Is Reciting Qur’an Without Understanding Useless?

(taken from al balagh)

By Mufti Ebrahim Desai
Posted: 5 Safar 1422, 29 April 2001

Q.) My question to Maulana Sahib is regarding the purpose of Qur’an. Is it just reading it, or understanding it? This question is regarding the people who do not understand Arabic.
I have seen many people who just read and listen to Qur’an without Tarjumaah (translation), and know zero percent of what Allah Ta’ala is saying to them. When I ask them why don’t you listen to the recitation plus tarjumaah they insist that there is a special effect of the words and that the Qir’at (recitation) of Qur’an and its virtue is unmatchable.

My mind does not accept this. Although I believe that the words of Qur’an do have a very special effect and yet there is a great virtue of listening to them. But I think that this is a secondary blessing of Allah. I think what Qur’an has to give is just hidden in its words. Same as if your mother asks you to do something in French and you don’t understand French, then you can’t help yourself by acting upon her order.

And I think the best is that everybody should try to learn Arabic.

Please guide me through this matter. [Taemoor Abbasi (Computer Systems Engineering, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada)]

A.) The noble Qur’an is that noble and blessed book of Allah Ta’ala which He revealed for the guidance of mankind. The virtues of reciting the Qur’an are numerous, but there is one virtue which supercedes all others.

Sayyidna Abu Sa’eed Khudri, Radi-Allahu anhu narrates that Rasulullah said, ‘That person who due to excessive recitation of the Qur’an is not able to make Allah Ta’ala’s Dhikr and Du’a, Allah Ta’ala will bestow such a person with more blessings and Ni’mat than even those who make Dhikr and Du’a.’ (Tirmidhi). What better virtue can there be, when Allah Ta’ala takes it upon Himself to bless such people who recite the Qur’an excessively?

The question arises that whether a person will attain this virtue, by only reciting it with understanding, or does he also obtain the benefits if he recites without understanding?

Sayyidna Abdullah ibn Ma’sood, Radi-Allahu anhu narrates that Rasulullah said, ‘That person who recites one letter from the Kitabullah, he will get one reward, and one is multiplied by ten.’ He further went on to say, ‘I do not say that Alif, Laam, Meem is one letter, but instead alif is one letter, laam is one letter and meem is one letter.’ (Tirmidhi)

If we ponder over this Hadith, we will find that there is no condition that the reciter will only get Thawab (reward) if he recites the Qur’an with understanding.

In the noble Qur’an, there are many Ayahs which we do not know the meaning of, for example, Huroof Muqattaat, which appear at the beginning of some Surahs, e.g. Alif-laam-meem.

We do not know the meaning of such Ayahs, but we still recite them. If we do not get reward for reciting the Qur’an without understanding, then it will imply that we will not get reward for reciting these Ayahs of the Qur’an as we do not know their meanings, but Nabi chose the words Alif-laam-meem knowing well that he had not explained them to the Ummah, yet he still commanded us to recite them, and described the virtues for reciting such three alphabets.

From the above points, it is clear that even though a person recites the Qur’an without understanding, he will still attain the virtues and benefits of reciting it.

However, if after learning how to recite the Qur’an, a person goes on to learn the meaning of the Qur’an so that he understands the orders and commands of Allah Ta’ala, the reward for such a person is certainly more.

And Allah Ta’ala Knows Best.

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