The 90 Year Old Quran Teacher That Continues To Inspire

In 2020, the world lost one of its oldest masters of Qur'ān memorisation and its recitation. Someone that was held in such high esteem that in the words of Shaykh Ahmad at-Tayyib al-Azhari, 'she was as a model of a sincere woman'. She devoted her life towards serving the Book of Allāh. Do you know who she was?

She was Shaykha Sami'a Muhammad Bakr al-Bannāsī (may Allāh have mercy upon her). A pillar in the preservation and the recitation of the Qur'ān. She was born without the blessing of eyesight in 1930 in the village of Ibnahs, Egypt. Despite being born blind she went on to memorise the entire Qur'ān at the age of 11. She then gained mastery in the ten readings of Qur'ān to such a level that she began to give others Ijāzah by the age of 20.

Aged 90, she was the oldest Qur'ān teacher in Egypt and passed away in the year 2020. For 70 years she was teaching and nurturing hundreds of thousands of huffādh. She taught and authorised hundreds of men and women. People from across the globe would travel to see her in Egypt and she is known to have authorised people in the readings of Hafs, Warsh, and Hamza. Despite this, she would have a strict routine of revising 6 ajzā' daily from the Qur'ān.

Her dedication to the Qur'ān was so lofty and sincere that she chose not to get married.

Instead, she opened the doors to her home to all walks of life seeking Qur'ān.

Being born blind wasn't something that stopped her. The pressures of society didn't stop her. Allāh chose her to be an example for us all. Remember why you're on this journey!

This is a journey of a lifetime. May Allāh grant her the highest of the high. May Allāh facilitate ease and success for us all.

Egypt was gifted with other special women that dedicated their lives to the Qur'ān within the same era. Let's also take inspiration from them too.

The story of Umm Al-Sa'd Al-Askandariyyah

Umm Al-Sa'd Al-Askandariyyah
Umm Al-Sa'd Al-Askandariyyah being honoured

There is a saying that behind every successful man there is a woman. Today, there are many famous reciters of the Qur'ān and amongst them is the name Shaykh Dr Ahmad Nuaina from Egypt. He was one of the many famous students of Shaykha Umm al-Sa'd al-Askandariyyah (May Allāh have mercy on her).

She was the teacher of reciters who devoted her life to the Qur'ān and opened her home for students of all ages and repute who sought to gain authorisation from her in the ten readings. She had one of the most distinct chains of transmission in the world for the recitation of Hafs from 'Āsim, with 27 shuyūkhs between her and the Messenger of Allāh (ﷺ).

Although she had famous students, the closest to her heart was her husband, Shaykh Muhammad Fareed Nu'mān, who was one of the most famous readers of Alexandria Radio and the first to receive Ijāzah from Umm S'ad.

At just 15, Umm Sa'd memorised the Qur'ān. She then sought out the most prestigious female scholar of her time, Shaykha Nafeesah bint Abu al-Alaa, to learn the 10 Qirā'āt (recitations). And here's the twist: Shaykha Nafeesa had a unique condition - Umm Sa'd could only study if she never married. But Umma Sa'd was inspired by Shaykha Nafeesa's devotion to the Qur'ān, who had also never married despite interest from great scholars of her time. Her teacher died in her eighties purely devoted to the Qur'ān but things were set to be different for Umm Sa'd. She married one of her students and their marriage lasted forty years, in which she did not have children.

Umm Sa'd said, "It is from the blessings of my Rabb that anyone who has obtained an ijāzah [authorisation] in the Qur'ān, in any Qirā'ah, in Alexandria either received it directly from me (munāwala) or from someone whom I had given an ijāzah to."

This was her unique status that she was the only woman that people would travel to gain Ijāzah from her in the 10 recitations. Her classes for women and girls would take place from 8 AM to 2 PM, while classes for men and boys would occur from 2 PM to 8 PM, with only short breaks for prayer and a light meal. Despite her blindness, which she developed in her first year of life, she memorised the Qur'ān in Alexandria at the age of 15. She then learned the ten recitations of the Qur'ān from Shaykha Nafeesah when she was 23.

She said that, "Sixty years of memorising the Qur'ān and it's recitations has made me unable to forget any of it. I can recall every āyah [verse], it's surah [chapter] and its juz', I know the āyāt [verses] that are similar (mutashābihāt) and how to recite the same ayah in different Qirā'āt. I feel like I know the Qur'ān like my name, I cannot imagine forgetting a letter of it or making a mistake in it. I don't know anything other than the Qur'ān and its recitations. I never learned a science, listened to a lecture, or memorised anything other than the Qur'ān and the texts that were related to the Qur'ān and Tajwīd. I don't know anything other than that."

When asked about her students Umm Sa'd said: "I remember every one of them, there were some who received Ijāzah in one of the recitations, and there were some (and they were very few) who received ijāzah in all ten recitations. They are the ones who receive an ijāzah with a special seal that I have that I always keep with me, I never give it to anyone no matter how much I have trust in them."

Umm Al-Sa'd passed away in 2006 at the age of about 81 years.

May Allāh grant blessing.

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