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Thread: Bismillahs and Ameens !!

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    Bismillahs and Ameens !!

    Bismillahs and Ameens

    By Dr Mahjabeen Islam

    For anyone even vaguely familiar with Lahore, Pakistan,
    3 p.m. in July is the picture of sultry suffocating heat. Whilst my mother had
    her siesta, her three children were subjected to Maulvi Sahib for a whole hour
    of learning to read the Qur’an.
    The poor man biked from God-knows-where and in the
    curtained but not air-conditioned room gained some respite from the elements. My
    brothers and I were always resentful that his respite was our punishment. In
    retrospect, one wonders why the conspiratorial trio, namely my parents and
    Maulvi Sahib, did not find a more humane hour for a task that was so tough.
    “Read, in the name of your Sustainer who has
    created - created man out of a germ-cell”
    (96:1) said Gabriel to the
    unlettered man (pbuh). And so started the revelation of the Qur’an and the
    beginning of the seal of Prophethood.
    Akin to and in a sense celebrating the revelation of
    the primary source of all of Islam, Muslims are initiated into learning to read
    the Qu’ran in Arabic. “We have sent it down as an Arabic Qur’an in order
    that you may learn wisdom”
    (12:2). It is absolutely marvelous to note that
    people from across the globe whose native tongue is not Arabic are able to read
    the Qur’an fluently.
    Prior to the afternoon Maulvi Sahib sessions in Lahore
    was my Bismillah, which literally means to start in the name of God, and
    practically the initiation of reading of the Qur’an. Dressed in brocade and
    silk, the unwilling victim of generous amounts of kohl in the eyes I read out
    “Iqra bismi rabikkal lazi khalaq khalaqal insana min alaq” (96:1)
    flanked by soccer-ball sized laddoos (a celebratory sweet made in South Asia).
    The presents and the money were profitable, but the trip to the photo studio was
    quite the pain.
    The gold fringes of the brocade outfit started to get
    under my skin in the real sense of the word as did the gold necklace and I
    itched to get out of them. This resulted in a disagreement with my mother,
    causing her to puff out her cheeks in imitation of my expression, which in turn
    caused my already generous cheeks to swell further. And the black and white
    photo caught my pout perfectly.
    Maulvi Sahib like millions across the globe had
    memorized the Qur’an and would settle down to listen to and correct his three
    charges. I was a nerd-wimp combination so not too much of a problem but my
    brothers did not feel the need to try to read accurately in the face of a
    semi-snoozing man. Even at the young age of five I would be amazed at how in 100
    degrees F heat this man would drop off at the sweet rhythm of the recitation and
    as soon as my brothers would skip and get sloppy, he would jolt awake and award
    a tight rap on the skull of the perpetrator.
    Their mischief and the miracle of the Qur’an would
    manifest itself time and again, and the essential predictability of Maulvi Sahib
    correcting us when the words were slaughtered or skipped, convinced me that this
    was The Word of The Divine. And now I am moved to read that the Qur’an says:
    “This Qur’an is not such as can be produced by other than Allah.” (10:
    The Qur’an has 114 verses, and these have been divided
    into 30 chapters. It is not a skinny book and I cannot marvel enough at how
    people from Malaysia to America commit it all to memory. What is also
    interesting is that in international Qur’anic recitation competitions, frequent
    first prizewinners are not Arabs.
    The South Asian Muslim culture of teaching children to
    read the Qur’an starting at the young age of four has a great deal of merit and
    it is interesting that many an Arab youth in North America speaks fluent Arabic
    but is frequently unable to read the Qur’an. Perhaps there is a sense of taking
    one’s mother tongue for granted. “When the Qur’an is read listen to it with
    attention and hold your peace so that you may receive mercy”
    (7:204). Even
    though the Qur’an is in classical Arabic, most Arabic-speaking people are still
    able to get the gist of the recitation, just as English speakers are able to get
    the drift of a Shakespearean play. Arabic speakers do not realize how blessed
    they are for people that do not understand Arabic get only the comfort of the
    Qur’an’s rhythm and indefinable power. And of course the barakah or blessing
    that God has promised.
    There are approximately 84,000 words in the Qur’an and
    after accounting for repetition this is reduced to 2,000 words. In these there
    are about 500 Arabic words that are common to Urdu, Persian and Turkish . If
    these native groups were to learn only about 1,500 Arabic words they would
    understand this magnificent text. And that is certainly not a tall order if one
    puts one’s mind to it; five words a day and in a year a whole new vista could
    open up.
    This would be even more gratifying during Taraweeh
    prayers, which are held in the evenings in Ramadan and in many a mosque the
    entire Qur’an is completed in the thirty days.
    The commitment to having their children complete the
    Qur’an has persisted amongst South Asian parents in the United States and there
    is a daily influx of what my daughter likes to call “the Qur’an kids” to my
    mother’s house. Using the phonetic rather than the spelling technique she is
    able to accomplish awesome results.
    My three daughters are the pioneer graduates of their
    grandmother’s informal school, but none of them was as young as Nazia Bhatti
    when they finished the Qur’an.
    Nazia would come to drop her sister off to Mrs Islam’s
    house for Qur’an lessons and one day decided that she too would take lessons.
    She was the youngest in the kids that do, having started at age four-and-a-half.
    Though she subjected her three children to Maulvi Sahib, my mother is the
    epitome of affection and patience. Each child comes with his/her unique
    strengths and idiosyncrasies and she does such an awesome job that these kids
    run to hug her wherever they see her.
    Perhaps the language area of Nazia’s brain is now so
    attuned that she is able to read English, causing consternation amongst the
    parents of her kindergarten class, where the students can barely spell. At age
    five-and-a-half she is the youngest of Mrs Islam’s students to have finished the
    Qur’an. And as a matter of fact may well be quite the rarity even if she were
    living in Pakistan or India for the commoner age for Ameens there is seven or
    eight. And of that my brothers and I are testimony.
    Man being the social animal that he is there is always
    a number of parties at any given time. Just as South Asian Muslims have
    incorporated learning to read the Qur’an in their psyche so to speak, they must
    incorporate the celebration of a Bismillah and an Ameen in their repertoire of
    parties. Instead of aimless gossipy dinner parties it is so much more
    interesting to see the soccer ball sized ladoos, or a variation thereof, and a
    little person all dressed up and reading the Qur’an.
    In an Ameen any random page of the Qur’an is opened and
    without preparation the child reads which becomes an attestation that the child
    has truly finished the Qur’an. At the end of all Qur’ans is a dua for finishing
    the Qur’an, which is also read at these Ameens. Additionally the teacher or an
    Imam gives a short speech underscoring the miracle that the Qur’an is and the
    importance of learning to read it in Arabic.
    The natural course of events is that after the Qur’an
    is finished in Arabic the child starts classes in which the translation and
    commentary of the Qur’an are explained.
    The process that we begin at age four and usually
    complete at age seven, should continue in an upward gradation throughout our
    lives; reading in Arabic, understanding in our native tongue and then learning
    the Arabic of the Qur’an so that wherever one hears it, it is music to one’s
    ears, a symphony that one even understands! And God-willing on the Day of
    Judgment the Qur’an will not testify against us and say that we put it away in
    high-never-accessed shelves, inshaallah it will say that it was read, recited
    and understood.
    (Dr Mahjabeen Islam is president of the Islamic Center
    of Greater Toledo)

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    شروع اللہ کے نام سے ، جو بڑا مہربان اور نہایت رحم والا ھے

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