Is More Better or Seeking Depth to the Letter: Recitation or Reflection?

Translated from the advice of Musa’id alTayyar – who is a scholar who’s authored many works in the field of Qur’anic sciences.

People’s Varying Levels in Reciting The Qur’an – Ramadan Advice

A person’s status with the Qur’an during Ramadan. A question that’s often asked in regards to what’s better – to recite slower with meaning and reflection (alTadabbur) or to finish the Qur’an at a faster pace (Hadar) and increase in finishing it more often to take advantage of getting the reward of recitation?

First and foremost, what has to be recognized is that these two types of worship, in fact, are not contradictory to do at the same time for us to even ask which one is better. The preference of which of the two the reciter wants to focus more on is a matter that goes back to the person reciting. Reciters of the Qur’an can be categorized into different levels:

1. The general masses – average people who may not have the capability to deeply reflect on the Qur’an, or in fact, may not even understand the meaning of most of the verses. In their case, it may be better to dedicate a greater portion of their Qur’an time to increasing in recitation and finishing it.

And this is something that’s recommended in and of itself, so one can gain a lot of reward. This is in accordance with what ibn Mas’ud (radyAllahu ‘anhu) narrated from the Prophet (ﷺ) that he said, “Whoever recites a letter from the Book of Allah, he will be rewarded with a good deed, and one good deed is multiplied ten times in reward. I do not say that Alif-Lam-Mim is one letter, but Alif is a letter, Lam is a letter and Mim is a letter” [al Tirmidhi].

2. The second level is the level of students of knowledge and scholars. These people have two methods in reciting the Qur’an:

a) Like average people, they recite the Qur’an hoping to finish as much as they can to gain the reward for recitation.
b) Reciting it with the intention to study it, reflecting over its verses and deriving lessons from it. Every person, based upon what they specialize in, derive benefits that someone else may not be able to. This is a blessing given by Allah to whomever He wills.

Again, I repeat, both reciting the Qur’an often and reflecting over it are actions that are acceptable and fall under the multiplicity of application. They’re not mutually exclusive. In fact, they both fall under the objectives of what the Qur’an came for: to recite it for reward, to reflect on it deeply, and to derive lessons and benefit. There isn’t a difference between the two, so we can weigh which one is ‘better to do’ over the other. Each of them has its proper time and that’s dependent, as well, on the situation of the person reciting as previously mentioned.

No doubt though that understanding what one recites is much more important than a lack of understanding. This is why some scholars gave the example of a person who recites the Qur’an with active reflection – it’s like a person who gave in charity jewels/diamonds, and the example of a person who simply recites it with no understanding is like the one who gave some dollars in charity. The second person, of course, does not reach the level of the first.

Also we should be aware of a few things in regards to reciting the Qur’an in the month of Ramadan:

1. A person knows himself best. People are not at the same level when it comes to worship. Having said that, it’s a huge loss to a Muslim that the entire month of Ramadan passes and they haven’t finished the Qur’an even once. This is a practice even the Angel Jibril (alaihi asalam) had kept by reviewing the Qur’an in Ramadan with the Prophet (ﷺ) and it’s a practice that has been kept since then for over 1400 years.

It’s well known that people have energy at the beginning of the month to do a lot of good, among them reciting the Qur’an. But as the days go by, they lose that spirit and they get lazy to continue these deeds.

So, whoever knows that this will happen to them, the best way to deal with it is to organize your recitation.

Organize your schedule to recite 1 Juz’ each day. If you do, you’ll be able to focus and actually finish reading the Qur’an at least once in the month. Even if you do this every month for the entire year, you’ll be able to do it. The entire issue is simply tied to your will, focus, and determination.

For example, if a person dedicates themselves (after every prayer) to recite 4 pages, whatever the case may be, they will read 20 pages a day & that’s 1 Juz’ of the Qur’an (in the well known Madinah print of the Qur’an which has 15 lines per page).

This way the person will be diligent and continue to do the good actions without cutting off. The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “The most beloved actions to Allah are those that are continuous even if they were little.”

2. It’s also highly recommended for a person that recites the Qur’an to have a summarized tafsir or a translation with them, so that they can look over the meanings occasionally as they read. This helps you truly taste the beauty of the Qur’an and fully feel its recitation. The one who understands its meanings isn’t like the one who doesn’t.

Even though this is extremely important, you’ll notice that many people who even read the Qur’an may be heedless of it. If a person who reads the Qur’an dedicates themselves to reading that tafsir or translation, they’ll understand a lot of the meanings of the Qur’an.

Many Muslims dedicated works to publishing summarized tafsirs. For example, in Arabic: alTafsir alMuyassar (or alMukhtasar fi alTafsir), or others. {In English, the M.A.S AbdulHaleem Oxford Print of the translation of the Qur’an is superb.}

The point being that a Muslim has a summarized tafsir or translation that they read often just as much as they recite the Qur’an, so that they join between reciting the Qur’an and understanding its meaning.

3. While reciting the Qur’an, some benefits and lessons become apparent, or even some questions and inquiries. You absolutely have to write these down, so that you don’t forget them.

The wonders and amazement that comes with the Qur’an simply has no end, and it doesn’t cease no matter how many times you look over it. This is why it’s known as the Qur’an that is Majid, meaning honorable in its composition and meanings, and expansive in its virtue in composition and meanings. The lessons and benefits derived from it are just like that.

So, think about it. How much benefit could be in front of a student of knowledge if every scholar wrote what he benefited from in reflecting over the Qur’an or he wrote down all the questions that came up while he was reading it?

4. Reciting the Qur’an at night is from the most beneficial types of worship. How many types of worship don’t you truly feel its sweetness, unless its coupled by doing it in the depth of the night?

This is why among the best parts of the night to do worship is the last third of the night. This is why the Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Our Lord, the Blessed and the Exalted, descends every night to the lowest heaven when one-third of the latter part of the night is left, and says: Who supplicates to Me so that I may answer him? Who asks Me so that I may give to him? Who asks Me forgiveness so that I may forgive him?” [Sahih Muslim].

And this is among many things some may become heedless of in the month of Ramadan, especially when people stay up all night.

So, don’t just become another follower and stay ahead. Allah grant us success to guide us to what He loves and what pleases Him.

Likewise, if a Muslim organizes their time to recite some of the Qur’an each night, it’d be possible. A point many of us may not think about, especially during Ramadan nights when we flip day and night, when people sleep during the day and stay up all night, which Allah made a rest for us. The pleasure of worshiping in the night is something we may not experience because of this. If a Muslim only tries to recite the Qur’an from his memory in voluntary worship at night, without light, in darkness, they’d see their worries go away and a focus for their soul. This is because sight busies a person in their recitation or their prayer.

No doubt, whoever attempts doing worship in darkness, finds a light and pleasure in their worship that they won’t find even in bright lights powered by electricity.

5. From the benefits of tarawih prayer in Ramadan is hearing the Qur’an from someone who has perfected their recitation, with a beautiful, moving voice who recite the Qur’an and affect people’s hearts. You find that their recitation has an effect on your heart. So, try hard to find someone that has these characteristics to pray behind.

Know that voices have unique tastes that differs from person to person. Don’t criticize a reciter because he doesn’t appeal to you. This falls into speaking ill (ghiba) about a person behind their back.

Look for the person that you can benefit from their recitation. This is something that’s desired and should be sought after.

And my advice to the Imams, whom Allah blessed with beautiful voices, ability to perfectly recite and affect people with their recitation:

I say to you, dedicate your recitation, so that it affects and moves them due to hearing the speech of their Lord, and don’t make it about them hearing your Dua Qunut at the end. If it becomes only about that, then there’s a big deficiency. Even more so, if you actually intend people to be affected by this, that’s an even bigger problem. How can people be affected more by the speech of men, and they aren’t even more affected by the speech of the Lord of men? SubhanAllah! Isn’t that something strange that needs some reflection? Don’t you notice that some Imams prepare themselves for Qunut and people seek to hear it more than the speech of their Lord?

Don’t you notice that some Imams change their voices and move their voices when it comes to Qunut, so that it affects people’s hearts, so that they cry and feel more tranquility?

Where is all of this during the recitation of the speech of Allah?

The speech of Allah is what moves hearts, affects and lightens pure souls. So, focus on the effect being in the recitation of the speech of your Lord who spoke it from above the seven heavens, and the Prophet heard it from Jibril.

Recite it as they recited it, so that the person hearing it is as if he’s saying to himself, “This, is the recitation that Allah spoke in the heavens to the Prophet!”

Isn’t this enough for people to make their hearts attentive, raise the hair on their skin, soften their hearts, and ease their souls?

This is the speech of Allah. This is the speech of Allah.

This meaning is what the Muslim should seek to feel and acquire.

6. Many people ask about how can they be affected by the Qur’an, and why they can’t find that tranquility in their prayer when they hear the words of their Lord?

No doubt, this goes back to a few things, the most important of which are the sins we carry on our shoulders. But along with this, there are ways for the Qur’an to have an effect.

Distancing ourselves from sins, rectifying our hearts by doing good deeds is the path to being affected by the Qur’an. So. based upon how much we rectify ourselves, the more the Qur’an will have an effect on us.

As far as the effect the Qur’an has while reciting, then there are a few reasons:

A person may simply be in the right state for it, their heart is prepared for what their Lord is telling them. So, a person who came early for the prayer, then prayed as much as they’d like, then made some dhikr, then read from their Lord’s book, they listen to the speech of their Lord, their heart is attached to their Lord more than a person who comes late in a hurry and fearing that they miss the prayer. So, when will that person be able to calm themselves or their heart down, so that they can understand the speech of their Lord and fully comprehend its meanings?

Also, whoever has read the tafsir of these verses that the Imam will recite will remember its meanings. So, the effect is definitely more than someone who doesn’t know its meanings.

Also, if someone does some acts of worship between the prayers (like dhikr or dua) then their heart is more prepared as well and in tranquility to be affected by the speech of their Lord than someone who may not do that.

And you may notice that some people who recently repented from sins and Allah guided them, that while they pray they feel so much pleasure and are affected by their Lord’s speech. You find them enjoying it, feeling its tranquility, and crying. All of this is due to the change in the state of their hearts from corruption to being rectified.

If this is the case with people who repent and the effect the Qur’an has on them, then what about those who are consistent in their prayers and in doing good? It’s an opportunity to train our souls and apply what will help us gain tranquility and be affected by the speech of our Creator!

7. Many people also ask, how can they continue doing the different kinds of worship that Allah guided them to during Ramadan? The month barely finishes and I stop doing the kinds of worship in which I used to feel their pleasure and tranquility!

The Prophet (ﷺ) drew for us a guide in all actions, he (ﷺ) said, “The most beloved actions to Allah are those that are continuous even if they were little.” If we implemented this hadith in all of our worship we would be able to continue most of them. This could be done if a Muslim focuses on doing a little act daily, then builds on it when they have energy, then goes back to that little that they used to do daily. This would benefit them. Continuing to do worship, even if little is better than doing it in separate occasions or even leaving it all together.

Whoever establishes the obligatory acts they have to do, then does the emphasized Sunnahs, then increases whatever they like from different types of worship – is loved by Allah.

The Prophet (ﷺ) said that Allah said “…and My slave keeps on coming closer to Me through performing Nawafil (prayer or doing extra deeds besides what is obligatory) till I love him …” [Sahih alBukhari]

So, for example at night time, they try very hard to not sleep until they pray 3 rak’ah, even if they were light. If they feel some energy one night, they increase, and if not, they remain doing those 3.

And if reciting the Qur’an, they stay reciting 1 Juz’ every single day, until they find that the month is over, that they’ve finish reciting the Qur’an.

Or similarly with fasting, fasting 3 days every month, and if they are able to and have energy, increase in doing days, but remaining on 3 days a month and not doing less than that. Similarly, with charity, give a certain amount, even if little, so that not a month goes by except that they’ve given that amount at least. Similarly, with the rest of the different types of worship, intend to do little as a base, and then increase when there is energy and ability. If there isn’t any energy or motivation, then at least you’ll be doing the minimum you set and you’ll be, at least, at the bare minimum continuous worship without feeling any kind of burden, hardship, or boredom!

I ask Allah to grant myself and you all success to that which leads to what He loves and is pleased with, for him to make us from those who speak and act upon what we say.

When Ramadan comes, it’s like a station you find people staying to refill themselves and their baggage. It’s the station of the righteous who find joy on its arrival, so they take from its provision for their worship in this life, and take paradise from it for their afterlife. It’s a station of discipline that all believers enter, whether they’re someone who’s a sinner, righteous, or in need … the question is, will we be able to truly benefit from this month and gain from its capacity?

Lastly, I ask Allah to grant us success, steadfastness, to raise the destitution from the Ummah, to guide its leaders to that which He loves and is pleased with, to allow us to see victory in this month for Muslims in all places and stations of life … He is the One who has the ability and has the power, and our last call is that all thanks and praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds.

A follow up will be on some practical places to turn to for tafsir, translations of the Qur’an, podcasts, etc. Stay Tuned! Look out for it!

By: @ahasnoor (MW Contributor)


8 thoughts on “Is More Better or Seeking Depth to the Letter: Recitation or Reflection?”

  1. Our Imam just told us not to spend a lot of time reciting things and we don’t know what we are saying. On a personal level, I see so many Muslims who have beautiful recitation, yet when you start asking them questions about Islam, they really don’t know. Dean Obeidallah over at the Daily Beast says, it’s “tradition to say inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un. NOPE. It’s in the Quran as an instruction from Allah and that makes it fard. You are doing the same thing. Only scholars should understand the Quran? The rest of us should just chant like birds….and hope an ISIS theologian doesn’t find us????


  2. Assalamu Alaikum

    Jazak Allahu Khairan. I would like some more explanation on Hadr. If one is from the general masses (non Arab) and is reading hadr, does that mean he does not have to reflect on the Quran at all? For example if he is able to pick up the meanings of some verses then should he take the time to ‘reflect’ on those verses by paying some attention to the meaning? Or is he encouraged to just recite as much as he can without understanding any meanings?

    Secondly does reading hadr means that one (whether as an individual reciter outside of salah or as an Imam in taraweeh) has permission to read very quickly, as if rushing , seeing that the goal is to finish as many recitations as possible. I am not speaking about not observing tajweed rules, as tajweed rules can be observed by many people even while rushing the recitation. Or is this rushing a sign of disrespect towards the words of Allah?


  3. Assalamualaikum wr wb
    Im sorry to say this, but its so funny to me that you make an article about Al-Qur’an without any ayah from Al-Qur’an itself. You choose to use hadist instead. I feel so bad about it.
    Im sorry. Its just my opinion, because I prefer to believe in Allah SWT words rather than Human’s words.


  4. Assalamu ‘alaykum wa rahmatuLlah,
    jazakaLlahu kheyran for this very interesting and relevant post!
    As a matter of fact, I was wondering how to proceed with my recitation of the Quran this year as I don’t understand Arabic well enough (I need 5 minutes to read 1 page in average…) and, if I want to look for the meaning of each verse, I will not be able to finish as my time is also limited. Kheyr in sha Allah.
    I found the rest of the article also very beneficial and look forward to your follow up!


  5. Assalamu alaikum,

    Thank you for this post, it will be very beneficial for me in shaa Allah. I was actually just looking to buy a hard copy of the Quran with English translation, and came across the Oxford one that you mentioned. The thing is I’m not sure how large the Arabic letters are on that one… you can look inside the book on Amazon and it looks like the Arabic script are in boxes while the translation takes up most of the page. If the letters are too small, I find it difficult to read as I can’t yet read that fluently in Arabic. Do you know of any other good translation with the Arabic text?

    Jazak Allahu khayran.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Walaikum asalam,

      Thank you for your kinds words. I’m sorry I unfortunately don’t know of any copies of the Oxford translation of the Quran that have both the English & Arabic in bigger readable size.

      I myself have them separate entirely.

      Out of all of the translations I have ever come across, the Oxford translation is so lucid & well written that everything else pales in comparison.

      It of course does have many improvements, but as a whole I always recommend it primarily anyway.

      JazakumAllahukhairan for taking the time to read & comment!


      Liked by 1 person

      1. I read the reviews for the Oxford version and most agree with what you say so I ordered it anyhow. In shaa Allah it won’t be too difficult to read.


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