Sunday, January 25, 2015

Memorizing the Holy Quran

January 24, 2015
By Saeed Qureshi

Countless Muslim parents and the families send their sons and daughters to the mosques and religious madrasas (seminaries) for memorizing the full text of the holy Quran. The students living in residential religious seminaries memorize Quran to become, Hafiz, Imams or religious teachers. 

A Hafiz or Imam recites the thirty suras of Quran during the month of fasting or Ramadan. Most of the religious scholars who give sermons or lectures in mosques or religious congregations also memorize the entire Quran for quotations and references during the conversations or speeches.

But besides the professional Qari or the Hafiz we have seen that the young boys and girls from the tender age of five and upward spent years in memorizing the whole Quran. They do so because their parents want them to be Qari out of sheer blessings (swab) or for filling their chests with light of the divine book revealed on the last prophet of God Hazrat Muhammad (SAWS). 

Besides memorizing the thirty Suras (parts) of Quran at homes or by going to religious seminaries or Imams in the mosque, these young boys and girls also attend the traditional educational institutions for worldly education.  Those young boys and girls who solely learn the Quran for becoming Hafiz or Qaris do not get traditional education.

It takes several years for a boy or a girl to memorize the complete holy book. But their job does not finish here. They have to keep updating and refreshing the contents of the Quran throughout their lives, otherwise they can forget some links here and there. 

Thus most of the students are tied to the memorizing and refreshing of the Quranic text merely for keeping it in their memory and not for any practical use as done by the professional Qaris or Hafiz whose main job is to lead prayers and impart Quranic or religious teachings in mosques or religious schools.

Let us see how the memorizing the Quran started. The revealing of Quran upon the last prophet of God, Hazrat Muhammad (SAWS) continued for 23 years (609-632 AD).  The revelations were memorized by the companions of the prophet because in those primitive times the best way to preserve the revealed divine messages was to commit these to memory. 

Since Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) himself was unlettered (could not read or write) he dictated the divine revelations to his companions called scribes who would commit those to their memories. Besides memorizing the revealed ayahs, these were written on various articles such as parchments, palm-leaf stalks, thin stones and camel skins or bones.
As stated above, in those times of early Islam, the only viable way to preserve the Quran and its contents were by memorizing in order to recite the Ayahs in the prayers observed five times a day particularly completing the recitation of the whole Quran in the month of Ramadan or fasting. It was absolutely indispensable to commit the revealed messages of God to memory.

The First caliph Abu Bakr felt the inevitability of assembling all the scattered revelations in the form of a book after a number of prophet’s companions who knew the Quran by heart were killed in a battle with the false prophet Masilma.

Under his orders Zayd ibn Thabit the chief scribe and the secretary of the prophet and a committee headed by him collected the verses from all available sources memorized or written and produced a hand-written manuscript of the complete book named Abu Bakr manuscript.

This manuscript first remained with Abu Bakr himself and then was passed on to one of prophet’s wives Hafsa bint Umar (daughter of the second caliph Umar)   and it remained in her custody for 20 years. The third caliph Hazrat Usman took this manuscript from Hazrat Hafsa and got a standard manuscript prepared by a committee headed again by Zayd. 

The.The copies of that standard manuscript was circuited in the Islamic empire and has also been in use ever since by the Muslims all over the world. During those 20 years only the Hafiz or the Qaris knowing the Quran were reciting the Quran in prayers.

The learning by heart is not a religious obligation (Fard). It is a matter of choice either for swab or for becoming a Hafiz or teacher to teach Quran in return to others.  It is like offering NAFL or additional sunnats during the prayers.

The text of the Quran cannot remain intact in the mind and one tends to forget it if not revised. So one is entangled for the whole life to update and refresh the contents of several thousand words. The swab (blessing of the Quran can be achieved by reciting or reading it from book every day. A boy or a girl who receives traditional education at day time has to also go to a religious teacher or madrasas or mosque for reading and memorizing the Quran.

To learn the correct reading of the Quran is indispensable for every Muslim. However, for school going children they should either exclusively memorize the holy book or attain the traditional educations in schools and colleges. Doing both tasks at the same time may be too onerous for them and they remain overburdened mentally and physically. 

Even for young boys whom their parents want to become Hafiz may also learn Quran by heart only for this cause.  But to keep both traditional education and memorizing Quran for several years and then keep refreshing may undermine their normal education which is essential in the modern times. 

The normal education may end at one point of time but Quranic text needs daily rehearsals or revisions which is an unending lifetime undertaking. In practical terms it may earn one swab but for worldly gains as service or business it may not be helpful.

However, there is a better and absolutely secure and flawless option to address this issue.  In the present times of rapidly galloping technology, all kinds of gadgets are available that preserve any volume of information and the data which can be repeated, revised, added and to be listened any number of times with absolute precision. So a tape recorder can be switched on to listen from the best of the Hafiz the text of the holy book.

It would be advisable if while reading( Tilwat) of  the Quran should be necessary for Muslims, its memorization may be confined to the professional Qaris or Hafiz who lead the prayers in the mosques or teach recitation to others or are involved in a research or academic work related to religion.

Understandably the important responsibility for professional Qaris and Haffaz is to lead the prayers generally and in the month of Ramadan particularly. But for a boy or girl merely to keep in the memory lane the whole text of hundreds of pages without any practical utilization except for a singular honor of being known as a young Hafiz-e-Quran, should be reconsidered.
As pointed out earlier, while it should be necessary to learn the reading and reciting of of the Quran for every Muslim, it should not be obligatory for the young children to learn it by heart, unless they adopt the job of a Hafiz or Qari.  As stated earlier the involvement both in normal education and memorizing the Quran side by side, can affect their ability to learn either of these with undivided attention and with full vigor.

Those boys and girls may solely undertake memorizing if they solely opt for a career of preacher of Islam or teaching Quran or leading the prayers as an Imam. But those who go for worldly education like science, art, literature, history and engineering etc. they may simply read it daily as all Muslims do for imbibing its blessings and Swab.



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