Merely Listening to the Qur’an Does Not Benefit Anyone
In this ayah, Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala is again addressing the Prophet sallAllahu `aalyhi wa sallam and telling him why the mushrikeen won’t benefit from the Qur`an despite their listening to it.
وَمِنْهُمْ مَّن يَسْتَمِعُ إِلَيْكَ وَجَعَلْنَا عَلَى قُلُوبِهِمْ أَكِنَّةً أَن يَفْقَهُوهُ
And of them there are some who listen to you; but We have set veils on their hearts, so they understand it not…
The word yastami`u [يَسْتَمِعُ] is from the root letters seen-meem-ayn and it doesn’t just mean “listen” but rather “listen attentively”.
The mushrikeen came to the Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam to listen to the recitation of the Qur’an. Apparently, it would seem that they were listening attentively but they were not listening. The sound entered their ears, they enjoyed the recitation; appreciated the words but nothing entered their hearts. Why was that? It was because a covering was placed over their hearts lest they understood it.
The word akinna [أَكِنَّ] is the plural of the word kinnan. It is from the root letters kaf-noon-noon and it means “to cover, conceal, veil or covering”.
The mushrikeen could hear the Qur’an but they were unable to comprehend it. And why was that? It was because while they would listen to the recitation attentively, they were prejudiced and biased. They would not listen to improve themselves rather their intention was to see if the Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam is speaking the truth or making it all up. Not only is there veil over their hearts, but there is also deafness in their ears.
وَفِى ءَاذَانِهِمْ وَقْراً وَإِن يَرَوْاْ كُلَّ ءَايَةٍ لاَّ يُؤْمِنُواْ بِهَا حَتَّى إِذَا جَآءُوكَ يُجَـدِلُونَكَ يَقُولُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ إِنْ هَـذَآ إِلاَّ أَسَـطِيرُ الاٌّوَّلِينَ
…and heaviness in their ears. And if they see every one of the Ayat they will not believe in it. Until when they come to you to argue with you, those who disbelieve say: “These are nothing but tales of the men of old.”
The word awaqra [وَقْرا] is from the root letters wau-qaf-ra that literally means “heaviness or a heavy load”. Primarily this word is used for a load that is carried by a donkey.
This is not deafness that they can’t hear a single word but rather heaviness due to which they face difficulty in hearing. There are different types of hearing, one is where you hear a sound the other is acceptance. Meaning we not only “hear” the sound but it also has an effect on our hearts – hearing with acceptance. Waqara prevented the mushrikeen from accepting what they heard.
Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala said a similar statement in Surah al-Baqarah ayah 171,
وَمَثَلُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ كَمَثَلِ الَّذِى يَنْعِقُ بِمَا لاَ يَسْمَعُ إِلاَّ دُعَآءً وَنِدَآءً
“And the example of those who disbelieve is as that of him who shouts at one who hears nothing but calls and cries.”
It is because of this reason that if they see every sign that proves the Prophethood of Muhammad sallAllahu `aalyhi wa sallam they are not going to believe due to absence of sound judgment and comprehension in them.
Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala says in Surah Anfaal Ayah 23,
وَلَوْ عَلِمَ اللَّهُ فِيهِمْ خَيْرًا لأَسْمَعَهُمْ
“Had Allah known of any good in them, He would indeed have made them listen.”
Their disbelief has reached such a level that the only reason they listen to the Qur’an is to find faults in it. And when they are unable to find any error because it is so eloquent instead of appreciating its style and eloquence they would argue with the Prophet sallAllahu `aalyhi wa sallam. They would say, “These are nothing but tales of the men of old.” Meaning this has been plagiarized from previous Scriptures. This was because of their prejudice.
When we are told a story by someone we like we take pleasure in it even if the story is made up and unreal. On the contrary, if a story is being told by someone we dislike we are never going to appreciate it due to our own bias against them. So was the case of the mushrikeen. Qur’an does not contain stories but real incidences yet due to their own stubbornness the mushrikeen could never appreciate it. They were rather more inclined towards arguments.
– We learn that all the mushrikeen are not the same because the word used in the ayah is minhum [مِنْهُمْ] “among them”. There are some who have interest in Qur’an and some don’t.
– The beauty of the Qur’an or the miraculous nature of the Qur’an is such that it amazes even those people who do not believe in the Qur’an. This is evident by several examples in history. Abu Jahl and Abu Sufyan used to go in the night to listen to the recitation of the Qur’an while the Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam would be reciting it in the prayer. Since they were opponents they would tell the other I won’t come here again but then they would be again there the next night. We still find these examples even today. There are non-Muslims for whom the translation of the Qur’an isn’t sufficient. They then listen to the recitation in Arabic and are moved by it.
May Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala guide them and open up their hearts, aameen.
– Each person who listens to the Qur’an does not necessarily benefit. This is really scary. Enjoying the words without improving oneself doesn’t benefit anyone. It is because of the incorrect intention. They are not listening to receive guidance or come closer to Allah. If a person’s intention is to please Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala, he is not going to object to the commands or keep asking, “What about this? What about that?” He will try to practice whatever he learns.
– How can one benefit from the recitation of the Qur’an? By being attentive. We have to be mindful of what is being recited. The sound doesn’t have to merely enter our ears but the words also must enter the heart.
– People who have bias or prejudice against others do not benefit from the truth despite seeing and appreciating it.
O Allah, help us in becoming Ahlul-Qur’an, those who read and implement it, aameen.
DOWNLOAD PDF: Al Anaam Ayah 25
– Pondering Upon Qur’an
– Etiquette of Reciting the Qur’an
– Daily Recitation of the Qur’an
– Tilawat Wa Tarteel
– Reciting Qur’an in Melodious Voice
– Objective and Subjective Conditions of Reciting the Qur’an
– Tarteel Qur’an – Reading in Slow Measured, Rhythmic Tones
– The Excellence of the Followers of the Qur’an
– Tafseer Surah an-Nisa Ayah 162