“Just walk or swim for 20 mins, then you stop.”
“Stop to rest, then continue the workout, right?”
“No, stop to finish. Just 20 mins, any extra is bonus.”
“What? That sounds like my kind of workout regime! I could do 20 mins.”

That has been the most effective advice a fitness trainer has given me. And best of all, it was free. Discipline in exercise is really a mind game. My body is capable of much more, I know, but my brain is skilled at crafting a hundred and one excuses and diversions. But this “just 20 mins” no-pressure technique has worked wonders. I’m not aiming for the Olympics, just trying to maintain some kind of daily light exercise routine. I need to. For the sake of my aching back which spends a lot of time sitting down in front of my laptop, sitting in Kuala Lumpur traffic, sitting in lecture halls, sitting while treating hijamah/cupping patients… yeah, that’s a lot of sitting. And also to preserve my sanity. Brisk walking between the towering raintrees and bushes with swaying wild reeds along the little stream behind my house helps re-align my scattered thoughts; feeling the wind against my skin rejuvenates me; watching cotton candy clouds brightens the humdrum routine of my daily grind. It’s like Allah’s (ﷻ) little private gift for me to enjoy.

But but but… why was it still so difficult to get up and just go?! I don’t know. And that’s not what I want to dwell on. I’d rather rejoice in the fact that since I adjusted my approach to “just 20 mins”, I’ve gotten up and out of the house significantly more often (still not every day, but hey, I’m trying!). Yes, most days my walk or swim lasts literally 20 mins, but some days I find myself stretching it to 30, 45, or even 60 minutes!

I believe this mindset in dealing with exercise is a useful application of the Hadith narrated by Anas bin Malik (may Allah be pleased with him), where the Messenger (ﷺ) said, “Make things easy for the people, and do not make it difficult for them, and make them calm (with glad tidings) and do not repel (them)”. [Bukhari 6125]

So let’s apply this concept to maintaining a daily Hizb of Qur’an recitation and reflection.

First of all, a Hizb (حزب), has multiple definitions. One is a specific segmentation of the Qur’an, e.g. the Qur’an is divided into 30 Ajza/Juz, and each Juz is divided into 2 Ahzab/Hizb, making it 60 in total. Another definition is basically anything you specify as your personal allotted portion to be completed over a definite amount of time. For example, you may commit to a Hizb of five pages of recitation daily, whereas someone else’s Hizb may be one page daily.

Reading a daily portion of the Qur’an isn’t only a Sunnah for Ramadhan, but rather it’s a daily Sunnah year round. The Companions used to finish the Qur’an throughout the year in different time frames. Some completed it within 7 days and others monthly. Abdullah ibn Amr (may Allah be pleased with him) narrates:

The Messenger (ﷺ) said to me, “Recite the whole Qur’an in a month.” I said, “But I have the power [to do more than that].” The Messenger (ﷺ) said, “Then finish the recitation of the Qur’an in seven days, and do not finish it in faster than this period.” [Bukhari 5054]

Allah (ﷻ) knows our capabilities, and our sincerity. It’s really up to us to decide what we are able and want to commit as our own daily Hizb. You may be someone already comfortable maintaining one Juz (20 pages) a day, and finishing the Qur’an monthly – in which case you can try and diversify your time with the Qur’an to also include tafsir or reflection.

On the other hand, you may be working your way steadily through half a page, or one page a day, but also reading the translation, or listening to a short tafsir of that page, then reflecting and pondering over it.

Or maybe your Hizb could be set by time – “just 20 mins” or even just 10 mins – to develop and strengthen your relationship with Allah’s (ﷻ) divine speech. And who knows, that 10 mins may stretch to 15, 30, and even 60 on some days 🙂

I was reflecting on what Asmaa Hussein said in her book, A Temporary Gift: Reflections on Love, Lost and Healing, about not necessarily doing outright evil things, but just succumbing to being complacent and too comfortable – a Believer doesn’t stagnate. A Believer seeks to improve a little something every day.

Whatever you choose to commit to, treasure it as much as you can. Let your Qur’an “date” session be as natural as brushing your teeth every morning. Engage your mind, heart and soul – and be very careful not to allow it to be robotic or mechanical.

So what happens if you miss your Hizb for the day? There’s even a Hadith addressing that! You can “make it up” the next morning – that’s how seriously the Companions took the daily commitment they made, and how generous Allah (ﷻ) Al-Kareem is in rewarding our commitment to strengthen our bond with His message. `Umar bin Al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) reported:

The Messenger (ﷺ) said: “If anyone falls asleep and therefore fails to observe his Hizb (portion) or part of it, if he observes it between the Fajr and the Zuhr prayers (the next day), it will be recorded for him as though he had observed it during the night”. [Muslim 1182].

Umm Abdurrahman Sakina Hirschfelder in her book, “Who is Allah?” explains:

“Those who ponder the noble verses of the Qur’an can attain essential knowledge of Allah (ﷻ). They learn who their Lord is, what their Lord is like, what their Lord loves, what their Lord dislikes and what their Lord does. Through the continual reading of the Qur’an, this knowledge can become ingrained in the mind and the heart, thereby increasing faith and creating happiness. This is why we must emphasize here the daily reading of the Qur’an – in a language understood by the reader – even if it is only a few verses a day. Making this a habit can have great benefits for the soul, and with this habit, one can grow closer to the Lord and truly know Him.”

Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger (ﷺ) said, “Take up good deeds only as much as you are able, for the best deeds are those done regularly even if they are small.” [Ibn Majah 4240]

In a nutshell, go for daily walks. “Just 20 mins”.

And with respect to the Qur’an, if you already have a Hizb, then keep it up – look to improving the quality of the time spent with Allah’s (ﷻ) words. But if you don’t have a Hizb, let’s set one up. Get a buddy and check on each other. Don’t aim too high, keep it manageable, or even ridiculously short, so you don’t have an excuse. Who can’t spare 10 mins to read one page, right? Okay, half a page. Just promise you’ll stick to something, anything. “Just 5 mins”.