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My Journey of Memorizing the Qur’an in the United States | Part 1


It has been a few years now since I finished memorizing the Qur’ān, alhamdulillāh. I’ve wanted to share my experiences on completing it as a young person but had not been able to get the chance to sit down and write about it. Finally, I’ve taken advantage of a few moments of free time in which I have to put this journey of mine together.

In this series, I will discuss the facts and epiphanies I experienced while memorizing the Qur’ān, some of the fallacies which exist within the system, the types of students I met throughout my journey, and more. This series will be divided into several posts to come, inshā’Allāh.

The Beginning

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It was a bright Friday morning where-in I set out with my brother, a Muslim entertainer, and a few other people to Muslim Youth Day at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey. A planned day of fun and entertainment would somehow become my initial inspiration to go ahead and complete a goal which I did not know I had. While waiting in line to ride the newly-opened “Superman” rollercoaster, one of my brother’s friends initially ignited a desire within me to memorize the Qur’ān with a simple question, “Nihal, what do you want to do in your life? Where do you want to be?” I responded like any typical undecided thirteen-year-old would, and said, “I don’t know, maybe a chef?” He smiled and looked at me, “Have you thought about becoming a hāfidh?” I thought to myself, “Maybe that could work.” After pondering over it for a few days, I remember approaching my mother and telling her of what I wanted to do. She was on board and said she would help me reach this new objective I had outlined for myself.

A Litmus Test

After speaking to my mother, I went to my father and told him of my new conviction. From the beginning of eighth grade until the end of the school year, I tried convincing my father of the idea of letting me take off a few years of school to go memorize. It was not until the end of the school year that my father agreed to send me out of state, to board somewhere, and begin my memorization. When I finally started, I asked my father a question, “Dad, why did you take so long to make a decision?” His answer was, “I wanted to make sure this was a true conviction within yourself. I did not want to be held responsible in forcing you into memorizing the Qur’ān. That’s why I took a year to officially decide whether or not to send you away to accomplish this task. If it was something which was a fad which you were simply following, then the desire to do it would’ve gone away after a few months. But if it was something you really wanted to do, which is now apparent, then I knew you would come back to me over and over again about it. Hence, I waited.”

My First Day: Experiencing Contradictions

The path to knowledge is filled with thorns. I was about to feel those thorns. I was about to have my unreal perception of an Islamically-oriented school broken down. The utopia I imagined was not any different than how students are in any other environment. During a lunch break, I remember taking out my wallet to put something inside it, and one of the kids asked to see it. Being the naïve suburban Jersey boy I was, I said to him, “Sure.” After a minute or two the student gave it back to me, only for me to realize that the $10 I had in my wallet was gone. I asked the kid to return the money to me, but he repeatedly denied taking the money. This is when I began to get up to tell one of the teachers that this student had stolen my money and was lying about it in front of me! As I stood up, the kid looked at me and said, “If you want your money back, don’t say a word. Meet so-and-so at this place at this time after school.” Eager to get my money back, I went to meet with the student.  He returned the money to me and said, “You’re new. You should now understand how things work around here. Watch your back and your pockets.”

Here is where I was met with a series of contradictions. Though there were numerous students memorizing with me, not all of them came with the same purpose. Many were there because their parents had forced them to enroll after the students had established a bad track record in public school. They were expected to reform themselves during their stay at the madrasa. But what I noticed was that many – if not most students sent for that reason – would not change. Rather, they would end up corrupting the minds and time of students who were younger and/or came with a determined purpose. A few weeks later as I was passing through an area in the madrasa, I witnessed a few students selling drugs to each other. This is a small glimpse of the many interesting encounters which I will share with you all in the next few posts. Stay tuned, leave a comment, and share the post!


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Nihal Ahmad Khan is currently a student of Islamic Law and Theology at Nadwatul 'Ulama in Lucknow, India. He was born and raised in New Jersey and holds a bachelor's degree in Psychology and a minor in Business from Montclair State University and a diploma in Arabic from Bayyinah Institute's Dream Program. He began memorizing the Qur’an at Darul Uloom New York and finished at the age of seventeen at the Saut al-Furqan Academy in Teaneck, New Jersey. He went on to lead taraweeh every year since then. Along with his education, Nihal has worked in various capacities in the Muslim community as an assistant Imam, youth director, and a Muslim Chaplain at correctional facilities and social service organizations. Nihal is also an MA candidate in Islamic Studies from the Hartford Seminary in Connecticut.



  1. hamid y.

    June 10, 2012 at 2:05 AM

    Reading the comments about the events at the school where you had boarded to complete the memorization, it appears that place is just a microcosm of the larger
    American society. Glad you came out of it unscathed (mostly ;), walhamdulillah,

    JazakAllahu Khairan for sharing and looking forward to Part 2.
    Your friend from SoCal…

    • Nihal

      June 10, 2012 at 2:31 AM


  2. Maryam

    June 11, 2012 at 12:29 AM

    I can sense that the experiences you are about to relate sound like my experiences ..I can relate to this…
    I have a feeling I have been waiting for this kind of article all my life………..the confusion that how something “islamic”or “muslim” can be corrupt and non islamic like.
    Nihal could you please tell me how come non muslims are so succesful when it comes to balancing work and play? What we muslims would attribute as haram, how do they keep their focus work hard and play hard and attain earthly success,which as per Islam is not a bad thing.
    I ask you this because I feel you can answer this…

  3. ummbudimary

    June 11, 2012 at 5:51 AM

    Even though by having you wait it out , your true desire to want to memorize Quran got solidified and it was apparent to you and your dad that this is what you really wanted, i did want to note one point.

    I met a twenty five year old hafiza? of the Quran. She was really good mashallah. She was serving as a private tutor to students who wanted to memorize. She told me that her parents forced her to memorize Quran and she didnt like it at the time but now she is so happy they did.

    So had your dad even chosen to ‘ force’ you to memorize Quran, he would not necessarily have done any wrong cuz even if it was a phase , we should use opportunities where we are inspired to do good and not wait for ‘conviction’.

  4. ummbudimary

    June 11, 2012 at 5:52 AM

    May Allah preserve your sincerity. Ameen

  5. ummbudimary

    June 11, 2012 at 5:54 AM

    Just a point … Even if your dad had used your ‘temporary’ desire to send you off to memorize quran, that would have been totally ok and good cuz we are supposed to use opportunities when we are inspired to do good.

    One good deed can lead go another.

    But either way i can understand his stance well. It kind of caused you to solidify your stance probably.

    May Allah preserve you.

    • Nihal

      June 11, 2012 at 12:04 PM

      I actually disagree. My next few posts will outline how a lot of the messed up kids I was coming across were sent to the quran school by their parents. After becoming huffadh and becoming their parents’ trophies, they had no intention to solidify, review, or even learn the meanings of what they memorized.

      • imraan

        December 13, 2015 at 5:32 AM

        true true true true true

  6. Shafiq Mohammed

    June 11, 2012 at 1:33 PM

    Man I am hooked, looking forward to the next part inshaAllah. I remember going to a madrasa for a month in the summer a few years ago and met some really bad kids, which was very confusing and contradicting, but didn’t know it was so bad to the point of them selling drugs. Where is the madrasa you studied at?

  7. umms

    June 11, 2012 at 3:04 PM


    for some reason, too many parents think that the only solution for “corrupt” kids is to dump them into madrasas. making your child a hafiz or “alim” was never meant to be a cure for corruption. what those kids need is proper tarbiyah. unfortunately madrasas also do nothing to fight the common belief that they’re only for reform and accept these kids into these programs.

    we need an entirely separate curriculum and program for such kids (not one that just involves them memorizing… the qur’an or sarf/nahw tables or whatever), instead of letting them pollute the whole environment and give a bad name to everyone else in there.

  8. Nihal

    June 11, 2012 at 3:22 PM

    Just for the note, though I mentioned madrasahs, I am not singling them out in any way. This applies to an Islamically oriented school which has a full time hifdh program (which broadens the spectrum).

    • Huzaifah

      June 11, 2012 at 5:35 PM

      Did you go to a madrassah here in the U.S. or abroad to somewhere like south Africa?

      • Nihal

        June 11, 2012 at 10:26 PM

        USA…hence the title :)

  9. slave of Allah

    June 11, 2012 at 7:39 PM

    Cant wait for the next parts to come.

    • mozna mussa

      June 12, 2012 at 7:59 PM

      Same here it sounds like an interesting story!

  10. maz

    June 11, 2012 at 8:07 PM

    Heard similiar things about a full time hafidh boarding school nearby up here in Canada…and the family friend who sent the son there was for the same reason you mentioned… Because the children were getting corrupted in public school.

    A similar thing are the parents who take their teens and put them in Muslim schools thinking that the Muslim school will magically “fix” their child. However, these kids just end up being a bad influence on the muslim school children.

  11. zahra

    June 11, 2012 at 11:14 PM

    Im a Muslim living in Australia, and see that in the Islamic school i used to go. I feel that because they sense a feeling of restriction in what they are allowed to do,they try to break this barrier by doing anything haram, to sense a feeling of freedom and belonging to the society they live in

    • Aussie

      July 10, 2012 at 6:37 PM

      Are you talking about Aic?

  12. Muslimah

    June 11, 2012 at 11:38 PM

    Ahhh I totally understand your comments on madrassas. My sister went abroad to an all-girls madrassa in England when she was 14, but came back within a year because she couldn’t handle all the corruption and un-Islamic doings of the other girls. I was in public school that year and I believe that I was less exposed to a bad influence than she was! : Something unfortunate that needs to change, inshaAllah

  13. Osiris

    June 12, 2012 at 2:51 AM

    Forced to memorize the Quran?? I complain about no encouragment other kids complain about too much forceful memorizing. The best ingredient towards having a righteous child is to simply be righteous yourself. I say the apple does not fall too far from the tree. There are exceptions to that rule. To force a child to do something like that is a recipe for disaster.

  14. k$

    June 12, 2012 at 11:50 AM

    wow. subhanAllah. I wish I met you before you embarked on your quest to hifdh-dom, I would have joined you. Alhumdulillah ala kulli haal.

  15. Nada

    June 13, 2012 at 6:56 PM

    Looking forward to the next few posts!

  16. shiney

    June 14, 2012 at 4:36 PM

    Assalamu alaikum brother, Can you please specify which madrasa you went to? i was aware that madrasas (like all other schools) have bad students but drugs?? this is very shocking. i need to know what madrasa you are talking about because my family was considering sending my lil bro (who’s now 13) to a madrasa for hifdh. We were thinking about the one in Buffalo (i think its called Madinatul-‘Uloom).

    • Ali

      June 17, 2012 at 11:28 PM

      i went there…there are good and bad kids everywhere…yes drugs exist but if he’s a good kid then don’t worry (nothing appealing about drugs anyway)…but more importantly I would make sure if he goes he does not end up slacking off. I know some kids who’ve been there (4+ years) and they only know a handful of paras. THAT I think is a bigger issue.

  17. RESHMA

    June 14, 2012 at 10:12 PM

    As salaamu ‘alaykum

    I recently stumbled across Huda Academy, which is a project of Huda TV. Ma sha Allah, courses are given by highly qualified Islamic teachers and all lessons are professionally recorded in a television studio! You should really check this out.

    Here is the link for Arabic Studies offered at Huda Academy…

  18. Yusuf

    June 23, 2012 at 11:18 AM

    I’m from Bangladesh. My parents had a dream of having at least one kid who is a hafidh al Quran. So they sent the youngest to a madrassa. I won’t say much, but the madrassah environment is just shocking. worse than secular institutes. drugs is not a big issue, but sodomy is. Yes, you heard me right. its widespread. i have a cousin who used to be a teacher in one of the better known madrassas and who graduated from the madrassa system. so i got some insider information as well. it frightened me. After almost 4 years and after changing 4-5 madrassas, my kid brother is now a hafidh. but thats the only good part. we are now facing real problem in educating him. in fact he has learnt so many bad things that we are having real tough time in making him unlearn those. he has got real attitude problem, arrogance, showing off, disobeying parents and elders, spying on others… all learnt from the madrassas. I’m not exaggerating one bit, wallahi, it saddens me to write this. Why are our islamic education institutes run like this? Bangladesh and America: million miles apart, in all aspects; yet the madrasas are strangely similar. why? and why’s there not any unified international effort to change this?

  19. Hijjab

    June 28, 2012 at 3:43 AM

    It is fact that many of our Islamic
    madrassas are having very bad environment and educational system. which is so sad, but still there are few institution doing awesome jobs… Some even offer live quran and Hadith courses that is approachable and easy for all Muslims no matter where they are in world. So its better to do a research before sending your children to such places.

    • Nihal

      July 4, 2012 at 1:40 PM

      It’s not fair to say it’s the fault of the Quran school. They try their best, but environment can also play a big role.

  20. TukurBelloUmar

    June 29, 2012 at 1:05 PM

    I am from Nigeria and even though we hardly have what could be the conventional Madrassa as found elsewhere, the experiences are the same. Of course there are other negative factors to dissuade an aspiring student. Don’t get me wrong I am not a hafidth yet but I am aiming to become one before I die. May Allah help us all in our quest.

  21. mostdef

    June 30, 2012 at 8:45 AM

    The entire modern, “Islamic” educational system is a failure. One needs to only look at Madina University; the highlight institution for American Muslims who want to gain knowledge within the tradition. The fact that becoming a Shaykh has been reduced to merely a 4-year degree is testimony to the Ummah’s regression.

    • Nihal

      July 4, 2012 at 1:46 PM

      I respectfully disagree. There are premiere institutions in the USA such as the Institute of Knowledge in California which are properly executed tarbiyyah on their students.

      As for Madinah, I have friends who are studying there now, and they’ll testify that it’s not the most organized place where in you’ll be catered to for everything you need. At the end of the day, as the arabic saying goes: كما تزرع تحصد ie. you get out what you put in.

  22. Haajra

    July 5, 2012 at 12:51 PM

    Alhamdulillah, I’m just finishing my own memorisation today Inshallah. Please make dua it stays in my heart and I can solidify it and love it Inshallah. Jazakallah

  23. Yasmin

    July 7, 2012 at 2:58 AM

    When is the next part coming out? I really liked it Alhamdulillah

  24. tingbaa

    December 24, 2012 at 1:20 PM

    Very interesting article. Please post part 2 soon!

  25. Mudassarah

    December 22, 2013 at 4:47 PM

    ASA, Would you post the link to your other parts on this page as well? I cannot find them anywhere (if you have written any)..Please do write.

  26. islamstruepath

    July 25, 2014 at 4:03 PM

    Omg that’s insane! Kids actually do drugs in these places?! Aw man, I actually wanted to go here but now I’d rather not. :( Of course, I see that it’s not the madrasa’s fault but the kids are just bad.

    • amira

      October 10, 2014 at 4:54 PM

      Just because it is an islamic school dont think for a min saints will go there, muslim child are human also. anyway i am also in the process of memorizing quran.

  27. ummusalma

    January 12, 2016 at 2:00 AM

    assalamu alaikum.iam a nigerian i agree wit u but let not put the blame on the madaris as charity begins at home.and every where u can find good and bad people.

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