fact, the blessings of the salaf’s tadabbur of the Quran was not limited to themselves. It teemed over, flowing to countless others. The annals of history are replete with eloquent testimonies of how they established justice in every land they came to rule; of how they extracted millions of human beings from the miring ignobleness of taking one another as lords, lifting them to the dignity of worshipping the One Lord of all humanity; of how they transported people from the narrowness of the here and now to the spaciousness of the Hereafter, and from the iniquity of corrupt religions to the justice of Islam.
It is imperative that those of us entrusted with the task of nurturing and educating the Muslim youth today see to it that we highlight the role of these Muslims, the generation of the forerunners, and most particularly we must underscore their exemplary attitude toward the Quran, for they are, indeed, the very best of Muslim generations and our reference point, after the Prophet ﷺ.
Nor can there be any doubt that studying the lives and works of role models is among the most important and effective methods of education. It is, in fact, a unique Quranic method, as attested to by the plethora of Quranic narratives of the lives and struggles of Allah’s messengers, those righteous slaves whose example the Prophet himself was exhorted by Allah to emulate:
These prophets of old are the ones whom Allah has guided. So follow after their guidance, walking in their way. [Sûrat Al-Anʿâm, 6:90]