It should be clear that one is rewarded for reading or reciting the Qur’an, whether silently or aloud. However, it is recommendable to read the Qur’an quietly if reading aloud may be showing off or distracting others who are praying, acquiring knowledge, or remembering Allah, or if it may annoy one who is sleeping or sick. In cases other than these, reading aloud is better, unless one finds that silent reading increases one’s humility before Allah or helps one contemplate the Qur’anic verses deeply.
Dr. Ahmad Taha Rayan, a professor of comparative fiqh at Al-Azhar University, states: “Almighty Allah has bestowed many great blessings on the nation of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). The best of these blessings is the Glorious Qur’an. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is reported to have said, “No one should envy another but in two cases: the case of a man who has learned the Qur’an (by heart) and recites it along night and day, and the case of a man who has great wealth that he spends on charitable acts” (Reported by Al-Bukhari and Muslim).
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) also said (in a qudsi hadith), “Our Lord (Exalted be He) says: ‘He who is preoccupied with reciting the Qur’an and remembering Me more than with asking Me to give him of My blessings will receive greater blessings than those who ask Me (for this).’” The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) then said, “The merit of Almighty Allah’s words over all other kinds of words is like the merit of Almighty Allah Himself over His creation” (Reported by Abu Sa`id Al-Khudri).
As for reciting the Qur’an aloud or silently, the two were reported in the Sunnah. Regarding recitation aloud, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “The best thing Almighty Allah likes to listen to is the Prophet while reciting the Qur’an in a good and soft voice” (Reported by Al-Bukhari and Muslim).
Concerning reading the Qur’an silently, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “He who recites the Qur’an loudly is like he who gives sadaqah (charity) in public, and he who recites it quietly is like he who gives sadaqah in secret” (Reported Abu Dawud, At-Tirmidhi, and An-Nasa’i). It is known in Islam that giving sadaqah in secret is better rewarded than giving it in public because the former is far from showing off and ostentatious intentions.
Imam An-Nawawi, an eminent, righteous scholar (may Almighty Allah have mercy upon him), was of the opinion that both are rewarded. He namely said, ‘Reading the Qur’an quietly is better if one fears that reading aloud may involve some kind of showing off or may distract other people who perform Prayer or are asleep in the same place. In cases other than these reading aloud is better, for it requires further effort and may benefit other Muslims who listen to it. [In fact,] reading aloud increases one’s concentration and contemplation (on what one reads), and causes one not to sleep.’
A similar attitude is derived from the hadith reported by Abu Sa`id (may Allah be pleased with him) to the effect that once while the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was practicing i`tikaf (spiritual retreat in the mosque), he (peace and blessings be upon him) heard some Muslims [who were also practicing i`tikaf] reciting the Qur’an aloud. He (peace and blessings be upon him) uncovered the screen behind which he was practicing i`tikaf and said, “Each one of you is devoting himself to Almighty Allah (at this time); so, do not disturb one another, nor read in such a loud voice that you may distract others’ concentration” (Reported by Abu Dawud).
(To sum up), the above hadiths cited indicate that both recitations, reading the Qur’an al
oud and silently, are permissible and rewarded. However, reading aloud is better so long as it does not involve showing off or distract or annoy others. It is better because it reflects exerting greater effort (for Almighty Allah’s sake).”