The Arabic word that was translated into “best” is “Aqwam”, which has appeared in the tafdīl/superlative degree, to indicate that there isn’t anything even remotely comparable to the Qur’ān. Furthermore, Aqwam/ “best” is a sifa (description), but the mawsūf (described) was not mentioned. In other words, one is left thinking: the “best” with respect to what? Family relations? Health? Finances? It wasn’t mentioned, because, as the scholars mention:
إثبات عموم الهداية بالقرآن للتي هي أقوم في كلِّ شيءٍ
“To establish the holistic nature of the Qur’ān’s guidance, which brings the best in every matter.”
Thus the perfect guidance of the Qur’ān isn’t limited to a particular facet in life nor to a particular era, and so whoever returns to the Qur’ān when wanting to fulfil a worldly or a hereafter-based objective, not only will the Qur’ān show him the way, but will guide such a person to the best of ways.
If, however, you are not seeing the effects of the Qur’ān upon your life or upon the wellbeing of your Ummah at large, then one of two situations must apply: (1) Either the Qur’ān – God forbid – isn’t the guidance which it claims to be; or (2) that we are yet to approach the Qur’ān correctly to qualify ourselves for its guidance.
So, when does the Qur’ān become a means of reformation for individuals and nations alike? The answer: when one’s approach to the Qur’ān is reformed. Consider the situation of a lost desert wayfarer who edges closer and closer to death by the second, before finally bumping into a document that maps out the entire desert scene along with the nearest route to safety. For a moment, consider his reaction, imagine his blink-less glance, picture his restlessness as he reads and rereads the documents over and over again, in hope for navigation and guidance.
Should we wish for our Qur’ān to direct us to the shores of safety, our approach to it mustn’t be any short of this.
Allāh (SWT) said:
إِنَّ فِي ذَلِكَ لَذِكْرَى لِمَنْ كَانَ لَهُ قَلْبٌ أَوْ أَلْقَى السَّمْعَ وَهُوَ شَهِيدٌ
“Most surely there is a reminder in this for he who has a heart or who listens while he is present in mind.” 
أَفَلَمْ يَدَّبَّرُوا الْقَوْلَ
“Have they not pondered over the Qur’ān?” 
أَفَلَا يَتَدَبَّرُونَ الْقُرْآنَ أَمْ عَلَى قُلُوبٍ أَقْفَالُهَا
“Do they not reflect upon the Qur’ān, or are there locks upon their hearts?” 
كِتَابٌ أَنْزَلْنَاهُ إِلَيْكَ مُبَارَكٌ لِيَدَّبَّرُوا آيَاتِهِ وَلِيَتَذَكَّرَ أُولُو الْأَلْبَابِ
“This is a blessed Book which We have revealed to you, so that they might reflect upon its verses and that those of understanding would be reminded.” 
Every parent is keen to see his child memorising the Qur’ān – and this is undoubtedly great – but rarely do you find a parent who searches for those who may teach him how to understand the Qur’ān. Amazingly however, according to Allāh, this was the very reason why the Qur’ān was revealed.
The first step towards becoming a generation who lives by the Qur’ān is to lend it the attention it deserves. So, with this introduction we may now ask: What is the difference between Tadabbur(pondering) and Tafsīr (interpreting)?
(a) The difference between Tafsīr and Tadabbur, and their relationship
As for Tadabbur, from a linguistic perspective, it is derived from the term Dubur which is in reference to مؤخرة الشيء / the rear of something. Hence the term Tadabbur means النظر في عواقب الأمور وما تؤول إليه – “To consider the outcomes of matters and their consequences.”
The one who acts upon Tadabbur is essentially, therefore, in reference to one who ponders over what is behind the verse with respect to knowledge and application. The approach of such a person is not limited to the wanting of good deeds, but to also navigate his way out from ignorance into knowledge, from insincerity to sincerity, from darkness to light. Should one succeed in aligning his mind upon this whilst reciting the Qur’ān, then such a person is now upon the path of Tadabbur, and is actively applying the instruction where Allāh said:
“This is a blessed Book which We have revealed to you, so that they might reflect upon its verses and that those of understanding would be reminded.”
What about the term Tafsīr? Linguistically, this is taken from the term al-Fasr, which is in reference to al-Kashf (uncovering).
Al-Zurqāni defined tafsīr as:
علم يبحث فيه عن القرآن الكريم من حيث دلالته على مراد الله تعالى بقدر الطاقة البشرية
“A science that studies the Qurʾān from the perspective of its meanings as intended by Allāh – as much as human capability allows.”
Thus, the duty of the scholar of Tafsīr is to uncover the intended meaning of the verse. Therefore, we can say that Tafsīr is the doorway that leads to Tadabbur, for one is first to understand the meaning behind the āyah, then one is to exercise reflection over its secrets, wisdoms, objectives, instructions and so on. This is one difference.
A second difference is that Tafsīr is the duty of scholars who have a strong footing in the Arabic language, amidst other prerequisites. On the other hand, Tadabbur is the duty of the entire Ummah. What is interesting is that in two verses where Allāh asks “Will they not ponder over the Qur’ān” – chapter 4 and chapter 47 – those who were being addressed in both cases were the non-believers. This is a second difference.
A third difference is that there is a limit to Tafsīr, whereas there are no limits to Tadabbur, for Allāh may inspire you with a valid point of reflection that hadn’t been mentioned by anyone before you.
(b) Some of the prerequisites for Tadabbur
Much like scuba divers whose ability to delve into the oceans vary according to their training, people’s ability to engage in Tadabbur also vary. Factors that influence this include knowledge of the Arabic language, Maqāsid (objectives) of the chapters and verses, reasons for revelations, Balāgha (rhetoric), and an ability to engage in Istinbāt (deduction). Nevertheless, there are key prerequisites which are necessary for both the specialist and novice, milestones which, if attained, will allow the reader to enjoy a generous share of Tadabbur.
The first: To honour the Qur’ān and realise its sanctity
The attention that you give to something is directly proportional to the standing which that thing occupies in your eyes, thus every other prerequisite that we shall mention is reliant upon this one. If our appreciation of the reality of the Qur’ān is lacking, then our Tadabbur will certainly be just as lacking.
Consider the words of ‘Ali b. Abī Tālib with respect to the Qur’ān, who said:
“Allāh’s book. In it is news for what happened before you, and information about what shall come after you, and judgement for what happens between you. It is the criterion (between right and wrong) and it isn’t a joke. Whoever among the oppressive abandons it, Allāh crushes him, and whoever seeks guidance from other than it, then Allāh leaves him to stray. It is the firm rope of Allāh, it is the wise reminder, it is the straight path, and it is the one that the desires cannot distort, nor does it cause tongues to twist, nor can the scholars ever have enough of, nor does it become dull from reciting it much, and its wonders do not diminish. It is that which, when the Jinns heard it, caused them to say at once: ‘Surely, we have heard an amazing recitation!’ It is that which, whoever speaks according to it, has said the truth, and whoever acts according to it is rewarded, and whoever judges by it has judged justly, and whoever invites to it will be guided to the straight path.” 
In a previous article we discussed the hadith wherein the Prophet (sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) told us about a happening of the past where a shepherd heard a wolf speaking. The shepherd expressed his amazement to the wolf, but the wolf was quick to redirect the shepherd’s amazement, telling him where it should be:
أَلَا أُخْبِرُكَ بِأَعْجَبَ مِنْ ذَلِكَ؟ مُحَمَّدٌ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ بِيَثْرِبَ يُخْبِرُ النَّاسَ بِأَنْبَاءِ مَا قَدْ سَبَقَ
“Shall I not inform you of something stranger than this? Muhammad (sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) in Yathrib (Madina) telling people about the news of those of the past.”
The fact that you have within your home a book, the content of which is not from this universe, is what is truly deserving of your astonishment. A book that has described the happenings of the past with flawlessly accurate detail, a book that speaks of the events that shall unfold tomorrow, and a book that is compatible, rather, a solution to every era it witnesses. According to the wolf, this is where amazement should be cast.
A group of Jinn once listened to the Prophet (sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam), as alluded to above, as he recited the Qur’ān. He was unaware of this at the time, and so Allāh informed him about their reaction, saying:
قُلْ أُوحِيَ إِلَيَّ أَنَّهُ اسْتَمَعَ نَفَرٌ مِنَ الْجِنِّ فَقَالُوا إِنَّا سَمِعْنَا قُرْآنًا عَجَبًا
“Say, [O Muhammad], “It has been revealed to me that a group of the jinn listened and said, ‘Indeed, we have heard an amazing Qur’ān (recitation).”
When we narrate to people the story of animals that speak like us or of spooky Jinn encounters, we are all ears, yet according to the Jinn themselves, it is this Qur’ān that is deserving of our amazement! If this amazement is not reflected in our daily relationship with the Qur’ān and goals regarding it, then it means that we are yet to fully appreciate the reality of this book that is with us, that book that would have caused mountains to crumble had it been sent upon them.
Ahmad b. Abi al-Hawāri said:
إِنِّي لأَقْرَأُ الْقُرْآنَ فَأَنْظُرُ فِي آيَةٍ آيَةٍ فَيَحَارُ عَقْلِي فِيهَا ، وَأَعْجَبُ مِنْ حُفَّاظِ الْقُرْآنِ ، كَيْفَ يُهْنِيهِمُ النَّوْمُ وَيُسِيغُهُمْ أَنْ يَشْتَغِلُوا بِشَيْءٍ مِنَ الدُّنْيَا ، وَهُمْ يَتَكَلَّمُونَ كَلامَ الرَّحْمَنِ أَمَا لَوْ فَهِمُوا مَا يَتْلُونَ وَعَرَفُوا حَقَّهُ وَتَلَذَّذُوا بِهِ وَاسْتَحَلُّوا الْمُنَاجَاةَ لَذَهَبَ عَنْهُمُ النَّوْمُ فَرَحًا بِمَا رُزِقُوا وَوُفِّقُوا
“I, at times, recite the Qur’ān and pause at a verse which baffles me and causes me to wonder at how the memorisers of Qur’ān are able to sleep at night and engage in any worldly doing whilst they’ve captured the words of Allāh. If they truly understood what they’re reciting, appreciated its right, found pleasure in it, and enjoyed calling their Lord through it, they wouldn’t be able to sleep at night due to the sheer joy of what they have been blessed with.”