What’s the Point of Reciting what I don’t Understand?
The Quraan Majeed was revealed in Arabic and the people to whom it was directly revealed were Arabs who spoke the most eloquent form and dialect of the language. Despite them being completely conversant and fluent in the language, Nabi (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) was tasked with a separate responsibility in his capacity as the Nabi – the responsibility to teach them the RECITATION of the Quraan Majeed.
Allah Ta‘ala mentions in Surah Aal ‘Imraan (v164):
لَقَدْ مَنَّ اللَّـهُ عَلَى الْمُؤْمِنِينَ إِذْ بَعَثَ فِيهِمْ رَسُولًا مِّنْ أَنفُسِهِمْ يَتْلُو عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتِهِ وَيُزَكِّيهِمْ وَيُعَلِّمُهُمُ الْكِتَابَ وَالْحِكْمَةَ وَإِن كَانُوا مِن قَبْلُ لَفِي ضَلَالٍ مُّبِينٍ ﴿آل عمران ١٦٤﴾
“Indeed Allah Ta‘ala had favored the believers when He sent in their midst a messenger from among them who recites to them His verses, purifies them and teaches them the book and wisdom and they were before in clear misguidance”
The recitation of the Quraan Majeed holds such a degree of importance that teaching the recitation alone formed a separate department from the other departments of deen. Allah Ta‘ala not only showed its importance but even expressed it to be a great favour on the Ummah that they learn to recite the Quraan Majeed. This is because the recitation of the words of the Quraan Majeed is an irreplaceable ‘ibaadah that plays an extremely important role in the life of a Muslim.
Imaam Ahmad bin Hambal (rahimahullah) once saw Allah Ta‘ala in a dream and asked, “O my Rabb! What is the best way for the person seeking your proximity to gain your nearness?” “Through my speech (the Quraan)” replied Allah Ta‘ala. “With or without understanding?” Imaam Ahmad next asked. “With understanding and without understanding.” answered Allah Ta‘ala. (Ithaafus Saadatil Muttaqeen vol. 4, pg. 466)
Some Muslims are misled by the idea that reciting the Quraan Majeed without any idea of the meaning is a “waste of time” as it is merely reading in a “parrot fashion”. Hence they abandon reading the Quraan Majeed. Such people in reality are doing themselves a great disservice and depriving themselves of the abundant reward Allah Ta‘ala has offered.
Nabi (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) said, “Whoever recites one “harf” (letter) of the Kitaab of Allah Ta‘ala will receive a reward in return and one reward is multiplied by ten. I do not say that “alif laam meem” is a harf. Rather “alif” is a harf, “laam” is a harf and “meem” is a harf.” (Sunan Tirmizi #2910)
If a person recites just the three letters “alif laam meem” (at the beginning of Surah Baqarah) and nothing else, Nabi (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) has promised this person a minimum of 30 rewards! This is despite the fact that the Ummah of Nabi (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) does not know the meaning of these three letters with certainty. This proves without a doubt that recitation of the Quraan Majeed – although the meaning is not known to the reciter – guarantees immense reward. Are we, as Muslims, willing to deny this reward and thus challenge the promise of our Nabi (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam)?
To understand the meaning of the Quraan Majeed is indeed very important and striving to learn it at the hands of a true ‘Aalim of deen is a praiseworthy effort. In the event of not knowing the meaning, however, the RECITATION should never be abandoned. We face a dark future if we begin to distance ourselves from the Quraan Majeed, the word of our Allah Ta‘ala, due to not understanding its meaning. Will we allow the day to come when we abandon even salaah due to not understanding Arabic?