Dr Ahmad Nuaina and the People of the Quran

When I was in Egypt, I used to make great efforts in making sure I went to Masjid al-Imam al-Hussain for Jumu'ah every week (in Cairo). Why? Because I wanted to meet and listen to Dr Ahmad Nu'aina'. It wasn't just me, but many hundreds of brothers coming from different corners of Cairo.

Today, I want to share his story. You'll take nothing but pure inspiration and motivation from it, in shā' Allāh.

But first...

Who is Dr. Ahmad Ahmad Nu'aina?

He is a doctor that finds peace in the recitation of the Qur'ān. He is a world famous Egyptian Qāri' who with his medical expertise has alleviated the pain and suffering of many people, and with his beautiful and melodious recitation, has brought tranquility to the souls of listeners throughout the world. Dr. Nu'aina' was born in 1954, although now retired, he is still serving the Qur'ān at the age of 69 years old (Facebook). May Allāh bless him.

Dr Ahmad Nuaina in Cape Town, South Africa

How did Dr Ahmad Nu'aina' memorise the Qur'ān?

Dr Ahmad Nu'aina' began memorising the Qur'ān at the age of 3 by listening to his teacher recite an āyah and repeating after him. This is an important primary method to use with children.

When he started his memorisation like this, he memorised from Surah an-Naas till Surah al-Ahqāf (or Sāffāt), and then he memorised the rest of the Qur'ān from Surah al-Baqarah. There are around 6 common routes and this is a popular route to memorising the Qur'ān.

He finished memorising the Qur'ān like this when he was only 8 years old!

"Memorise well" is the advice of Dr Ahmad

Dr. Ahmad did the rest of his Qur'ān memorisation through dictation (talaqqī), writing on a board, and reciting off that (like they do in Morocco, Mauritania, etc). So they would listen to the verses and then write them until it was perfectly written. Then they would memorise it. They weren't allowed to use the mus'haf. Typically it was about half of a quarter (rub') that they would memorise like this. Every day, they would write a new lesson and then memorise it. This would be the case for 6 days.

Writing the Qur'ān has many benefits. In fact, Dr Ahmad once said, "The Qur'ān was revealed on a preserved tablet, so it is only truly preserved through the tablet (e.g. board." He also speaks about this in a recent interview (in Arabic).

He also says that when you're memorising to stay focused on Tajweed, memorise well, and understand it and live by it.

Revision is by the rule of five

I have spoken often about the rule of five. There is a well known saying amongst the people of the Qur'ān (especially so in Egypt and Syria) that whoever recites five (ajzā') a day will never forget (the Qur'ān).

Dr Ahmad Nu'aina', has always maintained this rule in his life. He reviews the Qur'ān completely off memory every morning after Fajr, completing it (khatm) every 6 days. Friday he takes a break.

This is something that many of the Qurrā' do. Amongst those I took from in Egypt, Qāri' Ahmad Muhammad 'Āmir, would always recite 5 ajzā', and the likes of Abu Bakr ash-Shātri who, just like many others, practice and say that you should dedicate your Fridays to Salawāt 'Alan-Nabiyy (salāt and salām, or durood) - prayers and blessings upon our beloved Prophet (ﷺ).

Dr Ahmad was once asked about his daily routine and he said: "I start reciting the Qur'ān every day after Fajr prayer, and I perfect one or two Juz' of the Qur'ān on my way to the hospital and back home. In my free time, I am also busy reading the Qur'ān. I never miss a day without reading at least 5 ajzā' of the Qur'ān relying on my memorisation (off memory), and during the month of Ramadān, the amount of recitation increases due to attending Quranic gatherings."

After breakfast, he would leave for work reciting the Qur'ān whilst driving his car (30-60 mins), and when he came back he will reciting too.

Revision is made stronger with understanding

His routine is as inspiring as he is as an individual, mā shā' Allāh. He doesn't stop at reciting 5 ajzā' a day but he will also read tafsir (commentary) and understand the verses too. As he says this is something you should do for places where you forget or struggle (aside from making repetition).

Striking Balance with Deen & Dunya

What is amazing is that not only does he have excellence in Qur'ān, but he has excelled in the dunya too. He has a Master's and Ph.d. in Pediatric medicine which he used to practice working for so many years as a doctor at hospitals. His colleagues would speak very highly of him.

I'd like to mention here that there have been narratives that have gained popularity online concerning the memorisation path of Dr Ahmad - that narrative is actually not accurate. For example:

Shaykh Ahmed Nuaina is perhaps one of the top scholars of Qur’an and recitation alive today.  He is one of the living legends.  He came to Houston last year and we had time to discuss with him.  His story tells us that when you set your goals and dedicate yourself, Allah will open up doors and you will go places you never thought you would go.

Shaykh Ahmed Nuaina is a pediatrician by training and still a full-time doctor.  He was born in a secular, upper class Egyptian family.  When he was in his late 20s, a himmah came that Allah gave him the desire to memorize the Qur’an.  For many people this is late.  In his local masjid was one of the professors of al-Azhar who teaches Qur’an qira’at and recitation.  He went to the shaykh and told him he wanted to memorize the Qur’an but didn’t have a lot of time because he was a doctor.  The shaykh told him that every day he will have to memorize and perfect two lines of the Qur’an with the condition was that there was no vacation for him.  Every single day he would have to memorize two lines of the Qur’an.  He said, “Only two lines?”  His shaykh was persistent and said, “Not more than two.  You will only do two lines but you will perfect them and do them on a daily basis.”  The shaykh said that he had no choice and began.  He was persistent and punctual.  Every day after maghrib he would sit with the shaykh.  Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) blessed Shaykh Ahmed Nuaina with a voice that is like one of the flutes of David, as the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said when he heard someone reciting.

The shaykh is a full-time pediatrician and this is how he gets his rizq. Slowly but surely doors opened up and people began inviting him.  He perfected Qur’an and memorized all ten qira’at.  He memorized the intonations.  He became a master to the extent that no one knows him as a pediatrician.  The world knows him as one of the top Qur’an scholars.  He didn’t start his life as a Qur’an scholar but had persistence, dedication, and a goal.  I’m sure that if anyone had told the shaykh that one day he would be a world famous scholar, he would have laughed.  He didn’t put any barriers.  He had persistence and let Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) open the doors for him.

SubhanAllah, this is what Islam tells us to do.  Our religion is not a religion that encourages mediocrity.  Allah never wants us to be average.  Allah never tells us to do the minimum and that’s it.  Allah always tells us to strive for perfection and excellence and aim for the very highest. 

Yasir Qadhi | Lofty Intentions: Having Noble Visions and Goals

Dr Ahmad was once asked, did your medical education hinder your Qur'ān memorisation?

He said, "When I went to medical school, I was already a Qāri' and a Hāfidh of the Qur'ān, but to perfect my Qira'āt, I learnt from Ummu Sa'd, a blind woman in Alexandria. She was a famous Quranic reciter in the city who mastered the 10 Qirā'āt, and she helped me perfect my 10."

The love of family

After Qur'ān and work, Dr Ahmad would spend time with his family at home. He has three daughters who he has been teaching Qur'ān recitation, memorisation and more.

"The best of you are the best to their families, and I am the best to my family." (Sunan al-Tirmidhi)

A Day In the Life of A Qari

Health: Look after yourself

Every day, he would take out an hour or so for exercise and sports. He was particularly a keen tennis player. This is all side by side to his duties with the Qur'ān, his work, his family and travel.

Our deen places strong emphasis upon looking after the self and making the most of the time that we are blessed with, especially when in good health.

An inspiration to those memorising the Qur'ān

Dr Ahmad Nu'aina' offers some words of advice for those who aspire to memorise the Qur'ān:

"Memorise the Qur'ān well with the rules and practice of Tajwid. Love and understanding the Qur'ān is the core of your journey. You must live with it. It is a must that you be steadfast and consistent. Review Qur'ān (off memory) just like your daily medicine. Try to do 5 ajzā' a day (or as you are able)."

No doubt, Dr Ahmad Nu'aina's life and advice serve as an inspiration for those who wish to become people of the Qur'ān. By following his approach, one can become proficient in Qur'ān and lead a fulfilling life.

Things we can learn from the life of Dr Ahmad Nu'aina'

  1. Start now and as early as you can: Dr Ahmad Nu'aina started memorising the Qur'ān at the age of 3, which highlights the importance of starting early. However, it's never too late to start memorising, and you can begin at any age.
  2. Focus on Tajweed: Tajweed is the art of reciting the Qur'ān correctly, and it is essential to memorise it accurately. Focus on learning Tajweed rules, and take time to practice them regularly.
  3. Write the Qur'ān: As mentioned, writing what you memorise has so many benefits.
  4. Practice daily: Dr Ahmad Nu'aina memorised the Qur'ān by listening, repeating, writing, and reciting, which required consistent practice. Make a schedule and practice memorising the Qur'ān daily, even if it's just for a few minutes.
  5. Follow the Rule of Five: Dr Ahmad Nu'aina followed the rule of reciting five ajzā' a day, which helped him retain his memorisation. Try to incorporate this rule into your routine and recite at least five ajzā' daily.
  6. Understand what you memorise: Memorising the Qur'ān is not just about memorising the words; it's about understanding their meanings too. Take time to read tafsir and understand the meanings of the verses you memorise.
  7. Be consistent: Consistency is crucial to memorising the Qur'ān, and Dr Ahmad Nu'aina reviewed his Qur'an completely off memory every morning after Fajr. Create a routine and stick to it to maintain consistency.
  8. Balance Deen and Dunya: Dr Ahmad Nu'aina excelled in both Deen and Dunya. Try to strike a balance between your religious and worldly duties, and make time for both. They are both important.

Achieving balance in life can be challenging, but it's possible with the right approach. Here are some things to think about:

  1. Prioritise: Determine what's important in your life and prioritise those things. Make a list of your values, goals, and responsibilities, and then allocate time and energy to each of them accordingly.
  2. Set boundaries: Set clear boundaries between your work, personal, and spiritual life. Avoid overcommitting yourself, and learn to say no to requests that may interfere with your priorities.
  3. Practice self-care: Take care of yourself physically, emotionally, and mentally. Make time for exercise, rest, relaxation, and hobbies that you enjoy. Don't neglect your health or well-being in pursuit of other goals.
  4. Be present: Focus on the task at hand and avoid multitasking. When you're at work, be fully present and engaged in your work. When you're with your family, be fully present and engaged with them. Avoid distractions that may pull you away from the present moment.
  5. Learn to delegate: Don't try to do everything yourself (including Hifz). Learn to delegate tasks to others who are capable and willing to help you. This will help you free up time and energy to focus on what's most important to you.
  6. Practice gratitude: Take time to appreciate the blessings in your life, no matter how small they may seem. Gratitude can help you maintain a positive outlook and keep things in perspective. It will increase your efforts!

Remember, balance is a journey, not a destination. Memorisation is a journey, not a destination. It requires ongoing effort and adjustment as your priorities and circumstances change. Keep these things in mind, and be patient and kind to yourself as you strive for balance in your life.

May Allāh grant you goodness, ease, and blessing!

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