I have a painful memory from my younger days. My parents had returned from Hajj and had brought back the recording of the recitation of the Qur’an by Sheikh Abdul Rahman as-Sudais. I pounced on the tapes and rushed to the privacy of my bedroom to listen to them. I opened up my mushaf and tried my best to keep up with the recitation.
Within five minutes, I was in tears.
You see, I was not a proficient reader and I felt like someone struggling to keep her head above water. Worse, there was the nagging voice in my head that reminded me that not only could I not read the holy book properly, I could not even understand it. I felt horribly inept and I was ashamed that for all my academic pursuits, I was nothing more than an illiterate when it came to the deen.
That incident spurred me to try to improve my reading of the Quran and to increase my knowledge of Arabic. It is an ongoing struggle to say the least. When I had children, I vowed that I would strive to give them an early start so they would not feel the mortification and distress I had felt. I knew that I wanted them to have understanding of the deen and so my husband and I decided to make the language of the Qur’an a major part of their education.
In the beginning, we encouraged Mars and Bear to recite the Qur’an regularly and to try to memorise as much as they could. We would read the explanation and translation as well. We would also teach them various words of remembrance. Alhamdulillah this helped them not only to become familiar with worship but also with the Arabic language.
We printed various Arabic printables from the internet and my husband also made it a point to read Arabic stories and comics to them. However, as Mars, the elder girl, came to be of compulsory school age in Singapore, it became clear that she needed a more rigorous curriculum. We considered various options once we were settled in Pakistan. There are many free complete syllabi available online and even paid online courses. However, we lacked the skills to impart the former and the financial means to take on the latter.
It was a blessing when we were able to enlist the help of the Arabic Language Institute in Islamabad. The principal, Brother Ubaid ur-Rahman, comes from an esteemed family of educators and he drew up a customised curriculum for Mars. Since she does not speak Urdu, she has a personal tutor, Sister Riffat, who can converse in English. The one-on-one instruction has been beneficial – it has enabled the tutor to build a wonderful rapport with Maryam and also hone in on her strengths and weaknesses.
Initially, lessons focused on vocabulary, numbers and grammar. Mars found the programme gruelling in the early stages – there was a great deal of homework to be completed each day. She had to write list upon list of new words and also spell out numbers in Arabic. There were also sentences that she had to construct and write out TWICE!
We felt anxious watching her work painstakingly through her assignments – her soft-hearted grandmother even wanted to have a stern word with her teacher! – but continued to encourage her to seek Allah’s help and to ask Him to put barakah in her time and effort. Alhamdulillah, after a couple of months, pain turned to pleasure when we witnessed her constructing her own sentences and writing more confidently. She was then encouraged to write creative short passages and to read conversations and short stories. She is presently studying dialogues and delving deeper into grammar.
Mars began to truly love her classes when Sister Riffat began teaching the translation and meaning of the Qur’an and Sheikh Ali An-Nadwi’s Qasas An-Nabiyeen. She had studied the stories of the prophets in English before, but she confessed that reading the stories and narrating them in Arabic gave her more satisfaction. I knew then that she was beginning to appreciate the beauty of the Arabic language, alhamdulillah, and I hope that her younger sister will taste the same sweetness when she begins classes, in shaa Allah.
Ibn Taymiyyah rahimahullah said, “Using a language has a profound effect on one’s thinking, behavior and religious commitment. It also affects one’s resemblance to the early generations of this Ummah, the Shahaabah and the Taabi’een. Trying to emulate them refines one’s thinking, religious commitment and behavior.”
Let us strive to learn the language of our faith and make it the lingua franca of the Muslims.
This article was originally written for HomeWorks magazine.