Reciting the Qur’ān
Question asked by .
Answered by Dr. Shehzad Saleem

My question pertains to the reading of the Qur’ān. On campus here at our university, the MSA (Muslim Student Association) organises a Qur’ān Group in which we get together every Friday and read the Qur’ān with its meanings in English. Now there are certain things which are confusing me. There are some non-Muslims who come to the group meetings with a desire to learn more about Islam (and from my best judgement they come in the sincerest and purest of manners, often frustrated by the weaknesses in their own religions.) There are also several Muslims who come, but these brothers and sisters have not been in an Islamic environment really and so are just  growing into the religion. So here are the issues: first, I would like to know whether Wudū is a prerequisite for reading the Qur’ān. If it is, how can the non-Muslims fulfil this condition? Also, there are some sisters who are a little hesitant to wear the Hijāb when reading the Qur’ān (for their own personal reasons). Last year a brother condemned a sister for not wearing the Hijāb when coming to the Qur’ān Group. Unfortunately, that sister has never returned to the Qur’ān Group or any other Islam related activity that involves Muslims. I know her feelings were very hurt. What does one do in this situation? Does one send someone off from hearing the message of Allah because she was not covering their head? Can we keep the message from someone who wishes to hear it? Also, what about non-Muslim women who wish to hear the message or read the Qur’ān but don’t wear the Hijāb? I have also heard that we can only give non-Muslims the translations of the Qur’ān with no Arabic text. This seems ridiculous to me since the purest form of the Qur’ān is in Arabic. Also, it seems ridiculous to me considering there are non-Muslims who only speak Arabic. Should they not receive the message?


Wudū is not a prerequisite for reading the Qur’ān1, though it is desirable that one read it in such a state. For non-Muslims, consequently, it is needless to insist upon ablution for touching the Qur’ān. On the contrary, if they are willing to read the Qur’ān, the opportunity to present before them the Word of Allah should be seized upon, and the Qur’ān should readily be made available for their perusal. They should be encouraged in every respect. Similarly, not giving the Arabic text of the Qur’ān to non-Muslim brothers and sisters is absolutely baseless. One can only express wonder at such an incomprehensible inference.

Insisting on a Muslim sister wearing Hijāb while reading the Qur’ān is not only against wisdom, it in fact is not mentioned as a condition for reciting it anywhere in the sources of Islam. One must be very tactful and sagacious in discussing Islam with non-practising Muslims. Nothing should be forced on them in any way. It needs prudence and patience, poise and discretion wisdom and tolerance, compassion and concern to win hearts. Above all, the divine message has its own force. It has the power to stir people and change their outlook on life. It radically influences people who are true seekers of truth. They should first be allowed to absorb the basic message, which certainly is not Hijāb. Let a Muslim lady first illuminate her heart with the radiance of faith and the fragrance of the Almighty’s love. Once this is achieved, how can she be expected to show indifference to His directives, of whom she herself is the sole beneficiary?

Similarly, it is not required for non-Muslim women to be Islamically dressed before they recite the Qur’ān. How can they be asked to be so dressed when they are yet to enter the folds of Islam? One should be anxious like the Prophet (sws) for people to come close to the Qur’ān. Imposing conditions which have no mention in the sources of Islam on non-Muslims, I am afraid, is something which will only drive them away.





1. In this regard, however except for Ibn Hazm ( See Al-Muhallā, Vol 1, p 77-84), most of our jurists regard Wudū as a prerequisite for touching the Qur’ān, though some of them allow it if it is covered by some paper or piece of cloth. They base their view mostly on the following verse of the Qur’ān:

Only they can touch it who are pure. (56:79).

If the context of this verse is considered, it becomes apparent that the verse is actually dispelling the doubt raised by the disbelievers that the Qur’ān has been inspired by Satan and his accomplices. The verses preceding and following it assert that the Qur’ān has been sent down by the Almighty through His angels who unlike the evil among the jinn are pure and noble. These jinn have no access to the place of revelation and if they try to eavesdrop, shooting stars chase and drive them away. Though in this verse the angels are not addressed by name, this context as well as the attribute itself (al-muttahharūn: the totally pure) leaves no room that someone else be understood other than them.

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