Last night we listened to the winners of one of the Qur’aan recitation competitions in Cairo, Egypt. Mash’Allaah, the recitation was so incredibly beautiful, it made my heart long for the Yemeni homes we left behind. I also found myself praying for my children, as well, that their hearts remain full of love of Allaah’s Book, and that they learn and act upon the teachings within it.
It’s difficult for non-Muslims to understand the place that the Qur’aan holds in the hearts and lives of the Muslims. I remember when I first embraced Islaam, as a single mom going to college in northern Wisconsin. The brothers at the MSA showed me the sets of Qur’aan recitation tapes that they had in one of the cupboards, and told me to take a couple. I wasn’t sure about this, as I didn’t speak any Arabic and couldn’t see exactly what the benefit would be of listening to it. I chose two or three, and later, when I went to pick the baby up from daycare, I put one in the tape player. After a few minutes, I had to pull over and sit and just listen. It was true- I didn’t know what the words meant. But they touched my heart just the same.
In order to pray, I learned some of the smaller verses of the Qur’aan, but it was not until after I married that I was able to actually learn the correct recitation, with the rules of tajweed. I started teaching Mujaahid from an early age, and found that teaching it assisted me in remembering it. Little did I imagine then that in a few years, my little son would be teaching me Qur’aan! Alhamdulillah, Mujaahid developed a very strong love for the Book and its recitation in his heart, and strove to learn and memorize. When we were able to get a teacher for him besides myself he flourished. He would recite all the time, mash’Allaah, no matter what he was doing. Alhamdulillah, he was able to study with teachers in Yemen and memorized the entire Qur’aan, with a chain of narration for his recitation that goes back to the Prophet Muhammad, alhamdulillah. Mash’Allaah, when I listen to him recite I think of the people throughout the centuries that passed this down, teacher to student, a chain connecting the past and present.
I studied with different sisters while in Yemen, but I found that I learned best from Mujaahid, and, later, from my daughter Sukhailah. She, too, has a strong love and connection to the Qur’aan, and has memorized it in its entirety. She taught Qur’aan in Yemen, and she hopes to continue to do so here, insh’Allaah. The manner of learning Qur’aanic recitation has not, in essence, changed over the centuries. The teacher recites the verse or a part of the verse several times, and the student repeats after him or her. The teacher corrects the student, and they repeat it until it is firm. Some people can memorize pages a day, others only one verse- this varies with the individual.
I remember the first day I walked into the masjid at Damaaj. As I climbed the steps to the sisters’ section, small children stopped their wild playing, shoved their fingers into their mouths, and watched me go by. The small courtyard outside the masjid was full of sunlight and their laughter. I removed my shoes and stepped, cautiously, into the masjid beyond.
There were groups of sisters gathered near each of five or six pillars, as well as a few sitting in pairs by the walls. They were organized both by age, and by how much Qur’aan they had memorized. So, there would be a circle of young girls in one part of the masjid memorizing the same chapter as a circle of women in another part. The teachers, for the most part, sat against the pillars, with their students in a half-circle in front of them. All of them had their musaahif, or copies of the Qur’aan, open to the page they were memorizing, though they didn’t all seem to be using them in their memorization. Some read from the pages as the teacher recited, some simply listened and repeated what was said. I was amazed by the order kept in the circles- even the youngest girls were sitting and paying attention, though some on the edges were restless. The teacher would recite the verse and all of the students would recite back to her in unison. Her eyes would move through the class as they recited, and she would ask some of them to recite on their own. I was too shy to take part in these large classes; I preferred the one on one teaching method. I also needed the individual assistance, and I had to go at my own pace. My children, however, flourished in these circles. (fatihamaryam This is my six year old, Maryam, reciting the opening chapter of the Qur’aan.
I read so often today about this or that “new” method for learning Qur’aan. Allaah knows best, some of them might have value. However, for me, the traditional method is the best. The student and teacher relationship adds a whole dimension to the experience, and, as I sit on the floor, knee to knee with my teacher, I think of the women who have come before me for centuries, sitting with their teachers, doing just the same. Another link is formed in the chain.
A beautiful recitation by a young boy can be found here.
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