I was not a conscientious Muslim. As I entered my freshman year of high school, I had one very specific goal which I was determined to accomplish: to become popular. “Piety” was not consistent with this goal — at least not in my perspective. It was for this reason that I expressed disdain when my dad announced we would be undertaking the religious journey to Mecca in the summer following my freshman year of high school. I recall telling a friend, “Man, I’m scared. I don’t want to change!” I knew people went to Mecca and then became super religious. I didn’t want that to happen to me.
As we entered the Grand Mosque, my dad told my mom, my brother, and me to keep our eyes down until we reached the opening of the Masjid, until we were in a space which would allow for our first glimpse of the House of Allah, the Ka’ba, to be in our full view. As we walked through the halls of the Grand Mosque, I heard my mom and dad crying. I knew this was supposed to be a spiritual experience. I could see that they were going through something incredible, but I felt nothing. I felt absolutely nothing. Finally, we approached steps which led to a great opening. At this point, my dad instructed, “Look up.”
ALLAH! In that moment, my vision was suddenly filled with the belovedKa’ba. As if awakened from the dead, as if beating for the first time, my heart was immediately gripped indescribably. It suddenly filled with this unexplainable, fully tangible presence of the Creator of the Universe. I began to bawl; I was struck with the realization that this feeling, this closeness to God, could only happen because He truly exists. I began to regret all I had done and all the time I had wasted; I began circumambulating the Ka’ba, weeping, begging Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) to forgive me.
When we returned to America, I had difficulty maintaining my spiritual awakening. I decided that I would begin to read the Qur’an. I reasoned that I could watch hours of television a day and so, at the very least, I had an obligation to read at least five pages a day. I hadn’t touched the Qur’an in years. I’m not Arab, I was not raised knowing Arabic; I had just learnt how to read the letters when joined together when I was really young, like many Muslim children. I hadn’t practiced reading Arabic in so many years that I was painfully slow at it; reading five pages easily turned into an hour ordeal, if not longer. I didn’t understand anything I read, but I kept trying.
One day, my mom passed by my room and suggested, “Maryam, why don’t you read it in English? At least then you’ll understand what you’re reading.” To me, this was a lucrative suggestion; I was a really fast reader in English. If I read half the page in English and half of it in Arabic, it’d take much less time to get through five pages a day.
I began and I transformed. Reading the Qur’an in English and being able to come to an understanding of what its message conveyed captivated me. I began to change internally and it slowly took hold of my external being; my thoughts, my intentions, my actions… I slowly began to internalize a conscientiousness that revolutionized my life. I was mesmerized by the Qur’an and it was then that I decided I would undertake memorizing it.
It took me over seven years to memorize the Qur’an. In the time span that I spent memorizing, I had other responsibilities simultaneously. I was either studying or working full time (or a combination of both), I was the president or lead figure of an organization or community work, and I had familial responsibilities. The only time I was able to focus almost completely on the Qur’an was when I moved to Egypt for eleven months, in which I dedicated about two hours a day to memorization while I also studied Arabic and did Arabic homework for about seven hours of the day. However, the majority of the memorization occurred in America, amidst a crazy schedule. I memorized while I had to take care of life responsibilities; you, too, can memorize while taking care of business.
10 Tips for Serious Seekers of the Qur’an
- Realize the Reason, Know Allah is Your Guide
- Why memorize the Qur’an? Because it will give you a constant, incredible, and personally special relationship with The Creator, with The Sustainer, with The One Who has power over all things.
You want the best of both worlds? It’s through the Qur’an. It’s through memorizing, understanding, loving and most importantly, living it. When one is sincere about memorizing it, one needs to be completely aware of the heavy responsibility and glorified honor of living as Allah’s servant and carrying His words in their hearts. This must translate into their actions. The key: Sincerity.
- Make the Intention to Invest in Your Akhira (Hereafter)
The Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) taught us, ‘The Qur’aan will meet its companion on the Day of Resurrection when his grave is opened for him, in the form of a pale man. It will say to him, ‘Do you recognize me?’ He will say: ‘I do not recognize you.’ It will say: ‘I am your companion the Qur’aan, who kept you thirsty on hot days and kept you awake at night. Every merchant benefits from his business and today you will benefit from your good deeds.’ He will be given dominion in his right hand and eternity in his left, and there will be placed on his head a crown of dignity, and his parents will be clothed with priceless garments the like of which have never been seen in this world. They will say: ‘Why have we been clothed with this?’ It will be said: ‘Because your son used to recite Qur’an.’ Then it will be said to him: ‘Recite and ascend in the degrees of Paradise,’ and he will continue to ascend so long as he recites, either at a fast pace or a slow pace.’ [Ahmad, Ibn Majah]
- Know that Allah is with You
Allah Most High says in a Hadith Qudsi (record containing the words of God), “When my servant takes one step towards Me, I take ten steps towards him. When my servant comes walking towards me, I come running towards him.” Recognize that you are not alone; that it is the One Who revealed these words Who will help you learn and retain them. The struggle must begin with the servant, but the Lord is the One Who will continually open the way and aid you through the struggle.
2. When it’s Hard, There is Twice the Reward
- Wait, what? You don’t understand Arabic? Wait, what? You aren’t Arab? Wait, you’re Arab, but your tajweed (rules of recitation/pronunciation) is really off?
- For you, the Prophet ﷺ has shared words of encouragement, “Such a person who recites the Qur’an and masters it by heart, will be with the noble righteous scribes (in Heaven). And such a person exerts himself to learn the Qur’an by heart, and recites it with great difficulty, will have a double reward,” (Muslim).
3. Start Correctly and Use Technology
- Find a Teacher or Qur’an Buddy, Learn tajweed and Work Consistently
- When I first decided I would commit to memorizing, I found a teacher and told her I was ready. But I had never studied tajweed and my recitation was completely incorrect! She asked me, “Do you want to memorize, or do you want to memorize correctly? There is no point in memorizing it wrong and then having to go back and do it all over again.”
- The most difficult test I came across with memorizing the Qur’an was not being able to find a consistent teacher. This sometimes led to many months of not memorizing anything and only working on review. When I didn’t find a teacher, I turned to friends who could help me with mytajweed and we became Qur’an buddies. On campus, over the phone, in cars in random parking lots, in-between running from one meeting to another, we would recite to one another and we would keep each other in check until we were able to find teachers. A teacher (or if you can’t find one, a Qur’an buddy) is CRITICAL to progress with the Qur’an.
- One of the best things that has ever happened to me in my entire life, all praise and thanks be to God, was being blessed with the Qur’an teacher that helped me so immensely through my memorization: Shaykh Moheb. I learned love for the Qur’an, commitment to the Qur’an, a life of gratitude and incredible contentment because of the Qur’an and a balanced perspective through the Qur’an from him. Seeing I was not Arab and was trying to memorize the Qur’an correctly, he took it upon himself to see me through it. May God bless his family in both worlds. I made du`a’ (supplication)(fervently) for a teacher like this for many years and was blessed with more than for what I made du`a’, but it took patience and continual struggle until I was rewarded with a teacher of such caliber. Seek the best teacher you can find and if they are not there, keep making du`a’ for one and work through other avenues.
- Use technology to assist you; to help practice your tajweed and help you memorize, there are a number of resources dedicated to those who want to memorize the Qur’an. If you have ever used one, please feel free to share what has worked for you!
4. Date the Qu’ran
- When I was MSA President in college, I had many responsibilities added to my academic, work, volunteer, knowledge, and familial obligations. However, everyday, I made a special date with the Qur’an that no one could touch. My phone was away, my email was gone — I was booked for that time period and it didn’t matter how huge of an event I needed to prepare for the next day. Just as we make time for people, work and classes, we need to schedule in time to meet up with the Qur’an and strive to show it that we’re sincere and serious about a long-term relationship.
5. The Qur’an is Where the Party’s At
- Sometimes, memorizing the Qur’an means denying invitations to social gatherings. Don’t get me wrong; it is ESSENTIAL for one’s spiritual and emotional well-being to be balanced and have social connections and relationships regularly. However, there will be times when the portion that must be memorized is going to take more time and that means leaving early from or not being able to make it to the party. These are sacrifices we make for Allah (swt) and the Qur’an and He replaces them with better if we pay attention.
6. Make Du`a’ Constantly
- In every prayer, in every moment of prostration, between every athan(call to prayer) and iqama (call to begin prayer), ask God to make us of the Ahlul Qur’an (the people of the Qur’an), those whom the Prophet ﷺ taught, “The people of the Qur’an are the people of Allah and His special servants,” (An-Nisa’i). Realize you are not alone. There are some du`a’ I began making seven years ago and they only have started to manifest six or seven years after I started making them rigorously. There will be times one might want to give up, one might feel like there’s no progress, one might feel like everyone else is finishing so quickly, so easily, and that nothing is clicking. Wait. Be patient. Keep working and keep makingdu`a’. Soon, everything will open because of your sincerity , work anddu`a’ and when it does, every second of the struggle is so much sweeter and so much more worth it.
7. Trade a Mushaf (Qur’an) with Someone and Understand What You’re Memorizing
- When starting, find someone else who wants to begin and give them amushaf (written Qur’an) and ask them to give you one as well. This way, every time they or you work on memorizing, you’re both receiving incredible rewardsfrom each other’s memorization.
- It can be more difficult to memorize if one has no clue what the meaning of the verses are. If one does not understand the language of the Qur’an, make sure to also keep a translation close by to read from it to contextualize the verses and pick up on the meaning.
8. Do Good Deeds “For the Sake of the Qur’an”
- When one experiences extra difficulty in memorizing or has just finished a great portion, give some small financial or action-based charity and ask Allah (swt) to accept it for the Qur’an; ask Allah subhanahu wa ta’alafervently for tawfiq (success), for sincerity, and for a love life with His Words.
- The Qur’an is special and it does not “need” us. We need the Qur’an to guide us and to enrich our lives. The Qur`an isn’t going to just come to anyone who attempts to memorize it, then leaves it, then attempts it, then leaves it. It also doesn’t just easily lend itself to individuals who knowingly commit sins and persist in those sins without regret and without seeking to change. As one Shaykh taught, “The Qur’an is Aziz(dear, noble, venerated). If you don’t want to be with it or memorize it, then it’s not going to ‘wait around’ for you.” You want to be special to the Qur’an? Work for it through your righteous actions when you’re not working with it directly.
9. Honor One’s Parents
- As I learned from an anecdote shared by Imam Suhaib Webb, the pleasure of one’s parents incredibly aids in easing the memorization of the Qur`an. The more one wants to memorize, the more one should increase in treating their parents with dignity, respect and appreciation through words, through actions and through merciful companionship. (Thank you Mom and Dad!!)
10. The Qur’an Should Spark an Internal Revolution
- Even more important than memorizing the Qur’an is allowing it catalyze one’s transformation. If one’s character is not reforming and improving, there’s a serious problem. Check your heart from the start and keep checking it; one’s actions should become more balanced and stronger in quality when interacting with the Qur’an.
Many people feel facing the challenge of memorizing the Qur`an is too difficult of a task. They may have tried it and given up, dabbled in it and lost focus or drive or simply refused to consider the idea because they feel it insurmountable. Think of memorizing the Qur`an like lifting weights. For a person who has never worked out and who desires the health benefits of increasing their strength, they may begin with just a few pounds. As they continue, the amounts they began with will feel insignificant in comparison to the heavy amounts they are now able to lift.
Similarly, beginning the memorization of the Qur’an seems difficult. One verse, two verses, may take a long time to memorize correctly; getting the pronunciation down perfectly may take years, remembering the order of the words may be a frustrating task. However, when one commits to it and makes it a part of their daily responsibilities, it becomes easier and easier. The two verses that took an hour to memorize will turn into the memorization of one entire page in fifteen minutes.
The Qur’an is easy and The One Who revealed the Qur`an tells us, “And We have certainly made the Qur’an easy for remembrance, so is there any who will remember?” (Qur`an, 54:17). It just takes dedication, commitment and time. Even if it takes you, as it took me, seven years, ten years, fifteen years, imagine being able to say, “I had a seven-year memorization relationship with the Qur’an and the quality of my life improved in every second. Now that I’m finished, an incredibly exciting chapter of our long-term, eternal relationship is about to begin!”
We all seek for our hearts to be in a state of contentment, tranquility and ease. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala tells us, “Those who believe, and whose hearts find rest in the remembrance of Allah, verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest,” (Qur‘an, 13: 28).
The best form of remembrance is that of the Qur`an. Will you allow your heart to find rest through it?
Originally published at www.virtualmosque.com on May 4, 2012.