Wa`alaykum as-salam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh.
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
In this fatwa:
1- Seeking reward and getting closer to Allah should not in any way violate others’ rights or threaten people’s safety.
2- The person referred to observed only one thing (namely, reciting the Glorious Quran) and neglected many other things that are equally required or even are of greater importance.
3- Keeping people’s lives is given preference over the obligatory acts of worship, and this emphasizes the mercy of Islam, the religion of peace.
Answering your question, Dr. Rajab Abu Mleeh, Professor of Islamic Studies at Kolej Universiti Insaniah, stated,
Allah (exalted and glorified be He) revealed the Quran for people to seek guidance from it and act in accordance with its guidelines.
He (glory be to Him) ordered people to recite it and assigned a great reward for that. The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Whoever recites one letter of the Book of Allah will have one hasanah [reward of a good deed] for it, and each hasanah is a tenfold reward.” (At-Tirmidhi)
Almighty Allah clarified in the Quran that among the purposes of revealing the Quran is that people contemplate its verses and explore its meanings and wisdom.
Sometimes permissible and impermissible actions get confused in the Muslims’ minds and conscience. Undoubtedly, reciting the Glorious Quran gives great reward and plentiful honor; however, this does not justify such an act, and I believe that this act is not permissible under any circumstances for the following reasons:
First, reciting the Glorious Quran in the way mentioned in your question does not involve the reflection and understanding that Almighty Allah urges us to seek as we read the Qur’an. Almighty Allah says,
“Will they then not meditate on the Qur’an, or are there locks on the hearts?” (Muhammad 47:24)
“(This is) a Scripture that We have revealed unto thee, full of blessing, that they may ponder its revelations, and that men of understanding may reflect.” (Saad 38:29)
Undoubtedly, while driving, no one can concentrate on the copy of the Quran he or she is holding, understand the verses, or turn the pages. Almighty Allah says,
“Allah has not assigned unto any man two hearts within his body…”(Al-Ahzab 33:4)
Second, the relationship between the passengers and their driver is an employer-employee relationship. The passengers pay the driver to transport them to some place. This is considered a binding contract, even if it is not written, as it is known and clear to the two parties. As a result, neither party should neglect the rights of the other. Hence, the driver should make every effort to maintain the safety of the passengers.
Third, keeping the lives of people and their property is more important than reciting the Quran. Actually, reading the Quran from the Mus-haf while driving affects the driver’s ability to control the vehicle and to watch out for the passengers or the people walking on the street. Keeping the lives of people is given preference over religious obligations, as well as supererogatory acts of worship. Almighty Allah says,
“For that cause We decreed for the Children of Israel that whosoever killeth a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind. Our messengers came unto them of old with clear proofs (of Allah’s Sovereignty), but afterwards lo! many of them became prodigals in the earth.” (Al-Ma’idah 5:32)
Fourth, there is an alternative to reading while driving, which is listening to a reciter on the radio, on a CD player, etc. Hence, the driver can listen to the Quran instead of reading it.
Fifth, this careless action violates the laws of traffic, which obligate drivers to focus attentively on the road. Although they are man-made, these laws do not contradict the Islamic Shari`ah; rather, they protect the objectives of Shari `ah, which mainly aim at protecting the souls and property.
As for the duty of the passengers, they should gently advise the driver, for he or she may be unaware of the religious ruling in this regard. If the driver does not comply, the passengers should report the incident to the relevant authorities.
Moreover, offering this driver a sincere advice is an obligatory act. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, says, “Religion is founded upon (sincere) advice.” We (attending Companions) said: “To whom O Messenger of Allah?” He said: “To Allah, His Messenger and His Book, and to the leaders of the Muslims as well as their common folk.” (Muslim)
Finally, it should be noted here that the driver you mentioned will be responsible for any harm his carelessness and ignorance may bring to the passengers, the people walking on the street, or other vehicles — Allah forbid.
Almighty Allah knows best.
Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.