by Selina Bakkar in Soul on 16th December, 2019
“…I am invoking You [Allah] by all the names that You call Yourself, that You have taught to anyone in Your creation, that You have mentioned in Your Book, or that You have kept unknown. Let the Qur’an be Springtime of my heart, the light of my chest, the remover of my sadness and the pacifier of my worries.”
For years, I carried around the little book of duas, Fortress of a Muslim, the pocket-sized du’a book that has every du’a you need from morning to night, from when it thunders to when you feel anxious. It’s been my go-to for Ramadan, in times of difficulty and as a general reference book. I always had a copy, even when I was not a practicing Muslim, and it’s the perfect gift for new Muslims, new mothers and pretty much every occasion. The author of the book Shaykh Sa’d Al-Qahtani recently passed away. May Allah have mercy on his soul and grant him the highest ranks in Jannah. Ameen.
The book brought me the words that reminded me to re-visit another book that should be most beloved to us. These were the words that stirred my heart:
“Let the Qur’an be Springtime of my heart, the light of my chest, the remover of my sadness and the pacifier of my worries.”
Perhaps I had come across the words before, but at this moment there was something about the verse that brought me instant relief—peace, in fact. Upon reading the words for the first time, I smiled and cried. It was the realisation that despite all the problems in my life—my relationship with Allah would alleviate the worry and sadness. It seemed as though there was a solution that had some immediacy; I didn’t expect the problems to disappear, but I knew that improving my relationship with Islam would help the way I approached everything else. I also began to realise that whilst my Fortress of a Muslim book was important and helpful, nothing could replace the Qur’an which was used to fill this tiny book. The source of these daily reminders was Allah, and Allah has sent humankind the Qur’an.
“Verily, We have sent down to you (O Muhammad) the Book for mankind in truth. So whosoever accepts the guidance, it is only for his own self, and whosoever goes astray, he goes astray only for his (own) loss. ”
Quran Surah Al-Zumar, Verse 41
As I sat in a halaqa gathering over the weekend I was brought back to this exact thought again as speaker Raghad Altiriki repeated to us:
“The Quran, Quran, Quran” should be what we draw close to.
What I reflected on was a point she carefully made about the fact that her very own words, as powerful and inspiring they may be, are all inspired by and come from Allah’s gift, the Qur’an. Her words were merely reminders and messages from Allah and examples of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.
I reflected on my interaction over the years with Islamic knowledge, often reading many articles, or playing a YouTube video in the background while I worked, or listening to Imams, scholars and speakers who would speak of Islam. We often hold the people relaying the words in such high regard that we forget that the threading of verses from the Qur’an come from one source: Allah. And Allah has sent us the Qur’an. While I think it’s important to have access to and engagement with videos and articles on Islam, we should not replace the time we have with the Qur’an with these things.
The relationship with the Qur’an should be maintained and prioritised above everything else.
Over the years I have attempted to bring the Qur’an into my daily life through reading the Arabic version. I know my Arabic stutters, pauses and makes mistakes, but none the less I try and continue to do my best. I have also realised that we can approach the Qu’ran in a variety of ways as well as complement our reading of the Qur’an with other recommended texts. So, with that, I’d like to share a few ways you can engage with the Qur’an this Ramadan AND out of Ramadan too—because the Qur’an isn’t just for the month of Ramadan, it is for our entire lives, till the moment we return to our Lord, may Allah be pleased with us. Ameen. May we all be blessed to see another Ramadan and to gain closeness to the Qur’an. Ameen.
When we embark on anything in this world we should do so with the right intention. Even embarking on improving our relationship with the Qur’an should start and continue with the right intention. The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ reminded us:
“Truly, the deeds are only according to the intentions, and to every man is that which he has intended. Whoever, therefore, undertakes his migration (hiǧra) for the sake of Allah and His Messenger’s will, his migration is for Allah and his Messenger; but whoever undertakes his migration for earthly life will achieve it, or because of a woman to marry her, his migration is for that for which he migrated.”
My Arabic pronunciation improved considerably through listening to some of my favourite surahs on repeat. Surah Yasin and Baqarah can be found online, including versions with repetition . Don’t underestimate listening to the same thing over and over again, I realised when I came to read Surah Baqarah in Arabic that my Arabic began to flow, as somehow I had memorised different parts of it and my reading flow had improved. It’s also a good replacement for music, allowing you to work with something beneficial on in the background. Try listening to reciters from around the world. The beautiful recitation below is of our Sudanese brother, Shaikh Noren Mohammad Sadiq.
With anything new, it’s often important to assess and understand where you are at already and improving on it; it’s not always about starting fresh. Whether you know two surahs or ten, it’s always good to improve on what you know and build upon it. With surahs I know, I have tried to improve my recitation through listening, and have increased my engagement and familiarity with the surah by reading the translation as well as the tafseer. I used to see people cry at the mention of a surah or be stirred by a sentence, and I just did not have that feeling. I realised if I began to understand the words I repeated day in and day out, then that connection would improve.
Don’t underestimate the value of what you already know; just use it as a foundation to learn and establish a deeper relationship.
For a long time, my Arabic was at a point of stagnation and I would stutter at every word. I still do occasionally. Reading a page of Quran was exhausting so I stayed with one surah, day in and day out. I knew Surah Fatiha, as do many of us. I would read the Arabic over and over again, looking at each letter very carefully as I read. Some days I would listen as I was reading the familiar surah, and I would ensure I went at the pace of the reciter. I did this for one whole month on my commutes to and from work. When Ramadan came I started to progress beyond Fatiha and found that my Arabic had improved: the repetitive looking at the words, grammar, and flow had contributed to my confidence when reading further. I alternated between listening, reading and exploring the tafseer to keep the learning dynamic; the last thing you should do is inflict boredom upon yourself!
Often we fall into a place where we think that reading Arabic without understanding has no value—but it does, and we should not stop reading it for this reason. In the month of Ramadan, we are rewarded for every word we read several times over so keep reading even if you do not understand. In time you will begin to come across common words like:
Amanah – To believe
Jannah – The hereafter
Alima – To know
Ja’ala – To make
A recent halaqa reminded me that we really do need to begin to understand what we read in Arabic if it is not our first language: it’s what brings our salah alive, and our faith can be more nourished. I do not doubt that reciting Arabic alone is still beneficial, but understanding what you read can really enhance your salah and du’a through the day. If you feel empty as you stand in salah, take the time to read the Qur’an in English; it can help you connect.
Once you build up a steady consistency in reading the Qur’an you will begin to come across the same words, again and again. One of the best ways for them to stay with you is to build up a mini dictionary of words from the Qur’an, with definitions written by you.
“Put simply, Quran Journaling is exactly what it sounds like: committing to regular studying, analysing and reflecting on God’s blessed verses and putting it down on paper somehow.”
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قَالَ أَرَأَيْتَ إِذْ أَوَيْنَا إِلَى الصَّخْرَةِ فَإِنِّي نَسِيتُ الْحُوتَ وَمَا أَنسَانِيهُ إِلَّا الشَّيْطَانُ أَنْ أَذْكُرَهُ وَاتَّخَذَ سَبِيلَهُ فِي الْبَحْرِ عَجَبًا . The servant said: "Did you see what happened? When we betook ourselves to the rock to take rest, I forgot the fish – and it is only Satan who caused me to forget to mention it to you – so that it made its way into the sea in a strange manner." . Surah al Kahf, 18: 63 . One of the adaab (etiquette) of seeking knowledge is patience & perseverance. The devil (shaytan) makes us forget these in one of two ways. . One, he whispers that knowledge-seeking especially for the sake of Allah and of oneself, is too hard. It takes a lot of time and there’s no material benefit or reward in it. Most times life gets more challenging and difficult. Or why bother now – you’re young and healthy, there’s so much that life is offering, enjoy it and leave the knowledge seeking a little later on. Or that there’s too much responsibility at this stage that you cannot afford to take some time to learn about God and life. In any case, you cannot be patient with it. It’s best to leave it off for the time being and focus on what matters in this physical life. . Or, he whispers that your intentions are great, he praises you for it with an underlying evil motive. He’ll say that yes you should be studying and learning about God, the religion etc. But if you’re going to do it, then you’ll need to give 100% of your time and abandon others. There’s no time for relaxing, or visiting families, not even time to enjoy the little things in life. It’s all or nothing. So you did as he say. You’re trying to understand everything all at once. Sooner or later you abandoned it altogether because you just can’t keep up. And your thoughts drifted to the previous whisper, where the knowledge seeking has become difficult and not worth your time. . In both cases, we forgot our initial intentions. We forgot that in everything is balance; that we must be patient; that it’s okay to just do a little everyday. . May He accept our little deeds and make us consistent in it. آمين اللهم آمين ❤️
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The Qur’an can be divided in a range of different ways. One of the most helpful is when someone is able to look at and study the specific themes within the Qur’an. This year I am looking at the theme of Taqwa, which is mentioned several hundred times in the Qur’an, whereas fasting is mentioned once: @faakihah shows us how she does her and @its_Mahmuuh reminds us on Twitter that we can approach this by looking at each Juz.
Draw up this personal plan, review it constantly, and put it into action!
Step.4: UNDERSTAND THE QURAN
Read the translation of the Juzz you will be reciting daily. Having a basic knowledge of the theme, topic, message & meaning of what you are reciting
— Mhareyam (@its_Mahmuuh) May 3, 2019
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Lettering doodles as I was going through the chapter on “The fada’il of the surahs and their themes”, from 📖 “A Tentative Guide to the Themes of the Surahs of the Qur’an”, by HRH Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad. . . . #faakihahac #quranthemes #virtuesofsurahs #lettering #handlettering #brushlettering #knowledgeseeker #islamicstudies #studentofknowledge #selfdiscovery #seekingAllah #studygram #quranicarabicstudygram #arabicstudygram #studydiary #islamicjournaling #muslimjournal #quranjournaling #quranjournal
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Whatever methods you choose to engage with the Qur’an, just begin with picking it up InshaAllah. Focus on your intention and go forth with your relationship.
I'm a simply striving to be better and improve in different areas of my life through more self awareness, experiences and learning more about the deen. You'll find me talking about community, connection, planting & growing, seeking the truth in an age of propaganda and misinformation. This year I want to document more to do with food heritage and history so watch this space or reach out. Have a listen to the Amaliah Voices podcast where I talk passionately about Islam, nature, motherhooding and back home. Link in bio peeps. To join the Amaliah Writer Community email me at email@example.com IG: SelinaBakkar