A lot of people have been messaging me on feeling pressure to complete Qur’an in this month / feeling relieved by my comments on completion not being a necessary objective or end goal. In fact the goal won’t expire until your last breath.
With that in mind, I thought it might benefit others to provide my reflections on the objective of finishing Qur’an in the blessed month of Ramadan.
Finishing the entirety of Qur’an in Ramadan is a cultural tradition that has grown in recent years, though there is no theological basis nor command for its completion in this month.
Conversely, there is prolific (meaning EXTENSIVE) command and reminder from Allah to do taddabur (meaning reflection on the verses [signs] of the Holy Qur’an). Repeatedly Allah says read and THINK! Recite and PONDER!
Nowhere does it advocate for a full and complete reading of Qur’an in the blessed month of Ramadan or any other specific or limited time period. In fact conversely, Allah references the reasoning of piecemeal revelation in the Qur’an in Surah Al Furqaan:
“And those who disbelieve say, “Why was the Qur’an not revealed to him all at once?” Thus [it is] that We may strengthen thereby your heart. And We have spaced it distinctly” [25:32]
Remember that whilst Qur’an was revealed in the month of Ramadan, revelation did not finish in this month. Indeed revelation came in piecemeal over a period of 23 years!
“The month of Ramadhan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful.” [Qur’an 2:185]
Thus, there is nil advocation to rush to complete within a specific timeframe either inside or outside of Ramadan. In fact, speed defeats the purpose and compromises our reflective faculties that require sabr in order to exercise with full sincerity. We not only compromise our ikhlaas with speed reading but we also compromise our sabr and we overburden our hearts with that which we cannot reflect upon properly nor utilise to transform ourselves for the better.
A reflection of the customary tradition of tarawih and how this practice has come to infiltrate and inform the misguided premise of quantity over quality reading during Ramadan…
During many years of visiting Makkah and Madinah during Ramadan, I came to observe and experience the local tradition of praying 20 rakat for tarawih during the entirety of Ramadan where the Qur’an would be completed by an average rate of a juz a day.
On top of this, in the last ten days of Ramadan, ibadat would be amplified to include a new prayer (prayed only in Ramadan) called Salat ul Qiyam which is separate to tahujjud, occurring in the window between tarawih and tahujjud and involving prolonged sujood in which you converse with Allah. The salat ul qiyam would involve ten rakat and would recite the Qur’an from the beginning, reciting at a rate of a juz a day without the intention of completing within Ramadan but merely recognising the greater blessings of the occurrence of the night of power within the last ten nights of Ramadan. Both it’s premise and experience is beautiful and will forever be one of the most blessed experiences of my earthly existence.
At the time of revelation, the Rasool (ﷺ) and sahaba kareem did not pray such extensive tarawih in congregation. The sunnah was to pray 8 with 3 witr thus making it 11. And even then there was not a tradition of praying tarawih every night. The reason for this was because the Rasool did not wish for tarawih, which is a super obligatory (meaning a non obligatory extra!) to become something that was a burden upon future generations of Muslims. He wanted to instil a practice of ibadat that was capable of being fulfilled. Islam calls for the meezan; meaning the middle path of balance.
So when we add the super obligatory in this blessed month, it is not a bad thing, but if you feel overwhelmed and imbalanced by it, realise that this may be because you are overburdening your heart and soul with more than it can bear.
Earlier today, I asked my mother, who is someone who reads Qur’an more than anyone else I know (daily), where she is upto in her Ramadan Qur’an Reading? She said, “what do you mean? I’m in continuity. I’m doing extra (to my capacity) during this month but I’m not pausing what I have made consistent so my current reading of Qur’an is on Surah Az Zumar which is the Qur’an recitation with meaning that I have been continuing on with since before Ramadan. I have never completed Qur’an in its entirety during Ramadan except for when we have been in Makkah / Madinah during this month and that’s because over there, there is nothing much else except super obligatory ibadat to do. Here I have a house to run.”
Qur’an is a practice that must be kept up all year round and not pursued in excess during one month, only to be left to collect dust for the remainder of the year. So I come to the conclusion that whilst it would feel like an accomplishment to complete Qur’an with Arabic recitation and English reading during this month, a better outcome from this month would be for me to pick up a practice of daily recitation and reflection that I can carry on after Ramadan has departed.
Indeed, the notion of completing Qur’an in this month being an accomplishment for me may be qualified if it’s a capacity I’ve been growing persistently for many many years but if my capacity is currently less in quantity, this does not impact the quality of my reading and reflecting. Every soul bears in accordance with its capacity. My capacity is different to yours but Allah rewards in accordance with your striving, your sincerity and your persistence in steadfastness to His message.
Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “Do good deeds properly, sincerely and moderately and know that your deeds will not make you enter Paradise, and that the most beloved deed to Allah is the most regular and constant even if it were little.” [Sahih al-Bukhari 6464, Book 81, Hadith 53]