Shortly after I became Muslim, I met my first Quran teacher. I still remember how she asked me whether I already knew how to read Quran. When I said no, her eyes were full with sparkles. She took my hand and said: “I will teach you.”
I wanted to object that I was not ready yet and needed more time to adjust with all the new things in my life. But my teacher was full of determination.
According to her, it was my personal obligation to learn to read the Quran as quickly as possible. Furthermore, I needed to be prepared to also teach it to others. From this day on, we met twice every week in a beautiful campus mosque in the city of Jogjakarta in Indonesia.
The Most Important Chapters
I would drive to the mosque early in the morning. My teacher always made sure that I was in the state of ritual purity before starting our class. The first few classes, she would focus on the three most important short chapters. I had to memorize them. I still remember how I drove home trying to recite and memorize them along the way. It was so new to me.
The last time I had to memorize was in high school. Poetry. At the same time, I had to remember the letters of the Arabic alphabet. My teacher made me write every letter hundreds of times. That was a bit strange for me but later I understood the wisdom behind it. This way I really learned each letter. My hand became familiar with the letters. My eyes became accustomed. It was like the Arabic letters become part of me.
I learned with a small booklet called “Iqra’” or “Read!”. This is a widely used guide to learn how to read Quran in Indonesia. This Islamic science is called Tajweed. Different countries and cultures have these kind of small Tajweed booklets. I found it very beneficial to follow this book in addition to my teacher’s explanations.
However, I would not recommend to take a Tajweed guide and learn alone. It is through the teacher that we truly understand how the Arabic letters are pronounced. We need to look at the teacher. We need to see how she forms the letters. And we need to hear her.
Some letters are similar to our own language. Other letters, we really need to practice over and over again. And maybe some letters we will never get one hundred percent correct. We need to have patience.
Patience and Practice
It took me some time until I memorized all the letters and the different forms of letters when they meet other letters. It seemed that I moved at a snail’s pace. I wanted to just start reading Quran.
My teacher understood my impatience and gave me additional small chapters to memorize. I could use them during prayer. One of the major challenges for me was to observe the short and long vowels. I would try to read and then just stop on one letter while thinking about the next letter. This can change the meaning of the word, my teacher explained to me. Better to stop altogether and start again. I tried to follow.
Listening to the Recitation of Quran
Listening to the recitation of the Quran helped me a lot in improving my reading. And especially in getting the short and long letters correctly. Once I got the basic in Tajweed and was able to connect the letters, I made it a habit to listen to Quran as much as possible. I even had the Quran recitation playing at night when I was asleep. My intention was to improve my own recitation. That made a huge impact. Alhamdulillah.
I usually listened to one reciter. I chose the one that was most appealing to me. At the same time it was important for me to be able to follow his pronunciation.
After some time in Indonesia, I had to go back to my home country. And I still remember one of the most important advice my teacher gave me. She said to always continue to improve my reading. “Learn with different teachers. Correct your pronunciation. Because there are surely better teachers than myself”, she would say.
That’s what I did. I continued learning Tajweed with different teachers. I tried to improve my weak letters. And I tried to become more fluent. It is an ongoing process. I don’t feel I have arrived. I know my weak points and I try to work on them.
Memorizing some parts of Allah’s amazing book is part of this effort. I remember one of my teachers saying that everybody can memorize Quran. At least we should have the intention and make an effort. InshaAllah.
We never know Allah’s plan for us. And we should always be prepared to contribute to our Muslim community and society. I never thought that one day I would have to teach Tajweed. I always felt that there were many other people who were better in reading Quran. But my teacher’s early forecast became true after almost ten years.
My local circle for convert sisters lost their Quran teacher. They needed a replacement. They approached me. And I was pushed to fill the teacher’s role until somebody else was found. It was then that I truly understood my teacher’s wisdom.
Why she meticulously taught me all the different Tajweed rules and encouraged me to continue learning after acquiring the basics. It became my personal obligation to teach Tajweed to these women because there was nobody else to do it at this moment.
Reading is Only the First Step
Learning to read Quran is a wonderful journey. It connects us directly to Allah’s words. Learning to read Quran is only the first step. Many more steps will follow it. That includes learning the meaning of Quran. Learning the feelings of Quran. We should aim and try to integrate more and more of the Quran in our daily lives.
Our beloved Prophet (may peace and blessings be upon him) was a living Quran. Let’s aspire to follow him as good as we can.
Reading Quran every day is part of this effort. Try to set your own daily goal and slowly increase it.
May Allah make it easy for all of us to read His book, love His book and interact with it as much as possible. Ameen.