Approaching the sacred text is very much like walking the proverbial bridge over hell that is said to be thinner than a hairbreadth and sharper than a sword’s edge. The main function of it is to provide guidance, but this matter depends on its reader.
In our society (Indonesia. red), we usually read the sacred holy Quran without any understanding of the context behind that text. Even, we didn’t understand its translation. And it’s weird isn’t it?
The translation, in fact, is an interpretation because words and the shades of meaning they contain can be translated in so many different ways depending upon the translator academic background, his school of thought, or even political situation he grew up with.
Furthermore, words in the translated language are understood through a cultural history that may be tuned to Qur’anic message. Each translation implies something significantly different based on how we understand these words. Each of us may experience it differently.
When we are writing or talking in the English language, our mind should think in English too.Not in Indonesian or in any other language. It will be hard for the brain to process the translation by memorizing words in many languages. It takes time. Simply, lack of efficiency. This phenomenon should be happened too when we are reading the holy scripture of Qur’an, to understand its words, then trying to grasp the context.
The Qur’an is non-chronological, meaning that it doesn’t begin with the first revelation and end with the last revelation as Prophet Muhammad s. and his companions would have experienced it over the span of 23 years. Rather, the Qur’an is ordered as the Prophet and the companions recited it. Also by 23 years of revelation, the passage that sent down in Mecca (13 years) differs from the passage in Medina(10 years). The difference between those two reflects what the Prophet and his early community were going through. While in Mecca, the Qur’an message was about the foundation of faith, certainty about the afterlife, character building, enduring patiently through difficult times – all these messages reflecting the humility and struggles of the early Islamic movement.
Medina phase reinforces these foundations, but moves toward a more social message with laws and concerns addressed such as marriage, business, war, interfaith relations –all these social messages reflecting that the Islamic movement has shifted its phase, and thus signed that the ummah or Islamic community was born.
The question now for us: How do we understand the Qur’an?
Well, if you are alone and nobody to ask, but you got access to the internet. I got some advice, you may try it as well. Firstly, try learning Arabic, because originally Qur’an is Arabic. There are many ways to learn Arabic, you can learn it by online (there are many websites providing the lecture). Or if you find it difficult to learn, maybe you can start reading the translation. At least try to read two or three translations, and then try to compare each other. By doing so you may find the beauty of the Qur’an in linguistic aspect.
Secondly, you can try to read the Qur’an and its translation cover-to-cover. Begin with surah(chapter) al-Fatihah and continue until the surah an-Naas. Read it slowly, and try to grasp its meaning ayah by ayah (verse by verse). If you can’t figure out what the ayah means,or you found “shady” word, just skip it for now, and take notes. You may also read the chronological stories behind the revelation as an addition.
Thirdly, try to figure out the Arabic root of some words in Qur’an. Supposed you found “shady” word which has many interpretations in it, or maybe you found “unique” word, take notes of it. Then use some website that can give an insight of it. By doing this you can classify words in Qur’an, in which ayah (verses) they mentioned, and on what context they used.
Fourth, repetition. Try all these three processes simultaneously in a parallel way. By learning this way you may experience something new. You may try to figure out the short surah(chapter) first because it was short and easy to memorize.
And lastly, it depends on your intention. What is your goal? If it is to understand only in an academic way, then you got it. You may understand it, but you won’t get the other benefit: how those transcriptions can purify your soul. That’s why it is called “sacred text”.
Remember, Allah chooses the first revelation word: “READ” not just for us to read it literally. There is a huge meaning behind those simple word. It has the power to urge us to think, to ponder upon the Qur’an.
In one narration when the Qur’an revealed in the first time, the Prophet said, “It was as though it was written in my heart.”
So, our intention that rooted in our heart is greatly affected all the processes we will going through to understand the true message of Qur’an.
One Islamic scholar said this advice, “Whenever you recite the Qur’an, do so as if it is being revealed to you.”
May Allah reconnect us to the message of the Qur’an.