Allah, Most High, says:
And, again, whenever a surah like this one is sent down exposing the hypocrites, then some of them say in denial and derision to the others: Which of you has this surah increased in faith? Yet as for those who believe, truly it has increased them in faith, and they rejoice. But as for those who in whose doubting hearts there is a sickness, it merely adds defilement to their defilement. Thus they shall have died while they are disbelievers. Do they not see that each year they are tried by Allah once or twice? Yet still they do not repent. Nor do they even reflect. Yet again, whenever a surah like this one is sent down exposing them, they look at each other utterly astonished and signal: Does anyone see you when you speak in secret? Then stealthily they turn away from the Prophet. Allah has turned their hearts away because they are a people who do not have minds open to understanding. [Sûrat Al-Tawbah, 9:124-128]
In these âyahs, Allah depicts two kinds of attitude toward the Gracious Quran: The attitude of the mu’min (the believer) and that of the munâfiq (the hypocrite).
When the mu’min hears the Quran being recited, two things happen to him: First, his belief swells. Second, he is filled with delight.
The mu’min is elated when he receives instructions from his Lord requiring him to do this or that thing, or not to do this or that thing. In fact, humans are by their very nature prone to feel good when they are entrusted with obligations. Normally, babies are not charged with responsibilities. But when their parents feel that they have grown enough to be entrusted with the performance of some errands, they are beside themselves with joy. Why is this so? It is thus because they are now seen as capable and responsible enough to honor obligation!
Likewise, a believer is elated when he becomes a locus of Divine obligations. For he knows full well that his carrying out of these obligations is good for both his material and spiritual welfare. He is well aware of the divinely promised reward that awaits him if he lives up to these obligations.
Not so the munâfiq!
He does not delight in Allah’s speech. Instead, he is pleased by the speech of those other than Allah. But who are those other than Allah? They are the false deities-apart-from-Him. Allah says:
Now, whenever the name of Allah is mentioned as the one true God, the hearts of those who do not believe in the Hereafter shudder in aversion. Yet whenever those false deities apart from Him are mentioned, they rejoice. [Sûrat Al-Zumar, 39:45]
Those people of whom the above âyah speaks rejoice in the speech of false deities, which have, sadly, become objects of worship and adoration for many of us. They are pleased to receive instructions from these false deities. They draw nearer to them. They submit their wills to them. They are thrilled by all kinds of talk which are far beneath the majestic speech of Allah: The poems, the songs, the music, the plays, the talk shows, the stories, the news. They gladly spend their money in order to be able to attend, and listen to, these kinds of speech. Because they find pleasure in them!
The munâfiq‘s attitude toward the speech of Allah is the perfect antithesis of that of the believer! The believer experiences the highest feelings of joy when he listens to the speech of Allah.
ʿUmar ibn Al-Khaṭṭâb once came to Abû Bakr, after the death of the Prophet and said: “O Abû Bakr! Let us go visit with Umm Hâni bint Abi Țâlib, as the Prophet used to do.” When Umm Hâni’s eyes fell on Abû Bakr and ʿUmar, she cried. “Why are you crying,” they enquired, “Don’t you know that the rewards which Allah has in store for His Messenger are far superior to this earthly life and all that is in it!?” Umm Hâni answered: “I’m not crying because of the Prophet’s death. I’m grieved because we are no longer receiving waḥy (divine revelation)!
So as you see, Umm Hâni used to be delighted by the divine descent of waḥy. She used to find joy in the speech of Allah. Thus when the Prophet ﷺ was no more, she knew that no other sûrah would ever come down again. That was the reason why she cried. That was the root of her grief. She cried for the ceasing of that heavenly mercy which used to come down from the sky to bless their lives, direct their steps, and cheer them up. She cried for the Quran.
Even so is the attitude of the people of îmân toward the speech of our Lord. They revel in it. And when they are separated from it, sadness engulfs them.
Yet as for those who believe, truly it has increased them in faith, and they rejoice. So says the âyah. Therefore, when the Prophet ﷺ once enjoined the Companion Ibn Masʿûd:
“Recite some Quran for me, O Ibn Masʿûd.” “Me! recite the Quran for you when you are the one to whom it was sent down!?” responds the taken-aback Ibn Masʿûd. “I love to here the Quran being recited by others,” says the Prophet ﷺ.
Known for the beauty of his recitation, Ibn Masʿûd began reciting to the grandest of audiences—the greatest of Allah’s messengers. He recited Sûrat Al-Nisâ’, and the Prophet was listening to Ibn Masʿûd’s recitation. But, as Ibn Masʿûd says,
When he reached the âyah in which Allah says: How then shall it be on Judgment Day when We bring forth from each community its prophet as a witness—and We bring you forth, O Muhammad, over all these as a witness— (4:42), “the tearful Prophet [gently] kicked me with his foot [to cease] (or as a another version of the hadith has it, ‘he said to me, ‘enough!’).”
The Prophet ﷺ cried when he heard the Quran recited by Ibn Masʿûd!
In another ḥadîth, the Prophet ﷺ says:
Whosoever wishes to listen to the Quran as fresh and soft as when it first came down, let him listen to the recitation of Ibn Umm ʿAbd (a surname of Ibn Masʿûd).”
Think of the terms the Prophet used to describe his feelings toward the speech of our Lord: “I love to,” “soft,” and “fresh”! These are words we normally use when we talk of food or other coveted material substances. But the Prophet ﷺ used them to describe the speech of Allah!
And in another ḥadîth, the Prophet ﷺ talks about the sweetness of îmân. We know the sweets we buy from the store and present to our guests in Eid festivals. This is the sweet stuff we know! and savor! But the sweetness of îmân!? The Prophet tells us in a ḥadîth:
Three things whosoever is possessed of has indeed tasted the sweetness of îmân: To love Allah and His Messenger more than anything else. To love someone only for the sake of Allah. And to hate to slide back into kufr (disbelief), after Allah has rescued him from it, the same way one hates for his body to be flung into fire.
Please contemplate the following words and phrases:
- “I love to hear the Quran.”
- “Umm Hâni wept because wḥay had ceased.”
- “The Prophet describes the Quran as fresh and soft.”
- The Prophet says îmân has a sweet taste.”
- “The believers rejoice in the Quran.”
And the Quran says of its own influence on the faithful:
Yet as for those who believe, truly it has increased them in faith, and they rejoice. [Sûrat Al-Tawbah, 9:24]
But what of those who in whose doubting hearts there is a sickness—the other category who rejoice in the speech of other than Allah? What will their reaction be when Allah’s speech comes down or when they hear the Quran being recited?
The Quran answers this question:
But as for those who in whose doubting hearts there is a sickness, it merely adds defilement to their defilement. Thus they shall have died while they are disbelievers. [Sûrat Al-Tawbah, 9:125]
Theirs is a persistence in defilement (rijs), i.e., hypocrisy and disbelief! The more the Quran is recited to them, the more they draw themselves away from it, the more their rijs and kufr augment, and they remain in this depraved state until they meet their death—a fate from which we seek refuge with Allah!
Do they not see that each year they are tried by Allah, once or twice? Yet still they do not repent. Nor do they even reflect. [Sûrat Al-Tawbah, 9:126]
In this âyah, Allah tells us that though the errant are, from time to time, visited by fitan (afflictions) —both nature-based (kawniyyah) and prescriptive (tashrîʿiyya) —still they do not return to their Lord in repentance!
First, Allah tries them with fitan tashrîʿiyya: He commands them to struggle in His way, perform Salah-Prayer, and be obedient to Himself and His Messenger. But they arrogantly spurn His commands.
He then smites them with fitan kawniyyah: Earthquakes, diseases, floods, economic meltdowns, among other kinds of fitan, which Allah intends as wake-up calls to His slaves. But still they do not take heed, nor even reflect. About these stiff-necked ones, Allah speaks thus:
Yet, again, whenever a surah like this one is sent down exposing them, they look at each other utterly astonished and signal: Does anyone see you when you speak in secret? Then stealthily they turn away from the Prophet. Allah has turned their hearts away because they are a people who do not have minds open to understanding. [Sûrat Al-Tawbah, 9:127]
In fact, Allah reveals in the Quran the true mindset of these people. He lays bare their secrets. He brings to light the ideas they discuss in their get-togethers. Allah says:
For among them are those who say: Grant me leave to stay behind for this campaign, and do not subject me to trial by testing my forbearance! Most assuredly, they have already fallen into trial. For, indeed, Hell shall, most surely, encompass the disbelievers. [Sûrat Al-Tawbah, 9:49]
Moreover, among them are those who slander you [O Prophet Muhammad] about your disbursement of charitable offerings to the needy. Yet if they are given from it, they become well pleased. But if they are not given from it, then they become wrathful. [Sûrat Al-Tawbah, 9:58]
Now, as to the hypocrites, among them are those who seek to hurt the Prophet by their words. For they say: He is just an ear! Say to them: His is an ear of goodness for you. He believes in Allah and has faith in the believers. Indeed, he is a mercy to those who believe among you. As to those who hurt the Messenger of Allah, for them, there is a most painful torment awaiting in the Hereafter. [Sûrat Al-Tawbah, 9:61]
Further, the Quran reveals even the thoughts that haunt the hypocrites before they even make them public:
For among them are those who made a covenant with Allah, swearing: If He gives us of His bounty, we shall, most surely, become of the righteous! Yet when He gave them of His bounty, they became miserly with it. Then they turned away—and thus did they forsake their covenant. [Sûrat Al-Tawbah, 9:76]
Still they did not believe, nor were they deterred:
Yet, again, whenever a surah like this one is sent down exposing them, they look at each other utterly astonished and signal: Does anyone see you when you speak in secret? Then stealthily they turn away from the Prophet. God has turned their hearts away because they are a people who do not have minds open to understanding. [Sûrat Al-Tawbah, 9:127]
The hypocrites did not believe even though they saw the âyahs come down from heaven and heard them flow, fresh and soft, from the lips of the Prophet!
* * *
These âyahs teach us how to deal with, and how to react to, the speech of our Lord. They teach us to be eagerly receptive to the speech of our Lord. They instruct us that there is a sweet quality to Allah’s speech, the sweetness of faith, as the Prophet ﷺ describes it—a sweetness to which even the hardened Qurashite disbelievers attested. I’m sure you have heard of the mushrik Makkan Al-Walîd ibn Al-Mughîrah, who, upon hearing the Prophet’s recitation of some âyahs of the Quran, remarked: “It is undeniably sweet and pleasant!”
The Quran is sweet. The believers love to listen to it. The believers recite it fresh and soft. The believers rejoice in the Quran. This is how our attitude should be toward the Gracious Quran which Allah sent down to guide our steps to the Straight Path and to rinse our hearts clean of all traces of rijs.
O Allah! make the Quran the joy of our hearts, the light of our eyes, and the vanishing of our worries and sorrows. Âmîn.