Ramadan and Tadabbur
Muslims have been observing their annual obligatory fasting in the month of Ramadan for more than a week already.
As can be seen from the practice in yester years, Qur’an recitation and study sessions will become more frequent in this blessed month, especially during its second half, particularly in commemoration of the Nuzul al-Qur’an, the inaugural revelation of the Qur’an to Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.
In parallel with the aforementioned, also frequent is the emphatic call for Muslims to observe the teachings of the Qur’an in their lives as well as to exercise taddabbur on it.
Certainly, all these are carried out with the hope that such activities shall continue past Ramadan.
Nevertheless, tadabbur has been widely used loosely, without reference at all to its root meaning in the Arabic language.
This then leads to it being misunderstood to be synonymous with other terms that generally denote “thinking” or “contemplation” such as tafakkur.
There is therefore a need to provide sufficient explanation on the meaning of tadabbur.
To do so, it is important that we pay attention to its explication in al-Taʻrifat, a famous dictionary of technical terms by a Muslim polymath of the late 14th and early 15th century, al-Sayyid al-Sharif Ali al-Jurjani (d. 1413).
“Tafakkur,” Jurjani explains, “is the directing of the intellect’s observation to proofs while tadabbur, to consequences.”
The semantic variance stems from the different roots of such Arabic terms.
As such, the applying of tadabbur to the Qur’an specifically means the intellect’s observing and scrutiny of the outcomes as contained in the Qur’an as well as the lessons derived therefrom.
In fact, there are no less than 34 verses in the Qur’an which are directly concerned with outcomes, many of them pertaining to earlier peoples who disobeyed God and His prophets.
Yet, tadabbur applies not only to the Qur’an but also to other matters.
Furthermore, such noetic activities need to be comprehensive in order to qualify as tadabbur.
This is because sincere, honest and serious contemplation of consequences demands that one be prospective, retrospective, introspective and inspective.
It has to be prospective because consequences as results-to-be require that the mind’s eye be directed to the future.
The contemplation needs to be retrospective because any noetic act concerned with outcomes has to involve looking at history, examining what has happened, so as to not only identify patterns of events and occurences which are flowing to the future but also predict their probable ends.
The intellectual act should be introspective too. For, it requires its agent to look at his or her own self, assessing his or her strengths vis-à-vis weaknesses, in order to properly plan and be prepared in moving forward with all the expected consequences.
Finally, it must be inspective because its agent is required to examine his or her current situation in the context of the flow of events to the future.
All the four modes of contemplation encapsulated in tadabbur as outlined above may also be represented by the combination of sight, insight, hindsight and foresight, all in a single view.
It is hence necessary to incorporate the aforementioned in our current understanding and exercise of tadabbur, including in regard to the Qur’an, so that we would be in a better position to not only reap greater benefits in our rumination but also render all activities related to it more meaningful and complete!