Meditation in the Qur'an
Meditation helps with developing self-awareness in the present moment. It can also open your awareness to information about the world around you. By temporarily altering your state of consciousness to become more receptive to truths inaccessible by your active, creative mind, you can also gain clarity with respect to particular questions. Meditation is distinct from prayer, and addressed separately in the Qur’an. Most of the details about meditation in the Qur’an appear in Chapter 17, in verses 78-85. Let us first investigate these verses, and then turn to their application.
أَقِمِ ٱلصَّلَوٰةَ لِدُلُوكِ ٱلشَّمۡسِ إِلَىٰ غَسَقِ ٱلَّيۡلِ وَقُرۡءَانَ ٱلۡفَجۡرِۖ إِنَّ قُرۡءَانَ ٱلۡفَجۡرِ كَانَ مَشۡہُودً۬ا (٧٨)
78. Perform the prayer (establish order) with the decline of the sun, until the darkness of the night, and with the Qur’an of the dawn. Indeed, the Qur'an at dawn is witnessed.
The above verse is an instruction from the Qur'an for the time of prayers being primarily the beginning and end of the day. It refers to times when the sun declines at time of sunset, the evening transitions to the night, and before the sun rises. The second part of the verse emphasizes the benefit of studying the Qur'an in the early morning.
وَمِنَ ٱلَّيۡلِ فَتَهَجَّدۡ بِهِۦ نَافِلَةً۬ لَّكَ عَسَىٰٓ أَن يَبۡعَثَكَ رَبُّكَ مَقَامً۬ا مَّحۡمُودً۬ا (٧٩)
79. And be still some of the night; it is an addition to your life, so maybe your Lord will send you to a blessed spiritual station.
This is the only verse in the Qur'an where the word hajjad is mentioned. Hajjad means stillness. The verse is asking us to pick some time in the night to meditate to reach the stillness within the self, a moment of peaceful tranquility so that your Lord may guide you to a blessed mental state. With the stillness in your heart, you will be able to listen to your Lord’s guidance.
وَقُل رَّبِّ أَدۡخِلۡنِى مُدۡخَلَ صِدۡقٍ۬ وَأَخۡرِجۡنِى مُخۡرَجَ صِدۡقٍ۬ وَٱجۡعَل لِّى مِن لَّدُنكَ سُلۡطَـٰنً۬ا نَّصِيرً۬ا (٨٠)
80. And say, “My Lord, lead me in through an entry of truth, and lead me out through an exit of truth, and grant me from You a supporting influence.”
As you meditate and experience that stillness moment, you will experience such clarity and focus in your mind for your purpose and objectives in life. The above verse is a prayer to use during meditation.
وَقُلۡ جَآءَ ٱلۡحَقُّ وَزَهَقَ ٱلۡبَـٰطِلُۚ إِنَّ ٱلۡبَـٰطِلَ كَانَ زَهُوقً۬ا (٨١)
81. And say, “The truth has come, and falsehood has perished; for falsehood is bound to perish.”
When you meditate, you experience truth which is not influenced by information gathered by others. This truth comes from within. We need to give time for the truth to be revealed in our state of quiet meditation and stillness.
وَنُنَزِّلُ مِنَ ٱلۡقُرۡءَانِ مَا هُوَ شِفَآءٌ۬ وَرَحۡمَةٌ۬ لِّلۡمُؤۡمِنِينَۙ وَلَا يَزِيدُ ٱلظَّـٰلِمِينَ إِلَّا خَسَارً۬ا (٨٢)
82. We send down in the Qur'an healing and mercy for the believers, but the wrongdoers only increase in loss.
This verse comes after the verses revealed about prayer and meditation, as an indication of healing the self through gratitude as expressed in our daily prayers and meditation. The believers in the revelation of the Qur'an as a mercy and guidance will benefit from the daily ritual of thankfulness. On the contrary, the wrongdoers will remain in loss.
وَإِذَآ أَنۡعَمۡنَا عَلَى ٱلۡإِنسَـٰنِ أَعۡرَضَ وَنَـَٔا بِجَانِبِهِۦۖ وَإِذَا مَسَّهُ ٱلشَّرُّ كَانَ يَـُٔوسً۬ا (٨٣)
83. When We bless the human being, he turns away and distances himself. And when adversity hits him, he is in despair.
قُلۡ ڪُلٌّ۬ يَعۡمَلُ عَلَىٰ شَاكِلَتِهِۦ فَرَبُّكُمۡ أَعۡلَمُ بِمَنۡ هُوَ أَهۡدَىٰ سَبِيلاً۬ (٨٤)
84. Say, “Each does according to his disposition. Your Lord knows best who is better guided in the way.”
The above two verses summarize the dichotomy between the results of those who are grateful and ungrateful. It explains that those who are ungrateful do not recognize when they are blessed and then turn to despair when they are hit with adversity. Gratitude will not lead to depression. Humans are given choices and the Lord knows who is on the right path.
وَيَسۡـَٔلُونَكَ عنِ ٱلرُّوحِۖ قُلِ ٱلرُّوحُ مِنۡ أَمۡرِ رَبِّى وَمَآ أُوتِيتُم مِّنَ ٱلۡعِلۡمِ إِلَّا قَلِيلاً۬ (٨٥)
85. And they ask you about consciousness. Say, “Consciousness is from my Lord’s affair; and you were given only little knowledge.”
The appearance of this verse after verse teaching about meditation suggests that we can reach point consciousness in meditation. However, no matter what knowledge and information we seek, we will never be able to understand and encounter the full meaning of the concept of consciousness, because as the verse mentions, we are only able to access limited knowledge.
How do we meditate?
To calm and open your mind, first sit in a quiet place. Close your eyes and relax, and observe your breathing for a few rounds of the breath. At this time, you may initiate your deepening of consciousness by using a mantra, if you would like. The goal is to focus your intention on accessing a state of consciousness that brings you closer to the truth. In the Islamic tradition, we use these words:
أعوذ بالله من الشيطان الرجيم
بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ
رَّبِّ أَدۡخِلۡنِى مُدۡخَلَ صِدۡقٍ۬ وَأَخۡرِجۡنِى مُخۡرَجَ صِدۡقٍ۬ وَٱجۡعَل لِّى مِن لَّدُنكَ سُلۡطَـٰنً۬ا نَّصِيرً۬ا
I seek refuge in God from the cursed Shaytan.
By the name of God, The Creative Energy, The Merciful.
My Lord, lead me in through an entry of truth, and lead me out through an exit of truth, and grant me from You the authoritative reassurance of experience.
At this time, allow your breath to guide you deeper towards point consciousness, until you dissolve into the stillness of the void. Here, you will be able to receive and collect guidance for your heart. “Answers” or information may come to you in any manner of ways. You may see images, or names and words may suddenly come to mind. Suggestions for paths to take may form. Do not be discouraged, however, if you see and feel nothing but the being of a fragment of consciousness. It may be later that the universe delivers what you were seeking, whether in the form of a sudden flash of inspiration, or a seemingly random event. The important thing is that you dialed into your consciousness to welcome these gifts of knowledge and truth. Without putting yourself in this sacred mental and spiritual space, you would not be able to benefit.
Over time, your experiences in meditation may change. At first, your mind may wander; this is normal when you are still learning how to maintain presence in the deep conscious state. Just gently bring your focus back via your breath work or selected prayers. Playing binaural beats can also help you “stay in the zone,” like training wheels for your consciousness work. Eventually, you may no longer need them, especially if you maintain a daily practice, aiming for 20 minutes a day. Be patient with yourself. It takes time and practice to grow these skills.
You can accelerate your learning process by recording your dreams (keep a notebook and writing utensil at your bedside for easy access when you wake) and other “random” thoughts or feelings. Record any and all details that come to mind. You may be able to examine your notes later and gain new insights. Between your dreams and your meditations, you will eventually develop your own interpretative skills. Your individual consciousness will receive information in a symbolic form suitable for you, with your unique personal and cultural background.
Always remember to have compassion for yourself. Taking time for your prayers and meditation helps you feel confident and connected. Honor your being’s conscious presence by smiling after each prayer, even if you do not feel well. This external representation of internal peace helps set a positive intention and will give you courage to face the challenges of your life. When you feel burdened, notice what bothers you, accept the feeling, and acknowledge that tests are part of life experience. You can say to yourself, “It’s okay to feel this way.” Remind yourself that you are not alone in the school of earth, for every human is going through a challenge one way or another. Be kind and gracious with yourself so you can forgive yourself for your shortcomings. Always try your best, and if the outcome is not as good as you expected or hoped for, reassure yourself that it matters less what happened, but how you approached the challenge and what you learned from it. You can always seek guidance the next time you sit down to meditate.
To support your meditative practice, take good care of your physical body. Have a set bedtime routine, and reserve your sleeping space for eating only (no eating, playing on your phone, or working on your computer). Daily exercise must be scheduled and honored as you do any other appointment. A healthy body leads to a healthy mind. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, and eat mindfully and as healthfully as you can. The Qur’an reminds us in verse 30 of Surah 21 (al-Anbiya’), “And We made water from every living thing. Will they not believe?” And in verse 172 of Surah 2 (al-Baqara), “Oh you who believe! Eat of the pure things We have provided for you, and give thanks to God, if it is Him that you serve.”
And of course, continue to invite a higher consciousness into your life at every opportunity. Begin new tasks by dedicating your efforts to bringing yourself closer to the truth, and complete tasks by expressing your praise and gratitude for the external wisdom and powers that conspired so you could achieve your goal. There are many words that can capture these feelings. The Arabic phrases used in the Islamic tradition are “bismillah” (بسم الله) and “alhamdulillah” (الحمد الله), which are handy because they are concise but rich with meaning. Physical, audible articulation of these phrases can help deepen your sincere commitment to the intentions they express. With time, these habits will further adapt your consciousness, and smooth your transitions into a rewarding and steady meditative state.