Deeper Than Any Translation: Reflecting on the Words of Allah in Tarawih

Link to all Ramadan 2010 posts

By Meena Malik

It was the first Ramadan that she felt like she was finally in a good place, a place that felt wholesome and clean.  It was the qiyam at the local masjid, the masjid that she recently discovered with her sisters…the place she wished had come into her life a few years earlier.

The qari sat there ready to fill the musallah with the Best Words, the Words of Allah.  He said he was reading Suratul Luqman, the chapter of the Holy Quran that tells the story of the wise man named Luqman.  She hurriedly fumbled in her bag for her tattered Quran and opened up to the surah, in order to read the translation of the verses he was reading.  It was really starting to get to her, she couldn’t bear the fact that she didn’t understand the Words of Allah when they were being recited.  It took the worst toll on her when she would stand in prayer during tarawih, the worst of the worst of it came when it was time for the du’a at the end of the prayer.  There were people weeping to her left and to her right, but all she could think was What is he saying?  What are we asking for from Allah?  When will I understand? The tears would start to come down her own face, maybe a great portion of it coming from the desperate anguish that she felt because she could not understand.  There was a barrier, a distance, a hollow gap, and it was filled with nothing.  She felt like a stranger to these Words.

So she sat there, as the qari’s voice swelled up, past the chandelier and into the dome soaring towards the heavens, and as it swooped back down into the deepest parts of the earth passing through the hearts of those listening.  The Words swerved left and right and filled all the empty space of the musallah.  It felt like the large room was her heart and that somewhere deep inside, there was a small place emitting a glowing light.  It felt like there was a small piece of flesh calling out to Allah, filling her whole empty heart with a warmth that stung in the most pleasant way.

As he came to verse 27, she read the meaning of those Words and broke apart.  It felt like her body melted and that she was reduced to a puddle, soaking in the turquoise and gold carpet.‎

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وَلَوْ أَنَّمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ مِن شَجَرَةٍ أَقْلَامٌ وَالْبَحْرُ يَمُدُّهُ مِن بَعْدِهِ سَبْعَةُ أَبْحُرٍ مَّا نَفِدَتْ كَلِمَاتُ اللَّهِ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَزِيزٌ حَكِيمٌ

If all the trees on earth were pens, and the ocean were ink…the writing of Allah’s Words (His signs and creations) would not be exhausted; surely, Allah is the Mighty, the Wise. [31:27]

Finally, there were words that really spoke to her.  She was overcome with a fuzzy feeling that rose up from the tips of her toes and made her head swim. This feeling was a familiar one.  She had felt it before whenever she was out in nature.   She realized then, sitting there in that musallah, that this was the feeling of knowing Allah and understanding His Words.  Even though she had neglected Him for all of those years and never really given a care about trying to please Him and live by His rules, she realized that He was always there, the whole time…trying to catch her attention.  It was as if she had been blind, enjoying what He had made for her, but never thanking Him for it.  All those times she stood out in the open and felt the wind whip her hair and the sun kiss her face, the times she would tilt her head back and watch the sun paint the clouds as it set, the times she would follow the birds as they flew through the sky, the times she felt the raindrops hit her as they pattered down from the darkened sky.  All of those times she enjoyed nature was described in the most perfect way-that this was a mark, an ayaa, of Allah, that these were the many marks of Allah.

As the last sounds of the surah faded from the musallah, she felt a dull heat settle inside of her.  Something was smoldering, not yet having caught flame.  Even though the Words had stopped vibrating from the walls, they stayed closed within her heart, not the Words themselves, but everything that they meant and everything that they stood for.  That feeling of finally understanding, truly understanding, what the Words of Allah really meant was one that she hadn’t felt before.  It was like an embrace, a feeling of encompassing comfort that she didn’t want to lose.

وَكَأَيِّن مِّنْ آيَةٍ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ يَمُرُّونَ عَلَيْهَا وَهُمْ عَنْهَا مُعْرِضُونَ

And how many Signs in the heavens and the earth do they pass by? Yet they turn (their faces) away from them! [12:105]

Allah has saturated every part of the world with His Signs so that we would acknowledge His Existence and send our thanks and glory to Him. Yet, sadly, some of us fail to see, truly see, Who is behind it all.

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7 responses to “Deeper Than Any Translation: Reflecting on the Words of Allah in Tarawih”

  1. Abu Ismail says:

    Nice and thanks for sharing. Just wanted to point out the arabic text posted from surah Luqman is not the same ayah that’s referred to in the article. Great piece though!

    • Meena says:


      Oh no! This is the correct text for the aya [31:27]. Jzk for looking out.

      وَلَوْ أَنَّمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ مِن شَجَرَةٍ أَقْلَامٌ وَالْبَحْرُ يَمُدُّهُ مِن بَعْدِهِ سَبْعَةُ أَبْحُرٍ مَّا نَفِدَتْ كَلِمَاتُ اللَّهِ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَزِيزٌ حَكِيمٌ

  2. Ify Okoye says:

    I’ve always been heartened by the reminders of the blessings and rewards for the one who struggles to read the Quran. There is no doubt a great deal of barakah in reading the Quran even if one does not understand the meanings but there is so much overwhelmingly joyous emotion and self-reflection that happens when we read or listen with understanding.

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  4. Alisha says:

    It’s a beautiful post…many times I had felt the same frustration in Haram, especially when most ppl start weeping, I feel like I am missing out. :-(

    • Meena says:

      jzk Alisha :)

      The frustration can be SO overwhelming at times. iA we can turn that frustration into motivation and commit to learning to understand the Quran, and may Allah guide us to the best methods and make it easy for us.

      I have made it a goal in between this Ramadan and next Ramadan to improve my comprehension of the Quran. We always talk about Ramadan goals, and it’s equally as important to set goals in preparation for next Ramadan!

      Even though the frustration can be so deep, it makes it that much more amazing when an ayaa or passage hits you so hard. May He reward us for our struggles and for our desperate want to understand His Words. May He open our hearts and minds to more and more of the Quran, and may He make it a way for us to come closer and closer to Him.


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