Ghazali on the Inner Manners of Qur’an Recital

Based on Imam Ghazali’s explanation in his Ihya’ `Ulum al-Din

In the Name Of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful

1. One should understand the magnificent nature of the Qur’an. This
is a divine gift from Allah, and a tremendous favor. One should bring
to mind the favor of Allah and be thankful.

2. Magnification of the Speaker. Bring to mind the magnification of
the One who is addressing us. The reciter will then remain conscious of
the fact that this Book is the speech of Allah. So when one recites, it
is not like reading any book, rather the very speech of Allah. Allah is
speaking to the reciter through his recitation.

3. Paying attention to the Qur’an: One may avoid whisperings of the
self. “Oh Yahya, take the book firmly,” which may be understood as …
take the words contained in it with seriousness and sincerity.

4. Pondering over the verses. How? Recite it according to the Sunna
with tarteel, a slow, measured, distinct manner. Tajweed helps in
inward reflection. There’s a hadith from Nasai and ibn Majah that the
Prophet, peace be upon him, prayed at night reciting one ayah
repeatedly: “in tuaddhibhum fa ‘innahum ‘ibaaduk…” If You punish
them, then they are Your servants, and if You forgive them, surely You
are the Mighty, the Wise. (5:118)

5. Seek to understand the meanings. 1) in the linguistic sense –
study a translation if you do not know Arabic, 2) and the deeper
meanings found in tafsirs, 3) and with reflection. Studying ‘aqida
helps, for example, reading verses about the power of Allah, and about
His qadr. Don’t interpret it with your own opinion; go look it up in a

6. Remove obstacles to understanding the Qur’an. There are four veils according to Imam Ghazali:

* Being overly concerned with outward recitation (this is one of the
tricks of Shaytan to turn you away from reflecting on meanings). Find a
middle path.

* Superimposing one’s ideas/perspectives/beliefs on the guidance of
the Qur’an (ex: someone is a feminist, socialist, economist – reading
the Qur’an according to his or her own perspective – preventing true
spiritual benefit from the Qur’an.) Take guidance from the Qur’an
itself with an open mind.

* Sin, both outward and inward. Sin creates darkness in the soul and
clouds the mirror of the heart, so it doesn’t reflect the light of
Divine guidance. How to polish the heart? With sincere and consistent
repentance, and leaving sin. Keep doing this and striving until you
leave those sins. This is a process: cleaning the heart and approaching
Allah Most High.

* One finds sufficiency on finding how meanings relate to you from
tafsir. However, this is an interpretation; these tafsirs shouldn’t
take the place of personal reflection and application.

Take everything in the Qur’an as guidance for yourself because it is
for all creation. When it talks about the oppressors, sinners, etc.
look at your life, act on what’s implied relative to your life.
“Fastaqim kama umirta,” be steadfast as you were commanded. Imagine how
the Prophet, peace be upon him, applied the Qur’an to his life – his
hair turned gray! His companions asked why his hair had turned white.
He, peace be upon him, said, “Sura Hud and its sisters made my hair
white.” He was upright and truthful in following the Qur’an. He took
every address to apply to himself personally.

Feel the Qur’an when talking about Paradise, Hell, or anything, put yourself in tune with the Qur’an.

Rise in degrees of recitation. There are three grades of recitation. Any recitation is a tremendous grade.

* The lowest grade: one supposes one is reading the Qur’an to Allah,
as if one is standing before Allah, in His Divine Presence, and Allah
is listening to one’s recitation. This is an inward state of begging,
entreating, and supplicating.

* The middle grade: When one beholds Allah and sees for themself
that Allah is addressing us with His favor. He is bestowing His gifts,
His mercy through the Qur’an. There is a sense of shame, modesty (haya)
and magnification (ta’dhim). One seeks to understand and be more
serious. Now it is from Allah to you! There’s also a feeling of
ecstasy, thankfulness, and joy! One piece of dust like you is being
addressed by the Lord of every speck of dust!

* The highest grade: When one beholds the Speaker Himself and His
Attributes. One does not see his own actions, but completely engrosses
himself in beholding Allah Most High Himself. Then next, he sees the
address of Allah Most High, then sees his own recitation.

10. Recite the Qur’an while knowing that there is no might or power
except with Allah. Qul bifaDlillahi wa biraHmatihi… say by the Grace
of Allah and His Mercy; in that let them rejoice – better than what
they amass – whether (worldly or spiritual amassing).

Thank Allah upon good deeds. In addition, one always beholds one’s
shortcoming in reciting it. And reminding ourselves that we are not
being thankful enough, look even the Prophet’s hair turned gray…The
soul is what turns to Allah…the body is just dust. We have infinite
fear, and infinite hope in Allah… so turn to Allah and hope for His

Please also see the following links:

Etiquettes of Qur’anic Recitation