Similar to Quran itself, the Existential Reading (which you can read about in our book ‘Introduction to Quran: An Existential Reading, please right and save as here) depends first and foremost on you. Quran promises a change in condition for those can change what is in their souls (8/53 and 13/11). With the Existential Reading of Quran, your experience depends first and foremost on your attitude towards the text. If your attitudes hit the mark, it will help you achieve the Quranic State of Being, a state of existential awareness where we come to understand the essence of human life. We believe that is the role of Quran, to explain this essence.
What are some of the attitudes we need to adopt in order to achieve this Quranic State of Being?
1. Belief in Quran as inspiration from Allah. This is not a blind belief but rather one engendered through a long process of introspection. Quran actually offers us tests through which we may attain belief in it (41/53 is my favourite example). When one believes in Quran, one trusts the information acquired and thereby has a positive response towards it. Quran also encourages us to compare it with sources of guidance to find something like it in terms of facticity of existence (2/21-23). This is not an egotistical claim because Quran offers itself as a criteria (2/185) but rather one to generate a deeper appreciation and awareness of Quran itself. Once we understand its subject matter, how it reaches its goal and other texts of the same genre, we will be better positioned to achieve the Quranic State of Being.
2. Taking Quran as a text. Quran came to us as a text, a fact attested by Quran itself (15/1 is one example of such a statement). As such, it is wise for us to respect this textuality when studying Quran. A good example would be to read and internalise Ch 1 (Al-Fatihah) before any and every reading of Quran. This helps us to ground our reading and to relate it back to to key concepts enshrined in Ch 1.
Another example is to read Quran B2B (Bismillah to Bismillah) which is Traditionally known as a surah. Appreciating the textual completeness of a B2B helps us understand the steps in the delivery of information. It is sad to say that most readings of Quran are deeply atomistic, that is to say, most readings quote without ever considering immediate context, passage themes let alone chapter themes. Quran is considered to be delivered piecemeal and therefore read as such. This might be all right for Traditionalists given their literature of asbab an-nuzool but for Quranists it can hardly be justified.
3. Understanding that we are the Readers of Quran. Every human being who listens to Quran becomes its Reader. The Reader is known through the singular second person ‘you’ in Quran (‘ka’ or ‘ta’ in Arabic). The first time The Reader is mentioned is in Ch 2 Verse 4 (with what is descended to you).
In order for us to truly appreciate this concept, we must assume the identity of the Reader. We must become the receivers of revelation which in fact, we are. The revelation we would receive is in meaning rather than text whereas with the original recipient (historically known as Muhammad ibn Abdullah) received the actual words. With this belief, we effectively put ourselves in the centre of the world of revelation. We do not think about ‘what did this mean to the original recipients’ anymore because for that moment, they do not exist. Quran literally becomes a dialogue between the Author and The Reader. The Reader experiences the signs mentioned in Quran and the Author talks about these signs. It is an organic process whose reality cannot be denied unless you are denying your own experience of the world.
Quran is a marvellous, wonderous book which should not just be read but rather experienced with one’s whole existence. It offers us that Quranic State of Being, an awareness which allows us that state of connectivity with the world. However, it does require us to adopt certain attitudes in order to achieve that state. This is a process rather than an overnight achievement .