Becoming One of Allah's Special People
Maryam Amir Ebrahimi
I was not a conscientious Muslim. As I entered my freshman year of high
school, I had one very specific goal which I was determined to accomplish: to
become popular. "Piety" was not consistent with this goal - at least not in my
It was for this reason that I expressed disdain when my dad announced we would
be undertaking the religious journey to Mecca in the summer following my
freshman year of high school.
I recall telling a friend, "Man, I'm scared. I don't want to change!" I knew
people went to Mecca and then became super religious. I didn't want that to
happen to me.
As we entered the Grand Mosque, my dad told my mom, my brother, and me to keep
our eyes down until we reached the opening of the Masjid, until we were in a
space which would allow for our first glimpse of the House of Allah , the
Ka'ba, to be in our full view.
As we walked through the halls of the Grand Mosque, I heard my mom and dad
crying. I knew this was supposed to be a spiritual experience. I could see
that they were going through something incredible, but I felt nothing.
I felt absolutely nothing. Finally, we approached steps which led to a great
opening. At this point, my dad instructed, "Look up." ALLAH! In that moment,
my vision was suddenly filled with the beloved Ka'ba. As if awakened from the
dead, as if beating for the first time, my heart was immediately gripped
It suddenly filled with this unexplainable, fully tangible presence of the
Creator of the Universe. I began to bawl; I was struck with the realization
that this feeling, this closeness to God, could only happen because He truly
I began to regret all I had done and all the time I had wasted; I began
circumambulating the Ka`bah, weeping, begging Allah (exalted is He) to forgive
When we returned to America, I had difficulty
maintaining my spiritual awakening. I decided that I would begin to read the
I reasoned that I could watch hours of television a day and so, at the very
least, I had an obligation to read at least five pages a day. I hadn't touched
the Qur'an in years.
I'm not Arab, I was not raised knowing Arabic; I had just learnt how to read
the letters when joined together when I was really young, like many Muslim
I hadn't practiced reading Arabic in so many years that I was painfully slow
at it; reading five pages easily turned into an hour ordeal, if not longer. I
didn't understand anything I read, but I kept trying.
One day, my mom passed by my room and suggested, "Maryam, why don't you read
it in English? At least then you'll understand what you're reading." To me,
this was a lucrative suggestion; I was a really fast reader in English.
If I read half the page in English and half of it in Arabic, it'd take much
less time to get through five pages a day. I began and I transformed. Reading
the Qur'an in English and being able to come to an understanding of what its
message conveyed captivated me.
I began to change internally and it slowly took hold of my external being; my
thoughts, my intentions, my actions... I slowly began to internalize a
conscientiousness that revolutionized my life.
I was mesmerized by the Qur'an and it was then that I decided I would
undertake memorizing it. It took me over seven years to memorize the Qur'an.
In the time span that I spent memorizing, I had other responsibilities
I was either studying or working full time (or a combination of both), I was
the president or lead figure of an organization or community work, and I had
The only time I was able to focus almost completely on the Qur'an was when I
moved to Egypt for eleven months, in which I dedicated about two hours a day
to memorization while I also studied Arabic and did Arabic homework for about
seven hours of the day.
However, the majority of the memorization occurred in America, amidst a crazy
schedule. I memorized while I had to take care of life responsibilities; you,
too, can memorize while taking care of business.
10 Tips for Serious Seekers of the Qur'an
1- Realize the Reason, Know Allah is Your Guide
- Why memorize the Qur'an? Because it will give you a constant, incredible,
and personally special relationship with The Creator, with The Sustainer, with
The One Who has power over all things.
- You want the best of both worlds? It's through the Qur'an. It's through
memorizing, understanding, loving and most importantly, living it.
- When one is sincere about memorizing it, one needs to be completely aware of
the heavy responsibility and glorified honor of living as Allah's servant and
carrying His words in their hearts. This must translate into their actions.
The key: Sincerity.
Make the Intention to Invest in Your Akhira (Hereafter)
The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) taught us, 'The Qur'an
will meet its companion on the Day of Resurrection when his grave is opened
for him, in the form of a pale man.
It will say to him, 'Do you recognize me?' He will say: 'I do not recognize
you.' It will say: 'I am your companion the Qur'an, who kept you thirsty on
hot days and kept you awake at night.
Every merchant benefits from his business and today you will benefit from your
good deeds.' He will be given dominion in his right hand and eternity in his
left, and there will be placed on his head a crown of dignity, and his parents
will be clothed with priceless garments the like of which have never been seen
in this world.
They will say: 'Why have we been clothed with this?' It will be said: 'Because
your son used to recite Qur'an.' Then it will be said to him: 'Recite and
ascend in the degrees of Paradise,' and he will continue to ascend so long as
he recites, either at a fast pace or a slow pace.' (Ahmad and Ibn Majah)
2- Know that Allah is with You
- Allah Most High says in a Hadith Qudsi (record containing the words of God),
"When my servant takes one step towards Me, I take ten steps towards him. When
my servant comes walking towards me, I come running towards him."
Recognize that you are not alone; that it is the One Who revealed these words
Who will help you learn and retain them. The struggle must begin with the
servant, but the Lord is the One Who will continually open the way and aid you
through the struggle.
- When it's Hard, There is Twice the Reward
- Wait, what? You don't understand Arabic? Wait, what? You aren't Arab? Wait,
you're Arab, but your tajweed (rules of recitation/pronunciation) is really
For you, the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) has shared
words of encouragement, "Such a person who recites the Qur'an and masters it
by heart, will be with the noble righteous scribes (in Heaven).
And such a person exerts himself to learn the Qur'an by heart, and recites it
with great difficulty, will have a double reward," (Muslim).
3- Start Correctly and Use Technology
- Find a Teacher or Qur'an Buddy, Learn tajweed and Work Consistently
- When I first decided I would commit to memorizing, I found a teacher and
told her I was ready.
But I had never studied tajweed and my recitation was completely incorrect!
She asked me, "Do you want to memorize, or do you want to memorize correctly?
There is no point in memorizing it wrong and then having to go back and do it
all over again."
- The most difficult test I came across with memorizing the Qur'an was not
being able to find a consistent teacher. This sometimes led to many months of
not memorizing anything and only working on review.
When I didn't find a teacher, I turned to friends who could help me with my
tajweed and we became Qur'an buddies.
On campus, over the phone, in cars in random parking lots, in-between running
from one meeting to another, we would recite to one another and we would keep
each other in check until we were able to find teachers. A teacher (or if you
can't find one, a Qur'an buddy) is CRITICAL to progress with the Qur'an.