Understanding Quran for Practicing and Following
What steps are required/necessary to ensure that reading/understanding of the Quran does not become an end in itself? To explain: the Quran is a way of life, not a ‘mantra’ (so to speak). Its divine message is to be understood and followed, which we all know is what is not happening.
I think the exercise of understanding the Quran should be undertaken for its own sake with no strings attached. I have seen people (over)emphasizing the practising part of Quranic guidance and as a consequence falling into the trap of deriving practical guidance from passages which, to me at least, weren’t meant to be practised. For example, finding a mention in the Quran about Talut that the Almighty appointed him as the king for the Jews because he was physically tough and knowledgeable, some people conclude that we should always look for leaders who have these two attributes. If understanding the Quran was to be our sole objective, we should first have tried to know what circumstances led the Almighty to look for those attributes for the leadership of the Jews, and we may have found that those were just incidental to the situation of that period.
When we read the Quran with a genuine purpose of understanding it, we not only understand it properly, we also get motivated to practice it. It is simply not possible to understand the Quran in the right spirit and not get motivated to act upon it. However, the intention of reading the Quran simply to practice it may jeopardize the purpose of its proper understanding. When once you start reading the Quran, you should most certainly seek Allah’s help to get guided. That is exactly what we say when we begin reading the Quran: Ihdina assiratal mustaqim (show us the right path).
I also have my reservations on the claim that the Quran and therefore Islam is a way of life. I think the Quran is a guidance. Allah Almighty has guided us in some vital aspects of our life. He hasn’t guided us on everything through the Quran or sunnah. Our intellect and human experience also help us in being guided on many aspects of our lives.
Somehow I have a feeling that when we say that Islam is a way of life, we imply that the way shown by the Quran is very different from the ways others are following. Although this claim is partly true, yet most certainly it isn’t completely correct. We need to be careful in dealing with others in that we shouldn’t isolate ourselves from them completely.