How to Benefit from Admonitions in the Quran

“You just don’t listen!”

“Where are you lost?”

“Are you paying attention to what I am saying?”

How often I heard these words as a child, whether they were directed at me, or at other students around me.

These exclamations from teachers would mostly succeed in jolting us students back to reality, effectively ‘popping’ the stance-like reverie or daydream that we were lost in during a class at school or college.

Even at home, parents or other elders used these words whenever they got exasperated by our not heeding their repeated reminders to do something immediately, as if we couldn’t ‘hear’ them at all despite the fact that they were right there in front of us!

One of the amazing truths about human psychology is that all human beings have the tendency to get ‘lost in space’ in a spiritual sense, i.e. while a person might be physically present in one realm, their minds could be elsewhere, effectively distancing them from getting affected by the stimuli of their physical environs.

What happens as a result is, that while they might be ‘hearing’ the sounds around them in the room or environment, they are not actually listening to anything being said, because their mind is not registering or ‘witnessing’ the words being said. In fact, because their mind, intellect and focus is riveted elsewhere (called ‘being lost in thought’), they are actually ‘absent’ from their physical environment.

Because of this lack of ‘witness’, i.e. their minds not being in focus, or their intellect being disconnected from their immediate environmental stimuli, they do not get affected by anything that is said or done around them.

Does Admonition in the Quran Affect Everyone?

I was very young when I enrolled in an Islamic education diploma course that took me through the explanation of the entire Quran, all praise to Allah. However, very soon I started witnessing a perplexing phenomenon in class, which greatly intrigued me at that time.

I noticed how some students got very affected by the explanations of certain portions of the Quran, but others remained completely untouched (and unchanged) by them.

This disparity in the effect of the Quran became obvious through the students’ body language during class, primarily their facial expressions, and the differences in the changes in their conduct, behavior, dealings, and attitudes towards others thenceforth.

Some students would cry with soft sniffles when certain verses of the Quran were explained, and others would listen teary-eyed. Some would nod their heads in agreement, whilst some would have gleeful or admiring expressions on their faces. And yet others would remain completely still as if transfixed, their gazes down and their faces depicting penitence.

However, there were some who’d remain visibly unmoved. They would continue to write vigorously to take notes just like the rest of the students in class, but otherwise, no apparent effects of the admonitions in the Quran were visible on their persona.

It was as if they were physically there in class, but their hearts and minds were not. As if the effect of the Quran on them was not significantly different from that of any other course or workshop that they had attended to further their knowledge.

Who Benefits From Quranic Reminders?

In Surah Qaf, Allah mentions what a believer has to have, and what they need to do, in order for the reminders in the Quran to have a positive and beneficial impact upon them:

{In this, behold, there is indeed a reminder for everyone whose heart is wide-awake – that is, [every­one who] gives ear while he is heedful..} (50:37)

According to Tafsir ibn Kathir, “or gives ear while he is heedful” means, “he hears the speech, comprehends and understands it in his mind, and grasps its indications with his intellect. Mujahid said that “or gives an ear”, means, he does not talk to himself but listens with an attentive heart.”

The Arabic words that occur in this verse of the Quran are “qalb” – the heart – and “alqa al-sam`a” – giving an attentive ear. The heart is mentioned first, because it is the seat of Islamic faith and belief (aqeedah), which forms the foundation of everything else, i.e. a believer’s actions.

After mentioning the heart, Allah stresses the importance of being mentally ‘present’ or attentive, as a witness, with one’s full focus on listening to what is being said (i.e. recited or explained) of the Quran.

It becomes clear, then, that the reason why the effect of the Quran varies from person to person in the same gathering, even though they all are listening to the same admonishments of the Quran, spoken by the same teacher or preacher, is the varying states of receptiveness of their hearts, and the different levels of mental attentiveness and focus with which they are listening to the spoken words.

Meaning of to “Have a Heart”

The condition of a person’s heart determines their receptiveness towards Divinely revealed admonishment. A heart that is darkened by sins over time becomes dead and hardened, so that sincere reminders of Deen do not have a humbling effect upon it.

This effect of sins also becomes apparent on a person’s ability to listen keenly and with focus to the recitation of the Quran, as well as to its verbal explanations and admonitions. A person whose heart is hard will not be able to listen to the Quran, nor to any Islamic lecture or talk.

Either they will get up and immediately leave the room or gathering where the admonition is unwittingly falling into their ears, or they will try to switch the topic of conversation, or they will hastily occupy themselves with something else to divert their mental and visual attention, such as calling someone up on their phone or opening up a book/magazine to read.

Eventually, as a person drifts more and more away from Deen, neglecting to fulfill any of its obligations completely, their aqeedah (belief system) itself becomes shaky and distorted, and their heart completely loses the ability to take heed from the Quran.

Allah calls this intangible “veil” or barrier that is created as a result of a person’s sins, which firmly erects itself between their heart and the admonition of the Quran, and prevents the letter from entering it, a hidden “hijab” that He places there Himself:

{When you recite the Quran, We put, between you and those who believe not in the Hereafter, a veil invisible.} (17:45)

Conclusion: Analyze Yourself

It is very important for any Muslim to keep a strict self-check on the state of their hearts, and to the keenness and attentiveness with which they listen to an Islamic lecture or talk which includes explanations of the verses of the Quran, in particular, reminders of the punishment and rewards from Allah that await evil and righteous deeds, respectively.

When the Quran is being recited and/or explained, do you want to immediately quell all other noises, distractions, and activities to listen in, attentively and keenly? Or do you start feeling panicked and cornered, or bored, frantically wanting to change the topic, or leave the place immediately in order to avoid listening to admonishment?

How do you feel whenever someone starts talking about the Akhirah, (the Hereafter), or the punishments that were meted out by Allah to past transgressing nations?

Do you feel humbled and awestruck by the power of the strong words of the Quran?

Or do you feel suffocated and doubtful, having disdainful and resentful thoughts about the speaker or the topic being discussed?

It is when we will rectify the beliefs in our own hearts, humble ourselves before Allah, repent sincerely for our sins (in order to permanently wipe them, making our hearts clean again), and thus start with a fresh slate, that Allah will grant us the guidance and ability to listen in with full mental focus and an attentive ear when the Quran is being recited, explained and discussed.

And that is only when the admonishments and reminders in the Quran will be able to benefit us, Insha’Allah