“What’s the Point of Reciting Quran in Arabic if I Don’t Understand it? I’ll Just Go for Translation!”

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Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim

There are two trends when it comes to reading the Quran. One is to recite and memorize the Quran without understanding a single word of what Allah’s message really is, without considering at all the importance of translations and learning Arabic.

This is very prevalent wherever cultural Islam is practiced (i.e. where people regard Islam as a part of their culture, just like being a Pakistani or a Pashto or a Black is a culture). On the other hand, there is another trend which goes like this: “What’s the point of reciting Quran in Arabic, if I don’t understand a single word of it? I’ll just learn the meanings from translations and tafsir and explanation books until I manage to finally learn Arabic.”

Neither of these two approaches are either healthy or complete. Reading Quran has two aspects to it:

  1. The intellectual aspect
  2. The spiritual aspect

The first trend disregards the intellectual aspect, the second the spiritual.

The intellectual aspect of the Quran

Allah the Exalted says in the Quran,

إِنَّا أَنزَلْنَاهُ قُرْآنًا عَرَبِيًّا لَّعَلَّكُمْ تَعْقِلُونَ

Indeed, We have sent it down as an Arabic Qur’an that you might understand. [12:2]

هَٰذَا بَلَاغٌ لِّلنَّاسِ وَلِيُنذَرُوا بِهِ وَلِيَعْلَمُوا أَنَّمَا هُوَ إِلَٰهٌ وَاحِدٌ وَلِيَذَّكَّرَ أُولُو الْأَلْبَابِ

This [Qur’an] is notification for the people that they may be warned thereby and that they may know that He is but one God and that those of understanding will be reminded. [14:52]

On the other hand, Allah says:

بَلْ قُلُوبُهُمْ فِي غَمْرَةٍ مِّنْ هَٰذَا وَلَهُمْ أَعْمَالٌ مِّن دُونِ ذَٰلِكَ هُمْ لَهَا عَامِلُونَ

But their hearts are covered with confusion over this [Quran], and they have [evil] deeds besides disbelief which they are doing. [23:63]

How will we ever learn the guidance of the Quran if we don’t understand what it says? The Quran is called the Furqan, the distinguisher between right and wrong. How can we then distinguish between good and evil if we don’t understand what the Furqan is saying? Therefore we can see that it is crucial to understand the meaning of the Quran, this amazing gift which Allah blessed us with that was given to no other nation.

The Spiritual Aspect of the Quran

The Prophet (saws) said,

Beware, in the body there is a piece of flesh; if it is sound, the whole body is sound and if it is corrupt the whole body is corrupt, and hearken it is the heart. [Sahih Muslim]

Allah subhanahu wa Ta’ala said,

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ قَدْ جَاءَتْكُم مَّوْعِظَةٌ مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ وَشِفَاءٌ لِّمَا فِي الصُّدُورِ وَهُدًى وَرَحْمَةٌ لِّلْمُؤْمِنِينَ

O mankind, there has to come to you instruction from your Lord and healing for what is in the breasts and guidance and mercy for the believers. [10:57]

وَنُنَزِّلُ مِنَ الْقُرْآنِ مَا هُوَ شِفَاءٌ وَرَحْمَةٌ لِّلْمُؤْمِنِينَ ۙ وَلَا يَزِيدُ الظَّالِمِينَ إِلَّا خَسَارًا

And We send down of the Qur’an that which is healing and mercy for the believers, but it does not increase the wrongdoers except in loss. [17:82]

Allah says about the Day of Judgment:

يَوْمَ لَا يَنفَعُ مَالٌ وَلَا بَنُونَ o إِلَّا مَنْ أَتَى اللَّهَ بِقَلْبٍ سَلِيمٍ

The Day when there will not benefit [anyone] wealth or children But only one who comes to Allah with a sound heart. [26:88-89]

It is therefore crucial to have a sound heart, and the Quran is a healing for the hearts. Someone might argue that if Quran is a healing for the heart, then isn’t the translation also a healing? The answer to that is that the translation is not Quran at all. Allah said,

إِنَّا أَنزَلْنَاهُ قُرْآنًا عَرَبِيًّا لَّعَلَّكُمْ تَعْقِلُونَ

Indeed, We have sent it down as an Arabic Qur’an that you might understand. [12:2]

The Quran that was revealed in Arabic to the Prophet via the angel Jibreel (as) is the only Quran, the miracle, the Furqan, the healing for hearts. Any translation or explanation doesn’t come even close to it.

The Prophet (saws) said,

[Whoever recites a letter] from Allah’s Book, then he receives the reward from it, and the reward of ten the like of it. I do not say that Alif Lam Mim is a letter, but Alif is a letter, Lam is a letter and Mim is a letter. [Tirmidhi]

One might argue that the reward promised in the above hadith is for reciting Quran with meaning. But notice one thing – the verse that the prophet mentioned is Alif Lam Mim.

الم

What does alif lam meem mean? We don’t know! It’s part of the mutashaabihaat of the Quran, whose meaning is known only to Allah. That proves that the reward promised by the Prophet for reciting the Quran is for reciting it only. If the Prophet encouraged reciting the Quran whether we understand the meaning or not, who are we to argue otherwise?

I’ll finish with a story. A father took his son to the beach. He gave his son a dirty old bucket with holes on it, and told him to bring water from the sea. The son questioned, ‘But the bucket has holes, how can it contain water?’ The father answered, ‘Just do what I said and you’ll see.’

The son did as told. As he carried the bucket back to his dad, all the water leaked away on the way. This happened several times till the son got fed up. ‘What’s the point?!’ he asked. The father replied, ‘Look at the bucket carefully now.’ The bucket was so clean as if new (except the holes of course). Hope you get the point.

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Tabassum Mosleh

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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