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

Link to all Ramadan 2011 posts

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.‎

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

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

  1. zb says:

    as-salaamu alaykum wa rahmatuLlahi wa barakaatuhu,
    my dear gentle sister meena,
    this read like a reflection of myself – jazakiAllahu khayran (:
    may women and girls all over the rising earth have sacred, soulful spaces to pray, to learn, and to know Allah swt, ameen.

    “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.”

    yes, exactly.

    • Hena Zuberi says:

      Asalamalaykum Welcome to Muslimmatters,
      Jazakillah Khair for appreciating the article. Just a friendly reminder-it is our policy to ask readers to use a name, kunyah or blogging nick when leaving comments. :)

  2. Ibn Nazim says:

    Mashallah!!! The was written so well!!! May Allah swt increase you in capturing meaningful moments like this which really capture us readers and not only motivate us but touch us so deeply.

    Wishing all the MuslimMatters readers a blessed Ramadan


  3. Omer Wali says:

    Tarawih is an excellent opportunity to hear the verbatim word of Allah swt recited. Allah azawajal is aware of the sacrifices we make refraining from food and standing for prayers even when our legs are sore. May Allah swt grant all of us his great reward in Jannah inshallah

  4. Aafreen says:

    As salaamu alaikum.. This is one of the most beautiful descriptions of insight i’ve come across mashaALLAH.. :) may Allah swt grant all the believers with the gift of understanding His Words..and open their hearts to His Signs.. Aameen

  5. Mashallah, this was a very well written post that carried a very meaningful message. The last part really got to me when the author mentioned the ayah of the Quran:

    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]

    After reading this I turned to my window and looked at the beautiful nature that was right before my eyes but I so often neglected. I just felt a sudden urge to do a sajdah to marvel at the beautiful creation of Allah (s.w.t.)

  6. Halima says:

    This is such a cool article. It’s true though. When you don’t understand what’s being said cuz you don’t know Arabic you’re in like a twilight zone::::::::: when it comes to taraweeh prayers and especially the dua in witr prayer…..

  7. Regular Baba says:


    Mashallah nice article, but I have heard that it’s better NOT to follow taraweeh while reading a translation, so that the actual Quran in arabic enters your heart. Comments?

    • Meena says:

      The title of the article is misleading. This whole thing happened at a Qiyam, when everyone was sitting down and the qari opened up the short speaking program with some recitation. So no one was praying and everyone was just listening.

      I also follow the opinion that say to not follow along with a mushaf/translation.

  8. shiney says:

    wow…this was really uplifting! It’s interesting to know that Surah Luqman holds a special place in others’ hearts too! I first learned the Surah with its meaning in high school with my awesome Qur’an teacher! She made everything so interesting and it was just amazingly beautiful! I think maybe that Surah is my favorite surah…the words spoke to me too (when I needed Allah to speak to me).

    • Meena says:

      i especially love the advice that he gives to his son. i first really got into the surah after this qiyam a few years back when i was reading Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet, in high school and i noticed the similarities between the advice that polonius gives to his son and the advice that Luqman gives to his son…pretty crazy stuff, subhanAllah!!!

  9. Meena says:

    AMEEN to all of the beautiful dua!! Alhamdulillah tarawih this year is going a lot better than last year after I’ve done just a little bit of Arabic study. And insha’Allah tarawih next year will be a totally different story :)

    I pray that Allah opens up our hearts to His Book. :)

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