By Safiya Hazarika (‘23)
In the cave of Hira, the Quran was initially revealed to Prophet Muhammed. An angel (Jibrel or Gabriel) appeared before him. The angel commanded the Prophet to read. “Iqrat” he commanded. The Prophet responded “maa ana bi qari (I do not know how to read).” The angel persisted, and commanded him again to read (iqrat). The angel continued, “recite in the name of your Lord who created — Created man from a clinging substance. Recite and your Lord is the most Generous — Who taught by the pen — Taught man that which he knew not.” The first five verses of Surah Al-Alaq (Chapter of “The Clot”) empathizes the importance of reading and understanding the Quran. In its pure form, the Quran holds so much meaning as it conveys the words of God. My parents embraced this message in the first five verses of the Quran by making it their top priority to teach my sister and I how to read the scripture.
Located in the corner of my living room there is a towering bookshelf that holds dozens of books stacked on it. The shelves are so packed that towards the center of the shelves bend slightly downwards. When I was around six years old, my mother called me over to the daunting shelf and told me to pick out a book. I looked upon a wide variety of bound paper stacks with absolutely no desire to read one. I had no idea what I was getting into when my mother told me to choose my book. Everyone in my house had their own designated book. As long as I could remember my dad had been using a green colored one with its binding falling apart barely held together by a fabric book cover designed with soccer balls. To a six year old, the only knowledge I had of these “books” was they just contained funny looking characters that my parents would recite in a sing-song voice. I would come to realize that the bookshelf did not just contain any books, they were Qurans. My parents had spent their lives accumulating Qurans that eventually found their home in the corner of my living room. Every single Quran contained on that shelf had its own backstory. Those paperbacks and hardcovers either traveled with my parents throughout the world, traveled through generations of my family, or were gifts from loved ones. As I stood in front of the tower of Qurans, I ended up choosing the pretty one. My first Quran was about the size and thickness of my chemistry textbook covered with a rose printed book cover. My mother smiled over at me when she noticed my selection and informed me that the Quran I choose had belonged to her mother.
Everyday my mom and I would practice reading the Quran. We started with the basics, such as sounding out the letters of the alphabet, and then we advanced towards grammar, and then eventually I established a sing-song voice too. It took me so long to learn tajweed, which is essentially a set of rules that dictate how words are properly pronounced. Eventually my mom and I established a routine. We had a deal: I had to recite at least one page per day and then I could be free from my duties and run outside like a wild animal and play with my friends. At times I would get so frustrated because all I wanted to do was run around the backyard, or play games with my friends, but my mother was always there blocking the doorway to remind me of our agreement. “Quran first” she said sternly. However, there were occasions when I would feel genuinely excited to read with my mom. In these occasions, I would find myself mesmerized and would exceed my mother’s one-page requirement.
It took me a full year to finish the entire Quran for the first time. By this point I read through 114 surahs (chapters) all with stories and lessons embedded within them. Finishing the Quran for the first time required a lot of motivation and persistence from both my mother and I. This meant I would drag my feet, kicking and screaming every day when it came time to read while my mom remained persistent. Although, I will forever be grateful to my mom for teaching me how to read the Quran. Without the Quran I think I would be deeply lost in my beliefs. Each chapter in the Quran taught me a new lesson which I was able to derive my beliefs from.
When I face fear, when I face conflict, or when I face loss, I find myself turning towards the Quran for guidance. In those moments when I feel lost in my beliefs, I find myself reading the Quran to seek answers. Although at times I may not always agree with the scripture or perceive the words the way it intended to, I still find my answers in the scripture. In those verses I find comfort and meaning. To this day, my parents continue to encourage me to read the Quran. “Just one ayah (verse) a day,” they say. “One ayah will provide you with knowledge and guidance in your life.”