The words gracefully marched in unison, vibrating all along, to where they were meant to gather. It was as if a gentle breeze was blowing, finding its way to the deepest corner of my heart, and soothing my soul with its rhythmic movement. Sorrow, worries, and distress were swept away like dried and dead leaves, and all I knew was peace. The soft carpet below my feet, the warmth of the shoulders brushing mine from both sides, and the aroma of musk that incensed the air further plunged me into a calming drowsiness. Already accustomed to that comfort, I wished it would stay forever. I closed my eyes, wishing to enter deep sleep.
But no, I did not. I simply could not.
There were otherworldly words peacefully nudging at me to stay awake, to understand. But how could I? For I was bound by my own inability to comprehend the foreign language. At once, I felt a lump form inside my throat. Fear crept up into my heart, and its loud thumping became apparent. What was I thinking? Foreign?
“Allahu Akbar”, called the Imaam and everyone went into Ruk‘oo. After two sujoods, we stood up for the second rak‘ah. Once again, the melodious voice of the Imaam began to float gracefully in the air. But I didn’t feel comfortable anymore. My palms were sweaty and I felt suffocated. All of a sudden, I felt ashamed. So I tried my best to concentrate in the remaining salaah.
With the tasleem, some ladies started to leave, satisfied at having prayed their taraweeh prayers at the masjid. Some began to engage themselves in casual talk, while others started to recite the Quran or do dhikr. I stood up and quietly walked to the back of the prayer room where there were inbuilt shelves on the wall with more than a hundred copies of the Quran neatly stacked. I picked one and sat in a corner intending to recite for a while. But before I could begin, the guilt retraced the footprints it had made on my soul a few minutes back and in no time I was once again immersed in deep thought.
It was in this month, the month of Ramadan, that the Glorious Quran was revealed. It wasn’t published nor was it sold, for it wasn’t a novel or a literary work. The first revelation was sent down in a dark cave, through an angel from heaven, on a humble soul who didn’t know how to read. Sounds like fantasy? It was more than a fantasy. It was extraordinary and divine. Those were words from the Creator, the Lord of the Heavens and the Earth.
The revelation wasn’t easy on our Prophet (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him). At times, when the revelation would come down, he used to become hot and start sweating even on a cold day. Sometimes his skin color would even turn yellow like the leaves of a date palm tree. At other times, when he would be riding on an animal, that animal would sit down from being exhausted due to the weight of the revelation being sent down.
For him and many others, the Quran was more than just words printed on pages compiled in a book. These words from heaven melted the soul of a staunch enemy of Islam, Umar ibn al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him), and made him enter the faith of peace. Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) used to tremble with fear and shed tears while reciting the Quran in prayer. Uthman ibn Affan (may Allah be pleased with him) used to be so mesmerized by the Speech of Allah that he would go on reciting in his salah and the night would pass away easily, without him having finished even two rak‘ahs.
Familiar to me, yet unknown, those same divine words were inscribed in the Blessed Book that lay before me on the wooden book holder. They were not foreign. They couldn’t be.
“Indeed, We have sent it down as an Arabic Qur’an that you might understand.” (Surah Yusuf 12:2)
Warm tears rolled down my cheeks and dropped on the page open in front of me, leaving a soggy spot on it.
I had read many books and novels, acquired worldly knowledge, learned complicated equations in chemistry, and solved mind-boggling questions in math. I learned my native language and even how to cook. Why did learning Qur’anic Arabic escape my list? Didn’t I yearn to know what my Lord had revealed? Wasn’t the Quran meant to be a guide for me in life? Not that I didn’t have time – I did. Perhaps, my priorities were messed up. It’s ironic that most of us have time for many things in life, yet we can’t spare as much as an hour for exerting sincere efforts in studying the Quran.
It is amazing that even the mountains would humble themselves and crumble to dust had the Quran been revealed on them! Allah says about them: “If We had sent down this Qur’an upon a mountain, you would have seen it humbled and coming apart from fear of Allah. And these examples We present to the people that perhaps they will give thought.” (Surah Al-Hashr 59:21)
Why then, that my heart didn’t quiver or tremble with fear?
The regretful state of my dying soul was taking a toll on me and even though it was real, I didn’t want to know because I couldn’t bear it any more. I bowed down in sujood and sought protection in Allah (glorified and exalted is He), begged for His forgiveness and His guidance. I now realized I had to begin somewhere before my soul wandered off again to bask in the deceptive comfort of ignorance. I couldn’t die with the message of Allah being a mail unread in my inbox. I wanted to read each and every word with love intertwined with care and attentiveness. I wanted to adorn my soul with the best jewels no treasure chest could provide, save the Quran.
I took a deep breath, steeled myself with quiet determination, and rose to leave. As I slowly walked towards the Masjid’s large wooden door, I thought about the mission I was going to undertake, and how all of us were obliged towards understanding the Quran. We’re not spectators in the game of life. We’re the players. We can’t possibly think of surviving the challenges without having understood the rulebook. Without even knowing it, we may be committing clear fouls or giving lackluster performances. At the end of the day, each one alone will be responsible for his/her performance. Our performance depends on how much we study and act, and our primary guide is the rulebook.
On that blessed night of Ramadan, the bouts of realization and suddenly apparent logic were victorious over my frivolity and foolishness in the internal strife within my soul. Now that the void in my heart has been identified, I pray it will be filled the day I’m able to understand the Speech of Allah as easily as I breathe.