وَلَقَدْ يَسَّرْنَا الْقُرْآنَ لِلذِّكْرِ فَهَلْ مِن مُّدَّكِرٍ
'..and indeed We have made the Qur'an easy to understand and remember, then is there anyone that will remember?'
Today, I thought it would be a lovely idea to share my Qur'an journey. Maybe it will boost one or two readers, maybe it will re-motivate a few ones, maybe it will encourage some to begin this incredible journey. This is something I am passionate about and I just want to tell the world about the beauty and the eeman-boosting hifdh gives.
As a child, unlike most Somali kids, my siblings and I got on the hifdh (memorisation) bandwagon pretty late. I remember being around 7-ish when my mother started teaching us from Juz 'Amma. It was purely memory work as we weren't taught how to read the Arabic script until much later. We had tapes from Shaykh Hussary (the one where the little girls repeat each verse after him) and we played that to help us learn. We also had a Qur'an that was transliterated in roman script. But I wasn't very good at it (the Qur'an). I remember getting so nervous when it would be my turn to recite and everything I had learnt would evaporate quickly from my mind. I dreaded Saturdays and Sundays because those were the days we would have our Qur'an class with mom and I remember staring outside the window wishing for the afternoon to be finished already. It was harder in the summer when I could hear all the other kids playing outside and having fun, I thought I was the unluckiest child in the world. Added to all that, the fact that my two younger sisters were better at learning/memorising than me didn't help my confidence either, they were quicker and made less mistakes than I.
I don't know what it was with me but even surah al-Falaq was difficult. I used to get stuck on the last verse and hooyo once got angry and said: 'Wa min sharri hasidin idha hasad' - xaasid ma taqanid miya?Qofka xaasidka ah marku wax xaasido! xasidin idha xasad! Sas ku xasuso' Aaah, so this is what it means? I didn't forget that verse after that time! However, I remained stuck in Juz 'Amma pretty much all my childhood and teenage years which is embarrassing especially since Somalis are known to be good at hifdh. But when it came to me there was a clear blockage. I loved the Qur'an but I wasn't able to remember much. I came to a point where I hated when family members would ask 'so which surah are you in now?' Mate, you don't want to know! I avoided that question like the plague and never gave a direct answer.
During my teen years (13 to 15 yrs), we attended a local madrassah on the weekends. Our Qur'an teacher was a young Algerian brother named Bilal and I really liked him. I can still picture him in my mind with his white thobe and shimagh. He was kind, patient and encouraging. I -somehow- became top of the class and won £30 as a recompense. I was so happy ^_^ but I think being the teacher's pet had something to do with this! In the years that followed, we had several teachers who came to our house (a pakistani teacher who made us laugh so much, a somali one who was scary, another Algerian brother who was wonderful), but only little progress was made on my end despite my desire to learn.
My listening skills are good -thank God- and with the consistent listening, I became accustomed to the different chapters. I could recognise in which chapters certain verses were, if I wanted to look for particular stories (qisas), I knew which chapters to go to, I could even bring out verses that I wanted to use for daleel in our classes. I was o.k with that for a while but deep down, something was cogitating. With uni life, keeping up my daily reading portion became tough and days on end could pass without me picking up the mushaf. I was so jealous of my sister -who unlike me- seemed to have her reading portion fully integrated in her daily routine when I so clearly struggled. This is something I've always admired in her: no matter her circumstances, she will not miss her daily reading of the Qur'an.
In 2011, my uncle encouraged me to start memorising so I tried. I really gave it a genuine try but without support (no teacher), I didn't get far. The only good thing that came out of this first self-driven attempt was that I got to taste the sweetness of striving fisabilillaah. I also saw that I could memorise, yes it was difficult but I could if I put the work in. I managed to get through the first 90 verses from surah Baqarah.. which I forgot as quickly as I had learnt them.
It was around that time that I made a ridiculous promise (never promise anything under the impulse of emotion), I promised myself and God that I will not get married before I had memorised the whole Qur'an. At the time, I saw this as a way to motivate myself since I wanted to get married. But, I mean.. really? Knowing my poor memorisation skills, what a dumb promise to make! I realised soon that this promise wasn't cutting it. I put the level down to at least half. I need to have memorised at least half the Qur'an before someone puts a ring on it. Half sounded better and I enthusiastically started from surah Ankabut (15th juzz) and decided to start from there going down. However once again, the same thing happened: no teacher, no support, nothing = I soon stopped.
I forgot about hifdh for a while.. trying to lick my wounds and soothe my failures.. telling myself that memorising the Qur'an is not a condition for me to be a good Muslim.. making excuses such as.. others have better memory than I do, they started at a younger age, anyway you're busy already, it's not like you've totally abandoned the Qur'an.. excuses were plentiful. But, your girl didn't forget that silly promise and it was at the back of my mind. What if.. this nadhr (promise) was actually raised up to Allah? I did mean it sincerely at the time but.. I can't even memorise to save my life! AAAH, I asked Allah to not hold me accountable for this promise if if was beyond my capacity. And, I asked for mercy and put the level down at 10 ajza'a. Desperate circumstances called for desperate measures.
Then I moved to Saudi. I thought I could finally start working on this promise thing because you know.. time is running. I'm talking to some potentials and I'm nowhere near 10 juzz. I told my mother about this ridiculous promise because I was concerned that it was going to become reality and that as a result, I would never get married. Mother told me not to be silly. Long story short, I didn't learn anything during those 2 and a half years in Saudi. Circumstances were not optimal and I was dealing with other issues that needed more focus at the time. Every time I wanted to restart my memorisation, I would remember how bad and poor all my previous attempts had been. I kept telling myself that memorisation is just not for me. I ended up accepting this and internalising it. Khalass, it's not for me. And that promise? Please forgive me my Lord as I'm not able to fulfil it.
In one of the classes that I was teaching, I had a student who caught my attention from the very beginning. I'm a very observant person and there are people I am drawn towards almost immediately (I'll talk about this in another post inshAllah) and I could see there was something different about this girl. Months and months later, during a conversation I had with her, we started talking about the Qur'an. I had asked her if there was a place in Jeddah where I could learn hifdh. Her face lit up at my question and she told me about an institute (Al-Huda Institute). I then randomly asked where she was in the Qur'an and she told me that she completed her hifdh and is currently undergoing revision. I was pleasantly surprised. I could see she was a special girl but I didn't imagine that she was a hafidha, allahuma Barik laha.
I opened up to her about my desire to learn and my concerns about my bad memory but she was so encouraging. She believed that I could do it. I think she believed in me before I even believed in myself. She was very excited for me to join the journey and this is the moment the idea and the desire was reignited inside me. Do you know how encouraging it is to see someone believe in you? It's amazing. But despite this ignition, nothing happened for a good few weeks. Logistical reasons were the cause of the delay. However, I had made my mind up and decided that 2016 was going to be the year for me to prove myself with regards to the Qur'an.
End of February finally brought along the opportunity I had been awaiting all this time. My family signed up with a teacher through Skype and my mother asked me whether I wanted to join. I hesitated for a bit (I'm going to be nervous, my memory is not good, can I really do it ect.) but decided to go for it. We all started from Juz 'Amma and flashbacks from my childhood came back. When I was younger, I could never remember the order of the suwar in that 30th portion and ... 20 years later, I found myself still struggling. But my teacher saw that I could achieve more and upon agreement, we decided to start memorising from surah Baqarah towards the end of March 2016. I felt finally ready and I decided to let go of all these negative thoughts that I had internalised in my mind about my supposed inability to memorise. I decided to place my trust in Allah and try my best. It's not easy to let go of things you've accepted as facts about yourself, but I had to let my mind flow with positivism. I am a positive person and I always tend to see the cup half full so why is it that for this I kept negatively putting myself down for all these years!? I decided to change my narrative and change all these 'I can't' into 'I can inshAllah'.
My student now friend has been an incredible support in this journey. She's the first person I tell when I complete a chapter and I can feel her happiness for me through her reactions. She doesn't know it but she has been a huge inspiration to me. Starting to memorise the Qur'an has been the best decision of my life and I'm not exaggerating in saying that. I don't think there has been anything in my life that has made me happier and more fulfilled than memorising. It's not easy, it's testing, it's trying but that's beautiful. There are downs and there are ups. Allah (swt) will test you to see how sincere you are in threading His path and in memorising His Words. It's not given to everyone. It's only for those whom Allah desires to bring closer to Him.
It has always been my fantasy to be able to read the Qur'an by heart while going about my business. Reciting while cleaning, or wandering in a forest, or walking on a beach. Reciting from any given place. Reciting verses that touch me without having to reach and flick the pages to find them. Reciting longer in my prayers, Praying at night with no longer the excuse of not knowing much. Reciting the Qur'an flawlessly as I read surah Fatiha. Being someone attached to the Qur'an.
I've nearly committed 1/4 of the Qur'an by memory (purely by the Grace of Allah) and it's nothing short of a miracle. Yes, I am that girl who thought she couldn't memorise, who struggled all her life with Juzz 'Amma, I'm that girl that used to forget everything she learnt. But I'm also that girl who never allowed giving up as an option, I'm that girl who decided to challenge herself, I'm that girl who fought negative thoughts with abundance of positive thoughts. Ahamdulilah. And I believe, more than anything, that if I can do it then ANYONE can do it. I want to be that encouraging voice to other sisters. I want to tell everyone that it's doable, I want everyone to experience the joys of memorising. It's an incredible journey.
Having said that, I know that I have such a LONG way to go. I've just only started and the way is long as my teacher often reminds me when my confidence tries to act prestige (lol). But I am ready and willing to go the difficult lows, I'm o.k sacrificing chill-out time, I'm o.k secluding myself to learn or review the Qur'an. As for that promise, well.. I'm very soon approaching so I'll let ya'll know what happens (lol).
On a serious note though, what is truly life-changing once you start memorising is the intimate relationship you develop with the Word of Allah. Each word, each vowel is given its right. You can't afford to miss two days without reading in a row because you know you either have a new page to learn or something to revise. You become linked with the Qur'an in a unique way. You also become linked for life with the mushaf during memorisation and even upon completion because you will be revising and reviewing all your life. It's a lifetime journey and I feel so honoured to be threading on this journey. Thank You my Lord
Don't waste another moment my dear friend, go for it, place your trust in Allah, find yourself a righteous teacher and start your lifetime journey.
This is my story, a shortened version.. maybe I'll revisit it soon and add other details.