Prolonged companionship with the Qur’an must become one of your most cherished desires and occupations. Read it, therefore, as often and as much as you can. Spend as much time with it as you can find, especially the hours of night.
In this manner were the souls of the Prophet (blessings and peace be on him) and his Companions schooled in the way of Allah, to prepare them to shoulder the huge and weighty task that the Qur’an placed upon them.
There are a few guidelines and rules in this reward that you must bear in mind.
How Often to Read?
Every day you must read some of the Qur’an. In fact do not consider a day complete unless you have spent some time with the Qur’an. It is better to read regularly, even if it be only a small portion, than to read long parts, but only occasionally.
“Allah likes things which are done regularly, even if little”, said the Prophet (peace be on him). (Al-Bukhari & Muslim).
He also warned especially that you must attend to the Qur’an regularly, otherwise you may easily lose your gains.
“The parable of the companion of the Qur’an is like a tethered camel; a man holds on to it so long as he attends to it, and it escapes if he lets it loose. (Al-Bukhari & Muslim)
How Much to Read?
There can be no fixed answer. It will vary from person to person, and from situation to situation. The guideline must be what Allah, after taking into account all human factors, has said: “Read whatever you can with ease”. (Al-Muzzammil 73:20)
The practice of the Companions and those who followed them varied considerably. Some used to finish the whole Qur’an in two months, some in one month, some in ten days, some in one week, some even in one day. You should, however, bear in mind the following hadith as the governing criteria:
“One who reads the Qur’an in less than three days does not understand it.” (Abu Dawud & At-Tirmidhi)
Once, when Ibn `Umar upon being asked by the Prophet to read the Qur’an in one month insisted on doing so in less time, he told him:
“Read it in seven days and do not increase on this.” (Al-Bukhari)
That the Qur’an is divided into 7 hizb (groups) and 30 juz’ (parts) gives some indication of what is considered desirable.
In this respect Al-Nawawi’s advice is very sensible: One who can discover deeper meanings by contemplation should read less, similarly one who has to devote time in pursuits like education, affairs of government, or important tasks entrusted by Islam may read less. (Kitab Al-Adhkar)
The quantity of reading will very much depend on the purpose of reading. If you just want to spend time with the Qur’an, or get a quick overview, you may read much faster and, therefore, more. If you want to ponder and reflect, you may read much slower and, therefore, less. This is what Al-Ghazali means when he quotes someone as saying ‘I complete the reading of the Qur’an sometimes on every Friday, sometimes every month, sometimes every year. And (in one type of reading) I have been trying to complete it for the last thirty years but have not yet done so’. (Ihya’).
Under our present circumstances, I think, most of us should aim to finish a general reading of the whole Qur’an at least once every eight months. This should not take more than 5-15 minutes every day, depending on whether you understand the meaning directly or through a translation.
But, at least on a few occasions in your lifetime, you should also attempt to finish one reading in seven days. Or, in one month, especially in the month of Ramadan. Some time should also be devoted to reading slowly, with pondering and reflection, though not necessarily daily.
When to Read?
No time of the day or night is unsuitable for reading the Qur’an, nor is there any physical posture in which you may not do so. Allah says:
Remember the name of your Lord at morning and in the evening and part of the night. (Al-Insan 76:25)
Those who remember God when they are standing, and when they are sitting and when they are lying. (Aal `Imran 3:191)
Reading the Qur’an is certainly the best way to remember Him. The Companions and those who followed them, says An-Nawawi, used to read it during all hours of the day and night, whether they stayed in one place or were travelling.
Yet there are some specific times which are more desirable as they are recommended by the Qur’an and the Prophet (peace be on him); those moments are more rewarding and fruitful. So too there are certain recommended postures.
The Qur’an & Night Prayers
The most excellent time to read is at night, and the most desirable posture is to stand in Prayer. In one of the earliest surahs, Al-Muzzammil, as in numerous other places, the Qur’an tells us so:
They are not all alike. Of the People of the Scripture there is a staunch community who recite the revelations of Allah in the night season, falling prostrate (before Him). (Al ‘Imran 3:113)
And some part of the night awake for it, a largess for you. It may be that your Lord will raise you to a praised estate. (Al-Israa’ 17:79)
Is he who prays adoration in the watches of the night, prostrate and standing, bewaring of the Hereafter and hoping for the mercy of his Lord, (to be accounted equal with a disbeliever)? Say (unto them, O Muhammad): Are those who know equal with those who know not? But only men of understanding will pay heed. (Al-Zumar 39:9)
It also explains why reading the Qur’an during night-Prayers enables your heart to remain with your reading and strengthens your will in surrendering yourself to Allah’s guidance and fulfilling the mission He has entrusted to you.
To do so, however, requires that you should (a) memorize some portions of the Qur’an, and (b) remain awake for some time during the night.
All of you may not therefore be able to do so all the time for various reasons; the Qur’an recognizes such limitations. It, therefore, permits you to read ‘whatever you can do with ease’ which means ‘whatever portion’, at ‘whatever time’, and in ‘whatever position’.
The great need and immense benefits of reading the Qur’an in Prayer during the night however remain. Hence you should assign at least some time, however little, even a few minutes with some regular frequency, however long, say weekly or even monthly, for this purpose.
To keep as near as possible to the ideal way, it may be desirable if you read the Qur’an after or before Fajr and `Isha’ Prayers, or at dawn, or before going to bed. “Reading the Qur’an at dawn is especially commended in the Qur’an.
Establish worship at the going down of the sun until the dark of night, and (the recital of) the Qur’an at dawn. Lo! (the recital of) the Qur’an at dawn is ever witnessed. (Al-Israa’ 17:78)
To read the Qur’an while sitting on a chair, resting against a pillow, lying in bed or on a couch is not desirable, but is not prohibited. But never do so without excuse, nor make it a habit.
However, if one totally misses reading the Qur’an only because one cannot afford to sit in a proper posture, one loses something more precious.
The article is excerpted from the author’s Way to the Qur’an.