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On Maintaining Work-Life Balance While Memorizing The Quran

Ammar Al Shukry



Way back in 2011 I was able to witness the memorization ceremony of a convert Muslimah, sister Julie. She had been Muslim for a few years up until that point and had just completed committing the Quran to memory. I conducted a brief interview with her and picked her brain on how she maintained a work-life balance, her journey memorizing as a convert and as a non-Arabic native, and gems and advice she wanted to share for those seeking that path.

1- What kept you motivated during your hifdh journey, and now while you revise and teach?

Before beginning hifdh, I had already thought about why I wanted to complete the memorization of the Qur’an, and I was completely determined to reach this goal. This full commitment and remembering ‘why’ I was going down this path helped many times while memorizing, and also as I continue to revise and learn other branches of Qur’anic knowledge and teach others. It would be very difficult for anyone to complete their memorization, particularly as an adult, without this strong resolve and consciousness of the benefits and rewards of hifdh.

2- What advice do you have for huffadh and teachers who struggle with ‘fame’ and praise?

Realize that hifdh, or knowledge of the Qur’an in general, is a blessing from Allah. Know your own shortcomings and what you need to work on. Make and reflect upon the following du’a taught to us by the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him): “Oh Allah do not call me to account for what they say and forgive me for what they have no knowledge of and make me better than they imagine.”

3- What was the most difficult struggle you’ve had to face, and how did you overcome it?

Nothing out of the ordinary came up while I was doing hifdh. The most difficult issue was balancing work and other obligations along with memorization over an extended period of time. It is necessary to consistently maintain a high level of discipline to keep everything on track.

4- What do you think is the main reason why people struggle to stay motivated to finish their memorization?

The reasons would differ from person to person and could include spiritual factors, such as a wrong intention, or issues with other factors such as discipline or consistency in memorization. One trap that some students fall into is that they begin hifdh because the idea sounds appealing, yet they omit to plan sufficiently for how they are going to accomplish that goal. By omitting to make a realistic plan or find a teacher who can guide them, many people become quickly overwhelmed and give up.

5- Do you think there is a lack of qualified women Qur’an teachers in North America? If so, in your opinion, what steps can we take to change this?

I feel like there is a lack of qualified Qur’an teachers in general in many North American communities, and this is even more apparent in the case of female teachers. This begins with our own attitude towards the Qur’an and religious knowledge in the sense that it is not always seen as a priority. The situation is further exacerbated by many cultural issues when it comes to the education of women. By turning to the Qur’an itself, as well as the hadith, we can see the rewards of reciting the Qur’an for both men and women, as well as memorizing it, teaching it and acting upon it, and this is something that we need to take to heart and strive to attain. The factors underlying this issue and the steps to change it are numerous and would be worthy of a more detailed discussion beyond the scope of this short interview.

6) What was the defining moment for you, the moment you decided “no more excuses, it’s do or die time”?

Hifdh had long been a goal of mine and I had already memorizing on my own at a relatively slow pace for quite some time. Along the way, I became very interested in doing hifdh more seriously to attain that goal, and had already started to pick up the memorization pace on my own. However, it is difficult to complete the entire Qur’an, particularly at a fast pace, without a teacher or significant support mechanism from a mentor. Shortly after deciding to speed up my memorization, I came into contact with my future teacher learned about his hifdh program for adults. It’s not every day that such an opportunity presents itself. Already being serious about reaching this goal and knowing that opportunities like this do not necessarily last if you pass them up, I wasn’t going to let the opportunity go by!

7) Was there anything you had to sacrifice? (Friends/social life, volunteer efforts, meaningful hobbies)

An adult memorizing the Qur’an will generally have many other obligations to fulfill at the same time, such as work, education and family commitments. Serious memorization takes time, such that memorization combined with these other obligations leaves little time for optional social activities. It is necessary to cut back on some of the optional social commitments, while leaving time for a little bit of fun and the activities most important to you in order to keep some balance. This is easier said than done and it was necessary to make adjustments along the way.

8) What did your daily schedule consist of, from the time you got up in the morning to the time you turned in for the night?

This changed over time as the memorization progressed. At the beginning, I would memorize half a page in the morning and half a page in the afternoon. As I became more accustomed to memorizing, I increased this amount to two pages a day, and worked up to four pages per day closer to the end. I would call my teacher by phone after every page to recite. I also worked part-time, and would often shift a portion of my work to the evening to compensate for the time spent on memorization during the daytime. As much as possible, I would prioritize completing my daily memorization and slot in other commitments around hifdh.

9) I’m sure this next question is on the mind of many sisters: Do you teach? If not, do you plan on teaching in the near future?

I teach tajweed, but I do not currently teach hifdh. My teaching will likely continue to concentrate on tajweed in the near future.

10) Having memorized the entire Qur’aan, what’s next?

I am working hard on review to strengthen my memorization. I am also studying the 10 qira’at to learn the different authentic recitations of the Qur’an, as well as working on Arabic language skills.

11) What the single most important thing you’d like to tell people who plan to begin hifdh?

Many people want to memorize and are in a position where they can make time for hifdh, but they are scared to take the first step. As with any large task, the hardest thing is often taking the initial step to get started. If you are serious about doing hifdh, don’t let your own hesitation hold you back!

12) How do you retain what you memorized now that you’re done?

Review, review and more review! Hifdh is never really ‘finished’ – the initial memorization is only the first step, and then a consistent review is needed to maintain and strengthen hifdh. I mostly review on my own, but it is also possible to review with a teacher or a friend/family member, depending on individual learning styles and preferences.

13) If you could give 3 tips to a person setting off on their journey of being a student of the Quraan, what would they be?

a) Never forget the spiritual aspects, such as continually renewing your intention and making du’a.
b) Give the Qur’an priority in your life.
c) Find a qualified teacher who is knowledgeable in the Qur’an and who can also give you guidance and feedback to help you reach your goal.

14) What advice can you give to non-Arabic speakers about memorizing the Qur’aan?

It is well known that one of the miraculous aspects of the Qur’an is that it can be memorized by Arabic and non-Arabic speakers alike. Arabic speakers have an advantage in the sense that they understand what they are reciting, but this also introduces a greater possibility for mistakes in memorization by accidentally changing or substituting words. For non-Arabic speakers it is the opposite: it may be harder to complete the initial memorization, but there is less tendency to ‘read in’ words which are not actually part of the Qur’an. Arabic language knowledge should not be an excuse for putting off memorization. Of course, one should also make an effort to learn the Arabic language since the broader goal should not only to be to memorize, but also to understand and implement the Qur’anic text.

15) Did you use any particular techniques?

Many people have the misconception that there is a special technique or a ‘trick’ to memorizing. However, the actual mechanics of memorization simply go back to repetition. There is no way around this, and it is necessary to repeat the verse as many times as it takes to be able to read it fluently from memory. The number of words memorized at one time, the number of times the verses needs to be repeated, etc. are dependent each individual’s natural abilities, experience memorizing and the ease/difficulty of the passage being memorized.

16) How did you feel when you recited the final ayaat before completing your hifdh?

It actually felt very normal! After consistently memorizing for a long period of time, it took some additional time to sink in that there were no more additional verses to memorize!

Ammar Al Shukry is the author of the Poetry Collection: "What the Pen Wrote." He is also the Imam and Resident Scholar of River Oaks Islamic Center in Houston, Texas.

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    June 15, 2017 at 2:06 PM

    I am trying to memorize the Quran. I can relate to many of the things said in this interview. I found the hardest part is to keep the motivation high and keep yourself disciplined. May Allah (SWT) bless us all in this journey.

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Heart Soothers: Fahad Niazi




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Qur’an Contemplations: Openings of Timeless Truths | Sh Abu Aaliyah Surkheel

Shaykh Abu Aaliyah Surkheel



From the outset, the Qur’an establishes a link between worshipping Allah and knowing Him. The first half of the ‘Opening Chapter’ of the Qur’an, Surat al-Fatihah, states:

.‎الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ. الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ. مَالِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ. إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ

All praise be to Allah, Lord of the worlds. The All-Merciful, the Compassionate. Master of the Day of Judgement. You alone we worship, and Your help alone do we seek. [Q.1:1-4]

The first three verses teach us who Allah is, so that hearts may love, hope, fear and be in awe of Him. Only then does Allah ask us to declare our singular devotion and worship of Him. It is as if the Qur’an is saying: ‘You can’t worship or adore whom you don’t know.’

Thus in the first verse, Allah describes Himself as rabb – ‘Lord’. In the Quranic language, rabb is Master, Protector, Caretaker, Provider. And just as water descends from above as blessings and rises again to the skies as steam or vapour, so to the sending down of divine blessings and gifts; they are transformed into declarations of loving thanks and praise that ascend to the Lord of the Worlds. Reflecting on Allah’s care and kindness to us, as rabb; as Lord, then, nurtures an abiding sense of love for Allah in our hearts.

Allah then reveals that He, by His very nature, is al-rahman – the All-Merciful, and by dint of His divine act is al-rahim – the Compassionate. It has been said that al-rahman is like the blue sky: serene, vast and full of light; a canopy of protective care over us and over all things. The divine name, al-rahim is like warm rays, so to speak, touching, bathing and invigorating lives, places and events with this life-giving mercy. Those who flee from this joyous warmth, and opt to cover themselves from the light, choose to live in conditions of icy darkness. Knowing Allah is al-rahman, al-rahim, invites optimism; it instils hope (raja’) in Allah’s impulse to forgive, pardon, pity, overlook and, ultimately, to accept what little we offer Him as needy, fragile and imperfect creatures.

The Prophet ﷺ and his Companions once saw a woman frantically searching for a person among the warn-out and wounded. She then found a babe, her baby. She picked it up, huddled it to her chest and gave it to feed. On seeing this, the Prophet asked if such a woman could ever throw her baby into a fire or harms way? They all resoundingly replied, no; she could never do that; her maternal instincts of mercy would never permit it! The Prophet ﷺ went on to tell them:

 لَلَّهُ أَرْحَمُ بِعِبَادِهِ مِنْ هَذِهِ بِوَلَدِهَا – ‘Allah is more merciful to His creation than that mother is to her child.’ [Al-Bukhari, no.5653]

The final name of Allah that we encounter in this surah is: Malik – Master, King, Owner of all. It is Allah as Master, as King of Judgement Day, who stands at the end of every path. All things come finally to Him to be judged, recompensed and given their final place for the beliefs that defined who they are, the deeds that defined what they stood for and the sins that stand in their way. To know Allah as Malik, therefore, is to be wary, as well as apprehensive. It is a reason for hearts to be filled with a certain sense of fear (khawf) as well as trepidation concerning the final reckoning and one’s ultimate fate.

The Prophet ﷺ once visited a young boy on his death bed and asked him how he was. The boy replied: ‘O Messenger of Allah, I am between hoping in Allah and fearing for my sins.’ To which the Prophet ﷺ said:

‎لاَ يَجْتَمِعَانِ فِي قَلْبِ عَبْدٍ فِي مِثْلِ هَذَا الْمَوْطِنِ إِلاَّ أَعْطَاهُ اللَّهُ مَا يَرْجُو وَآمَنَهُ مِمَّا يَخَافُ

‘The like of these two qualities never unite in the heart of a servant except that Allah grants him what he hopes for and protects him from what he fears.” [Al-Tirmidhi, no.983]

Only after being made aware of these four names of Allah which, in turn, instil in hearts a sense of love, fear and hope in Allah, are we led to stating: You alone do we worship, and Your help alone do we seek. In other words, the order to worship comes after the hearts having come to know Allah – the object of their loving worship, reverence and adoration.

The surah concludes by teaching us to give voice to the universal hope, by asking to be guided to the path of Allah’s people and to help steer clear of the paths of misguidance and perdition:

‎اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ. صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ. غَيْرِ الْمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلاَ الضَّالِّينَ

Guide us to the Straight Path; the path of those whom You have favoured; not of those who incur wrath, nor of those who are astray. [Q.1:5-7]


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More Baby, Less Shark: Planning For Kids In The Masjid

Zeba Khan



Of all the challenges that your focus can face in prayer, there are few as insidious as Baby Shark.

Doo-doo-doo doo. Baby Shark, doo doo doo doo. Baby Shark.

If you are not a parent, or have the type of amnesia that parents sometimes develop once their kids grow up, then you might assume that not having kids in the masjid is actually a solution to Baby-Shark induced distraction.

The inconvenient (and often sticky) truth is that not having kids in the masjid is a serious problem, not a solution. No kids in the masjid means an entire generation of the Muslim community growing up outside of the Muslim community.

Restricting the presence of children and assigning masjid priority to fully-formed, quietly attentive, and spiritually disciplined attendees – like adults – is a bit like restricting health club membership to triathletes. You’re already fit. So can we please let someone else use the treadmill, even if they’re not using it as well as you could?

The masjid is the center of the community for all Muslims, not a sanctuary for the preservation of reverent silence.  For a more detailed discussion on this, please see this great Soundvision article, Children in the Masjid, Making Space for Our Future.

For suggestions on how to help your children enjoy the masjid without Baby-Sharking the rest of the congregation to tears, I present the following recommendations.

Come Prepared

Rather than assume your child will be entertained by nothing but the carpet and how many weird faces they can spot in the bilaterally symmetrical patterns, bring them something to play with. One way to do this is to prepare your child a special bag for the masjid.

Stock it with as many things applicable:

  • A reusable water bottle: Select a bottle that your child can drink from on their own, preferably not likely to tip or spill onto the masjid carpet. No one appreciates a soggy sujood
  • A nut-free snack: If you think it’s too much trouble to be considerate of people with life-threatening allergies, consider how much trouble it is to bury a child who dies of anaphylaxis. Children share snacks in the masjid, and that’s ok as long as no one dies.
  • A small, quiet toy: The dollar store can be tremendously helpful in keeping your inventory fresh and financially feasible. Please be aware of swallowing hazards, since your child is likely to share the toy with others. One hopes.
  • A sweater or blanket: Sitting for long periods of time in an air-conditioned building can make anyone cold.
  • Art Supplies: Pack crayons, pencils, or markers IF you feel your child can refrain from drawing on the walls, or allowing other, smaller children from doing so. Magic Erasers don’t work on the prayer rug.

Reverie in Blue – Artist Unknown

Critically- and I do mean critically- don’t let your children access the special masjid bag unless they are in the masjid. The last thing you want is for your child to be bored with its contents before they even make it to prayers. Storing this bag somewhere inaccessible to your child can help keep its contents fresh and interesting longer.

Non-parent tip: Keep allergen-free lollipops in your pocket. Reward the kids sitting nicely (with parents’ permission) and you have killed two birds with one stone.

  1. You’ve  helped a child establish a happy memory and relationship to the masjid.
  2. Kids with lollipops in their mouths make less noise.

Do not pack:

Balls: Not even small ones, not even for small children. Your child may not have the gross-motor skills to kick or throw a ball at people who are praying, but there will always be children in the masjid who do. They will take your child’s ball, and they will play ball with it, because that’s what balls are for. Consider also the potential damage to light fixtures, ceiling fans, audio/video equipment, and the goodwill of people who get hit, run down, or kicked in the shins. The masjid is just not the place to play ball, even if the floor is green and has lines on it.

Not every green thing with lines is a soccer field.

Scooters: Do not bring scooters, skateboards, heelies, or other mobility toys that would turn your child a faster-moving object than they already are. Your child’s long-term relationship with the community can be fostered by not crashing into it.

Slime: Slime and carpets do, in fact, go together. They go together so well as to be inextricable of one-another. Please, do not bring slime to the masjid.

Gum: Please, for the love of everyone’s socks, no gum.

Toy Guns, Play-weapons: It should go without saying. And yet, I have seen nerf guns, foam swords, and toy guns in masjid. Apart from the basic indoor etiquette of not sword-fighting, nor launching projectiles in a house of worship, please be sensitive. No one wants to see guns in their masjid.

Non-parent tip: If children playing near you are making “too much noise” smile and find another place to sit if possible. It is not always possible to ignore or move away from disruptions, but glaring, eye-rolling, and making tsk-tsk sounds is not likely to effect long-term change in either the child’s behavior or the parents’ strategic abilities. At best, you will embarrass the parents. At worst, you will push families away from the faith and the community while confirming the opinion that masjids are full of cranky, impatient people who wish kids didn’t exist in the masjid while criticizing Muslim youth for not being there. 

Avoid Electronics. But if you can’t…

I am prefacing this suggestion with a disclaimer. Habitually putting your child on a smartphone or tablet so that you can “enjoy” the masjid without the “hassle” of you making sure they behave properly is not good parenting. A child being physically present but mentally absent in the masjid is not a long-term strategy that any parent should get behind.

Having said that, if you do give your kids a tablet or phone in the masjid, please disable Youtube and bring over-ear headphones.

Do not rely on YouTube Kids to take responsibility for your child’s content choices either. Long after Baby Shark has sunk to the depths of the internet, there will always be loud, inappropriate, or just plainly distracting and disturbing things that your child can access on it.

Instead of relying on Youtube at all, install child-friendly apps that you know won’t have external links embedded in their ads, and won’t lead to inadvertent, inappropriate viewing in case your child – or my child sitting next to them – click out of their app and into the great wide world. I highly recommend anything from the Toca Boca suite of apps.

Parents at Taraweeh – Making it Work

Non-parent tip: If you see a child on a tablet, do not lecture their parent. As a special needs parent, there are times when I too allow my autistic son onto a tablet to prevent a meltdown or try to get just 15 more minutes out of him so I can finish attending a class. Do not automatically assume laziness or incompetence on behalf of parents whose children you see on an electronic device. 

Reward for Success, in this life and the next

You show up in the masjid because you hope for a reward from Allah. As an adult, you have the ability to delay the gratification of this reward until well after you die. Your kids, however, don’t.

Motivate your kids with small rewards for small accomplishments as you remind them of the reward that Allah has for them too. You can choose to reward a child after every two rakah, or after every two days. How often you reward them, and what you choose to reward them for depends on their age and their capabilities.

Make dua for your kids when you reward them. If they get a small handful of gummy bears after a good evening at the masjid, pair it with a reminder of the bigger reward too.

“Here’s the ice cream I promised you for doing awesome in the masjid today. May Allah grant you mountains of ice cream in Jannah so big you can ski down them. Ameen.”

Non-parent tip: It’s not your job to discipline the children of others, but you can help praise them. Randomly compliment kids who are sitting nicely, sharing toys, playing quietly, or wearing cute headgear. Their parents will likely not mind.

Reinforce the rules – but define them first.

“Be Good In the Masjid” is a vastly different instruction depending on who you’re instructing. For a teenager, praying with the congregation is reasonable. For a two-year-old, not climbing the congregation is reasonable.

Define your rules and frame them in a positive context that your children can remember. Remind them of what they’re supposed to be doing rather than calling them out for what they are not. For example, no running in the masjid vs. please walk in the masjid.

Avoid saying this:

Try saying this instead:

Stay out of my purse Please use the toys in your bag
Don’t draw on the walls Crayons only on the paper
No yelling Please use your “inside” voice
No food on the carpet Please have your snack in the hallway
Don’t run off Stay where I can see you, which is from [here] to [here.]
No peeing the carpet We’re taking a potty break now, and we’ll go again after the 4th rakah’.
No hitting Hands nicely to yourself.

While it might look like semantics, putting your energy into “To-Do’s” versus the “To-Don’ts” has long-term benefits. If your child is going to hear the same thing from you a hundred times before they get it right, you can help them by telling them what the right thing is. Think of the difference between the To-Do statement “Please use a tissue,” versus the To-Don’t statement of “Don’t pick your nose.” You can tell you kid a hundred times not to pick his or her nose, but if you never tell them to use a tissue, you’re missing the opportunity to replace bad behavior with its functional alternative.

Plan for Failure

Kids don’t walk the first time they try. They won’t sit nicely the first time you ask them to either. Decide what your exact plan is in case you have to retreat & regroup for another day.

  • How much noise is too much? Do your kids know what you expect of them?
  • Where are the physical boundaries you want your kids to remain in? Do they know what those boundaries are?
  • For kids too small to recognize boundaries, how far are you ok with a little one toddling before you decide that the potential danger may not be worth it?
  • Talk to your spouse or other children and get everyone on board. Being on the same page can look like different things according to different age groups. A plan of action can be “If we lose Junior Ibn Abu, we’re taking turns in prayer,” or “If you kick the Imam again, we’re all going home.”
  • If your child is too small, too rowdy, or too grumpy to sit quietly at the masjid, please take turns with your spouse. The masjid is a sweet spiritual experience that both parents should be able to enjoy, even if that means taking turns.

Don’t Give up

If you find yourself frustrated with being unable to enjoy the masjid the way you did before your child starting sucking on prayer rugs, remember this:

Raising your children with love and patience is an act of worship, even if it’s not the act of worship you thought you were coming to the masjid for. No matter what your expectations are of them – or how far they are from meeting them – the ultimate goal is for your child to love Allah and love the House of Allah.

When they get things right, praise them and reward them, and remind them that Allah’s reward is coming too. When they get it wrong, remind them and forgive them, and don’t give up. The only way children learn to walk is by falling down over, and over, and over again.

Avoiding the masjid because your kids don’t behave correctly is like not allowing them to walk because they keep falling down. The key is to hold their hand until they get it right, and maintain close supervision until you can trust them to manage on their own, InshaAllah.

May Allah make it easy for you and bless your children with love for the masjid in this life and love for Allah that will guide them through the next. Aaaaaaaameeeeeeeeen

Children @ Taraweeh: Storm in a Teacup

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