وَإِذَا قُرِئَ الْقُرْآنُ فَاسْتَمِعُوا لَهُ وَأَنصِتُوا لَعَلَّكُمْ تُرْحَمُونَ
Wa-idhā quri’al-qur’ānu fastami‘ū lahu wa-ansitū la‘allakum turhamūn
When the Quran is recited, listen to it and be silent, maybe you will receive [Allah’s] mercy!
(Sūrat al-A‘rāf, No 7, Āyat 204)
The believer’s awe for Allah ‘azza wajall is reflected in the attitude with which he listens to the words of Almighty Allah. A heart that is deeply connected to Allah will gravitate towards the sounds of Allah’s words. There is instantaneous attention, a stilling of everything, a fluttering of internal emotions, and a yearning to keep listening. This type of listening strengthens and increases faith.
Many verses talk about the tremendous impact of listening to the words of Quran on the receptive heart. The Quran says: Say, ‘Whether you believe in it, or do not believe in it, indeed when it is recited to those who were given knowledge before it, they fall down in prostration on their faces, and say, ‘‘Immaculate is our Lord! Indeed, Our Lord’s promise is bound to be fulfilled.’’ Weeping, they fall on their faces, and it increases them in humility (Q 17:107-109). In another place the Quran describes the reaction of the believers to the Quran: Allah has sent down the best of discourses, a scripture [composed] of similar motifs, whereat shiver the skins of those who fear their Lord, then their skins and hearts relax at Allah’s remembrance (Q 39:23).
Interestingly the Quran also talks about the effect of listening to the Quran on the Jinn who heard it. It says: When We dispatched toward you a team of jinn listening to the Quran, when they were in its presence, they said, ‘Be silent!’ When it was finished, they went back to their people as warners. They said, ‘O our people! Indeed, we have heard a Book, which has been sent down after Moses, confirming what was before it. It guides to the truth and to a straight path (Q 46:29-30). Sūrat al-Jinn also talks about this: Say, ‘It has been revealed to me that a team of the jinn listened [to the Quran] and they said, “Indeed we heard a wonderful Quran, which guides to the right way. So, we have believed in it and we will never ascribe any partner to our Lord (Q 72:1-2).
The verse for this week shows how the believer can lay the grounds for an appropriate reaction to the sound of Quran. It gives two directives:
• Listen to it; not just hear it but pay attention to it.
• be silent; Turn off all other things flowing through the mind.
A question raised is whether this silence is obligatory or recommended. According to hadith and the opinion of scholars, this silence is only obligatory when the sūras of Quran are recited by an imam in a congregational prayer. The followers should be silent at that time. At all other times when the Quran is being recited, it is appropriate and recommended that listeners should be silent, but it is not obligatory. Imam al-Bāqir ‘alayhis-salām says: When the Quran is being recited in an obligatory prayer behind an imam, then ‘listen to it and be silent, maybe you will receive [Allah’s] mercy’. (Tafsīr-e Namūne).
Silently listening to the Quran has the following potential benefits for the listener:
1) Awareness of the great status of the One who sent down the words.
2) Reflection on what is being said.
3) Softness of the heart as the verses are absorbed.
4) An internal transformation as faith increases.
Note the word ‘perhaps’ at the end of the verse, showing that receiving Allah’s mercy is contingent on more than just being silent and listening. Other conditions such as having intention of acting upon the verses would receive the Divine mercy.
During the month of Ramadan, we can practice this etiquette of listening silently to the Quran and allowing its message to enter the heart. Perhaps we will be of those who are fortunate enough to receive God’s mercy.