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Why I Let My Child Quit The Quran




By Hooyo Said (a pseudonym)

I write this on the evening that I told my daughter’s Qur’an teacher that I wanted my child to quit memorising the Qur’an. That’s right, quit.

Who am I? A highly experienced educator mother who’s taught children in Pupil Referral Units, mentored Muslim youth and consoled and advised parents about the ‘plight’ of their troublesome teenagers. Dealing with the challenging behaviour of ‘problem’ pupils has always been intuitive to me. I enjoy the mental gymnastics involved in getting the best out the toughest kids. My husband is a polymath, a multidisciplinary creative and dynamic educator who also happens to be studying for his PhD. So how then have we managed to mould a child who dislikes memorising Qur’an?

Our home is a loving environment rich in Qur’anic recitation and exegesis. Whilst my daughter was invitro, her father and I would affectionately recite the Qur’an aloud. As a baby, we’d engage her active listening skills by playing short surahs in the car and at home, reciting along so that Allah’s book became less background noise, more immersive audio experience. We’d recite in bed whilst having a cuddle under the duvet. Or pitch a makeshift tent in the living room reciting Qur’an and sharing Islamic stories illuminated by strobe light (a torch) and cinematic sound effects! By the age of two and a half, and without any formal teaching, my daughter knew many short surahs and would eagerly “sing” the Qur’an. At that point, her Qur’anic journey has been entirely organic; absorption by osmosis.

If our daughter’s induction into Qur’anic memorisation had started so well then why would we let her quit? I’m too Tiger Mother, too Dweckian to allow that to happen to my children. My husband and I share an outlook found amongst many Chinese communities in that success (in any domain) is inextricably linked to work ethic before talent (although talent certainly helps). Moreover, we believe in the value of loving to learn as an end itself. So then, how do I reconcile my daughter ‘quitting’ whilst not becoming a ‘quitter?’ Easily. My role as a parent (in my estimation) is to nurture the best out of my children, cultivating their strengths and addressing areas to improve. My husband and I do so by inculcating a reflective/reflexive methodology in our children; we learn from our inevitable faux pas! And this is where my daughter trips up. My girl is a six-year-old going on sixteen: driven yet doting (to her baby brother); creative yet competitive; sensible but sensitive. Hyper sensitive in fact; a highly volatile package!

With such an explosive combination of characteristics, I was cognizant that the Madrasah would be the wrong place for my daughter to learn the Qur’an. Distracted Ustadhs fiddling with phones, reading newspapers or even dozing off; even more distracted children, off-task with their studies, talking amongst themselves and seeking elopement from the “learning” environment at the first opportunity by taking prolonged trips to the toilet. My husband and I knew we could only entrust our child’s Qur’anic journey with the right teacher. Alhamdulilah, after much dua we found just the person. A young sister whose first language was Arabic and had teaching experience in state and faith settings at home and abroad. So we had a great teacher and a child with good tarbiyah a great success story right? Wrong!

My daughter’s first official Quran lesson began well. She was excited, engaged and eager to flaunt her skills of recitation to impress her new teacher. However, as the weeks progressed, she grew more and more frustrated with her errors in memorisation and pronunciation. Time after time my daughter would stumble and trip over the same ayah, not a story to dissimilar to most other children one imagines. I made it clear to my daughter that learning the Qur’an can be a challenge and that experiencing difficulties during the process was okay, in fact Allah would be even more proud of her effort! Nevertheless, I could see that my six year old wasn’t responding to the teaching methods employed by her Ustadah so like any good practitioners, my husband and I ran an “audit.” We switched things up.


We gave the Qur’an teacher creative license to do whatever it took to engage our daughter. Some weeks that entailed warming up with a chat, other weeks playing with blocks of lego or drawing in her beloved sketchpad, all of this without even touching the mushaf. But my daughter was still stuck, trapped in a place where emotions consumed her. Fiercely competitive yet angry at not “winning,” our little competitor couldn’t overcome her frustrations. Talking or laughing about it didn’t help either. It only edified the emotional and psychological deadlock. So in my Amy Chua “manhaj,” I dug my heels in. Mademoiselle dug them in even further. Worst of all, it became disconcertingly apparent that my daughter’s heart was no longer invested in learning the Book of Allah. In one lesson, she became so incensed that she flung the Qur’an across the room and stormed off! Calm and collected, I didn’t react. I simply wrote my baby girl a note. It read: “When you’re ready to talk, I’m ready to listen. Love Hooyo.” I later find an apology letter she had penned to Allah hidden beneath her story books.

In spite of all the ire and resistance, my daughter had made some progress, but in the process I was losing her; the child whose eyes lit up when we spoke of Allah were now stony cold. The child who would happily “sing” the Qur’an would rather remain mute. I couldn’t shake that image from my mind. I -the self-proclaimed “expert” – had unwittingly excised the love of learning the Uncreated Speech of Allah from her heart. That’s when my husband and I decided our daughter was going to take a hiatus from Qur’anic memorisation – for the time being. Instead, we’ll continue to live and enjoy a halal lifestyle rooted in Islamic identity, aesthetics and ethics with the Qur’an a constant presence, albeit in the background. And, as adoring parents, we’ll continue to support our daughter’s development in “antifragility” (to quote Nasim Nicholas Taleb) so that we may return to learning the Qur’an when she’s emotionally ready for the rigors of recitation and memorisation.

Ultimately, my daughter knows learning to read the Qur’an just like praying salah is non-negotiable but as a ‘stakeholder’ in her spiritual development she will have considerable input in how Quran is officially reintroduced. As emotionally intelligent educators responsive to our pupil’s needs, my husband and I have decided to address the root cause of our daughter’s ‘insurrection’ rather than resorting to extrinsic motivators – be they sugary snacks, sticker charts, high-fives and/or sycophancy – to instill (begrudging) obedience. By allowing our daughter to quit the Qur’an, a bold and somewhat unconventional move for a practising Muslim family, we have emotionally accepted that the process of memorisation will be interrupted in the short-term.

However, looking forward to the future, we hope and pray that our daughter’s relationship with the Qur’an will be edified, enriched and ultimately enduring. Moreover, it is even more paramount that we address her “combustible cocktail” of character traits, as our cold world does not care about her sweet sensibilities. I’m already planning and engineering scenarios where my daughter has to deal with loss and defeat so that she may learn to become more robust and resilient. My baby girl is a work in progress – aren’t we all? With diligence, determination and dua I’m confident my daughter will emerge from her chrysalis and blossom just like Austin’s Butterfly.



























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    February 4, 2016 at 2:45 AM

    Hoooooyoo. Mahad sanid.

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    February 4, 2016 at 2:49 AM

    I too went through this struggle when I was young, 60 years ago. My Quran teacher had pronounced I will never be able to learn Quran. Today, I teach Islamic Studies at a major university. In light my childhood experience, I had decided that my children would learn Quran recitation during summer breaks only when not preoccupied with other school work. This way, they would be able to learn intensively and also quickly. And they did well.

    I agree there is a need to change the method too. Unfortunately, the traditionally trained teachers while apt as using all electronic gadgets still use the outdated method when it comes to teaching Quran and they also repeat outdated irrational comments on the meaning of the Quranic verses, which makes today’s well informed children confused.

    It is best to teach it yourself creatively or seek teachers familiar with new methods and are creative too.

    Best wishes.

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    February 4, 2016 at 10:07 AM

    Hi, “in vitro” is Latin for “in glass” and refers only to a child conceived outside the womb with “in vitro fertilization”. The embryo only stays in the glass or other laboratory equipment for a few days at most, so I don’t think that’s what you meant to say.

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    Norma Tarazi

    February 4, 2016 at 11:30 AM

    Children develop at different rates. Remember that some start walking at 9 months and some at 18 months. Some normal kids don’t develop their brains for reading until later childhood, while others start reading at 4. Memorization is a skill some develop earlier than others. Some memorize easily and some have great difficulty. I know an imam who is very highly educated but he has always struggled with Quran memorization. He has many gifts and an excellent memory, but rote memorization is very difficult for him. He needs context and meaning for memory storage apparently. Isolated facts don’t stick with him. I’m glad you stopped the struggle for your child. She will pick up enough for salah and if she can read Arabic script, she will memorize what she can when she can later. Allah gives each of us different gifts and different struggles.

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    February 4, 2016 at 12:57 PM

    The title of your piece itself is a scary. Since when we allowed our children decide what is good or bad for them. A practical example, our children will never accept injecting needle in their body if they are given the option to decide. Yet, we force them taking soar medicines antibiotics and painful procedures for a reason.

    Memorizing Quran has a lot benefits and highly encouraged in our religion.

    It is understandable if you have concerns about teachers in your daughter’s Madrasa and their method of teaching. But by saying “she will have considerable input in how Qur’an is officially reintroduced” is beyond comprehension. I strongly believe taking children the Madrasa and attending Quranic sessions weights more by quitting from the Madrasa.

    I can’t agree you more it is time to review and make changes to the traditional method of teaching Quran to our children by incorporating new methods of teaching. But quitting and giving children choices is not an option.

    As a parent we are accountable in front of Allah, teaching our children their religion and Islamic values.

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      February 4, 2016 at 2:05 PM

      “But quitting and giving children choices is not an option.” Why not?

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        February 4, 2016 at 3:35 PM

        Let me clarify what I mean by that. Giving choices and options depends on the age of the child and the nature of the item in question. It is solely the primary responsibility of the parents to decide certain things like treatment options, early education and guidance. There are certain things that children can be left to make their own choices like what kind of game they like playing or which park they like to visit.

        Even if the children are gaining nothing from Madrasa, children will benefit by attending Madrasa environment. They will meet other Muslim children, possibly from different ethnic groups who are there for the same reason. It is an issue of identity and being a member of your own group.

        On the other hand, the monthly fee paid by the parents support the very existence of such Madrasa. When you pull out your child from Madrasa, your contributions is missing. When the number of parents who pull out their children increases, it will eventually lead closing the Madrasa.

        If there are concerns or issues to address about Madrasas, I would suggest parents to be active and involve the admin of the Madrasa.

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        October 12, 2016 at 11:30 AM

        I don’t see why quitting isn’t an option. Love for the Quran is far more important than memorizing it. If memorizing is difficult or frustrating for the child then he/she will associate the Quran with it. I had a slightly similar problem with my children too. It doesn’t hurt to talk to them about it and see how it can work for them. There are opportunities to push and points where pushing isn’t right.

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      Mahamoud Haji

      February 5, 2016 at 3:05 AM

      I agree the title is scary. shouldnt it have been “Why I Let My Child Temporarily Quit The Quran”? Yes, it is tactical withdrawal until an ambient environment exists to nurture the learning and understanding the Holy Qur’an. Although the content of the article explains furthern the ‘quiting’, remember as Muslims we need to communicate effectively at the earliest opportunity to avoid double guessing and misleading headlines.

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      Muhammed Salih

      May 21, 2016 at 11:03 AM

      You did the right thing, I dont get it when people say memorizing Qur-an is encouraged. (hoping for replies), I know learning Qur-an is better for us and reading it without knowing the meaning is discouraged. should we distress kids with Tajweed before they gets the meanings (and thereby deny their chance to be inspired). shouldn’t we rather ensure their faith first and put into kids interests to learn Arabic with regard to faith instead of outright tutions (and even worse, tution on Tajweed before Arabic). We live in an age were kids dont lack sources to learn but lack interests, wouldn’t they do better with enough interest, sense of need and a knowledgeble facilitator.

      In this case, she already had interest and might even have started learning to learn on her own, but some Tajweed issues sticked on to her.

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        Alaza Aj

        October 23, 2016 at 9:57 AM

        Masha’ Allah! Whichever way it is done, it is important to get our children to learn to read The Holy Quraan. More importantly, as you mention, is that they should be aware of the meaning of the verses of The Holy Quraan. This is the stepping stone that is needed to move them to the ultimate step and for which The Holy Quraan is meant for : using The Holy Quraan as a guide in life.
        In the end, I believe whatever efforts we expend on our children, they should be having this as end goal or outcome.


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    February 4, 2016 at 2:33 PM

    I do not understand this kind of emphasis that people have on memorizing the Quran. It does not seem to me that the first generations emphasized it in the same way as Muslims do today. They seem to have enphasized different things than we do today.

    It is dangerous to conflate parental ego “my kid is a conpetitive champ” with their iman which is tender and fragile.

    I would rather have a kid who only knows the first and last three surahs by heart but he loves Allah and His Messenger and fears Allah and the Akhirah and weeps whenever it is recited and is eager to pray and enter the masjid.

    Of course being an excellent memorizer and having those attributes are not mutually exclusive.

    But if putting my kid in a competition will distract him even for a moment from the terror of the akhirah, even for a moment from the love of Allah and His Messenger, even for a moment takes his niyyah from the moment he stands face to face before Allah subhana wa ta’ala then I can’t imagine not taking him out.

    In fact, I cannot see competitions doing anything except that except for a few kids and there is no way I am willing to take that risk.

    I think you did the right thing and I hope she’ll turn to a better way and insha Allah her dunya competition(and despite its “Islamic” veil is truly just that) is replaced with a competition for the akhirah. Insha Allah she will return to the way she was and better.

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      February 6, 2016 at 9:05 AM

      I think it was a wise decision. We push things onto our children which they may not be ready for. Memorising the whole Qur’an is an amazing feat, but not whete anyone esp a child loses the love for it. Adam yes we are accountable in teaching our children however Allah (swt) is most merciful and highly likely understands difficulties faced. The more important point is the child is able to learn when she feels she is ready and does it with love & dedication. There is no point otherwise. Forcing a child is negative and that is not Islam. Ensuring the basics are instilled, the rest will come as she gets older and has a better understanding of why we undertake certain tasks etc.

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        February 9, 2016 at 11:57 AM

        I believe not all parents had entered their kids for quran memorisation class jusy so they can win some competitions. I would let my kids enter quran class for the sake of gaining reward from Allah as the one who is hafiz can help their parents in the akhirah.also, memorisation can help one’ s brain become a lot smarter.

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      Amina Ali Abdi

      April 17, 2016 at 4:27 PM

      Well said .kids have different levels of understanding .I have a 8 year old who finds it so hard to memorise let alone read. I will let her take her time inshAllah she will get there

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    February 4, 2016 at 4:31 PM

    Loved this article. I also pulled my children out of the traditional “madrasah” environment: it was killing their spirits as Muslims, their love and enthusiasm for the Deen. Why did I feel like I had to undo damage from a place that was supposed to be benefitting them? The madrasah outlook is stale and backwards in not all but many places.

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    February 4, 2016 at 5:59 PM

    Seems to me that not learning the Surahs in correct pronunciation later created frustration for the little girl. This is true for anyone, especially for non-Arabic speakers.

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    February 4, 2016 at 10:07 PM

    I feel the title should be changed. Muslims never quit the Qur’an. It is our oxygen, and we can’t survive without it. I think you should reconsider.

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      February 6, 2016 at 9:10 AM

      The title isn’t such a big deal. It’s the issue which has been written about. It seems the most important point is forgotten but a minor issue such as the title is heightened. You are right the Quran is our life but not where one is brought to the point where they don’t have it as a part of their lives due to having being forced or reprimanded constantly for not reading correctly. It is a hard task and very very difficult for some. As long as we incorporate the Quran into our daily lives, memorisation is secondary.

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    mohamed Ibrahim

    February 5, 2016 at 6:18 AM

    Although the title is bit mismatching with the content of the article yet your communication is clear. Memerization the holy Quran is not among the fundemental principles of Islam and to my believe the Muslim parents should not of worry their children not memorizing the entire Quran but rather dispose enormous effort on how the children would of good practising Muslims which is very difficult on these days and especially raising Muslim family is a test. May Allah make her those who understand and practise the Quran and Sunnah. Abti soo barbaar.

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    umm moussa

    February 5, 2016 at 12:25 PM

    Assalam Aleykum , As a parent , I have no doubt you know your child better . I am just throwing some more ideas to think about .Have you considered if she has any form of learning difficulties ? my child has it but he compensates very well with everything english so no one understood his problem until his difficuties becomes prominent during learning Quran & Arabic ( we are non arabic). So he literally ran off where Quran .Adhan ,anything arabic was being played ( Some suggested otherwise !!) .
    However priority in our deen is never as much to memorize but to Understand & Apply Quran in our life . When she is in Love with Quran , she would want to memorize it inshallah .
    But I do not recommend , Quitting quran altogather . As Quran is a healing for us . as per our scholars ,
    ” If you want to rectify your heart, or want to see a change for better , in your child or companion—or whoever it is for that matter, then direct them to places where the Qurʾān is recited and direct them to be in the company of the Qurʾān. Allāh will then cause them to become better, whether they are willing to it or not”
    — Imām ash-Shāfiʿī, in: ḥilyat al-awliyāʾ 9/123.

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    February 5, 2016 at 9:37 PM

    Dear sister, most of the comments do not appear to touch the crux of the problem. As we all know, there are more Muslims who are non-Arabic speakers and yet we recite the Quran daily in a parrot like fashion. We do not try to understand and ponder upon its meaning. I have only just started to understand now (I am 57 years old), yet I learnt to read and recite when I was very young. I began to read the meanings and tafseer in English but that wasn’t enough. Then a friend introduced me to Quranic Arabic learning a few years ago. Now, although I am not a fluent Arabic speaker, I read the Quran and Surahs and understand (maybe not fully) what Allah is saying, and because I understand the meaning I want to read more, again and again. Each time I read a particular section, I understand more and more. Perhaps this is what is missing in most of our lives and we should strive to understand and ponder upon the message that Allah is giving us.

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      February 9, 2016 at 2:59 AM

      Masha’Allah … May Allah(swt) make it easy for you …. What ‘Qur’anic Arabic’ course did you participate in ?
      JazakAllah khairan.

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    February 6, 2016 at 6:01 AM

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    February 16, 2016 at 10:41 AM

    I think this is a good decision as long as Quran is reintroduced. Forcing her to learn when it’s clearly hurting her is only going to make her hate the Quran and by extension Islam as well. From what has been written in the article, I gather that the child will only be giving up memorising and not listening to the Quran.

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    February 19, 2016 at 5:53 PM

    Assalaam aleikum. May Allah Azza wa Jall reward you all, and especially sr Hooyo who put this issue in the open. I fully understand your decision, but yet again; your daughter seem to be so very young. Yes of course it is the best age to develop an excelent memorization skill, though every child is different, as sr, Norma Tarazi mentioned. By the way, I like to take the opportunity to thank sr Tarazi so much for her book “the child in islam”. It has truly been a mentor for me. Jazakamullahu khairan. I only like to comment on this to share my own experience. Yes, absolutely its important to learn our children to memorize al Quran al Kareem, but sadly I have to say that it havent worked so well with my children when it comes to hafizh. First of all, arabic is not my language, not even english. Their fathers mother- tongue is arabic, but the way he started to them suras was with anger, pressure, insult and harshness. He wouldnt let them go to any madrasa, because according to him none was good enough. We live in a non muslim country, so the madrasas was put up by local mosques with different nationalities. I was scared that my children would end up hating to learn quran, so little by little I tried to learn them arabic letters and script and to read arabic from the little I new, and go for small suras for memorisation to at least to be used in salaat. Most of the time we did this when the father was not home, otherwise they woldnt dare to recite anything loudly with what was doomed to be with mistake. My biggest concern was that they could develop a steadfast islamic identity, to have a personal relationship with Allah, and to reflect over verses from the Quran in our own language. When we went to learn a sura, short once, I made sure they also understood the meaning of it as well. Stories from Quran, from seerat, from prophets and ahadith, became more in focus than memorizing. Yes, I have to admit that I felt some envy on sisters I met who could tell how much their children had memorised from the quran, how much they learned from the madrasas and so on. But again, I could only make my dua towards the Almighty that my children would be steadfast in their deen, and alhamdulilleh now when they are big I feel my duaas answered. Because growing up in a non Muslim country is not taken for granted that a child would never be affected from the society around. Sadly, I’ve also seen children I new from they where very young, who memorized big part from Quran, have fallen far away from the religion and its practise. Others again, have gone to the very extreme; hating everything and everybody who’s not muslim! So there is a challenge in keeping a balance, no matter where we live; in a muslim or non muslim country/enviroment.

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    Umm hadi

    February 21, 2016 at 12:27 PM

    Asalam a laikum,
    May Allah protect us all and make our children the coolness of our eyes.

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    Masjid Al Aqsa

    April 7, 2016 at 1:07 PM

    I agree there is a need to change the method too. Unfortunately, the traditionally trained teachers while apt as using all electronic gadgets still use the outdated method when it comes to teaching Quran and they also repeat outdated irrational comments on the meaning of the Quranic verses, which makes today’s well informed children confused.

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    July 30, 2016 at 7:57 AM

    My mother forces me memorize the Quran and I dont know what to do. The more she forces me I can see the more I lose love for the Quran and deen. For example, when I was not forced to memorize, I would read Quran aloud and read Quran on my free time and I would also go to the masjid frequently. But when my mother started forcing me to memorize, I started to not read Quran on my free time and I would not like going to the masjid and I am slowly losing more and more love for Islam and the Quran. I dont want to lose the love for Islam and I dont know what to do.

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    October 16, 2016 at 8:31 AM

    What if the title of this article was something like, “Why I let my child quit school” … Would the responses be the same? Would everybody take it positively? Would everybody support?

    The answer is a big fat NO.

    Look around, and you’ll find that many, many, many children are regularly forced to go to school and get “worldly” education just so that they can grow up and make money and have a better, more luxurious lifestyle. Children are regularly forced to compete with other children in subjects such as science (with evolution being taught in many schools) and history (most of it being about non-Muslims). Children are regularly forced to get higher grades and excel in their studies so that the parents can feel “proud” in front of others and show-off.

    When a Muslim makes their children work hard, give up on sleep and even miss obligatory prayers for the sake of school and worldly education, nobody bats an eye. But when a Muslim makes their child to memorize the Holy Quran and live their life strictly according to the Sunnah, everybody loses their mind.

    This just goes on to show that DUNIYA is the top priority and is the BELOVED of the majority of people in today’s world. When the AAKHIRATH should be the top priority and REMEMBRANCE/WORSHIP OF ALLAH should be their main aim. And the sad part is that most Muslims doing this will never realize it and admit the reality.

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    November 12, 2016 at 7:47 AM

    Nice Article!! Everybody should also visit the link for complete online Quran Tilawat with Translation

  21. Avatar

    Gabe Dertz

    November 12, 2016 at 6:47 PM

    Forcing children to learn the qu’ran is child abuse and you should be ashamed of yourself.

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    March 18, 2017 at 8:10 PM

    I stopped going to Madrassah at around 15 years old. It was my decision and my parents fully supported me. I was half way through the Qur’an but the envioronemnt was killing my spirit and I was losing my Deen. I didn’t know the meaning of the words I was reading and at my Madrassah, they didn’t tell you the meaning. They put emphasis on just memorizing it. How can I learn something without knowing what it meant? Even when I read the translation, there isn’t enough time to truly understand the meaning and let it resonate within you whilst trying to memorize pages. I needed to find my passion and love for becoming a Hafiz again. I continued to read the Qur’an myself in my free time and was very strong and outspoken in my Deen. Here I am at 18 and I am back to where I was in the Qur’an and will soon finish memorizing it. I have and always will have a strong relationship with Allah. I am older than her but I agree that you should give your daughter time. If you continue to raise her in an Islamic household she will find her way back. I am lucky my parents are very Islamic and accepting. They knew I wasn’t lost in my Deen but I just couldn’t find my footing at a Madrassah.

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      March 18, 2017 at 8:13 PM

      I would just like to add that you shouldn’t let her ‘quit’ the Qur’an. Let her read it when she wants. Let her open up pages and read where she wants. Don’t pressure her. She’s young, let her understand what it is before you make her learn it. When she understands, she will come back to learning.

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    August 25, 2018 at 7:51 AM

    Assalamu Alikum Warahmathullahi Wabarakathuh,
    To the Author,
    I can relate with what you have gone through. Initially, I was impatient with my daughter when she started around same age. It was so slow. It took years. Felt like dream will never come through. But Alhamdulillah, after some 6 years, she has memorized completely and with advanced level of Thajweed. Now working on Ijaza program. Alhamdullillah. Praises are due only for Allah.

    Keep in mind that there are some but a very few teachers with whom they enjoy memorization. Those kind of teachers make a huge difference.

    Insha Allah my next 2 daughters are on the way.

    Request to you. Keep it slow now, but never give up. May Allah Almighty help all in memorizing Quran…aameen.

    Allahumma Salli alaa Muhammedin wa alaa Aaali Muhammed…aameen.

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The Unexpected Blessings of Being Alone

Juli Herman



My seven-year old son sat on the ground, digging a hole. Around him, other children ran, cried, and laughed at the playground.

“He’s such a strange kid,” my oldest daughter remarked. “Who goes to the playground and digs holes in the ground?”

In an instant, scenes of my ten-year-old self flashed through my mind. In them I ducked, hiding from invisible enemies in a forest of tapioca plants. Flattening my back against the spindly trunks, I flicked my wrist, sending a paper shuriken flying towards my pursuers. I was in my own world, alone.

It feels as if I have always been alone. I was the only child from one set of parents. I was alone when they divorced. I was alone when one stepmother left and another came in. I was alone with my diary, tears, and books whenever I needed to escape from the negative realities of my childhood.

Today, I am a lone niqab-wearing Malay in the mish-mash of a predominantly Desi and Arab Muslim community. My aloneness has only been compounded by the choices I’ve made that have gone against social norms- like niqab and the decision to marry young and have two babies during my junior and senior years of undergrad.

When I decided to homeschool my children, I was no longer fazed by any naysayers. I had gotten so used to being alone that it became almost second nature to me. My cultural, religious, and parenting choices no longer hung on the approval of social norms.

Believe it Or Not, We Are All Alone

In all of this, I realize that I am not alone in being alone. We all are alone, even in an ocean of people. No matter who you are, or how many people are around you, you are alone in that you are answerable to the choices you make.

The people around you may suggest or pressure you into specific choices, but you alone make the ultimate choice and bear the ultimate consequence of what those choices are. Everything from what you wear, who you trust, and how you plan your wedding is a result of your own choice. We are alone in society, and in the sight of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) as well.

The aloneness is obvious when we do acts of worship that are individual, such as fasting, giving zakah, and praying. But we’re also alone in Hajj, even when surrounded by a million other Muslims. We are alone in that we have to consciously make the choice and intention to worship. We are alone in making sure we do Hajj in its true spirit.

We alone are accountable to Allah, and on the Day of Judgment, no one will carry the burden of sin of another.

مَّنِ اهْتَدَىٰ فَإِنَّمَا يَهْتَدِي لِنَفْسِهِ ۖ وَمَن ضَلَّ فَإِنَّمَا يَضِلُّ عَلَيْهَا ۚ وَلَا تَزِرُ وَازِرَةٌ وِزْرَ أُخْرَىٰ ۗ وَمَا كُنَّا مُعَذِّبِينَ حَتَّىٰ نَبْعَثَ رَسُولًا

“Whoever accepts guidance does so for his own good; whoever strays does so at his own peril. No soul will bear another’s burden, nor do We punish until We have sent a messenger.” Surah Al Israa 17:15

On the day you stand before Allah you won’t have anyone by your side. On that day it will be every man for himself, no matter how close you were in the previous life. It will just be you and Allah.

Even Shaytaan will leave you to the consequences of your decisions.

وَقَالَ الشَّيْطَانُ لَمَّا قُضِيَ الْأَمْرُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ وَعَدَكُمْ وَعْدَ الْحَقِّ وَوَعَدتُّكُمْ فَأَخْلَفْتُكُمْ ۖ وَمَا كَانَ لِيَ عَلَيْكُم مِّن سُلْطَانٍ إِلَّا أَن دَعَوْتُكُمْ فَاسْتَجَبْتُمْ لِي ۖ فَلَا تَلُومُونِي وَلُومُوا أَنفُسَكُم ۖ مَّا أَنَا بِمُصْرِخِكُمْ وَمَا أَنتُم بِمُصْرِخِيَّ ۖ إِنِّي كَفَرْتُ بِمَا أَشْرَكْتُمُونِ مِن قَبْلُ ۗ إِنَّ الظَّالِمِينَ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ

“When everything has been decided, Satan will say, ‘God gave you a true promise. I too made promises but they were false ones: I had no power over you except to call you, and you responded to my call, so do not blame me; blame yourselves. I cannot help you, nor can you help me. I reject the way you associated me with God before.’ A bitter torment awaits such wrongdoers” Surah Ibrahim 14:22

But, Isn’t Being Alone Bad?

The connotation that comes with the word ‘alone’ relegates it to something negative. You’re a loser if you sit in the cafeteria alone. Parents worry when they have a shy and reserved child. Teachers tend to overlook the quiet ones, and some even complain that they can’t assess the students if they don’t speak up.

It is little wonder that the concept of being alone has a negative connotation. Being alone is not the human default, for Adam 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was alone, yet Allah created Hawwa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) as a companion for him. According to some scholars, the word Insaan which is translated as human or mankind or man comes from the root letters that means ‘to want company’. We’re naturally inclined to want company.

You might think, “What about the social aspects of Islam? Being alone is like being a hermit!” That’s true, but in Islam, there is a balance between solitary and communal acts of worship. For example, some prayers are done communally like Friday, Eid, and funeral prayers. However, extra prayers like tahajjud, istikharah, and nawaafil are best done individually.

There is a place and time for being alone, and a time for being with others. Islam teaches us this balance, and with that, it teaches us that being alone is also praiseworthy, and shouldn’t be viewed as something negative. There is virtue in alone-ness just as there is virtue in being with others.

Being Alone Has Its Own Perks

It is through being alone that we can be astute observers and connect the outside world to our inner selves. It is also through allowing aloneness to be part of our daily regimen that we can step back, introspect and develop a strong sense of self-based on a direct relationship with Allah.

Taking the time to reflect on worship and the words of Allah gives us the opportunity to meaningfully think about it. It is essential that a person gets used to being alone with their thoughts in order to experience this enriching intellectual, emotional and spiritual experience. The goal is to use our thoughts as the fuel to gain closeness to Allah through reflection and self-introspection.

Training ourselves to embrace being alone can also train us to be honest with ourselves, discover who we truly are, and work towards improving ourselves for Allah’s sake. Sitting with ourselves and honestly scrutinizing the self in order to see strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement is essential for character development. And character development is essential to reach the level of Ihsaan.

When we look into who we want to be, we are bound to make some decisions that might raise eyebrows and wag tongues. Being okay with being alone makes this somewhat easier. We should not be afraid to stand out and be the only one wearing praying or wearing hijab, knowing that it is something Allah will be pleased with. We should not be afraid to stand up for what we believe in even if it makes us unpopular. Getting used to being alone can give us the confidence to make these decisions.

Being alone can strengthen us internally, but not without pain. Emory University neuroscientist Gregory Berns found that people who dissent from group wisdom show heightened activation in the amygdala, a small organ in the brain associated with the sting of social rejection. Berns calls this the “pain of independence.”

All our prophets experienced this ‘pain of independence’ in their mission. Instances of different prophets being rejected by their own people are generously scattered in the Quran for us to read and reflect upon. One lesson we can extract from these is that being alone takes courage, faith, conviction, and confidence.


We Come Alone, Leave Alone, Meet Allah Alone

The circumstances that left me alone in the different stages of my life were not random. I always wanted an older brother or someone else to be there to rescue me from the solitude. But the solitude came with a blessing. Being alone gave me the time and space in which to wonder, think, and eventually understand myself and the people around me. I learned reflection as a skill and independent decision-making as s strength. I don’t mind being alone in my niqab, my Islam, or my choices. I’ve had plenty of practice after all.

Open grave

You are born alone and you took your first breath alone. You will die alone, even if you are surrounded by your loved ones. When you are lowered into the grave, you will be alone. Accepting this can help you make use of your moments of solitude rather than fear them. Having the courage to be alone builds confidence, strengthens conviction, and propels us to do what is right and pleasing to Allah regardless of human approval.

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Why Israel Should Be ‘Singled Out’ For Its Human Rights Record

Unlike other countries, ordinary citizens are complicit in the perpetual crimes committed against defenseless Palestinians.




israel, occupied Palestine

Why is everyone so obsessed with Israel’s human rights abuses? From Saudi Arabia, to Syria, to North Korea to Iran. All these nations are involved in flagrant violations of human right, so why all the focus on Israel – ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’? Clearly, if you ignore these other violations and only focus on Israel, you must be anti-Semitic. What else could be your motivations for this double standard?

This is one of the most common contentions raised when Israel is criticized for its human rights record. I personally don’t believe in entertaining this question – it shouldn’t matter why an activist is choosing to focus on one conflict and not others. What matters are the facts being raised; putting into question the motives behind criticizing Israel is a common tactic to detract from the topic at hand. The conversation soon turns into some circular argument about anti-Semitism and the plight of the Palestinian people is lost. More importantly, this charge of having double standards is often disingenuous. For example, Representative Ihan Omar has been repeatedly accused of this recently and her motives have been called ‘suspicious’ – despite her vocal criticism of other countries, especially Saudi Arabia.

However, this point is so frequently brought up, I think that perhaps its time activists and critics simply own up to it. Yes – Israel should be singled out, for some very good reasons. These reasons relate to there being a number of unique privileges that the country enjoys; these allow it to get away with much of the abuses it commits. Human right activists thus must be extra vocal when comes to Israel as they have to overcome the unparalleled level of support for the country, particularly in the US and Canada. The following points summarize why Israel should in fact be singled out:

1) Ideological support from ordinary citizens

When Iran and North Korea commit human right abuses, we don’t have to worry about everyone from journalists to clerics to average students on campuses coming out and defending those countries. When most nations commit atrocities, our journalists and politicians call them out, sanctions are imposed, they are taking them to the International Court of Justice, etc. There are instruments in place to take care of other ‘rogue’ nations – without the need for intervention from the common man.

Israel, however, is unique in that it has traditionally enjoyed widespread ideological support, primarily from the Jewish community and Evangelical Christians, in the West. This support is a result of the historical circumstances and pseudo-religious ideology that drove the creation of the state in 1948. The successful spread of this nationalistic dogma for the last century means Israel can count on ordinary citizens from Western countries to comes to its defense. This support can come in the form of foreign enlistment to its military, students conducting campus activism, politicians shielding it from criticisms and journalists voluntarily writing in its support and spreading state propaganda.

This ideological and nationalistic attachment to the country is the prime reason why it is so incredibly difficult to have any kind of sane conversation about Israel in the public sphere – criticism is quickly seen as an attack on Jewish identity and interpreted as an ‘existential threat’ to the nation by its supporters. Any attempts to take Israel to account through standard means are thwarted because of the political backlash feared from the country’s supporters in the West.

2) Unconditional political support of a world superpower

The US is Israel’s most important and closest ally in the Middle-East. No matter what war crimes Israel commits, it can count on America to have its back. This support means the US will use its veto power to support Israel against actions of the UN Security Council, it will use its diplomatic influence to shield any punitive actions from other nations and it will use its military might to intervene if need be. The backing of the US is one of the main reasons why the Israeli occupation and expansion of the colonial settlement enterprise continues to this day without any repercussions.

While US support might be especially staunch for Israel, this factor is certainly not unique to the country. Any country which has this privilege, e.g. Saudi Arabia, should be under far great scrutiny for its human rights violations than others.

3)  Military aid and complicity of tax-payers

US tax-payers are directly paying for Israel to carry out its occupation of the Palestinian people.

Israel is the largest recipient of US-military aid – it receives an astonishing $3 billion dollars every year. This aid, according to a US congressional report, “has helped transform Israel’s armed forces into one of the most technologically sophisticated militaries in the world.”

Unlike other countries, ordinary citizens are complicit in the perpetual crimes committed against defenseless Palestinians. Activists and citizens thus have a greater responsibility to speak out against Israel as their government is paying the country to carry out its atrocities. Not only is this aid morally reprehensible, but it is also illegal under United States Leahy Laws.

4) The Israeli lobby

The Israeli lobby is one of the most powerful groups in Washington and is the primary force for ensuring continued US political support for the nation. It consists of an assortment of formal lobby groups (AIPAC, Christians United for Israel), think-thanks (Washington Institute for Near East Policy), political action committee or PACs, not-for-profit organizations (B’nai B’irth, American Jewish Congress, Stand for Israel) and media watchdogs (CAMERA, Honest Reporting). These organizations together exercise an incredible amount of political influence. They ensure that any criticism of Israel is either stifled or there are serious consequences for those who speak up. In 2018 alone, pro-Israel donors spent $22 million on lobbying for the country – far greater than any other nation. Pro-Israel lobbies similarly influence politics in other places such as the UK, Canada, and Europe.

5) One of the longest-running occupation in human history

This point really should be the first one on this list – and it is the only one that should matter. However, because of the unique privileges that Israel enjoys, it is hard to get to the crux of what it is actually doing. Israel, with U.S. support, has militarily occupied the Palestinian territories (West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem) since 1967. The belligerent occupation, over 50 years old, is one of the longest, bloodiest and brutal in human history.

Israel continues to steal land and build settler colonies the West Bank – in flagrant violation of international law. It has implemented a system of apartheid in these territories which is reminiscent of the racist regime of South Africa. The Gaza strip has been under an insufferable siege which has made the living conditions deplorable; it has been referred to the world’s largest ‘open-air prison’. In addition to this institutional oppression, crimes committed against Palestinians include: routinely killing civilian protesters, including teenagers and medics, torture of Palestinians and severe restrictions on the everyday movement of Palestinians.

The brutality, consistency and the duration for which Israel has oppressed Palestinians is alone enough reason for it being ‘singled out’. No other nation comes close to its record. However, for the reasons mentioned above, Israel’s propaganda machine has effectively painted itself as just another ‘liberal democracy’ in the eyes of the general public. Any attempt to bring to light these atrocities are met with ‘suspicion’ about the ‘real’ motives of the critics. Given the points mentioned here, it should be evident that the level of support for Israeli aggression is uniquely disproportionate – it is thus fitting that criticism of the country is equally vocal and unparalleled as well.

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This Article Could be Zakat-Eligible

Who Accounts For This Pillar of Islam




Co-written by Shaykh Osman Umarji

As writers on MuslimMatters, it came as a surprise when the website we write on marked itself zakat-eligible on its fundraiser for operations in Ramadan. This website has previously highlighted the misuse and abuse of zakat for vague and dodgy reasons, including instances of outright fraud by nonprofit corporations.  We have lamented the seemingly inexorable march from zakat being for living human beings in need to financial play-doh for nonprofit corporate boards.

Estimated global zakat is somewhere between $200 billion to $1 trillion.  Eliminating global poverty is estimated at $187 billion– not just for Muslims, but everyone.  There continue to be strong interests in favor of more putty-like zakat to benefit the interests of the organizations that are not focused on reducing poverty. Thus, in many ways, a sizeable chunk of zakat benefits the affluent rather than the needy. Zakat, rather than being a credit to the Muslim community, starts to look more like an indictment of it.

No, it’s not ikhtilaf

The recent article on this website, Dr. Usama Al-Azmi seemed somewhat oblivious to the cavalier way the nonprofit corporate sector in the United States treats Zakat.  The article did not do justice to legitimate concerns about zakat distribution by dismissing the issue as one of “ikhtilaf,” or a reasonable difference of opinion, as it ignored the broader concern about forces working hard to make zakat a “wild west” act of worship where just about anything goes.  

It’s essential to identify the crux of the problem. Zakat has eight categories of permissible beneficiaries in the Quran. 1 Two are various levels of poor, distribution overhead; then there are those whose hearts are to be inclined,  free captives, relieve indebtedness, the wayfarer, and the cause of Allah (fisabilillah). The category of fisabilillah, historically,  the majority of scholars have interpreted as the cost of jihad (like actual fighting). However, in recent times, Muslim nonprofit corporations, with support of learned Muslim leaders, have adopted an increasingly aggressive and vague posture that allows nearly any beneficial cause to get zakat.   

The concerns about the abuse of zakat, and the self-serving desire by corporations to turn fisabilillah into a wastebasket Zakat category that could be “incredibly broad” has to do with far more than a difference of opinion (ikhtilaf ) about the eligibility of Dawah organizations. Let’s assume dawah and educational organizations are eligible to administer Zakat funds.  We need to know what that means in practice. What we have is a fundamental question the fisabilillah-can-mean-virtually-anything faction never manages to answer: are there any limits to zakat usage at all?

Show Your Work

We fully understand that in our religious practice, there is a set of rules.  In Islamic Inheritance for example, for example, we cannot cavalierly change the definition of what a “daughter” is to mean any girl you want to treat like a daughter. There is an established set of rules relating to acts of worship. For the third pillar of Islam, zakat, there seem to be no limits to the absurd-sounding questions we can ask that now seem plausible.  

Unfortunately, we have too many folks who invoke “ikhtilaf” to justify adopting almost any opinion and not enough people who are willing to explain their positions. We need a better understanding of zakat and draw the lines on when nonprofit corporations are going too far.

You can be conservative and stand for zakat as an act of worship that contributes to social justice. You can have a more expansive interpretation friendly to the nonprofit corporate sector’s needs to include the revenue source. Wherever you stand, if you don’t provide evidence and develop detailed uniform and accepted principles and rules that protect those people zakat was meant to help, you are inviting abuse and at the very least, opening the door towards inequitable results. 2

Can you feed the needy lentils and rice for $100 a meal, with margins of $99 a meal going to pay salaries to provide these meals and fundraise for them?  Why or why not?

Can a Dawah organization purchase an $80 million jet for its CEO, who can use it to travel the world to do “dawah,” including places like Davos or various ski resorts?  What rules exist that would prevent something like this? As far as we know, nothing at all.

Bubble Charity

In the United States, demographic sorting is a common issue that affects all charitable giving, not just giving by Muslims. The most affluent live in neighborhoods with other people who are generally as prosperous as they are. Certain places seem almost perversely designed to allow wealthy residents to be oblivious to the challenges of the poor.  There are undeniable reasons why what counts as “charity” for the wealthy means giving money to the Opera, the Met Gala, and Stanford University.

The only real way affluent Muslims know they supposed to care about poor people is that maybe they have a Shaikh giving khutbas talking about the need to do so and their obligation of zakat once a year or so. That is now becoming a thing of the past. Now it is just care about fisabilillah- it means whatever your tender heart wants it to mean.   

As zakat becomes less about the poor, appeals will be for other projects with a higher amount of visibility to the affluent.  Nonprofits now collect Zakat for galas with celebrities. Not fundraising at the gala dinner mind you, but merely serving dinner and entertaining rich people. Educational institutions and Masajid that have dawah activities (besides, everything a Masjid does is fisabilillah) can be quite expensive. Getting talent to run and teach in these institutions is also costly. Since many of the people running these institutions are public figures and charismatic speakers with easy access and credibility with the affluent. It is far easier for them to get Zakat funds for their projects.

People who benefit from these projects because they send their children to these institutions or attend lectures themselves will naturally feel an affinity for these institutions that they won’t have with the poor. Zakat will stay in their bubble.  Fisabilillah.

Dawa is the new Jihad

Jihad, as in war carried out by a Khalifah and paid for with zakat funds, is an expensive enterprise. But no society is in a permanent state of warfare, so they can work towards eliminating poverty during peacetime. Muslim communities have done this in the past.  Dawah is qualitatively different from jihad as it is permanent. There was never a period in Islamic history when there was no need to do dawah. Many times in history, nobody was fighting jihad. There was no period of Islamic history when there were there was never a need for money to educate people. Of course, earlier Muslims used zakat in education in limited, defined circumstances. It is not clear why limitations no longer apply.  

Indeed dawah is a broad category.  For example, many people regard the Turkish costume drama “Diriliş: Ertuğrul” as dawah.  Fans of the show can’t stop talking about the positive effects it has had on their lives and their iman. What prevents zakat from funding future expensive television costume dramas? Nothing, as far as we can see.   

No Standards or Accountability

Unfortunately, in the United States, there are no uniform, specific standards governing zakat. Anything goes now when previously in Islamic history, there were appropriate standards. Nonprofit corporations themselves decide if they are zakat-eligible or not. In some instances, they provide objectively comical explanations, which supporters within the corporation’s bubble pretty much always swallow whole. Corporations don’t have to segregate Zakat-eligible funds from general funds. When they do, they can make up their own rules for how and when they spend zakat. No rules make zakat indistinguishable from any other funding source since they can change their standards year after year depending on their funding needs (if they have rules at all) and nobody would be the wiser. It is exceedingly rare for these corporations to issue detailed reports on how they use zakat.  

The Shift to Meaninglessness

Organizations with platforms (like the one that runs this website) are going to be eager to get on the zakat gravy train. There is no cost to slapping a “zakat-eligible” label on yourself, either financial or social. It seems like everyone does it now. Some Zakat collectors are conscientious and care about helping the poor, though they are starting to look a little old-fashioned. For them, it may make sense to certify Zakat administrators like halal butchers.

Zakat used to be about helping discrete categories of human beings that can benefit from it.  It can now mean anything you want it to mean. In the end, though, without real standards, it may mean nothing at all.


  1. The sunnah also highlights the essence of zakah as tending to the needs of the poor. For example, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) commanded Muadh bin Jabal, when sending him to Yemen, to teach the people that Allah has obligated charity upon them to be taken from their rich and given to their poor (Sahih Muslim).
  2. In Islamic legal theory (usool al-fiqh), sadd al-dhariya is a principle that refers to blocking the means to evil before it can materialize. It is invoked when a seemingly permissible action may lead to unethical behavior. This principle is often employed in financial matters.

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