Is the Qur’an easy only for Arabs?
“And indeed, We have made the Qur’an easy for remembrance, then is there any that will remember (receive admonition)?” (Qur’an, 54: 17)
THIS is just one verse out of numerous in the Qur’an that points to the universality of the Qur’anic message and the fact that it is easy to understand and remember; “an Arabic Qur’an, without any crookedness (therein).” (Qur’an, 39: 28)
Yet, when people set out to read and understand the Qur’an, they are introduced to the intricate rules of Qur’anic pronunciation (Tajweed) in order to recite the Qur’an correctly. They realize the need for learning basic Arabic (including the rules of Arabic grammar) to comprehend its meaning in the original form.
They are awed by the complex sciences of the Qur’an that are directly related to its recitation, understanding and implementation – the methodologies of recitation (Qira’at), the causes of revelation (Asbab An-Nuzul), the knowledge of Makkan and Madinan revelations and the features peculiar to each; its abrogated rulings and verses (Nasikh wal-Mansukh), knowledge of its interpretation (Tafsir), grammatical analysis of the Qur’an (’Irab al-Qur’an) – to name a few.
Little wonder then, that many fledgling enthusiasts feel disheartened and find themselves flagging in their efforts and saying, “Wait, wasn’t this supposed to be easy?” If it’s any consolation, one must keep in mind that the sciences of the Qur’an are equally challenging for Arabs and non-Arabs; it’s one thing to know colloquial, modern Arabic and quite another to pronounce, memorize and understand Qur’anic Arabic.
However, the means of acquiring benefits and knowledge from the Qur’an are equally open to all – depending on the favors bestowed by Allah and one’s own hard work and perseverance.
• Keep it simple and realistic
When I was given a book on “Introduction to the Sciences of the Quran” by Ahmad Von Denffer, I was thrilled – not just at the prospect of acquiring divine knowledge that had been out of bounds so far – but also because its author was a non-Arab, who had undoubtedly read and understood and learnt the Qur’an in Arabic, well enough to write a scholarly book on it!
In the introduction to the book he writes, “The proper approach to the Qur’an, in my humble view, can be described in three stages. You must: first, receive the message of the Qur’an, by hearing or reading it; second, understand the message of the Qur’an by reflecting upon it and studying its meanings; third, apply the message of the Qur’an by ordering your personal life as well as the life of society according to its message.”
Instead of diving into the pool of Divine Knowledge off the deep end, it makes sense to start with a goal one can realistically achieve (and implement), and work slowly and steadily towards increasing one’s knowledge/skills – rather than taking on too much and then giving up midway.
There are numerous scholars – both in the past and in our age – whose first language is not Arabic, yet they have achieved a high level of scholarship in Qur’anic sciences – and this is not just a source of great inspiration for aspiring students of the Qur’an, it is also a manifestation of the sign that the Qur’an is indeed easy to remember and understand.
• Get the best teacher
Many of the Companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) – men and women – learnt entire chapters of the Qur’an, while standing behind him in prayer. One can’t acquire correct knowledge of the Qur’an (however basic) without a teacher. Keeping this in view, it’s worth the effort to find someone who is morally upright, whose manners exemplify the Prophetic tradition (Sunnah), and who is sincerely interested in a student’s welfare, rather than someone who may be qualified, but may be disinclined – or simply incapable – of going the extra mile to impart divine knowledge.
Out of several Companions who had memorized large portions of the Qur’an, the Prophet (peace be upon him) asked his Companions to: “Take (learn) the Qur’an from four (men): Abdullah Bin Masud, Salim, Mu’adh and Ubai Bin Ka’b.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari). This indicates that there are certain characteristics of a good teacher that go beyond merely having knowledge.
• Know the benefits of being a companion of the Qur’an
Often people argue: “What’s the point of reciting the Qur’an if one doesn’t understand it or if one isn’t doing it right?” The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The best of you are the ones who learn the Qur’an and teach it to others.” (Al-Bukhari) In order to be included in this definition of goodness, one only needs to be a sincere student or teacher. Period.
In other narrations of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) we read:
- “Whoever reads a letter from the Book of Allah, he will have a reward. And that reward will be multiplied by 10. I am not saying that “Alif, Laam, Meem” is a letter, rather I am saying that “Alif” is a letter, “Laam” is a letter and “Meem” is a letter.” (Al-Tirmidhi)
- “Indeed, the one who recites the Qur’an beautifully, smoothly, and precisely, he will be in the company of the noble and obedient angels. And as for the one who recites with difficulty, stammering or stumbling through its verses, then he will have twice that reward.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
- “It will be said to the companion of the Qur’an: Read and ascend (through the levels of the Paradise) and beautify your voice as you used to do when you were in the world! For indeed, your position in Paradise will be at the last verse you recite!” (Abu Dawood and Al-Tirmidhi)
Allah is Just, and does not distribute or restrict His favors depending upon a person’s nationality or language; rather He looks at the sincerity of our intentions and rewards us in proportion to our actions. The Qur’an can be the “spring of our hearts and the light of our lives” – just as it was for those who preceded us in faith – Arab and non-Arab alike.