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Advice from Shaykh Basfar – Pondering Over the Quran


The Overnight Qari: Your essential guide to reciting in style


Shaykh Abdullah Basfar is one of the preeminent reciters of Saudi Arabia who is well known for his excellence and precision in tajweed. Here, he shares a reminder that is extremely relevant to all Muslims, but even more so to students of the Quran and the art of recitation. He shares some advice about tadabbur al-Qur’an, which has to do with reflecting upon and pondering over the Quran. Basically, going beyond just paying lip-service to the Quran and just rattling off the verses with little to no emotional connection to the verses being recited.

Normally I try to share English content here (except Quran of course), but I’ve made an exception because of the importance of the Shaykh’s advice (hafidhahullah). What follows below the video is a translation, along with timestamps to help you follow along.

00:00 The Shaykh begins by recalling Allah’s saying in surah Muhammad: “Do they not reflect on the Quran, or are there locks upon their hearts?” He mentions that the pondering over the Quran was the sunnah of Muhammad sallallahu alaihi wa sallam – he used to recite the Quran al-Kareem and ponder about the words of Allah subhanahu wa ta’alla.

01:14 He mentions the statement ibn Abbas (radiyallahu ‘anhuma): If I were to recite surah al-Baqarah with tadabbur, this would be more beloved to me than to recite the entire Quran (i.e. without tadabbur).

01:40 Shaykh Basfar then mentions a few things that lead towards or facilitate tadabbur: Firstly, reciting with tarteel, as Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala said: “wa rattalnaahu tarteelaa” [Surat al-Furqan], and Allah said “wa rattil il-Qur’aana tarteelaa” [Surat al-Muzzammil].

01:56 He defines tarteel as reciting with reassurance, calmness … not speeding through it … because he who recites the Quran too quickly cannot ponder over and think about the meanings of the words of Allah. But reciting slowly is a way of having respect for the Quran, and leads towards pondering and have khushoo over which what he is reading.

02:29 He mentions that Huthayfa ibnul Yaman says (radiallahu anhu): I was praying behind the Prophet (‘alaihi salam) and he started with al-Fatiha, and he continued, until I thought to myself ‘maybe he will conclude at ayah 100 (of surat al-Baqarah), and he continued through Ali Imran, and Al-Nisaa. … and he was reciting with such care… he would not recite past an ayah of rahma/mercy without asking Allah for his mercy, or an ayah with punishment except that he asks Allah to protect him from Allah’s punishment, or an ayah which has tasbeeh to Allah except that he would do tasbeeh to Allah ‘Aza wa Jaal. And this is why Umm Salam (radiallahu anha) said: “The Prophet ‘alaihi salatu wasallam used to recite in a way which included the tafseer of the words; letter by letter.

03:28 Secondly: reciting the Quran with a beautiful voice. A person might say “my voice is just not beautiful”. The scholars have said that (this person who complains) is asked to beautiful his voice to the best of his ability. The Prophet ‘alaihi salatu wasallam said: “laysa minna man lam yataghanna bil Quran”, i.e. he is not on our right path who doesn’t sing with the Quran. The scholars have interpreted this hadith to mean: “he is not of us who doesn’t beautify his voice with the recitation of the Quran”. When you read the Quran don’t read it as if you are reading from a book or novel. Read it with tajweed. And he then demonstrates as an example of what to not to do (just “talking” the words) and what to do (reciting beautifully). And if you learn tajweed, it will beautify your voice. And the Prophet said: “beautify the Quran with your voices.”

04:40 He mentions that the Prophet (‘alahi salatu wasallam) had the most beautiful voice of all people. And he mentions the narration regarding Abu Musa al-Ash’ari where the Prophet praised his beautiful recitation. And there is another benefit to beautifying our voice: if you put your effort in beautifying your voice than Allah the Most Gracious listen to you reciting the Quran in this voice. [He mentions a hadith about Allah’s attentiveness to listening to someone reciting the Quran]. The Prophet ‘alaihi salatu wasallam said: Verily the most beautiful of voices reciting the Quran, is the person who if you hear them reciting you regard them as one of those people who have khushoo/reverence towards Allah”. Such a recitation awakens the heart and softens it.

06:12 Thirdly: understanding the meanings Quran al-Kareem. It is a must that this great Quran be understood. And Allah says: “Wa qaal ar-rasoolu yaa Rabbi inna qawm ittakhadhoo haadha al-Qurana mahjooraa” [al-Furqan 30]. The scholars have said: who doesn’t recite the Quran has left/isolated (himself from) the Quran, and he who reads the Quran and he doesn’t understand the Quran has (also) left the Quran, and he who recites the Quran, understands it, and doesn’t act by it has left the Quran. Hence all of these people have left the Quran. He mentions that Arabs understand the Quran, it being in Arabic, but the non-Arab should study/read tafseer, and alhamdulillah these sources are available readily these days, so it is only up to people to read the translations/explanations.

07:23 Fourthly: crying while reciting, as it is of the sunnah of the Prophet (alaihi salatu wasalam). The Prophet one day told ibn Masoud: “Ibn Masoud, recite to me the Quran”, so ibn Masoud answers: “how can I recite it to you and it was sent to you?”, the Prophet (alaihi salatu wasallam) replied: It is because I love to hear it from other than me. So he recited to him from the beginning of Surat al-Nisa until he came to the ayah: “fa kayfa idha ji’na min kulli ummatin bi shaheedin wa ji’na bika ala haa’ulaa’i shahidaa”, and at this point the prophet ‘alahi salatu wasallam asked him to stop,and ibn Masoud looked at him and saw his eyes overflowing with tears. And Abou Bakr radiallahu anhu, when he used to recite al-Fatiha, would cry. And Omar radiallahu anhu was once leading fajr prayer, reciting surat Yusuf, and he was crying such that the sahaba heard his crying from the back rows.

09:09 Fifthly: Repeating the ayahs (as the Prophet ‘alaihi salatu wasallam) used to do, is another thing which leads to tadabbur, and this is of course in the nawafil (i.e. not fard prayers). He would recite an ayah and repeat it until the morning. He used to cry while listening and reciting the ayahs of Allah… so the sahaba also used to repeat ayahs until morning. Once the Prophet while in qiyam repeated the ayah: “in tu’adhdhibhum fa’innahum ‘ibaaduk wa ‘in taghfir lahum fa’innaka ‘antal ‘azeezu’ hakeem [Al-Maidah] from qiyam until fajr.

10:23 Sixthly: Another thing which helps in tadabbur is reciting the Quran in qiyam at night because the Quran at night is closer to tadabbur and khushoo, and closer to the attendance of the heart.

10:36 He mentions also “external” ettiquettes that help: performing wudu, using the miswak (i.e cleansing one’s mouth), reciting towards the qibla, and acting respectfully towards the Book of Allah. He mentions that once there is tadabbur, there is change, there is action … and this is what is asked of us: the last intent isn’t only to beautify our voices with the Quran, or only to understand it, but to act upon it. Aisha radiallahu anha when asked about the Prophet ‘alaihi salatu wasallam’s character, she said: “His character was the Quran”. So we should ask ourselves while reading the Quran: “This ayah that we are reading… are we implementing it in our lives?” If it is so, this is what is asked, alhamdulillah, if not, than we should manage our actions according and put ourselves through a self-judgment. The scholars say, perhaps there is a reciter of the Quran, and the Quran curses him. And we ask Allah to protect us from this state. The recitor recites: “ala la’natullahi ‘ala adh-dhalimeen” i.e. Allah’s curse is upon the oppressor.. and the reciter himself is an oppressor, so the curse goes to him as well! and may Allah protect us from this state, ameen. That is why we should put the effort to learn, understand, and reflect (do tadabbur) upon the words of Allah so we can act upon the sayings of this Book, and so that Allah brings harmony into our lives and the lives of our children.

He ends by sending salawat on the prophet, and we likewise say: Allahumma salli wa sallim ‘ala habeebina wa nabiyyina Muhammad, wa ‘ala aalihi wa sahbihi ajma’een.

***Special thanks to ReciteinTune student Sr. Khadija el-Berhoumi for her help in translating this video – may Allah reward her well***


The Overnight Qari: Your essential guide to reciting in style