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Understanding the Quran

Wahab Ibn Abdullah Al-Sawa’i, who belonged to the generation after the companions of the Prophet, once asked Ali Ibn Abi Talib whether he possessed any divine inspiration which was not contained in the Quran. Ali swore an oath by the One who split the seed and brought life into existence, that they had nothing besides the Quran, “The only additional source of inspira­tion was the true understanding of the Quran which God bestows upon a person.” (Tafseer Ibn Kathir, Vol. II. p 77).

Ali’s answer shows that it is one thing to understand the written words of the Quran, and another to penetrate into the deep meanings of the Book of God. To understand the words of the Quran all one has to do is read it. But true understanding of Quranic meanings ­can only come from deep thought and contemplation. The Quran, an ocean of profound meanings; only one who plunges into the depths of its waters can fathom the treasures it contains.

The Quran becomes a source of inspiration and spiritual nourishment in his life. All his thoughts and actions spring from the Quran. It becomes the very life and soul of his existence.


One can put this another way and say that to understand the words of the Quran one has to know the Arabic language; but to understand the meaning of the Quran one needs to be versed in divine wisdom. One can study the Arabic language, read the Quran, and understand outward meaning. But the Quran has meanings that lie hidden beneath the surface. These meanings can only be understood by one who has illuminated his vision with the light of God.

All one has to do to ascertain the words of the Quran is open its pages. But to discover the Quran’s meanings, one has to explore it in depth. One can sit and listen to a recital of the Quran, or hear someone else reading a translation, but this will only enable one to understan­d the words of the Quran. To penetrate to its inner meanings on the other hand, requires an effort on one’s own part.

If one only studies the Quran on a superficial level, it will only have a superficial effect on one; one’s belief in the Quran will lack the force of inner conviction. One who discovers the Quran in its inner meanings, on the other hand, develops a live attachment to the Book of God. The Quran becomes a source of inspiration and spiritual nourishment in his life. All his thoughts and actions spring from the Quran. It becomes the very life and soul of his existence.

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