Listening with Your Heart

A lecture by Suhaib Webb | Transcribed by Fuseina Mohamad

Surat Al-Fatiha Series: Part IPart IIPart IIIPart IV | Part V | Part VI | Part VII | Part VIIIPart IX | Part X | Part XI | Part XII | Part XIII | Part XIV | Part XV | Part XVI | Part XVII | Part XVIII | Part XIX | Part XX | Part XXI | Part XXII | Part XXIII | Part XXIV | Part XXV


How can we benefit from the Qur’an? Ibn Qayim al-Jawziya mentioned a verse in Surat Qaf:

إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَذِكْرَىٰ لِمَن كَانَ لَهُ قَلْبٌ أَوْ أَلْقَى السَّمْعَ وَهُوَ شَهِيدٌ

“Indeed in that is a reminder for whoever has a heart or who listens while he is present [in mind]” (Qur’an, 50:37).

One of the names of the Qur’an is “reminder.” Why? Because human beings always forget, and the main thing that we forget is that our purpose is to worship Allah (subhanahu wa ta`ala - exalted is He). Allah (swt) says that this Qur’an is a reminder for the one who has a heart, and the one who alqa-ssam’a. Alqa means to throw, thus “throws his ears,” meaning they’re listening really intently. Wa huwa shaheed can be translated to “and he is a witness.” These are the three requirements Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziya mentioned in a book called Fawaa’id. He says that in this verse we find three requirements to benefit from the Quran, lectures, and from our learning experience in general. The First Requirement: The Heart The first one, as Allah (swt) says, is the one who has a heart. What does this mean, the heart? We know the heart is the essence to everything. That’s why we have a science in Islam called at-tasawwuf, to purify our hearts, which is related to tazkiyat al-nafs (purification of the soul) or ihsan (excellence in faith). And we find here that Allah (swt) said, “for whoever has a heart.” To really understand how your heart is the main variable conditioning your relationship with the Quran, listen to the following story: In the sixth year after the Prophethood of Muhammad ﷺ started, `Umar ibn al-Khattab radi allahu `anhu (may Allah be pleased with him) was not a Muslim. He became angry and decided, “I’m going to kill Muhammad.”

So he left his home with this big sword. His sword is huge, if you’ve been to Turkey maybe you’ve seen the sword of al-Farouk (i.e. `Umar). And so he went to kill the Prophet ﷺ. This is deep, what Sheikh Sha`rawy said about this.

`Umar went and he ran into Na`eem ibn `Abdullah, and Na`eem said to `Umar, “Where are you going?” `Umar said, “I’m going to kill Muhammad.” And he, Na`eem ibn `Abdullah, was Muslim. He said, “Why are you going to kill him? You need to go and kill your own family [first], they’re Muslim too. Your sister Fatima ibn al-Khattab is Muslim, and Zaid ibn al-Khattab, your cousin, who’s the husband of your sister, is Muslim.”

`Umar became incensed, and he went to the home of his sister Fatima where he heard the Qur’an being recited. And subhan’Allah (glory be to Allah), the ‘ulema (scholars) said that when `Umar heard the Quran he kicked down the door and [the people inside] heard `Umar coming. They used to say about him, “Umar was a door.” He was a big person. When he used to ride an animal his feet would hit the ground, he was that big. So they heard him coming. There were three people in the home including one of the sahabi(companions) who was teaching Fatima and Zaid the Qur’an. He hid himself.

`Umar (r) kicked down the door and he said to them, “What is this speech that you’re reading that makes no sense?” They said, “What are you talking about?” He said, “I heard you in here doing something.” They said, “No.” Then he said, “Are you all Muslim?” When they said yes, `Umar grabbed Zaid, his cousin, and started to beat him down. Then he slapped his sister so hard that blood was drawn from her face. Fa qad raqqa qalbahu (then his heart softened). `Umar (r), when he saw the blood coming from her face, said to her, “Show me what you’ve been reading.”

When he saw what they were reading, and he read Surat Taha. As he reached the fourteenth verse, where Allah says,

إِنَّنِي أَنَا اللَّهُ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا أَنَا فَاعْبُدْنِي وَأَقِمِ الصَّلَاةَ لِذِكْرِي

“Indeed, I am Allah. There is no deity except Me, so worship Me and establish prayer for My remembrance” (Qur’an, 20:14).

He became a Muslim. Why did the Qur’an affect `Umar the second time, but not the first time? What changed? It was his heart. The ‘ulema said that subhan’Allah when `Umar saw the blood coming from his sister’s lips he felt softness in his heart. So then he was ready for the Qur’an. That’s why when he heard the Qur’an the first time there was very little impact, but when he heard the Qur’an the second time he was impacted, as Imam al Sha`rawy, may Allah have mercy on him, said. So the heart is the main factor towards understanding the Qur’an. That’s why the Prophet ﷺ said, “Indeed in the body there is a piece of flesh, if it’s good the whole body is good, and if it is corrupted the whole body is corrupted. Verily, it is the heart.” (Muslim) So when we come to the Qur’an, we should make sure our hearts are in check. I should check myself. This is a long series of discussions but, in general, internally we should feel, “I’m reading the speech of Allah. Between my hands is the miracle of the Prophethood of Rasulullah ﷺ.” When you hold the Quran, it’s as if you’re holding the same staff that Musa `alayhi assalaam (peace be upon him) threw down that became a snake. When you’re holding the Quran, it’s as if you’re holding in your hands the dead person that Isa (as) brought back to life, by the will of Allah. You are holding the miracle of the Prophethood of Rasul Allah ﷺ in your hands. So the first important factor is our hearts. The Second Requirement: Listening The second important thing is listening. Maybe some people say, “Listening? Subhan’Allah why do we have to talk about listening?” Go to any Friday khutbah (sermon) and see how many people don’t listen. If you go to many Friday khutbahs you find, astaghfir’Allah (I seek refuge from Allah), some people doing their 401k on their cell phone in the back of the masjid, exclaiming, “Sell! Sell! Sell now!” Selling stocks in the back of the masjid. Look at the announcements in our masjids. Have they changed over twenty years? “Please park in the yellow lines that go to the curb. You put your car between there, not on it, not sideways. Please wipe up the water from the wudhu (ablution) area. Please don’t, please this, please that.” Subhan’Allah, nobody listens. And Allah (swt) made listening a condition for obedience when He said,

سَمِعْنَا وَأَطَعْنَا

“We hear and we obey.” (Qur’an, 2:285)

Before I can obey I have to hear. In another verse Allah says,

الَّذِينَ يَسْتَمِعُونَ الْقَوْلَ فَيَتَّبِعُونَ أَحْسَنَهُ

“Who listen to speech and follow the best of it.” (Quran 39:18)

Those who listen and follow. So listening is very important. And, subhan’Allah, Ibn Al Munaya said that there are four things you should do if you want to listen in the way that Allah mentioned in that verse of Surat Qaf. First, you should be tranquil, physically as well as spiritually. You should be tranquil with your body, spirit, limbs, and you should lower your gaze. Subhan’Allah he said to lower your gaze. Al-Adab(manners and etiquette) always precede knowledge. Look at Musa (as) in Surat Taha again, when Allah (swt) called Musa from the valley Tuwa. Musa (as) saw a fire and he went to it. What’s the first thing Allah (swt) said to him?

إِنِّي أَنَا رَبُّكَ فَاخْلَعْ نَعْلَيْكَ ۖ إِنَّكَ بِالْوَادِ الْمُقَدَّسِ طُوًى

“Indeed, I am your Lord, so remove your sandals. Indeed, you are in the sacred valley of Tuwa,” (Quran 20:12).

Take off your shoes. Why? Al-Adab (etiquette). So we must have etiquette with Allah. As Ibn Al Qurtubi mentioned, in Surah Al Muddathir when Allah (swt) was talking to the Prophet (saw), He told him qum—stand up (Quran 74:2). “Stand up” has a few meanings. One of them means to be active in da’wah (calling to Islam), or to be active as a Muslim. But also stand up out of Al-Adab. That’s why the mother of Imam Maalik, `Aaliya (r), when she sent Maalik to Rabi al Raee, his first shaykh (scholar), she told him, “Learn from him his adab before you learn from him his knowledge.” `Abdullah ibn Mubarak said, “We are in more need of a little adab than we are in need of a lot of knowledge.” So the first criterion (of listening) is to be tranquil, and have tranquility all throughout the self. The second one is to pay attention, to force the self to focus. You know some people when it comes to listening they are like the limb on a tree: whenever the breeze blows they will move. Their thoughts control them like that. But Allah said about the believer, asluha thabit (they are firm) (Qur’an, 14:24). Focus and listen. The third one he mentioned is to gather the mind on what’s being said—to focus internally through hearing and cognition. The fourth one is to be excited and determined to act upon what you hear. How many of us, after this lecture, for the next two weeks we’ll touch the Qur’an? Now we should feel that, “Oh subhan’Allah, I should read the Quran.” This is a sign that I focused and took some benefit, and I listened. And he (Ibn Al Munaya) said, “And this is the listening that is loved by Allah (swt).” To repeat them: the first one is to be tranquil within the self; the second is to pay attention through hearing; the third one is to pay attention and gather the mind on what’s being said; and the fourth is to be excited to act upon what is heard. The Third Requirement: Witness The last thing Allah said (in the verse) is “and he is a witness.” Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziya and others of the ‘ulema commented that this means a witness in the heart. The heart is alive, focusing. Let me give you an example of being a witness with the heart. When you pray, why do you pray `Asr and Dhuhr (the afternoon prayers) without any voice? This is the time to train your heart to be awake. Why do you pray the sunnah (the optional prayers) quietly? This is the time to listen with your heart. How many of us, subhan’Allah, when we pray our hearts are all over the field? All of us. Everyone of us struggles with it. This is the listening in the heart, internally. When the Imam is reciting, try to focus on what he’s saying. Someone might say, “I don’t understand Arabic.” Learn Arabic. Try to understand what’s being said. So, he is a witness in his heart. That’s why Allah (swt) said in Surat Yasin that this Qur’an has been sent to warn the one who is alive:

لِّيُنذِرَ مَن كَانَ حَيًّا

“To warn whoever is alive” (Quran 36:70).

The `ulema said that this means alive in their hearts. The heart is alive.

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  1. MW_M says:

    Masha’Allah, great article! One correction though, it’s Sa’id ibn Zaid, not Zaid ibn al-Khattab

  2. Abu Ibrahim says:

    Jazakhallahu Khair.

    This is a very timely article; Inshallah let’s all take it seriously and sincerely.

    What I find most striking and important is the last part, where we have to Witness. It is so difficult to have Khushoo’ or sincere focus during prayer. But if we can get to that point, Inshallah, we will improve our Iman.

  3. Heba Salah says:

    May Allah grant you success brother to deliver Allah’s religion.
    Masha’Allah, the lecture is very beneficail to those who have “hearts”, listen and witness.
    Allow me to brning to your attention that the name of Surat “Qaf” on the top of the page is written as “al-Qaf”. please corrct it for Allah’s sake.
    I really felt inner peace after reading this.
    Alhamdulillah who guided us to His “Light”.

  4. Sammer says:

    Ma sha’ Allah very good article, May Allah (swt) benefit all of us.
    If I may say, there are two corrections and one addition. Fatima bint (not ibn) Al-khattab’s husband was Sa’eed ibn Zaid (r), his father was Zaid ibn Al-Khattab the cousin of Umar ibn al-Khattab (r). And the companion was was teaching them the Qur’an, was Khabbab ibn Al-aratt (r) the sixth companion to accept islam.

    May Allah (swt) forgive me if i made a mistake above.

    • Aqilah says:


      I agree with you. Based on what I’ve read, Fatimah’s husband is Sa’eed ibn Zaid but I’m unsure of his father’s real name.

      What I know is that, Sa’eed’s father is Zaid and he was a man during the period of ignorance in Mecca who kept himself away from idolatry and he’s in search of the Truth. In fact, he’s about to embrace Islam when he got to know the news about the Prophethood of Rasulullah s.a.w. But Allah knows best and HE took Zaid’s life before he got to reach the Prophet s.a.w.

      Zaid, however, made a dua before his death so that Allah would bestow his son, Sa’eed, with the mercy of Islam.

      Allah knows best.

  5. sister says:

    Thanks for this article. To support the topic, i wanted to share some other Quranic verses.

    Allah says in the Quran 039.018 (three translations provided).
    YUSUFALI: Those who listen to the Word, and follow the best (meaning) in it: those are the ones whom Allah has guided, and those are the ones endued with understanding.
    PICKTHAL: Who hear advice and follow the best thereof. Such are those whom Allah guideth, and such are men of understanding.
    SHAKIR: Those who listen to the word, then follow the best of it; those are they whom Allah has guided, and those it is who are the men of understanding.

    When we listen and read the Quran, we should also reflect deeply on it’s meaning and find it’s best meaning (and not take verses out of context). The sincere heart will be open to understanding the Quran in it’s true light. The interpretations will be accepted that help and support our own growth and provide justice to our brothers and sisters in mankind. When our hearts are corrupted, the Quran will actually bring more doubt, but if we are sincere, our iman will increase.

    When the Qur’an is read, listen to it with attention, and hold your peace: that ye may receive Mercy.
    And do thou (O reader!) Bring thy Lord to remembrance in thy (very) soul, with humility and in reverence, without loudness in words, in the mornings and evenings; and be not thou of those who are unheedful.
    Those who are near to thy Lord, disdain not to do Him worship: They celebrate His praises, and prostrate before Him.

    When thou dost read the Qur’an, seek Allah’s protection from Satan the rejected one.

    (It is) a Qur’an which We have divided (into parts from time to time), in order that thou mightest recite it to men at intervals: We have revealed it by stages.
    Say: “Whether ye believe in it or not, it is true that those who were given knowledge beforehand, when it is recited to them, fall down on their faces in humble prostration,
    “And they say: ‘Glory to our Lord! Truly has the promise of our Lord been fulfilled!’
    They fall down on their faces in tears, and it increases their (earnest) humility.
    Say: “Call upon Allah, or call upon Rahman: by whatever name ye call upon Him, (it is well): for to Him belong the Most Beautiful Names. Neither speak thy Prayer aloud, nor speak it in a low tone, but seek a middle course between.”

  6. Jonas says:

    Jazaakallahou gairan, nice article!

  7. Loving prophet says:

    Assalam ‘alaikum.Such a great article to be a reminder for a heart that always forget the purpose of this life.Alhamdulillah.Thanks a lot.

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