Many of us don't understand Arabic. In that case, would it be better to recite the Qur'an in Arabic despite not knowing what is being recited, or should we just read the translation?
The Qur'an is the book of Allah and the speech of Allah. Allah describes it as a mubarak book, meaning it is a source of endless benefit. Its mere recitation can also bring rewards to a person, since we are rewarded for every single letter of Qur'an that is read and recited.
Ustadha Taimiyyah Zubair explains and further answers the question.
If someone doesn't understand Arabic at all, should they recite the Qur'an or should they simply read the translation?
Remember that the Qur'an is the book of Allah. It is the Speech of Allah, and Allah (subhana wa ta'ala) describes it as a mubarak book, mubarak meaning it is a source of endless benefit. So its mere recitation, even without understanding, can also bring reward to a person.
In a hadeeth, we learn that a person is rewarded for every letter of the Qur'an that they recite — for reciting alif, for reciting laam, and for reciting meem — meaning every single letter of the Qur'an brings reward to the reciter.
The Prophet (salAllahu 'alayhi wa salaam) was sent to convey the Qur'an to people. Allah (subhana wa ta'ala) mentions the Prophet (salAllahu 'alayhi wa salaam) in the Qur'an that: "yatlu 'alayhim ayatihi (that He recites to them His verses)." And in the same ayah, Allah says, "wa yu'allimuhum'l-kitab (and He also teaches them the Book)." So we see that the recitation of the Qur'an is a separate, a distinct virtue on its own. It is distinct from understanding or learning the meaning of the Qur'an. This doesn't mean that only one is important. No. Both are important. The Qur'an has several rights. And of the rights of the Qur'an is that it should be recited, also. Yes, it should be understood, but it should also be recited.
The Prophet (salAllahu 'alayhi wa salaam) said that no group of people gather in one of the houses of Allah reciting the Book of Allah and studying it amongst themselves, except that sakinah, tranquility, and the mercy from Allah (subhana wa ta'ala) envelops them. And Allah (subhana wa ta'ala) mentions those people in a gathering that is better than theirs. So we see again in this hadeeth that the recitation of the Qur'an and the studying of the Qur'an has been mentioned separately.
The Prophet (salAllahu 'alayhi wa salaam) explained that the believer who recites the Qur'an and also acts upon it is like a citrus fruit that smells beautiful and it also tastes beautiful. But the believer who only recites the Qur'an and he doesn't understand it, does not really act upon it, then he is like a date fruit, meaning it at least tastes sweet even though it is not fragrant. So we see that there is a benefit in reciting the Qur'an, even if a person does not understand it. And remember that the recitation of the Qur'an is the first step towards understanding it. You can only comprehend what the Qur'an says once you know how to read it, once you recognize its words.
So do not underestimate the reward and the importance of reciting the Qur'an. In a hadith, we learn that when a person is laid in his grave, then the punishment approaches him from the side of his head and the recitation of the Qur'an intervenes and says that you cannot go past me. So we see that the recitation of the Qur'an will actually be a means of protection for a person in their grave.
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