Before embracing Islam, I was Christened when I was a small child. Yet, growing up my family was not remotely practicing. Even though religion and God wasn’t discussed in the family home during my childhood, I always knew and had the belief of a greater being or power.
As a child and teen before taking Shahadah, I never studied or read the Bible, so I had no experience or understanding of reading religious scripture.
I took Shahadah back in November 2010 at the tender age of 17, I had only been learning about Islam as a religion for a couple of months and I had never once opened or read a page of the Quran prior to my reversion. Ultimately, my relationship with the Quran only began after I accepted Islam and became a new Muslim.
After accepting Islam and very quickly coming to learn that Islam was not just a religion but a way of life, it clicked that in order to understand how to live my life in the best way to serve and please Allah then I had to read the instruction manual, the Noble Quran.
As I opened the Quran for the first time, I felt completely overwhelmed. Arabic text was like nothing I had ever seen before. As I glared down at the first page of the Quran, I felt disheartened, I felt like I had failed before I had even begun. I tormented myself and allowed Satan’s whispers to get me down, wondering how I could even call myself a Muslim when I couldn’t even read one letter of the Quran.
As a new Muslim who didn’t have much prior experience of reading any religious texts, I was overwhelmed by the size of the Quran. I was a new Muslim who wanted to learn everything in overnight yet the Quran stood at around 600 pages; the longest book I had ever been faced with and I was not by any means a big reader.
I became increasingly overwhelmed and frustrated that I couldn’t read the Quran. Learning Arabic seemed likewise to climbing Mount Everest; and I constantly felt like a hypocrite claiming to believe in what Allah had revealed in the Quran yet have never read it and understood it for myself.
Read: Confused by the Quran? So Was I
It was during my difficulties and struggles with the Quran that a good friend and fellow revert Muslimah explained how the Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) over a period of 23 years.
Islam wasn’t learned overnight; the word of God came down to the Prophet in stages. Muslims had time to learn, adapt and change their lifestyle in accordance with the revelation and that as reverts or newly practicing Muslims, our iman (faith) is peaking and we all put huge amounts on ourselves to become the perfect Muslim overnight.
When feeling hopeless, overwhelmed and defeated, remember as the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Give yourself time, teach yourself patience and ask for help.
The following authentic hadith constantly reminded me of my purpose and why I couldn’t fall at the first hurdle and give up on my journey with the Quran.
Read the Quran, for verily it will come on the Day of Standing as an intercessor for its companions. (Muslim)
Taking the First Step
I knew that learning to read the Quran was amongst one of my top priorities after learning and establishing my five daily prayers. Ironically though both go hand in hand as when we pray five times a day, we recite Surah Al-Faithah 17 times and to learn Quran, to be able to read it beautifully for Allah’s sake is part of perfecting your prayer.
I began attending Quran lessons with a few other non-Arabic speaking revert sisters. Our teacher was so patient, may Allah reward her and I learned a lot from her such as basic letter recognition, yet being able to fluently read the Quran in Arabic text never seemed to happen for me.
I felt defeated once again, struggling to accept that I couldn’t read the word of Allah as it was revealed to our Beloved Prophet (peace be upon him).
Even though I only recognized certain letters, I found hope in my efforts and my struggle with developing a relationship with the Quran in the following Hadith.
Whoever reads a letter from the Book of Allah, he will have a reward. And that reward will be multiplied by ten. I am not saying that “Alif, Laam, Meem” is a letter, rather I am saying that “Alif” is a letter, “laam” is a letter and “meem” is a letter. (At-Tirmidhi)
Accepting What is
My ego felt bruised, I somehow convinced myself that I was less of a Muslim because I couldn’t read the Quran in Arabic text like many born Muslim friends of mine.
I couldn’t just give up on my relationship with the Quran because it was difficult, I needed to get creative, think of new ways to develop my love and understanding of the Quran.
In doing so I accepted that understanding the word of Allah was more important to me than reading it; and I made a promise to myself and to Allah that no matter how long it took, I would still try to learn the traditional and authentic Arabic.
I started listening to YouTube videos of Quran recitation particularly by Sheikh Mishary Rashid Al-Afasy, which helped me learn and practice my pronunciation (Tajweed). I also started watching various videos on YouTube with the English translation of the Surah and the Tafsir, which was the explanation of the Surah, its meaning and importance.
As my love and understanding for the Quran grew day by day, I started reading Quran myself as well as listening. As my relationship with the Quran grew stronger, I began to read a version of the Quran with Arabic transliteration as well as Arabic text and English translation.
In doing so I felt like even though my pronunciation and tajweed may not be the best, I was making a conscious effort for Allah sake to read, and understand the beautiful message of Islam.
Verily the one who recites the Quran beautifully, smoothly, and precisely, he will be in the company of the noble and obedient angels. And as for the one who recites with difficulty, stammering or stumbling through its verses, then he will have TWICE that reward. (Sahih Al-Bukhari)
This authentic hadith has always given me hope that Allah recognizes my difficulty in reading Quran. And surely, He is the Most Merciful offering those who struggle twice the reward.
May Allah guide anyone who is struggling in building their relationship with the Quran; may He fill you with knowledge, make your journey easy for you; and may Allah bless you with success. May He fill your heart with love, humility and thankfulness at the guidance provided for us all in the Quran.