Written by a student of the Qur’an – may Allah grant him success, forgiveness, and conceal his faults.
I do not know how to begin writing this story, which has been roaming around in my heart for quite a while. For I did not come to the decision of writing this except after much hesitance – this being my second attempt – since these thoughts (I wish to share) necessitates that I speak about myself and my experience. And speaking about one’s soul with what may be perceived as praise is repugnant, even if such praise was not intended. However, I shall write this story and try to steer clear of such unappealing behaviour, as much as I am able to. Then I shall see whether or not to share it, or whether I shall keep it a prisoner of the notes in my phone. And were it not for that which it contains of lesson, I would not have assigned myself the task of writing it, nor the trouble of striving to beautify its unsightliness.
I began memorising the Qur’an when I was close to completing fifteen years of my life, during the month of Sha’ban. There was a ritual I used to have, without which I would not be able to memorise. I would sit after the ‘Asr prayer in the living room with the door locked, facing the qibla, I wouldn’t speak nor was I spoken to. There, I would memorise in half an hour two pages, then I would review my set portion of what I’d previously memorised in another half an hour, and it was a blessed hour indeed. After that, I would pray the Maghrib prayer and go to a Qur’an circle in the Prophet’s Masjid ﷺ and recite to the teacher what I had memorised, as well as what I intended to memorise tomorrow before further revising with one of my fellow classmates. We would take turns in our revision, then I would pray the ‘Isha prayer and return to my home.
Then my intense fervour for the Qur’an increased, and this passion would continue to grow bit by bit. By the time I memorised two Juz’ or three, I began memorising the two pages which I had obliged upon myself as though they had been revealed at that very moment. Rather, as though they had been revealed regarding me specifically! And it was as if I could feel the longing of the Prophet ﷺ towards hearing the Qur’an from Jibreel, and I experienced on the days that I had not memorised his ﷺ sorrow at the intervals of silence the revelation had gone through. For I found within the memorisation of new portions of the Qur’an a pleasure that could not be rivalled by all the pleasures of this world, and to culminate this pleasure within myself I would not listen to, nor read, anything from the Qur’an that I had not previously memorised, and would regard it all as revelation yet to be revealed, except those well known famous verses – although I used to try and avoid them as well, that which was not included in the recommended supplications. But despite all this, there were verses that would enter my ears from that which I had not yet memorised, and its melody would resonate within my eardrums. Rather it was a more sweeter experience! I heard once Allah’s statement, “وقيله يا رب” in Surah Zukhruf, and I burned with such longing towards it, wondering when was I to finally memorise it? And I once heard the verse,
ربما يود الذين كفروا لو كانوا مسلمين
”…ask not of my eagerness towards it!”
And I can never forget my awe when I had heard His statement,
“فعميت عليكم أنلزمكموها وأنتم لها كارهون”
for by Allah I had relished in its taste! And as well the pronunciation of “مجراها“ and the ease and effortlessness of “أأعجمي”.
The repelling verses of promised retribution, and the compelling verses of promised reward.
“إن المتقين في جنات ونهر، في مقعد صدق عند مليك مقتدر”
“كلما نضجت جلودهم”
“يتجرعه ولا يكاد يسيغه”
and many, many others.
As for my aching yearn for those chapters that I had not yet reached, none knows its true extent except Allah. I can never forget the way I yearned for Surah Najm, and Surah Qaf, and Surah Dukhan, and Surah Shuraa and its Disjointed Letters, and Surahs Ghafir and Zumar, and Surahs Sad and Saffat, and Surah Yasin, and Surah Ahzaab, and Surah Qasas, and Surah Naml, and I no longer had control over myself or that yearning when I had reached Surah Taha, for I memorised it in a single sitting. And I memorised after it Surah Maryam, and Surah Kahf, and Surah Israa, each of them within a single day, in a single sitting. As a result of these large sprints, I got ahead of my rival in the Qur’an circle, as he was memorising Surah Anbiya, I was beginning Surah Nahl, and I did not remember that moment my teacher informed him of my conquest except that it renewed the joy of victory inside my heart.
Soon after, Ramadan entered upon us. I wouldn’t read within it anything other than the half (of the Qur’an) that I had previously memorised, and I did not pray Taraweeh in the Prophet’s Mosque except after they had reached Surah Israa, all in attempts to preserve that pleasure I received from new memorisation. And I memorised Surah Yusuf within a single sitting as well, for how could I have waited until the next day whilst the story had yet to be completed? Likewise, I did not memorise a single story within the Qur’an within any two days, and I did not begin the memorisation of a surah except with extreme desire towards it, and a renewed sense of longing towards what awaited beyond.
Then came the sorrow, such sorrow that it completely washed over me as I concluded my memorisation of Surah Ma’idah and realised that there remained nothing from the Qur’an except three chapters. So I would memorise with such yearn that it resembled misery, like a lover clinging to his beloved, fearing their due separation. But eventually the sorrow was to overcome that craving once I reached Surah Baqarah, for I would only memorise a page daily, dragging along its ensuing conclusion.
So when the day for its completion arrived, and it was the day of my completing the entire Qur’an, before the month of Sha’ban by 3 days – I grieved with such severe sorrow. It was one of the most difficult days I have ever endured. I felt on that day as though the Messenger ﷺ himself had passed away, and that the revelation had been severed. I remembered the time Umm Ayman had roused Abu Bakr and ‘Umar with her crying when they visited her after the death of the Messenger ﷺ. As she was weeping they said to her, “What causes you to weep?! What is with Allah is better for His Messenger.” So she responded, “I do not cry because I do not know that what is with Allah is better for His Messenger, but rather I weep for the revelation from the heavens that has stopped.” I then completed my recitation to my teacher, and the people were congratulating me and supplicating for me, but by Allah I was so preoccupied with my own sorrow, I do not know what they were saying, nor what they muttered.
He then says, may Allah grant him success:
I then started my process of review, so I would review 5 ajzaa’ everyday and then doubled that portion. On the day of my exam, I began reciting Fatihah after the Fajr prayer, and the call to prayer for Dhuhr was not announced except I had read Surah Naas, and my test was to take place after ‘Asr. I then came to learn that one scholar was giving his ijaza (chain of transmission to the Messenger ﷺ) to those students who recited the entire Qur’an to him, so I went to him and sought his permission to recite and he welcomed me despite his many students. He was an avid and devout worshipper, one who did a lot of dhikr, as well as prayer and fasting. So I started reciting to him, and I approached him one day whilst he was all alone and I recited Surah al An’aam in a single sitting. I then learned that it is from those chapters that were revealed all at once, had I known so prior to memorising it, I would have memorised it all at once! From those who used to recite to the Shaykh along with me was a man with such beautiful manners, who used to recite in a very low voice. As I was listening to him one day I noticed errors in his recitation, yet the teacher did not stop and correct him. So I asked him about this after they’d completed and they informed me that this was the qiraa’ah. of Qalun from Nafi’, and then the Shaykh went on to briefly explain to me the meaning of the different modes of recitation.
I swear by the One Who has sent down upon His Servant the Book and has not made therein any deviance, I felt such happiness & enthusiasm gushing from my chest, it removed from me some of the sorrow from the ending of the revelation. How could it not have? I had learned that there is from the Speech of Allah words which I had not yet memorised, so my memorisation of the Qur’an has still to be completed! I retired that night in goodness and bliss, and I congratulated myself at the return of the revelation from the heavens.
Then I learned that there are two different ways to complete one’s memorisation of the different qiraa’aat, either by combining them all in one khatm or separating each one. I opted for the later, for what it contained of longing, joy and awaiting the new qiraa’ah. I completed the qiraa’ah of Hafs upon my Shaykh in five months, and it was the norm for students to usually finish within eight – reciting on average a rub’ (approx 2.5 pages) a day. But the Shaykh – may Allah grant him good – paid me especial care and thus granted me time for private sessions. I then began the qiraa’ah Warsh from Nafi’ and I completed it within three months, then Qalun from Nafi’ and from it I read Surah al An’aam in a single sitting before the Jumu’ah prayer, and I completed the entire qiraa’ah in two months.
This was due to my finishing school every Tuesday & Wednesday before Dhuhr, and I used to wait for the Shaykh in front of his door and recite to him as he took his route to prayer in the Prophet’s Mosque ﷺ. As well Thursdays and Fridays (both weekend days in Saudi Arabia) I would pray with him, and we would go before Jumu’ah by 2 hours, and the Prophet’s Mosque ﷺ was a close distance from my house, the Shaykh’s, and my school. Then the Shaykh informed me that he did not have other than these 3 riwayah, so that same student (I previously studied with) informed me of a Shaykh who had a different version of the riwaayah of Hafs, so I went to that Shaykh and kissed him on his head (as a customary sign of respect), but he grabbed my hand and kissed it instead. I quickly kissed his hand and he kissed my head in return! I learned afterwards that this was something he would do to those who would try to kiss his hand from the carriers of Qur’an. I then asked him if I could recite to him and he welcomed me to do so. I went on to recite to him and found him a great scholar of fundamentals of Fiqh as well as exegesis, and whatever he read of the Qur’an that he was able to implement immediately he would do so. If I read a verse regarding charity he would get up and do so whilst I was still reciting, or after I’d completed. I once read the verse, “And in yourselves (there are signs), do you not see?” so he extended his hand and looked at it, pondering over it and this verse. He would cry often during my recitation to him. I still remember the way he wept when I reached the end of Surah al Ma’idah, after which I began reciting Surah al An’aam and his tears did not cease until I completed the Surah. As though Allah wanted me to read it in a single sitting, it just so happened that on that specific day not a single student (besides myself) had attended. He explained the meanings of some of the verses I recited and specifically the less common words within them, and through him Allah had benefited me a great deal. I completed the recitation of the Qur’an with him in five months, and by Allah I wish they had been longer, yet still I sat with him many times afterward, always removing my ring and a watch that was gifted to me beforehand (and which I thought was a bit grand), out of respect for the lifestyle of asceticism he lead. For the worldly life had no part in his gathering, neither in his speech nor in his appearance. I came to him one morning and extended to him my greeting, and after I left some of his students caught up to me and said, “Glad tidings, the Shaykh said about you after you left, ‘I do not hope for one to be given the position of leading the prayer in the Sacred Mosque for anyone as I hope it for this gentleman.’” And it is not disliked for one to find joy in the praise of someone righteous, for verily Imam Ahmad rejoiced in the praise he received from Bishr ibn al Haarith.
After this, my previous Qur’an teacher (whom I completed my memorisation with) directed me towards his own teacher, who was from the major scholars of recitation in Madinah, his students include more than one of the Imams of the two sacred Mosques. He had impeccably beautiful mannerisms, and was truly awe inspiring. I went to him and sought permission to recite to him as well, he welcomed and granted me permission. I began with the qiraa’ah of Abi ‘Amr al Basri, since I was eager to recite those qiraa’aat which I had yet to complete. Allah placed in the Shaykh’s heart fondness towards me, so he gave me precedence over his other students. They would recite in a day seven pages whilst I would read nine or ten, or more than that if I increased my tone of voice and adorned my recitation. On one occasion, I kept on reciting and reciting until I had completed Surah al An’aam in a single sitting, and this recurring experience that I would have with Surah An’aam continues to baffle me until this very moment. Because I never intended to do what I did (i.e complete the whole Surah in a single sitting), it was merely a coincidence. And although intending to recite all of Surah al An’aam specifically in a single rak’ah is an innovation in the Hanbali madhab – as more than one of their scholars have mentioned – this experience I had, and shared with three of my teachers as well, is a coincidence that begs contemplation and reflection.
I went on to complete this qiraa’ah in four months, and I could not find an excuse to delay continuing on to Warsh, so I completed it as well. I then asked if I could combine the recitation of Qalun with ibn Kathir and he allowed me to do so, and then the remaining from the 10 famous qiraa’aat along with their well known proper sequence.
I completed (all 10) in the city of Makkah, in front of the Ka’bah, altogether within less than 4 years, collecting their respective ijazaat along the way, averaging 4 months per qira’aah. The Shaykh told me that I was the quickest student to finish with him ever since he began teaching in the Prophet’s Mosque 50 years prior, and I would read to him every day after Maghrib, even on Fridays (a weekend in Saudi Arabia). I would not miss a day except scarcely, and nothing was as motivating as that yearning that I felt.
He says, may Allah keep him firm with the established word:
At present – by the Grace of Allah and His Virtue – I strive to complete the recitation of the Qur’an every seven days, each time in a different qiraa’ah or riwaayah. For by Allah, I do not complete the Qur’an’s recitation except that I desire towards reciting it anew once more. When I read a Surah, I do not recite it except with the same emotions I felt at that time I first memorised it. By this I came to truly believe that this Qur’an does not wear from continuous repetition, nor will you ever get bored of its speech and yet, if you keep reciting it, it only increases in beauty. We ask Allah that He does not turn us away from His Verses as a result of our sins, and that he does not prohibit from us its blessings due to our shortcomings.
To proceed: I – by Allah – have not written this story except due to the fact that I am astounded by the one whose aspirations precede him in gathering knowledge of the different sciences, yet he does not memorise the Qur’an, or he does not perfect its memorisation. How does he withstand his abstinence?! And how is it that he rushes towards the speech of intellectuals and scholars, scholars who are but men, yet his soul does not inform him that there exists words of Allah, the All Knowing, the All Wise that have been revealed! So he may strive to preserve it within his chest, and he suffices himself with it. How even is he able to withstand knowing that there belongs to the Lord of the Earth and the Heaven a book that has been sent down to us from the sky? What is more astonishing is that he displays such apathy whilst spending his time in worship of Allah, and spending his days praying towards him, all whilst claiming that the love of his Lord has filled his heart, yet not the love of his Words?! And as I always tell myself, had I known of a message from my beloved that was in the furthest part of the earth, I would have set off towards it. Shall I not then inform this heart of a greater journey towards the Speech of Allah?
And had I known that there belonged to Allah a single letter that I did not know of, and I could not reach it except through exchange of my family and wealth, then I would have willingly traded them, and I seek pardon from Allah for my excessive speech and inadequate actions.
In the Name of Allah the Most Merciful the Especially Merciful, “Say: “In the Bounty of Allah, and in His Mercy -therein let them rejoice.” That is better than what they amass.” [Yunus 10:58].
Allah the Almighty has certainly spoken the truth.
It was written on the night of the khatm of the Qur’an, 29th of Ramadan, 1439AH, in the Prophet’s Mosque ﷺ, behind the chamber of my grandmother Fatima (the daughter of the Messenger ﷺ), may Allah be pleased with her, her husband and their children, their offspring until the day of Judgement.
This was translated from Arabic by a SiblingsOfIlm author. Original Arabic can be found here.