Resources / The Holy Qur'an

Qur’an Talks I

What this means is that the Qur’an should be interpreted on the basis of its own verses, and on the basis of the hadiths. The prophet Muhammad says, “Those who cling to my hadiths will become one with the Qur’an.” Here he brings glad tidings, for those who embrace the hadiths, those who understand them and put them into practice, will become one with the Qur’an.

Translations in other Languages

Prof. Dr. M. Es’ad Cosan
(May Allah have mercy on him)

Dear brothers and sisters, may Allah grace us with the favor and intercession, the support and aid of His heavenly messengers and saints, and most especially of the divinely favored prophet Muhammad. 

Ᾱmīn bi-ḥurmati ismihī al-aʿẓam wa-nabiyyihī al-akram sallā Allāh ʿalayhi wa-ālihī wa-saḥbihī wa-man tabiʿahū bi-iḥsān wa-sallama taslīman kathīran.

I have decided from this day forward to give a series of talks explaining, interpreting, and detailing the meaning and exalted significance of the Holy Qur’an. May Allah grant me His guidance and aid. I will begin with al-Fatiha, the first sura of the Qur’an, and proceed in an orderly fashion through the end of the final sura without skipping over a single verse. That is my aim, may Allah bless the venture and help me see it through to completion.

The importance and value of the Qur’an is indescribably great. Our pious predecessors, our great scholars, have authored innumerable works on the subject, and untold volumes have been written describing its virtues.

The Qur’an is the true word of Allah and His greatest blessing and gift to Muslims. It is truly a great blessing. This holiest of books, sent by Allah and delivered to the prophet Muhammad by His angel Gabriel, is the final and best of His addresses to humanity, and one protected from any and all sorts of falsification and misrepresentation. It is His word, and the final divine book. It has remained uncorrupted, free of the imprint of the machinations of men, with not a single letter having been changed. For us, this is its strongest testament.

In its pages, we are told of the conditions of those who came before us; we learn their tales and their stories.  We are also told of the future, of the fate of the world and of those who will come after us, and of the hereafter. It makes clear the faults of the various religions, faiths, and peoples of the world, and tells us from Allah’s perspective just what the true and right faith is. In this sense, it is the savior of humankind.

The Qur’an clearly lays out how heaven is to be won and how hell is to be avoided. Allah will break the bones and the backs of those who forsake it. He will lead astray those who insolently seek the true path outside of it. He will cast into hell those who turn their backs on it, and will carry to paradise those who seek its guidance.

The Qur’an is Allah’s ḥabl metīn, nūr mubīn, dhikr ḥakīm, and ṣırāṭ mustaqīm. These names are taken from the hadiths. Ḥabl metīn means a sturdy rope, just as one who has fallen into a deep hole or a well needs a sturdy rope to cling to in order to be freed. Nūr mubīn means His manifest light. Dhikr ḥakīm means His divine word, filled with wisdom. And ṣırāṭ mustaqīm means the way of the Qur’an, the true path of Allah.

The Qur’an is both treasure and treasury. It is a map and a guide. It is a medicine and a cure. It is an intercessor whose intercession is acceptable. It is dearer and more beautiful than all else on earth or in heaven. It is the sun shining upon the true path. It is the road to salvation. It is a crown upon the brow and salve upon the sore. It is light to the eyes and joy to the heart.

For those who learn it, teach it, and live by it, the prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, will personally take them by the hand and intercede on their behalf, that they may enter heaven. The hadiths testify that our prophet himself promised as much. It is by and because of the Qur’an that Islam is protected, that our faith and belief are not led astray, and that our thoughts are not led into error, so long as we embrace it.

Those who know it well go far, reaching a high material and spiritual level. Those who practice it well enter Allah’s favor and are rewarded. Those who govern on its basis govern justly. They carry out justice. Those who cling to it most strongly are freed and protected from troubles. Those who delve deeply into it attain knowledge of sciences past and future.

The prophet Muhammad himself, peace be upon him, communicated as much in numerous hadiths. I will give a few examples to explain to you the virtues of the Qur’an. By explaining these hadiths, we will enter our course on the Qur’an by route of a course on hadith, using the hadiths as a bridge, a tool, and a means to our ultimate end.

In one hadith, the prophet tells us:

Innī tārik fī-kum al-thaqalayn kitāb-Allāh ʿazza wa-jalla wa-ʿıtratī man atbaʿahū kāna ʿalā al-hudā wa-man tarakahū kāna ‘alā al-ḍalāla.

I am going to paraphrase this hadith and the others like it. The prophet says: Innī tārik fī-kum al-thaqalayn kitāb-Allāh ʿazza wa-jalla wa-ʿitratī, “I leave to you, after I am gone,” he begins. As for the following word, thaqalayn, some scholars have rendered it as: Yā ayyuhā al-thaqalayn! “Oh people and jinn!” Others have interpreted the word as referring on the one hand to the Qur’an, and on the other to the prophet’s family. If this second interpretation holds, then one of the things that the prophet left behind is the book of Allah, the book of great and glorious Allah. “I leave this to you. Its verses have been revealed and confirmed. I go to the next world, but it will stay behind with you. And my family, too; my children, my family, and those of my line.”

Man tabiʿahū kāna ʿalā al-hudā wa-man tarakahū kāna alā al-ḍalāla. Here, the pronoun refers to the Qur’an. “Whoever follows the Qur’an is on the path of Islam, the right and proper road, and will not be led astray. Whoever abandons the Qur’an will fall into error.”

There are other hadiths that say something similar. For example, Innī ūshiku an-udʿā fā ucīb. Here, the prophet says, “Soon, Allah will invite me to the next world and I will accept the invitation. I will depart from you and pass on to the hereafter.”

Wa-innī tārik fī-kum al-thaqalayn. “And I leave to you the thaqalayn [oh people and jinn, or else two things called thaqalayn]. And one of these is the book of Allah.”

Wa-ʿitratī “And my family, too; my children, my family, and those of my line.”

Kitāb-Allāh ḥabl mamdūd min al-samāʾ ilā al-ʿarḍ. “And the book of Allah, like a long rope of salvation dropped from the heavens to the surface of the earth.”

Wa-innā al-laṭīf al-khabīr khabbaranī anna-humā lan-yaftariqā ḥattā yariḍā ʿalayya al-ḥawḍ.

“Allah, the Gracious and omniscient, gave word that these two will never part from one another, until the day they are reunited with me at the font of the River Kawthar.” In other words, the Qur’an and my family will ever remain together, never to part.

Fa-nẓurū kayfa takhlufūnī fī-himā.

“Be watchful of yourselves! Be aware of what you do to these two beautiful, valuable things I leave behind me.” That is to say, do not fall into error, cling tightly to the Qur’an and my family!

Another hadith says:

Taraktu fī-kum mā-lan-taḍillū baʿdī in-iʿtaṣamtum bi-hī kitāb-Allāh wa-ʿitratī.

“Before I go to the next world I leave you things that, if you cling to tightly, will forever keep you from error: the book of Allah and my line. My line is my family.”

This hadith was transmitted by Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi from Jabir (May Allah be pleased with him). The previous hadiths were from Aḥmad Ibn Hanbal, Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr, and Ibn Saʿd, and the other sources were from Abu Saʿid al-Khudri. Let me read you another that says more or less the same thing.

Kitāb-Allāh wa-sunnatī lan-yatafarraqā­or alternatively lam-yaftariqā--ḥattā yaridā ‘alayya al-ḥawḍ.

Abu Hurayra (May Allah be pleased with him) narrates that: “The book of Allah and my sunna will never part. They will never become different from each other, until the day we meet again at the font…”

Here he uses the word “sunna,” but this word can also be used in the sense of “family.” If we interpret it in this way, then the hadith is saying that from the pure line of the Prophet Muhammad will come blessed servants of Allah who will explain the Qur’an and never depart from its words, who will explain the character and beauty of religion in the most correct manner.

What this means is that after the prophet passed into the hereafter, one of the things that we are to cling to is the Qur’an. He fervently counseled us to do so, saying, “Cling to this tightly!” I read you these hadiths because it is here that we learn that we must cling to the Qur’an and discover its meaning, its interpretation, and its commands.

In another hadith, the prophet Muhammad says:

Man qaraʾ al-Qur’an faḥafaẓa wa-istaẓharahū wa-aḥalla ḥalālahū wa-ḥarrama ḥaramahū adkhala Allāh al-janna wa-shaffaʿahū fī ʿashra min ahl-baytihī kulluhum qad istawjaba al-nār.

This hadith is found in Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, Ibn ‘Asakir, and Ibn ʿAdiy, where it is transmitted on the authority of ʿAli and in Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi, transmitted on the authority of ʿAʾisha. It is one of the hadiths praising the Qur’an, and thus one of the hadiths that I want to explain to you. Its meaning is as follows:

“Whoever has read the Qur’an and has committed it to their mind, or in other words whoever has memorized it or has learned it by heart, whoever has made it evident in their life…” “Making it evident” here means putting it into practice, implementing it, or making it manifest. The word “manifest” here, ẓuhūr/ẓahr, at the same time also refers to a person’s back, so in other words whoever carries the Qur’an on their back, who accepts its commands, shoulders them, and commits themselves to bearing their burden—all in the sense of putting into practice—“Whoever has learned by heart the things that the Qur’an has deemed halal and the things it has deemed haram, and who has embraced and benefitted from the former and distanced themselves from the latter, Allah will grant them entry into paradise; for they have embraced the Qur’an, have committed to it memory, and manifested it in practice. Allah will grant such people the ability and right to intercede on behalf of ten people from their family. Thus, ten people who would have otherwise gone to hell will be saved because of the people of the Qur’an.” While these ten are on their way to hell, if such a person entreats Allah to save them, He will say, “You are one of the people of the Qur’an,” and accept the intercession, sparing the offenders from damnation.

What do we understand from this? If nothing else, if some of our children have particularly good memories and have the potential to memorize the Qur’an, then we must dedicate one or two of them to the study of the religious sciences, to the study of the Qur’an! Certain of my friends, colleagues, and students have had all of their children, both male and female, memorize the Qur’an. How wonderful!

Another hadith, transmitted by Ibn ʿAsakir on the authority of Anas (May Allah be pleased with him), says:

Alā man taʿallama al-Qurʾān wa-‘allamahū wa-ʿalima mā-fīhī fa-ana la-hū sāʾiq wa-dalīl ilā al-janna.

“Know that whoever learns the Qur’an and passes on what they have learned to another, and if that other learns the commands of the Qur’an—learns the religion of Islam—I will be the one to send them to heaven; I will be their witness.” In other words, the prophet (pbuh) says that he will take them by the hand and bring them to heaven, show them the way and ensure that they enter the gates of paradise!

Both this hadith and the one above show that the people of the Qur’an are destined for heaven. In another hadith, the prophet Muhammad says of the Qur’an that:

Al-Qurʾān ghinan lā-faqr baʿdahū wa-lā ghinan dūnahū.

This hadith was transmitted on the authority of Anas (May Allah be pleased with him) by Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi and Tabarani and on the authority of Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr in other sources. It means: “The Holy Qur’an is wealth. Once one has it, one can never be poor. Whether materially or spiritually, one will be rich. When one does not have it, one will ever be poor.”

Material wealth is inconsequential. If a person does not know the Qur’an, then it means that that person is not rich, that that person is poor. This means that the Qur’an is wealth itself, in both a material and a spiritual sense.

Abu Nasr wa al-Kudai transmits another hadith on the authority of ʿAli (may Allah be pleased with him) in which the prophet says: Al-Qurʾān huwa al-dawāʾ

“The Qur’an is the cure itself, the remedy itself.”

The Qur’an’s curative properties apply to disorders of the mind, of belief, of the heart, and to other non-physical disorders, just as they do to physical ones. The suras of the Qur’an and their verses, when they are read aloud—for the verses demonstrate great truths and help pull those with wrong and sinful ideas toward the true path—serve as medicine for those afflicted with physical or spiritual maladies.

There are many examples of this in the history of Islam, and in today’s world as well. There are people who for years have struggled unsuccessfully to have children, people thought to be barren or infertile, who, after reading the Ya Sin sura—once, forty-one times, or five-hundred times—become parents. Patients suffering from terminal conditions and for whom the doctors have given up all hope are returned to health. Those who are about to have an arm or a leg amputated have their limbs saved. All of this is to say that the curative value of the Qur’an is something that has been seen, demonstrated, and proved.

In another hadith—transmitted by Tabarani and Hulwani on the authority of Ibn Masʿud and by Ibn Hibban and other sources on the authority of Jabir (May Allah be pleased with him)—the prophet says:

Al-Qur’an shafiʿ wa-mushaffaʿ wa-māḥil muṣaddaq man jaʿalahū amānahū qādahū ilā al-janna wa-man jaʿalahū khalfa ẓahrihī sāqahū ilā al-nār.

“The Holy Qur’an is an intercessor. What kind of intercessor? It is an intercessor whose intercession commands respect, acceptance, and compliance. The Qur’an will intercede, and its words will be obeyed and honored. Whoever places the Qur’an in front of them, whoever makes it their guide, the Qur’an will carry them with it, it will show them the path to paradise. Whoever places the Qur’an behind them, whoever turns their back on it, who does not learn it, listen to it, understand it, or work for it, the Qur’an will send them to hell. Whoever turns their back on the Qur’an, they will be damned.”

In another hadith, transmitted on the authority of Abu Hurayra (May Allah be pleased with him) by Abu Nuʿaym al-Isfahani the prophet praises the Qur’an with the following words:

Niʿma al-shafīʿ al-Qurʾān li-ṣāḥibihī yawm al-qiyāma yaqūl yā Rabb akrimhu fa-yulbasu tāj al-karāma thumma yaqūl yā Rabb zidhu fa-yuksā kiswat al-karāma thumma yaqūl yā Rabb zidhu irḍa ‘anhu. Fa-laysa baʿda riḍā-Allāh shayʾ.

There is a message here that you will be happy to hear. The prophet Muhammad says, “How beautiful, how appropriate an intercessor the Qur’an will be on the Day of Judgment to the people of the Qur’an, to those who have the Qur’an!” It then goes on to explain just how it will intercede on their behalf:

“The Qur’an will present its friends, the people of the Qur’an, the people who have learned it and memorized it, to Allah, saying, ‘Oh Lord, be generous with this servant of Yours!’ In response and as a result of the Qur’an’s intercession, Allah will place a marvelous crown upon the brow of that individual, that person, that child of Adam. He or she will wear that crown in paradise. Then the Qur’an will plead with and entreat Allah further: ‘Oh Lord, bestow a greater reward! Reward your servant even more, oh Lord! Be even more generous, even more rewarding, oh Lord!’ And at this request Allah will place a marvelous cloak upon the shoulders of His servant. Not only a crown upon the head, but also a wonderful cloak upon the back! But the Qur’an will continue to entreat Allah for even more, interceding yet again: ‘Oh lord, give even more, be well pleased with Your servant!’”

Finally, the prophet says, “Allah will be pleased with His servant.” There is no greater reward than this. Should a person acquire such a reward, how wonderful for them! They will have acquired the greatest of Allah’s rewards.

See how wonderful an intercessor the Qur’an is! Let us all cling to it with all our might. There it sits on our shelf. Let us pick it up, kiss it, and place it before us. Let us open it and study it!

I now continue with another hadith. Brothers and sisters, may these hadiths whet our enthusiasm, lift the veils from our eyes, and encourage us to embrace the Qur’an even more closely.

Abshirū a-laysa tashhadūna an-lā-ilāh illā Allāh wa-annī Rasūl-Allāh fa-inna hādhā al-Qurʾān sabab ṭarafuhū bi-yad Allāh wa-tarafuhū bi-aydīkum fa-tamassakū bi-hī fa-innakum lan-taḍillū wa-lan-tahlakū.

This hadith, too, is found in a number of different sources. In it, the prophet says, “I bring you great, joyful tidings! Are you not the people who testified that there is no god but Allah, none other worthy of worship? Are you not the ones who witnessed that I am His messenger? You are people who believe these things, and I thus bring you glad tidings: the Qur’an is a rope, one end of which is in Allah’s hand, the other of which is your own.”

The word sabab here means “rope.” A rope strung up between two stakes is called a sabab, and the stakes are called watad. The true meaning of the word, in the language of the Bedouin, is “rope.”

“The Qur’an is like a rope, with one end in Allah’s hand and the other in your own. Thus, hold tightly to the Qur’an. If you do so, you will not fall into error. You will not be destroyed.” The prophet Muhammad enjoins us to embrace the Qur’an as we would a lifeline.

I want to read two more hadiths. Many books have been written on the virtues of the Qur’an. Scholars have offered much evidence on the subject. The hadiths I have selected here are but a sample. Al-Hakim relates the following hadith from ibn ʿUmayr, as narrated by Abu Nuʿaym, in which the prophet Muhammad says:

Al-Qurʾān ṣa‘b mustaʿṣab ‘alā man karihahū muyassar ‘alā man tabiʿahū wa-huwa al-ḥakam wa-hadithī ṣaʿb mustaʿṣab wa-huwa al-ḥakam fa-man istamsaka bi-hadithī wa-fahimahū wa-ḥafiẓahū jāmaʿa al-Qurʾān wa-man tahāwana bi-al-Quān wa-bi-ḥadithī khasira al-dunyā wa-al-akhira.

Al-Qurʾān ṣaʿb, says the prophet. “The Qur’an is difficult.” Mustaʿṣab “It feels difficult, it appears difficult, it looks difficult, and it seems difficult to understand, though really it is not.” So, to whom does it appear difficult?

ʿAlā man karihahū “It is difficult for those who do not love it, who do not want it. It will not explain itself or allow itself to be explained to such people. Those who do not love the Qur’an will not be able to understand it; the Qur’an will not open itself to them.”

Wa-muyassar ʿalā man tabiʿahū “For those who follow the Qur’an, it is easy to understand; its meaning will open before them; sights will open before their eyes and meanings will be born in their hearts and they will understand. Those who do not believe will not understand; for those who do believe, it will open and be made easy.”

Wa-huwa al-ḥakam. “And the Qur’an is a judge and a ruler. It presides over what is true and what is false. It will be an arbiter on the Day of Judgment when the worth of every person is determined.”

Wa-hadithī ṣaʿb mustaʿṣab. After explaining the nature of the Qur’an, the prophet continues by saying, “My own words and my hadiths are also difficult, or so they will appear.” Though he does not say specifically that these will appear difficult to those who do not want them but will be easy for those who do, we can understand that that is what he means here as well. Those who do not love him will not be able to understand his words; to them, they will appear contradictory. But for those who follow him, their meanings will become clear; they will sense the nuances contained in them.

Wa-huwa al-ḥakam. “And just like the Qur’an, the hadiths too are judges and arbiters. They will help determine people’s rewards and punishments in the next world.” Those who conform to the Qur’an and the sunna will find salvation; those who do not will find perdition. They are thus arbiters. The hadiths are an arbiter, and so too is the Qur’an.

Fa-man istamsaka bi-hadithī wa-fahimahū wa-ḥafiẓahū jāmaʿa al-Qurʾān. Whoever clings tightly to my hadiths, and who understands and keeps them, they will become one with the Qur’an, they will join with it and will unite with it.” Here, “keeping the hadiths” means “obeying and complying with their judgments and my sunna.” In other words, in order to understand the Qur’an, in order to be one of the people of the Qur’an, in order to render the meaning of the Qur’an clear in a spiritual sense, one must learn the sunna of the prophet, one must know it, love it, and obey it. This shows just how beautiful our path is. It shows that our saintly forefathers (Awliya Allah) revealed to us the way. In order to teach us, they compiled books of hadith and instructed us to read them. In our congregation, we read Ramuz al-Ahadith. When one reads these books, one is united with, and becomes able to understand, the Qur’an.

For there are those whose hearts are twisted, who are sick, that have turned to certain verses from the Qur’an, especially those whose meaning is allegorical rather than literal, and have interpreted them to suit themselves, and have thus fallen into error. For example, there is a verse in the Qur’an that says Wāʿbud Rabbak ḥattā yāʾtiyak al-yaqīn “And serve thy Lord until there come unto thee the Hour that is Certain.”1 The word yaqīn here has two meanings. Of course, if one opens a dictionary and looks up a word, one will find a number of different meanings. When I was in university we had a European professor, who would say, “When a student is learning a language, when the student is trying to translate a text, he or she will turn to the dictionary. In the dictionary the student will find a host of different meanings, and will inevitably choose the one that is least appropriate.”

One of the meanings of yaqīn is a belief or conviction that is unblemished by any doubt, suspicion, or hesitation. Thus, certain heretics have interpreted the verse as saying, “Serve the lord [i.e., observe the forms of worship, like fasting, the five daily prayers, etc.] until you believe, and then you may stop!” They thus abandoned prayer, fasting, and the hajj.

But the Qur’an often gives clues as to how a particular verse is to be interpreted. Certain verses in the Qur’an explain other verses. In other verses, Allah says, “Pray, fast, and perform acts of worship!” Having said this, would He then say, “Once you are a good Muslim, once you believe, you can stop performing acts of worship”? The answer is clearly no.

Thus, yaqīn in this verse must have another meaning. Indeed, it does, and we see it in another verse of the Qur’an. In the Qur’an, it is narrated how, when the unbelievers are cast into hell, the angels will ask them, “What did you do, that you ended here? Were prophets not sent to you? Were you not given the Qur’an? Were you unaware that hell would be your fate? What did you do, that you were sent here?” And the unbelievers, those cast down to burn in the fires of hell, will answer, “Prophets came to us and explained these things to us, but we rejected them. We denied them. Ḥattā atānā al-yaqīn. Finally, yaqīn came to us; that is, death came to us. Our lives came to an end and we passed away. That is why we were cast into hell.”

As is seen in this verse, yaqīn, because it is a certainty that eventually befalls everyone, is another word for death. Thus, “death” is also one of its meanings. The verse in question should therefore be interpreted as saying, “Perform acts of worship until death comes upon you.” But they do not understand this.

What this means is that the Qur’an should be interpreted on the basis of its own verses, and on the basis of the hadiths. The prophet Muhammad says, “Those who cling to my hadiths will become one with the Qur’an.” Here he brings glad tidings, for those who embrace the hadiths, those who understand them and put them into practice, will become one with the Qur’an.

Wa-man tahāwana bi-al-Qur’an wa-bi-hadīthī khasira al-dunyā wa-al-akhira. “Whoever takes the Qur’an lightly, who fails to give it its due, who does not value my hadiths, who discounts them or the Qur’an, such a person will find only disappointment in both this world and the next; their world will fill with suffering, as will their existence in the hereafter; they will be punished, they will suffer both here and in the world to come.” So, says the prophet Muhammad, may peace be upon him.

This means: “The Qur’an is easy for Allah’s beloved, blessed servants, those who follow the sunna, who know the hadiths. But for those who do not know them, who do not love them, or who do not appreciate them, Allah will not make their meaning clear, will not allow them to be explained, will not open their hearts to belief. Such people will not be able to understand the Qur’an, will not be able to love it, and will be doomed to ruin in both this world and the next.”

I want to finish my talk with one final hadith. Abu Nu‘aym al-Isfahani relates, on the authority of Ibn ʿAmr—most likely this is ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Amr ibn al-‘As—that the prophet Muhammad  said:

Al-Qurʾān aḥabb ilā Allāh min al-samawāt wa-al-arḍ wa-man fī-hinna.

“The Holy Qur’an is dearer to Allah than all else in the skies or on the face of the earth, and more beautiful to Him than all creatures, treasures, or other good things in the skies or on the earth.”

Thus, it is my hope that we will all in future place greater value on the Holy Qur’an, that dearest and most beautiful thing in the eyes of Allah. May Allah bless us, guide us, and help us. May He make its meaning clear to us. May He direct us to recite, explain, and interpret it in a correct and beautiful manner. May He look with great favor upon those who recite it and those who listen to it. May He bless us all with His heaven and His grace.


FOOTNOTES

* A talk delivered on 29 Sept. 1998 on Akra FM.

1. Sura al-Hijr 15/99.

Article “Qur’an Talks I” Professor M. Es’ad Coşan