In the Muslim world, memorizing the Quran is a big deal, as it should be. A good Muslim should know the Quran; a great Muslim commits it to memory. But are we good or great?
During the time of the Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم), some argue that memorizing the Quran was more difficult to acquire in terms of access. Today, it is considered much more accessible, especially for those of us in developed countries. With the advancement of Muslim websites and online resources, reading the Quran has become an on-the-go activity in our Modern World. But if we take it into serious consideration, questions arise about knowledge of the Quran. Like:
- Does the action of memorizing the Quran without knowing Arabic qualify as knowing the Quran?
- Does memorizing the English version of the Quran qualify as memorizing it?
- Is it really more accessible to all Muslims, more than it was before?
IS MEMORIZING KNOWING?
The great majority of Muslims are taught that the Quran is in Arabic. This is true: the Quran as it was revealed in Arabic, should be memorized in Arabic, and taught in Arabic. After all, the idea behind this is to ensure the miracle of the Quran, in that it has never been, and never will be changed.
Today, the words in the Holy Book are as they were first revealed over 1,437 years ago. Nonetheless, most Muslims today have to understand that memorizing the Quran by committing the Arabic words to memory does not meet the purpose of knowing the Quran:
- To read, one has to understand the text, and in essence, know the language. Reading means knowing how to sound out the letters, being able to connect sounds and make sense of those sounds.
- Thus, to know is to read, remembering, and understand by re-reading the Quran.
THINK IT’S MORE ACCESSIBLE? THINK AGAIN.
In terms of accessibility, memorization before industrialization and the dawn of technology, Muslims of all classes were able to go to the masjid and learn the Quran. With the spread of Islam came the spread of Arabic, the language of the new super-power. The spread of the language allowed individuals of the time who wanted to learn the Quran to do so by understanding it. This is similar to the way English and French spread after World War II. By colonizing and extending their reach, each power went as far as banning the colonized peoples’ native languages in favor of the reigning powers’.
Regardless of their parents’ heritage and language, children born in the United States, for instance, are English natives. Thus, their language of understanding and acquiring knowledge will be in English rather than, oh, say: Arabic. Yet, children are expected to memorize the Arabic version of the Quran. The point in all of this? Our children are raised without understanding what was meant as a guide to life. They are expected to know it, while not knowing it at all.
Now that we’ve addressed the problem, what is the solution? Simple. It appears that Muslims ought to be taught in the language they
understand. If it is English, teach the Quran in English, and memorize the Arabic, but most important of all, retain the meaning and the knowledge caught between languages.
What’s your take on the issue?