Salaam and Greetings of Peace:
“These are the secrets of the angelic servants of those who recite the Quran. It behooves the reciter of the Quran to uphold the highest standards of good etiquette when he wishes to begin his recitation. Let him be in a state of complete ritual purity and bring to presence the attendance of the angels. Let him remind himself of the angels’ sanctity and place his spiritual focus on contemplation of and reverential awe for the Quran. Whilst he is reciting, let him not cast a furtive glance toward anyone or anything that is lesser in stature than the Speech of Allah, such as interrupting his recitation with created speech, even if it is the obligatory reply to greetings of peace (salam). It is unlawful for him to reply to greetings of peace whilst he is engaged in recitation of the Quran, because in doing so he drops himself from the highest of the high to the lowest of the low. This is what results when someone interrupts the divine speech by replying to the greetings of peace. As for interrupting the divine speech with worldly speech, it is loss upon loss—manifold loss!
When someone is reciting the Quran, he shouldn’t even glance to see who comes in to see him, no matter what occasions it. It is problematic enough that one should turn and look at someone entering even if he doesn’t stop the recitation of the Quran. Should a person remember a worldly matter after starting his recitation, he mustn’t get up and attend to it, for if he does that he will be included among those who preferred the ignoble and base over the Presence of his Master, and as a result he will be cast from Allah’s divine pleasure and denied the Quran’s blessings.
When someone stops his recitation of the Quran to attend to someone or something, he should consider the secrets of the angelic soldiers who seek forgiveness for him as he recites, and then he should weigh their prayers for forgiveness against whatever he attends to—can or can’t he distinguish light from darkness?
Many students who sell their goods in the market fall into these errors. Whilst in the market, they are busy reciting the Quran, but their focus is really on the people walking by. They say to themselves, “Is this person going to come and buy something from me or not?” or “Is this person going to come over to me or not?” until finally, when someone approaches to purchase a small quantity of this-or-that, they stop their recitation and immediately begin tending to the transaction until it is complete, after which they go back to their recitation without the slightest concern. Quite often they will go back to their recitation without seeking refuge [in Allah from Satan], as if they never stopped reciting. The show no care or concern. Many of them, because of the intensity with which they prefer commerce over recitation, when re-starting their recitation, don’t even remember where they stopped at, and start reading from a different location without invoking the prayer for seeking refuge from Satan.
Because of this lassitude with the Quran, many students are barred from its secrets; the lights of the angels do not connect with their recitation (as we detailed earlier). These secrets are for none but those with complete etiquette and presence. So long as a person is mired in heedlessness of this reality, no matter how hard he tries he will not attain unto the lights of the angels. As much as he may aspire to their lights, their secret will be cut off to him.
When one wants to recite the Quran, he must enter a sanctified state just as he does when offering the ritual prayer. Let him attend to any business or pre-occupations before starting his recitation; then let him ensure he is in a complete state of ritual purity; then, with presence of heart and reverential awe, let him focus on the sanctity of divine speech, even if all he is to recite is a single verse, or two verses, or a hizb. As these are conditions of quality and not quantity—being, as they are, conditions of good etiquette—they are applicable whether one recites a single verse or recites longer portions of the Quran. Even if one only recites a single verse while upholding the aforementioned sanctities, he will attain immense blessings through it.
If something happens, or occurs, or arises, that requires one to stop his recitation, let him stop it in a manner that reflects good etiquette. The very best that the imams have inaugurated in this regard—Allah be pleased with them!—is the practice of saying “Allah Almighty spoke the truth” (Sadaqallahul-‘Azim) and reciting the verse Verily Allah and His angels send prayers upon the Prophet; O you who believe, send prayers and abundant salutations upon him! (Quran 33:56), followed by sending prayers upon the Prophet s and sealing it with invocations of divine pleasure for the noble Companions, the Successors, and the entire Umma of our master Muhammad s, followed by asking Allah Most High that He not make that his final recitation, and that his spirit not leave his body except that he is reciting the Quran—meaning that he first brings it to presence and recites of it what is easy for him before uttering the two testimonies of faith [There is no god but Allah, Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah], so that his testification is upon the foundation of the Quran’s light, sealing his life with the testimony of faith until Allah raises his spirit…”
– Shaykh Muhammad al-Qandusi (Cipher of the Spirit, translated by Abdul Aziz Suraqah)