Getting Close to Quran in Ramadan (Abdullah Cheng)
2024/3/22 主麻講稿 Khutbah (Khatib Abdullah Cheng)
Dear brothers and sisters in Islam,
Allah has blessed us and favored us again by allowing us to enter this blessed month of Ramadan, giving us another chance to better ourselves and to improve ourselves and to repent from our sins and mistakes and to seek His forgiveness. In this month, let us all strive to do our best in our worship and in our deeds, let us stick closer to the Qur’an, by reciting it, by memorizing it, by listening to it, by understanding it, by contemplating it, by implementing it, by spreading it, by whatever means necessary to get closer to it.
As you are all aware, Ramadan is the month in which the Qur’an was first revealed to our Prophet Muhammad (SAW) through the angel Jibreel when our Prophet was in the cave of Hera’. At this point in his life, the Prophet was a relatively successful man in his society, he was at the age of 40, married his wife Khadijah, had multiple children together. When the angel Jibreel appeared in front of the Prophet, he told him to read: Iqra’. And the Prophet replied: مَا أَنَا بِقَارِئٍ (I do not know how to read). After telling the Prophet to read for 3 times, finally the Prophet recited the first few verses of Surah Al-Alaq:
اقْرَأْ بِاسْمِ رَبِّكَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ
Read, in the Name of your Lord Who has created (all that exists),
خَلَقَ الْإِنسَانَ مِنْ عَلَقٍ
He has created man out of a clot,
اقْرَأْ وَرَبُّكَ الْأَكْرَمُ
Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous.
الَّذِي عَلَّمَ بِالْقَلَمِ
Who has taught (the writing) by the pen,
عَلَّمَ الْإِنسَانَ مَا لَمْ يَعْلَمْ
He has taught man that which he did not know.
These few verses being the first verses ever revealed to mankind have to be one of the most unexpected verses, because back in the days of the Prophet, the number of people in that society who could read was very low, yet the first phrase Allah has told us in the Qur’an is to ‘Read’. There has to be certain wisdoms behind why these verses are chosen by Allah rather than other verses in the Qur’an.
Of course, when Allah commanded the Prophet to read, it doesn’t refer to the literal reading of the books or papers, but rather a type of recitation that is directly from Allah. It is a type of reading that only with the power of Allah was it possible for the Prophet to read and gain knowledge without the help of a book or paper.
اقْرَأْ بِاسْمِ رَبِّكَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ
Read, in the Name of your Lord Who has created. Allah is already telling us that we should recite with the Name of Allah, we should begin with the Name of Allah before reciting the Qur’an or doing anything. This shows us the importance of Allah in our affairs and how we should always remind ourselves that our ultimate priority in life should always be for the sake of Allah.
اقْرَأْ بِاسْمِ رَبِّكَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ
خَلَقَ الْإِنسَانَ مِنْ عَلَقٍ
اقْرَأْ وَرَبُّكَ الْأَكْرَمُ
Allah mentioned the phrase Iqra twice, which tells us the importance of repeating the process of reading in order to gain knowledge. Knowledge cannot be acquired by simply accessing it and reading it once, but it needs a constant repetition.
اقْرَأْ وَرَبُّكَ الْأَكْرَمُ
Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous
Because of the generosity of Allah, we are able to use knowledge to get all the necessary information we need to know about this Dunya and the Hereafter. Without knowledge, none of these can be achieved.
Therefore, in these first few verses of Surah Al-Alaq, Allah has emphasized the importance of acquiring knowledge before doing anything. Without knowledge, we wouldn’t understand Islam. Without knowledge, we wouldn’t know how to pray, or fast, or how to differentiate what is good and what is bad. We can also notice that in the first revelation, there is nothing about the mission and responsibility of Prophethood or spreading the message, but it only contains knowledge and allows the Prophet to digest and understand that something huge is about to happen.
As we know, the Prophet was overwhelmed and extremely scared, and this shows his humanity as well. He ran back to the house of Khadijah and covered himself in the blankets. The second revelation to the Prophet was the first few verses of Surah Al-Muddathir:
يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلْمُدَّثِّرُ
O you who is covered up ˹in your clothes˺
قُمْ فَأَنذِرْ
Stand up and warn.
وَرَبَّكَ فَكَبِّرْ
And glorify your Lord alone.
وَثِيَابَكَ فَطَهِّرْ
And purify your clothes, cleanse the sins within ourselves
وَٱلرُّجْزَ فَٱهْجُرْ
And avoid from filthiness, avoid blind following others in idol worshipping
وَلَا تَمْنُن تَسْتَكْثِرُ
And don’t expect a return after doing a favor.
وَلِرَبِّكَ فَٱصْبِرْ
And stay patient for your Lord. 
This series of verses tells us that after acquiring knowledge, we should not remain and stay in our comfort zone. After having the knowledge, we should apply that knowledge and benefit from the knowledge. The goal of gaining knowledge in the first place is to have the intention that at some point we will be using that knowledge, so that we can get closer to Allah.
The third revelation to our Prophet was the first few verses of Surah Al-Muzzammil:
يَا أَيُّهَا الْمُزَّمِّلُ
O you wrapped ˹in your clothes˺!
قُمِ ٱلَّيْلَ إِلَّا قَلِيلًۭا
Stand all night ˹in prayer˺ except a little—
نِّصْفَهُۥٓ أَوِ ٱنقُصْ مِنْهُ قَلِيلًا
˹pray˺ half the night, or a little less,
أَوْ زِدْ عَلَيْهِ وَرَتِّلِ ٱلْقُرْءَانَ تَرْتِيلًا
or a little more—and recite the Quran ˹properly˺ in a measured way.
إِنَّا سَنُلْقِى عَلَيْكَ قَوْلًۭا ثَقِيلًا
˹For˺ We will soon send upon you a heavy revelation.
إِنَّ نَاشِئَةَ ٱلَّيْلِ هِىَ أَشَدُّ وَطْـًۭٔا وَأَقْوَمُ قِيلًا
Indeed, worship in the night is more impactful and suitable for recitation.
إِنَّ لَكَ فِى ٱلنَّهَارِ سَبْحًۭا طَوِيلًۭا
For during the day you are over-occupied ˹with worldly duties˺.
وَٱذْكُرِ ٱسْمَ رَبِّكَ وَتَبَتَّلْ إِلَيْهِ تَبْتِيلًۭا
˹Always˺ remember the Name of your Lord, and devote yourself to Him wholeheartedly.
These verses talk about reading the Qur’an, praising Allah, remembering Allah, and worshipping and praying to Allah, which are all related to the spiritual part of a human being. This is the result that comes out after having knowledge and after applying knowledge. When we gain knowledge and act based on that knowledge, then what we attain is Taqwa, God consciousness, the spirit of fearing Allah. These verses of Surah Al-Muzzammil are telling us that the ultimate actions worship are private Tahajjud, prayers at night and doing Dhikr all the time. These are only attained only after combining knowledge and actions in a balanced manner.
If someone has knowledge but doesn’t have any action, then he is no more than a hypocrite; if someone has action but doesn’t have any knowledge, then he is no more than a fool, which is dangerous. As Muslims, we pray to Allah everyday while reciting Surah Al-Fatihah:
ٱهْدِنَا ٱلصِّرَٰطَ ٱلْمُسْتَقِيمَ
Guide us to the straight path -
صِرَٰطَ ٱلَّذِينَ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ غَيْرِ ٱلْمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا ٱلضَّآلِّينَ
the Path of those You have blessed—not those You are displeased with, or those who are astray
The people of الْمَغْضُوبِ are the people who Allah is displeased with, these are people who have knowledge, but have no actions. They have the knowledge of the truth, but they refuse the follow by actions. The people of الضَّالِّونَ on the other hand are the people who are astray and misguided, they only have actions, but they have no knowledge behind these actions.
Therefore from the wisdoms behind the first verses revealed in the Qur’an, we understand that Islam is not only practiced by only knowing about it, but also by acting upon it. Only after having the correct knowledge and action, then it should bring us Taqwa, consciousness of Allah. May Allah allow us to understand the message and wisdoms of the Qur’an, may Allah allow us to maximize our good deeds in this blessed month of Ramadan, and may Allah allow us to reach another Ramadan after this one.