This is from our old friend lightnessofbeing...thought I would post it here for every1 to benefit iA!
Salamaat beautiful souls,
I just went to a great retreat called "Pearls of the Quran." There was one session that was really powerful for the audience. I wanted to share the notes I took with you perchance it might inspire you to begin your own journey into the Quran. May He guide and illuminate us all (amin.)
Approaching the Quran: Developing a personal connection to it(Talk by Dr. Zainab Alwani.)
When the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was given the command to read, his immediate impulse was to run to Khadija and ask her to cover him. This perhaps illustrates the human tendency to want to hide/enshroud themselves from the Divine imperative. In Surah Muzammil, the command to read is followed up by addressing the one who is “wrapped up” to wake up at night for “indeed the rising by night is most intense as a discipline and most appropriate for the receptivity of the Word.”
As Muslims we have lost the double imperative to Read; both the signs of creation and the verses of the Quran.
Consequences of our distance from the Quran:
* Distance from the Divine: The Quran is the word of God. Distance from the Quran results in distance from Allah.
* Hardness of the heart: Illustrated in the story of Bani Israel in Surah Baqarah.
* Wretchedness/constraint/ narrowness of life and purpose: In Surah Taha: “But for anyone who turns away from My Reminder there is a wretched [narrow/constrained] existence in this world and on the day of Resurrection We will raise him up blind. He will say “My Lord why have you raised me up blind, when I used to be able to see? Thus did Our signs come to you, but you neglected them; and so you shall be neglected today.” (20:124-126)
* Lack of criterion to filter out information: Critical faculties are lost and hence the proliferation of ideologies in the Ummah.
* Lack of a principled stance: Nothing to anchor us from the waves of postmodern relativity.
* Paralysis of Spirit/Apathy/lethargy: The spirit withers from lack of Remembrance and with that comes a host of diseases of the heart.
* Wretchedness/ Ashqaa: State of disunity, disharmony, torn between competing “interests” and a lack of centerdness.
Barriers to the Quran:
Sins/ Guilt: The most significant barrier is our sins and the guilt that keeps us further away (this opens the way to other diseases of the heart.)
1) Mixing up the two readings:
Tafseer/interpretation of the Quran: For interpretation and derivation of law, a certain set of qualifications are needed and this realm is reserved for scholars.
Personal contemplation/reflection (Tadabbur): Tadabbur/personal contemplation is obligatory on everyone.
2) Language: There are many great translations in several languages. Also, Allah elevated spoken Arabic to the realm of the Sacred; with its own internal logic that makes it easy to study and ponder.
Tools for Personal Contemplation/ Reflection:
Where do I start?
Purification (Tatheer): “No one touches it except those who are clean.”
* Heart: We begin by changing our orientation to Him (Tawbah) and seeking forgiveness and nearness. Self treat our diseases of the heart.
* Mind: Purify mind/intellect: Don’t come with assumptions: begin with the Quran and let Allah guide us through it.
* Physical body/space
Staying “clean” on multiple levels and seeking to purify/empty our senses, bodies, heart, and mind; we will be receptive to guidance.
We start with the intention to begin our journey into the Quran as active seekers (not passive recipients.) Seeking refuge from the Shaytaan and praying for Allah’s guidance.
When you begin your journey: Pray two Rakaahs and ask Him for guidance and illumination.
* Journaling: Buy a Quran journal now and sit down with a pen and paper to really study/contemplate and write down your reflections/insights.
* The Quran is one unit: Read it as a sentence. If two verses seem contradictory on the surface, study them in context to comprehend the meaning.
* Words: The words of the Quran are broader than their linguistic meaning. Each word is a concept. If we compare Quranic words to the stars, concepts are constellations that we must trace across the Quran to understand them deeper. For instance in one chapter Allah will command us to do Tawbah, in another it will tell us what Tawbah is, in another it will describe all the different sins we need to do Tawbah from etc. So by the time we are finished, we have clarity on what that concept is. Start by looking up the linguistic definition (in any standard dictionary) then trace the appearances of the word through a concordance of the Quran.
* Ayahs: Ayah in the Quran refers to either verses, miracles given to the prophets or signs of the Universe/Allah. There are no disconnects in the verses. When one changes direction/shifts topic: pay special attention to connect the dots and the reasoning behind it.
* Pay attention to how the Quran defines itself: The self definition of the Quran will guide us towards comprehending it more and using it for its true purposes. There are 34 (or more) attributes of the Quran, some that share the Names of Allah (The generous, The Wise, The protector etc.) Each one grants us insight into the book.
* Surahs/Chapters: Surah is literally a fenced enclosure; or a collection of Ayahs. They are grouped together in chapters and each chapter has a major Theme that ties all the sub themes together. With your journal sit down and jot all the sub themes that come to mind. And from the sub themes try to figure out what the “pillar”/ main theme/ thesis of the particular chapter is.
* Titles: The titles of the chapter are meaningful and give us a clue/insight into what the major theme of the surah is.
* Connecting Ayahs of the Quran to Ayahs of Allah/the Universe: The Quran points to the universe for us to contemplate; and we actually have to carry out the commands. We have to “read” both signs side by side, for they clarify each other and lead us to deeper depths. When we are commanded to contemplate the stars/the heavens/ the hearth…we need to actually do that, to reach a deeper comprehension of the purposes of life and creation, which is further enhanced by our deeper understanding of the Quran. They reinforce each other to strengthen our hearts.
* Illuminator/ Mubin: the Quran illuminates and clarifies our minds and hearts. It also sheds light on all the relative half truths around us. So we are able to regain our lost critical faculties because we have a standard/ light to “see” with.
* The Quran will answer your questions according to the state of your heart.
* Dialogue: Ask the Quran questions and seek answers to your life’s problems therein. If you don’t have questions, the Quran will provide them to you. Pay attention to the internal logic of the Quran.
* The Art of asking questions: The first generation raised the questions to the Prophet (SAW) and Revelation clarified the answers. In our generation, we have to learn how to structure the questions (in a methodological way) and seek the answers in the Quran.
* The best tafsir of the Quran is the Quran itself. Cross reference, trace the stories throughout the Quran to understand them fully, trace concepts, engage yourself wholly to understanding it.
* Kassis Concordance of the Quran: lists words in the Quran (by roots) and shows all the verses that the word appears in. Very convenient for tracing concepts: http://www.alkitab.com/4715.html
* Hans Wehr Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic: Dual language dictionary that’s useful for looking up the linguistic definition of words: http://www.alkitab.com/2444.html