Reading the Entire Quran in a Month

Establishing a relationship with the Quran is a lifelong ambition for every Muslim. Establishing a relationship includes learning to recite the Quran properly. With Tajweed rules. It also means learning the Arabic language to understand the Quran in its original language. It also encompasses studying from an authentic Tafseer to truly understand the Quran according to the understanding conveyed by the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ). It also means reading from books of the Seerah (or the biography) of the Prophet (ﷺ) to understand the context in which the Quran was revealed. It also includes investing our time in reading through authentic Hadith collections to understand and implement the message contained in the Quran as shown by the Prophet (ﷺ) in his life.

Reciting the Quran is an act of worship for us. It is important to recite some part of the Quran everyday. As I just mentioned, this is only one aspect of the relationship we should establish with the Quran while working on the other aspects as well. InshaaAllah (God willing) if we start with daily recitations, we would begin this relationship and soon we can take it to the next level. If we learn one Juz (1/30th of the Quran), daily we can finish a reading of the Quran in a month, every month. This will give us a level of relationship with the Quran: we would be able to recite the Quran fluently by doing so for a year or more.

We should each look at our own progress and try to take it to the next level. If we are an absolute beginner, learn the Arabic alphabet, learn to pronounce the letters properly and learn how to read the Quran. That would be the first step that we should take. If we already know how to read, learn Tajweed (the proper way of reciting the Quran). We should also strive to memorize some of the Quran as it is needed in our daily prayers. Next, we should also learn enough Arabic to understand the Quran without relying on the translation. There are courses available that teach you Arabic just for the purpose of understanding the meanings of what we read in the Quran. Take those courses. Furthermore, we should invest our time to the other aspects of a stronger relationship with the Quran.

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Writing 300 Words Daily

I love to write and have loved to do so ever since I was a child. But writing is a skill that you have to keep fit by reading and writing a lot or you’ll lose it. Therefore, it is one of my personal goals this year to try and write 300 words daily in an effort to make my writing flow more easily. I used to be able to write easily but since I haven’t been writing as much over the last few years, my writing prowess seems to have dwindled somewhat, but Alhamdulillah not completely deteriorated.

Writing is not for everyone. But I feel that writing works for me. Alhamdulillah. I find that I like writing a lot specially when I use freestyle (like my blog entries). I think this is the same way with everything, not just work.

I have been able to write the required 300 words daily (and sometimes more) by writing about what I have learned and know enough to talk about. I use a couple of tools to help with the writing process. Firstly, I use Workflowy to brainstorm and come up with topics to write. Sometimes I’m very inspired to write, so I’ll write down all the topics I want to write about it in bullet form. Workflowy makes this super easy and non-distracting so I can quickly add a bunch of ideas as fast as I can type without having to open a word document or some other software. Secondly, I use Writer, which is a browser based online writing environment that has a customizable type-writer like interface (complete with the type writer sounds, if you like that) which is very conducive to writing. It maximizes so all the rest of the clutter on my laptop is faded out and out of the way. This way I can focus on the writing without having to get distracted by gazillions of web pages, notifications etc.

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Reading A Book a Month

I’m trying my hardest to read a book a month. This month I have finished reading Dr. Israr Ahmed’s (May Allah have Mercy on his soul) book Rasul-e-Kamil (in Urdu). Although the book is only about a hundred pages, it packs the essence of the life of the Prophet (ﷺ) highlighting his special purpose in this world. Allah sent him as a mercy to mankind. His character, his example and his being in and of itself was such a supreme example of what Allah wants every one of us to aspire to. He lived a humble life and brought the Message of Allah through the Quran. He also lived the Quran so we have an example to follow.

This book is about the life and times of the last Messenger of Allah, Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) [may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). This is known as a book of Seerah (or the biography of the blessed Prophet (ﷺ) of Allah). Although I have read a few books on the Seerah already, it is always beneficial to read more. I recommend reading a book on the Seerah once every year. I also recommend everyone read a book of Tafseer every year. This is to keep us connected to the book of Allah (the Quran) and the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ).

Islam has two fundamental sources. The Quran and the Sunnah. The Sunnah is stored in the collections of authentic Hadith. The Seerah contains the biography of the Prophet (ﷺ) from these two sources. The Quran, Sunnah and Seerah of the Prophet give us the complete context for understanding the message of Islam. Taking any of these sources in isolation will only create an incomplete understanding of Islam. An incomplete understanding is usually an incorrect understanding and can lead people in the wrong direction. May Allah protect us from an incorrect understanding of Islam.

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Planning for a Good End

The ultimate goal of every Muslim should be to achieve Jannah. We all want to live a good life and meet our Creator, Allah while He’s pleased with us. However, we don’t know when or where or how we will die. And more important than that, what we’ll be doing or saying, when we meet our end in this temporary life on Earth. So how do we ensure that we die doing good and not doing evil. It is a very special blessing to die in a state where Allah is pleased with us. It goes without saying that the likelihood of us dying while doing good is increased if we are habitually doing good (and by the same token, avoiding evil) on a daily basis. Like with everything else worth achieving, it does require some planning and hard work.

1-Develop Good Habits/Get rid of Bad Habits – Living righteously, obeying Allah and following the teachings of Islam as outlined in the Quran and in the Hadith of the Messenger of Allah sallallahu alayhi wasallam is a lifestyle. We need to develop the habits such that we fulfill the obligations and stay away from the prohibitions every day of our lives. And when we slip, we return to Allah in repentance, seeking His forgiveness immediately.

2-Help Others – It is extremely important to develop this quality in ourselves for the secret of a happy and fulfilled life is to help others, be good to them and bring joy to their lives all for the sake of Allah alone. In Islam, having a good character is a fundamental requirement. Living life helping others will increase our chances of meeting our Creator when He’s pleased with us.

3-Use the Siwaak – The habit of using the Siwaak (the tooth stick) used for oral hygiene is an established Sunnah of the Prophet (ﷺ). According to a Hadith, ‘Aishah (May Allah be pleased with her) reported: The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “The Miswak (tooth-stick) cleanses and purifies the mouth and pleases the Rubb.” [An-Nasa’i and Ibn Khuzaimah].

4-Keep Good Company/Avoid Bad Company – The company we keep has a direct effect on us. Our friends and family affect us in many ways, shaping our thoughts, beliefs, actions and habits. While we cannot choose our family, we can certainly choose our friends. Always pick friends carefully. If they are good, they can lead us to doing good and if they are not good, they can lead us in the opposite direction. Good friends a special blessing from Allah.

5-Acquire Knowledge – Acquiring knowledge is a lifelong worship, it helps us be in a state that we are receiving blessings from Allah. If we adopt the lifestyle of the student of knowledge, for the sake of Allah alone, we can assure that our life will be a blessed one.

6- Evaluate Self Daily – Self-evaluation is important in Islam. We are encouraged to ponder upon life and our own actions. Regularly evaluating oneself is an important part of making ourselves better Muslims, leading lives that are continuously improving toward the pleasure of Allah.

7-Be Good to Parents – There are numerous Hadith regarding the importance of parents and the advice to treat them well. Here’s a very comprehensive authentic Hadith on this subject: ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar said, “The pleasure of the Lord lies in the pleasure of the parent. The anger of the Lord lies in the anger of the parent.” (Imam Bukhari, Al-Adab Al-Mufrad).

8-Visit the Sick – Visiting the sick is a great deed. It has amazing value for the person you’re visiting, however there is even more value in it for us. This is recommended in the Hadith as well. It reminds us to be grateful for the blessing of health, Alhamdulillah.

9-Attend Funerals – Attending funerals is also carries a huge reward from Allah. It serves to remind us of our own mortality and to be good in this life while we have time. Doing this often softens the hearts and gives our imaan (faith) a boost and everlasting reward from Allah.

10-Make Duaa – Making duaa is paramount to the success of a Muslim. It is not an optional worship. Allah loves those who ask Him for everything. Allah does not like those who do not ask Allah for everything they need. We should humble ourselves before Allah and reach out to His Mercy with our duaa.

Allah knows best.

May we all meet Allah when He is pleased with us, Ameen.

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A Muslim is a Student of Knowledge for Life

As Muslims, we are never done acquiring knowledge about our religion. For as long as we live, we should be in pursuit of acquiring the various disciplines of knowledge within Islam. That is not to say that every Muslim should become a scholar of Islam but rather know as much as possible about what is needed for us to live life according to Islam. The more time and effort someone puts into learning about Islam, the better it is for the benefit of learning about the religion is everlasting. We are rewarded for acquiring Islamic knowledge if our intention is to seek the pleasure of Allah, to be more informed about how to please Allah, to practice it in our own daily lives and to convey it to others by doing Da’wah.

Certain knowledge is mandatory for everyone: this includes the fundamentals, the belief system, the mandatory worship practices and what is allowed and what is not allowed. Still other knowledge is mandatory for some but not for others: this includes knowledge that is applicable to individuals because of their role, their means of livelihood, their living conditions, their family circumstances and so on. For instance, a business man must learn about how to conduct business within the limits of Islamic law (in addition to the knowledge about conducting business within the law of the land (which is also mandatory to obey within Islam). If someone is about to get married, it is mandatory for them, to learn about the issues regarding marriage, what is allowed, what is not allowed and how to live a married life with one’s spouse within the confines of Islamic law. Similarly, a father or mother must learn parenting according to Islam, whereas someone who is not a parent does not need to.

In other words, acquiring knowledge regarding issues relating to any other situation are mandatory if the person is in that situation or planning to get into it. Since life changes often, a Muslim must also equip himself or herself with the necessary knowledge in order not to stray outside the practices allowed by Islam.

And Allah knows best.

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Learning How to ask Allah for Everything

As Muslims we ask only Allah for everything we need that others cannot provide. This means asking for guidance, forgiveness when we have sinned, divine help, relief from a calamity, health in time of sickness, wealth in time of poverty and the like. These are things that no human being can provide us. If someone is trying to sell us salvation, know that they themselves are in need of it and cannot provide us that. If someone claims that they can get us forgiveness for our sins or provide us guidance or heal us of our diseases or change our poverty into wealth they are lying. We can ask human beings for things they can provide for instance, we can ask them for a glass of water when thirsty or directions on the way to a store or something of the like.

Now that we know to ask Allah for everything, we need to know how to ask properly so our asking is meaningful and fruitful. We are taught to ask a certain way by the Prophet (ﷺ) which are the etiquettes of asking Allah. We are taught to make our duaas (prayers) only to Allah (not even the Prophet(ﷺ) or any deity). By following the teachings of the Prophet (ﷺ), we ensure that we are asking the right way and we can expect results. The making of duaa is the realest form of worship.

We are taught to ask Him by:
1) praising Allah, thanking Him for the many blessings
2) sending our salutations upon the Prophet (ﷺ)
3) seeking forgiveness for our sins
4) being humble in front of Allah
5) being sure that He is listening to our prayers and is capable of answering them
6) asking Him with a conscious mind (as opposed to just parroting memorized prayers
7) asking Him of good things (not asking of things that are unlawful to harm someone or cause mischief in one way or another)
8) asking Him with the persistence of a child, but being content with our lives
9) making voluntary prayers (namaz/salah), fasting, giving charity, reading the Quran, helping someone with a chore or even calling your parent to see how they are and if they need anything or doing some other good deed then making our duaa
10) making our duaa in the last third of the night after offering the voluntary night prayers and so on.

Know that our duaa is never wasted. There are the following outcomes:
1-Our Duaa is accepted right away and we receive what we asked for
2-Our Duaa is accepted at a later date and we receive what we asked for but at a later date
3-Our Duaa is accepted but not in the way we wanted it, rather it is accepted to give us something better and some calamity is diverted from us that was going to get us.
4-Our Duaa is accepted but we do not receive what we asked for, rather the reward for is stored in the hereafter.

Note that the Duaa is accepted in each case above. There are times when a Duaa is rejected as well. If we ask to harm someone intentionally or ask for something that is haram (unlawful), then the duaa is rejected. Also, if our clothing is from unlawful means, our food is unlawful or our earnings are from unlawful means, this results in our duaas being rejected.

Allah knows best.

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Quality vs. Quantity in Islam

Quality is regarded very highly in Islam. The quality of our faith, our worship, our struggle to be the best we can be is very important in Islam. Quantity does not matter as much as quality. We as Muslims need to understand these fundamentals. Our charity of a small date is valued a lot in the sight of Allah if done purely for gaining the pleasure of Allah. But making charity of thousands of dollars to show off and make a name for themselves in front of people is rejected by Allah and rendered useless.

Let’s take a closer look at worship in Islam. First and foremost, for any act of worship to be accepted, it has to be done purely for the sake of Allah alone and must be done in accordance with the teachings of the Prophet (ﷺ) otherwise it is not accepted. Secondly, the deed has to be done consciously (not absentmindedly) with understanding and acknowledgement that it is being done to please Allah and to obtain reward and to protect ourselves from the punishment (in case of obligatory acts of worship). If it’s done as a matter of habit or tradition, not done for the pleasure of Allah or not done as taught by the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) then it is not accepted.

Alas, this is not very well understood by the majority of Muslims. The Muslim ummah is engaged in worship done without understanding, too quickly or absentmindedly. The Muslims are often after worship quantity rather than quality of worship. As a result, we find that Muslims are praying a lot but the prayer is devoid of meaning and missing the essence. Furthermore, a lot of the worship is not done in accordance with the Prophet’s (ﷺ) sunnah, so it consists of Bid’ah (innovated worship practices) which have no place in Islam.

We need to take a step back, learn the worship properly, understanding its meaning, and work on the quality of our worship. May Allah guide us all into becoming conscious of our deeds, making them purely for the sake of Allah alone and doing them according to the Sunnah.

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How do I start learning the Quran?

The Quran is a divinely revealed book containing the speech of Allah as revealed to the Prophet (ﷺ) by the angel Gabriel (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). It is a special book. Every Muslim should aspire to learn and make it their most important project in life. Learning the Quran is a lifelong journey. Everything you learn in your journey toward learning to read and understand the Quran for the purpose of getting closer to Allah and understanding the religion of Islam is rewardable. There are numerous rewards, but that’s a different blog post. For this post, I’m outlining what I believe to be the essential steps for learning the Quran. Start from the very beginning, in the following order:

1-The Arabic Alphabet – learn the names, shapes & how to pronounce each alphabet properly. Apart from the individual letters, learn how to join the letters with vowels to form complete words. This will be very handy to have done early in your journey as everything will build on top of this. Make sure you get it right the first time, with as good a teacher as you can possibly find. This will be the foundation. Consider this successfully completed if you can read the Quran.

2-The Tajweed Rules – learn the rules of Tajweed to truly understand proper pronunciation of the letters correctly when reciting the Quran. Simply learning to read is not enough, learning to read with the rules of Tajweed is mandatory for properly reciting the book of Allah. Tajweed rules should be learned with the help of a qualified teacher.

3-The Arabic Language – learn enough Arabic to be able to understand the Quran in its original language instead of relying on translations. It isn’t hard, ANYONE can do it if they put enough effort into it. There are courses available for this, so it’s a great idea to enroll in one of those and learn it properly.

4-Tafseer – learn the meanings of the Quran by studying from a basic Tafseer, something like the popular Tafseer of Ibn Katheer. A well written Tafseer relies on the authentic Hadith and the Quran itself to explain the Quran. Tafseer that doesn’t rely on Quran & Hadith should be avoided. Ideally this should be read in its original Arabic but if that’s not possible, there are translations available in English, Urdu and possibly other languages as well.

5-Bringing it all together – Once you have learned to read with Tajweed, have learned enough Arabic to know the meanings of what you’re reciting, have invested enough time to study from a reliable work of Tafseer, then you are truly on the path to understanding Islam inshaaAllah. You still need to refer to the Hadith, Sunnah and the works of the Seerah (the recorded works contain authentic descriptions, actions and sayings of the Prophet (ﷺ)  as well as his blessed life to bring it all together.

May you find the journey of Quran studies be an easy and fruitful one. Ameen.

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Studying the Hadith Sciences

Yesterday, I wrote about the importance of learning the life of the Prophet (ﷺ) known as the Seerah. His teachings were recorded in by his companions, the Sahabah (may Allah be pleased with them all), and passed down to their children and recorded in the collections of Sunnah and Hadith. We have an amazing amount of detail recorded about the personal and public aspects of the Prophet’s life, so much so that there is no one in history, specially from fourteen centuries ago, whose life is so meticulously recorded and preserved.

The science of Hadith is simply amazing. I’m not just saying that. Check it out for yourself. There are books on the Science of Hadith written by qualified scholars that are available in English. I recommend Dr Bilal Philips’ book entitled Usool Al Hadith to get you started. Or watch the lectures on YouTube on the subject, the Sciences of Hadith (also by Dr Bilal).

We know what he looked like, what he liked, disliked, approved or disapproved, what he did and didn’t do, what he avoided and didn’t avoid, what he said and didn’t say with remarkable certainty because of the great work done by the Hadith collectors in authenticating and preserving the authentic Sunnah along with the chains of narrations so we not only have the knowledge about the Prophet’s life but we also know how that knowledge reached, who originally recorded and who passed it down and how it came to be in the authentic collections of Hadith books. This is better recording than ANY literature, religious or scientific or others, specially from that long ago.

When we try to understand the Quran and Islam itself from the lens of western authors or authors who have been influenced by westerners, we are doing ourselves a great disservice. It’s akin to trying to understand how to cope with winter in Canada from the point of view of someone who has never been to Canada or any other country where the winters are harsh. Just a crude example but you get what I mean. In reality there is a hidden agenda behind western explanation of Islam by so-called Orientalists to undermine Islam by writing about Islam in a negative manner. In order to avoid falling into that trap, we need to read literature after choosing it carefully.

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Studying the Life of the Prophet (ﷺ)

The Quran is the book of guidance for all of humanity. The Prophet (ﷺ) was the practical embodiment of the message contained in the Quran. The blessed life of the last Prophet & Messenger of Allah (may the peace & blessings of Allah be upon him) is a source of guidance for all of us. He showed us practically how to live life according the teachings of the Quran.

In order to understand the Quran and really appreciate the message of Islam, we must invest the time and energy to study the life of the Prophet (ﷺ). We have to understand Islam from the lens of the Hadith (which is essentially the recorded actions and sayings of the Prophet (ﷺ). Learning Islam from the right context is extremely important. This is particularly true these days when a lot of made up propaganda and false information is heavily marketed and readily available.

We are extremely lucky to have many books on the subject in every language available to us these days. These are called books of Seerah (books on the life of the Prophet (ﷺ). The books that are written by qualified scholars taking only from the authentic sources (Quran and authentic Hadith) should be read by every Muslim to personally learn about the life of the Prophet (ﷺ). There are also audio and video materials available online today that are very useful in acquiring this much needed knowledge.

One of the best books available in English is the Sealed Nectar (which is the English translation of the Arabic book Ar-Raheeq al-Makhtoom by SafiurRahman Mubarakpuri). There are lectures on the Seerah by prominent lecturers in English. The most detailed ones are by Dr Sheikh Yasir Qadhi available on YouTube.

There are plenty of other resources available as well but these should get anyone get started on this journey of acquiring knowledge. Start today and learn. May your path to knowledge be easy and fruitful.

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