Which is more virtuous: reading a small amount of the Qur’an with tarteel and contemplation, or a large amount quickly? – Ibn al-Qayyim

In his famous work of seerah, Imam ibn al-Qayyim addressed the issue of the relative merits of slow recitation with contemplation and a large amount of reading with quick recitation without contemplation. He wrote:

وقد اختلف الناس في الأفضل من الترتيل وقلة القراءة ، أو السرعة مع كثرة القراءة : أيهما أفضل؟ على قولين . ـ

The people have differed concerning which is better; reading a small amount with tarteel (slow, measured and deliberate recitation), or reciting a large amount quickly – which of the two is more virtuous? On this subject there are two opinions:

فذهب ابن مسعود وابن عباس رضي الله عنهما وغيرهما إلى أن الترتيل والتدبر مع قلة القراءة أفضل من سرعة القراءة مع كثرتها . ـ

It has come from ibn Mas’ood, ibn ‘Abbaas and others that reading with tarteel and contemplation – though only a little is recited – is more virtuous than quick recitation – though a lot may be recited.

واحتج أرباب هذا القول بأن المقصود من القراءة فهمه وتدبره ، والفقه فيه والعمل به ، وتلاوته وحفظه وسيلة إلى معانيه ، كما قال بعض السلف : ( نزل القرآن ليعمل به ، فاتخذوا تلاوته عملا ) ولهذا كان أهل القرآن هم العالمون به ، والعاملون بما فيه ، وإن لم يحفظوه عن ظهر قلب . ـ

And the proponents of this opinion base it on the fact that the object of reading (the Qur’an) is to comprehend it and contemplate it, and to understand it and act upon it. And reciting it and memorizing it are a means towards [understanding and acting on] its meanings, just as one of the salaf said, “The Qur’an was revealed in order to be acted upon, but its recitation has been taken as action.” And because of this, the people of the Qur’an are those who are knowledgeable of it and act according to what is in it – even if they have not memorized it by heart.

وأما من حفظه ولم يفهمه ولم يعمل بما فيه ، فليس من أهله وإن أقام حروفه إقامة السهم . ـ

And as for the one who memorizes the Qur’an but does not understand it nor act according to what is in it, then he is not one of its people even though he establishes its letters in an excellent manner.

قالوا : ولأن الإيمان أفضل الأعمال ، وفهم القرآن وتدبره هو الذي يثمر الإيمان ، وأما مجرد التلاوة من غير فهم ولا تدبر ، فيفعلها البر والفاجر ، والمؤمن والمنافق ، كما قال النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم : ( ومثل المنافق الذي يقرأ القرآن ، كمثل الريحانة ، ريحها طيب ، وطعمها مر ) ـ

They said: This is because al-eemaan is more virtuous than deeds, and comprehending the Qur’an and contemplating it are the things which produce al-eemaan. And as for mere recitation without comprehension or contemplation, then both the righteous and the wicked do that, both the mu’min and the munaafiq, just as the Prophet (ﷺ) said, “The likeness of the munaafiq who recites the Qur’an is that of sweet basil – its scent is good but its taste is bitter.”

والناس في هذا أربع طبقات : أهل القرآن والإيمان ، وهم أفضل الناس . والثانية : من عدم القرآن والإيمان . الثالثة : من أوتي قرآنا ، ولم يؤت إيمانا ، الرابعة : من أوتي إيمانا ولم يؤت قرآنا . ـ

And concerning this, people are of four levels: The people of the Qur’an and al-eemaan, and they are the best of people. Second, those without the Qur’an or al-eemaan. Third, those with Qur’an, but not eemaan. Fourth, those with eemaan but not with Qur’an.

قالوا : فكما أن من أوتي إيمانا بلا قرآن أفضل ممن أوتي قرآنا بلا إيمان ، فكذلك من أوتي تدبرا ، وفهما في التلاوة أفضل ممن أوتي كثرة قراءة وسرعتها بلا تدبر . ـ

They said: So just as the one who has eemaan without Qur’an is better than the one who has Qur’an without eemaan, similarly the one who has contemplation and comprehension during recitation is better than the one who reads a lot and does so quickly but without contemplation.

قالوا : وهذا هدي النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم ، فإنه كان يرتل السورة حتى تكون أطول من أطول منها ، وقام بآية حتى الصباح . ـ

They said: This is the guidance of the Prophet (ﷺ), for verily he would recite a surah in a paced and measured fashion to the extent that is would last longer than a surah longer than it, and he would recite a single ayah until the morning.

وقال أصحاب الشافعي رحمه الله : كثرة القراءة أفضل ، واحتجوا بحديث ابن مسعود رضي الله عنه قال : قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم : ( من قرأ حرفا من كتاب الله ، فله به حسنة ، والحسنة بعشر أمثالها ، لا أقول : الم حرف ، ولكن ألف حرف ، ولام حرف ، وميم حرف ) . رواه الترمذي وصححه . ـ

And the companions of al-Shaafi’ said: An abundance of recitation is more virtuous, and they based this on the hadeeth of ibn Mas’ood who said: The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “Whoever reads a single harf from the Book of Allah, then he has a hasanah, and a hasanah is multiplied by ten. And I do not say, ‘alif lam meem is a single harf‘, rather alif is a harf, lam is a harf, and meem is a harf.” This was narrated by al-Tirmidhi, and he declared it saheeh.

قالوا : ولأن عثمان بن عفان قرأ القرآن في ركعة ، وذكروا آثارا عن كثير من السلف في كثرة القراءة . ـ

The said: And also because ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affaan recited the entire Qur’an in a single rak’a. And they mentioned reports from many of the salaf about reading an abundance.

والصواب في المسألة أن يقال : إن ثواب قراءة الترتيل والتدبر أجل وأرفع قدرا ، وثواب كثرة القراءة أكثر عددا ، فالأول : كمن تصدق بجوهرة عظيمة ، أو أعتق عبدا قيمته نفيسة جدا ، والثاني : كمن تصدق بعدد كثير من الدراهم ، أو أعتق عددا من العبيد قيمتهم رخيصة . ـ

And the correct position in this issue is to say that the reward of recitation with tarteel and contemplation is more excellent and elevated in degree, and the reward of abundant recitation is more numerous. So the first example is like the one who gives a great jewel in charity or frees a slave whose worth is very valuable, and the second example is like the one who gives a large number of dirhams in charity or frees a number of slaves of low value.

وفي “صحيح البخاري ” عن قتادة قال : سألت أنسا عن قراءة النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم ، فقال : ( كان يمد مدا ) ـ

And in Saheeh al-Bukhari, on the authority of Qataadah, “I asked Anas about the recitation of the Prophet (ﷺ), so he said, ‘He used to elongate the long vowels.'”

وقال شعبة : حدثنا أبو جمرة ، قال : قلت لابن عباس : إني رجل سريع القراءة ، وربما قرأت القرآن في ليلة مرة أو مرتين ، فقال ابن عباس : (لأن أقرأ سورة واحدة أعجب إلي من أن أفعل ذلك الذي تفعل ، فإن كنت فاعلا ولا بد ، فاقرأ قراءة تسمع أذنيك ، ويعيها قلبك) ـ

Shu’bah said, Abu Hamza narrated, “I said to ibn ‘Abbaas, ‘Verily I am a man who reads quickly, and I might read the entire Qur’an once or twice a night.’ So ibn ‘Abbaas replied, ‘That I would read a single surah is more amazing to me than to do the likes of what you do. For if you were doing it how it should be done, then you should read with a reading that your ears hear and of which your heart is aware.'”

   وقال إبراهيم : قرأ علقمة على ابن مسعود ، وكان حسن الصوت ، فقال : رتل فداك أبي وأمي ، فإنه زين القرآن . ـ

And Ibrahim [al-Nakha’i] said: ‘Alqamah recited for ibn Mas’ood, and he had a beautiful voice, so he said, “Recite with tarteel – may my father and mother be sacrificed – for verily that is the beautification of the Qur’an.”

وقال ابن مسعود : ( لا تهذوا القرآن هذ الشعر ، ولا تنثروه نثر الدقل ، وقفوا عند عجائبه ، وحركوا به القلوب ، ولا يكن هم أحدكم آخر السورة ) ـ

And ibn Mas’ood said, “Do not recite the Qur’an rapidly without pause like the recitation of poetry, and do not stop and pause (between every single ayah) like someone examining and selecting fruit. (Rather) stop when you come to one of its amazements, and cause it to move your heart, and do not be bothered if you do not reach the end of the surah.”

وقال عبد الله أيضا : ( إذا سمعت الله يقول : ( ياأيها الذين آمنوا ) فأصغ لها سمعك ، فإنه خير تؤمر به ، أو شر تصرف عنه) . ـ

And ‘Abdullah also said, “When you hear Allah say, ‘O you who have believed…‘ then pay close attention to what you are hearing, for verily it is a good act that you have been commanded with, or an evil which you must turn away from.”

وقال عبد الرحمن بن أبي ليلى : دخلت علي امرأة وأنا أقرأ ( سورة هود) فقالت : يا عبد الرحمن : هكذا تقرأ سورة هود؟! والله إني فيها منذ ستة أشهر وما فرغت من قراءتها . ـ

And ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Abi Layla said, “I married a woman and I recited surah al-Hud, so she said, ‘O ‘Abd al-Rahman, you recite surah al-Hud like this? By Allah, I have been in that surah for the past six months and I have not finished reciting it yet.”

وكان رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم يسر بالقراءة في صلاة الليل تارة ، ويجهر بها تارة ، ويطيل القيام تارة ، ويخففه تارة ، ويوتر آخر الليل – وهو الأكثر – وأوله تارة ، وأوسطه تارة . ـ

And the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) used to be silent during the night prayer sometimes and recite it aloud other times, and he would elongate his standing sometimes and lessen it other times, and he would pray witr in the last part of the night – and this was the most common practice – and in its first part sometimes and in its middle part sometimes.

[Zaad al-Ma’aad 1/337-340]

See also: Which is more virtuous – memorizing the Qur’an, or seeking ‘ilm?: Ibn Taymiyah

See also: “The best of you are those who learn the Qur’an and teach it”: Ibn Kathir

See also: How to benefit from reading the Qur’an during Ramadan: Sheikh Muhammad Bazmool

See also: Can one take more than one month for reading the Qur’an with contemplation?: Sheikh bin Baaz

See also: Tafsir al-Sa’di on the objective of revealing the Qur’an and its benefits

See also: Recite the Book with its true recitation

See also: Du’a of Dhikr after the Salaah?: Ibn Taymiyah

See also: What is the minimum amount of time to complete reciting the Qur’an: Sheikh bin Baaz

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20 thoughts on “Which is more virtuous: reading a small amount of the Qur’an with tarteel and contemplation, or a large amount quickly? – Ibn al-Qayyim

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