When I first moved to Qom a little over a year ago, I was completely ready to get my Islamic education started. I had just gotten married and really wanted to study hard before having kids (since having children does limit the amount of time mothers can spend in the classroom – for more on the life of a mother in Qom, check out some of sister Samira’s posts!). I wanted to use my time here very wisely and gain as much knowledge as I possibly could. I was motivated and driven and passionate about studying to my fullest ability.
But when I finally started classes, I hit what seemed like an insurmountable roadblock. I wanted to learn Farsi fast because I had already studied some before and felt I had the capacity to do the rest at an accelerated pace. But the school I had chosen to attend had just one class at my level of Farsi, and this was a part-time class which took place only three days a week.
Of course, the part-time status of this class was very convenient for mothers and others with busy schedules who found it difficult to spend so much time in class. It is wonderful that our school offers these part-time courses so that more sisters have the opportunity to study despite their busy schedules. But for me, determined as I was to use my time here to learn as much as I possibly could, it was extremely frustrating to have to go at a much slower pace than I knew I could manage.
I persevered, trying to study ahead on my own. And soon, I had progressed much beyond the level of my class, but because there were no classes studying the higher levels of Farsi, I was forced to stick with the pace of that class.
I was frustrated and feeling hopeless, and I asked God to help me make better use of my time.
And then something happened which quite literally changed my life.
Ever since I became interested in learning the Islamic sciences, I have had a deep attraction towards the Qur’an. Of course, I am not nearly learned enough to understand the true depths of the holy words of God; but I was so fascinated with just the apparent words and meanings of the Qur’an that I would spend hours listening to it and trying to recite along. The melodiousness and rhythm and unadulterated beauty of Qur’anic Arabic, the most faseeh (pure of form) and baleegh (eloquent) and truthful words in existence, absolutely enthralled me. And ever since then, I have had an unshakeable desire to memorize these words of light and truth by heart.
And so, when one of the sisters here mentioned that the haram of Sayeda Ma’suma (sa) offered Qur’an memorizing courses for adults, I knew I had to sign up.
I already had more free time on my hands than I knew what to do with, and I also had this ever-present impatience to do more and learn more and spend my time more wisely. And so, although my Farsi was still quite weak, I headed to the haram and signed up for the memorization course.
This class from day one has filled my life with more blessings than I can count.
Leaving aside the incredibleness of learning Qur’an at the haram of the Ahlulbayt (as), this class also has a translation and tafseer (exegesis) component which forced me to read a whole lot of difficult Farsi. As well, since my teacher and all my classmates knew no English or Urdu, I was forced to communicate entirely in Farsi (which is not so at madrasah, as I attend a school exclusively for foreigners which means that a lot of conversations take place in English or Urdu). This made it so that within one month of my attending the class, my Farsi teacher was astonished at how far my Farsi reading and speaking had progressed. When our first term of classes neared its end, my teacher supported me in my attempt to finish the rest of my Farsi learning at a much faster pace and be able to progress onto Islamic studies from the next term.
With the grace of God and the goodwill of my madrasah, I was allowed to take my Farsi exams within a month of the new term while simultaneously attending kaar shinaasi (bachelors) courses.
Now, I had an entirely different problem. In my first term of studies, I was constantly frustrated about the slow pace of my studies; in this second term, I was absolutely flooded with work. I had nine separate subjects totaling 20 hours of classes per week at school; on top of that, I had Qur’an memorizing class three times a week for two hours each. Each of these nine madrasah classes had their own assigned homework and readings. Some of the classes that I had joined were in their second term, and so I had a whole term’s worth of catching up to do. Other classes were really quite challenging in their topics. And I also had to memorize ten lines of the Qur’an every day (a page and a third every two days), along with their translation and tafseer for my haram class. Add on top of all of that the accelerated Farsi studying I had to do in order to give my exams early, and you can see why I barely had time to sleep. And all of this is saying nothing of the responsibilities of being a wife (I still to this day can’t remember how I found time to cook in those days).
It was way more stress than I could handle.
There were days I went home and cried. There were days I had no energy and no drive to study properly. On those days, I decided I simply had to give something up. And since giving up my hawzah studies was not an option, I knew it had to be my memorizing course.
I had almost decided to drop the course when my ever-supportive husband encouraged me to attend just one last class before making up my mind. I reluctantly agreed.
On that day which I had deemed to be my last, I sat in class hearing my classmates recite the beautiful words of God, myself reciting these heart-changing verses from memory, speaking about the meanings and implications of these words… My eyes couldn’t help but fill up with tears. I knew I simply could not abandon this miracle that God had placed in my life.
So I stuck with it.
And to my continuous amazement, Allah (swt), the Ever-Merciful, the All-Loving, made everything so much easier for me.
I found that the more I progressed in my memorization, the easier it became. Now I could spend less time memorizing and have it stay in my memory better. My Farsi reading and comprehension had progressed so far that I only occasionally had to look up words in the dictionary (compared to when I first began the class, when I would have to look up about half of each sentence). Finally, I finished all my Farsi exams at madrasah and my workload lessened considerably. Also by the never-ending grace of God, I caught up with all my classes and began really excelling at them instead of simply getting by.
They say that memorizing the Qur’an strengthens your memory, and I certainly found this to be true. This stronger memory of mine helped me remember my hawzah class materials better too. I also found that knowing even the small amount of Qur’an that I had learned by heart really complemented the knowledge I was gaining in my hawzah subjects. For example, in subjects such as sarf and nahw (Arabic grammar courses), I was able to practically apply the rules I was learning onto the Qur’anic verses I had memorized – resulting in both my Arabic grammar skills and my understanding of the Qur’an becoming stronger. My other main course was an aqaid (beliefs) class, which was probably my most challenging subject of the term, partly because of how difficult the Farsi of our textbook was. But because I had had practice reading the very tough Farsi of my Qur’an translation and tafseer book for my memorization class, the hardship was somewhat eased for me. Several of my other courses were directly related to the Qur’an – for example, tafseer, uloom-e-Qur’ani (Qur’anic sciences), and hifz mozoo’i (topical memorization). And learning all of these hawzah subjects was all the more pleasurable for me because of the verses of the Qur’an I had in my heart and on my tongue.
Now, after almost 10 months of attending these memorization classes, I can honestly say that my experience in Qom was enriched a hundred-fold when God opened my heart towards memorizing His holy book. He deserves more thanks than I am capable of extending for giving me the ability to continue memorizing despite all the challenges. When I look back, I am absolutely certain that I would not have gotten through that time with the success I did if it were not for His constant help and guidance.
I still have a (very) long way to go before I finish knowing the entire book by heart. I can’t say for sure that I will never leave the class, because I know there are situations where leaving it to focus on something else – for instance, children – would be better-liked by God. But insha’Allah, if God gives me the time and ability and opportunity (tawfiq), I do sincerely plan to carry out this task to completion. It is not an endeavor I can ever abandon lightly.
Because I have learnt that if you sincerely try to become closer to the Qur’an, this holy book of God will transform your life completely.
-This guest post was written by hawzah student Sumaira Fatima. To contact her, you may e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.