1. Before you begin, check your heart
The key to really benefiting from the Quran is to check your heart first, before you even touch Allah’s book. Ask yourself, honestly, why you are reading it? Are you ready to change based on it? Remember, Allah(SWT) tells us:
“Truly there is a reminder in this for anyone who has a heart, or who listens attentively with presence of mind.” Surah Qaf 50:37
So if this reading does not benefit us, is our heart alive to it? And if you find yourself lacking, don’t let this be an excuse for not doing anything, rather use this as your motivation to search out Allah(SWT) and rush to read Allah’s words so they can clean your heart
2. Know your reading purpose
The way you read anything depends very much on your reasons for reading it. You read an question in your maths exam very differently to scouring the football results when you’re trying to find out who scored the goals. If I ask you to look for all the things which are green in the space around you, it is a very different learning and outcome, than if you don’t have a focus. Similarly, If you know your reading purpose by carefully considering your intention and goal, you will know what to look for.
Why are you reading the Qur’an? Are you searching for something? What specifically?
Also, dont forget to mulitply your intentions when reading the Qur’an so you can maximise your reward. Here are some great examples of good intentions when reading the Qur’an.
3. Read it like you mean it
It seems odd to say you have read something without understanding what it says. As the ayah above states, you need to be fully present and focus on what you are reading. Get an accurate translation of the Quran, in the language you understand, like the Qu’ran (Oxford University press) or the Saheeh International translation. Don’t worry about reading too much but whatever you do read, really focus on it. Ask yourself what you think Allah(SWT) is trying to tell you and mull it over. Don’t worry if you don’t fully understand it but do look it up in a book of tafsir or ask a scholar.
Stop when you are confused and try to summarise the meaning in your own words. Read aloud if you’re struggling. Discuss it with peers and those you respect for learning.
4. Take note!
When you are preparing for an exam, you know you need to be able to focus on key points. Perhaps you do this highlighting or making notes in the margin. Keeping in mind due respect for the Qur’an, make notes of the key points you understand from the text. Use a highlighter selectively to mark a FEW key points to act as the basis for mental pictures and reminder cues. Add key words or questions in the margins which come to your mind and can stimulate discussion with a teacher or scholar.
The act of annotation helps you to focus, soak in the meaning and moves the information from working memory into longer term memory.
5. Pass it on
The best form of learning, in my opinion, is teaching. A serious teacher will put the content into their own words, so that they can convey it to every single student effectively. To really engage with what you are reading in the Qur’an or studying in a class, try to teach it to someone else. It can be your spouse, brother, friend or via your Playstation chat. The important thing is conveying and seeing if this is understood by the listener and they can appreciate the value of your point.
6. Make Dua (supplication)
Ask Allah to guide you when you read the Quran. Your aim is to sincerely, for the love of Allah, interact with Him by reading, understanding and applying His blessed words. Making Dua to Allah for help and guidance will be your best tool for doing this.
7. Act on it
Remember, the Quran is not just for information, it is for transformation. Think about you can apply what you have read in your life. This is how to become a walking Qur’an.
In summary, we end with the beautiful words of Imam Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya (rh):
So if there is something that has an effect, which is the Quran, and a place for that effect to take place, which is the heart that is alive, and the condition is met, which is concentration, and the barrier is removed, which is the preoccupation of the heart and its absence from the meaning of what is being said to it, and its departure to something else, the effect will take place, and it is the benefit and the reminder.