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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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14 Short Life Lessons From Studying Aqidah

Lessons I learned Studying Theology (Aqidah) with a Local Islamic Scholar in Jordan

Hamzah Raza



I sit here in the Jordanian heat, with a kufi on and prayer beads in my hand. I watch as young kids play soccer with their kufis and kurtas on in the streets. They go on and on until the Adhan interrupts their game. I think of how different the kids back home in the United States are. Due to the rules for living in this quaint Jordanian neighborhood, the kids are not allowed to play video games, use social media, or watch television. This is the Kharabsheh neighborhood on the outskirts of Amman, Jordan.

I have spent the past two months living in this community. It is a community so similar to, yet so different from any community I have ever lived in. In many ways, it is just like any other community. People joke around with one another, invite people over for dinner, have jobs, go to the gym, and do other pervasive events of everyday life. But in many other respects, the community is different from most in the world today. Many of those living here are disciples (mureeds) in the Shadhili Sufi order. Sufism has faced a bad reputation in many parts of the world today. The stereotype is that Sufis are either not firm in their commitment to religious law (Sharia), or lax in their understanding of Islamic theology (aqidah). Far from the stereotype, I have never met any people in my life more committed to the Sharia. Nor have I ever met people so committed to staying true to Islamic orthodoxy. Just in seemingly mundanes conversations here in Kharabsheh, I find myself learning a plethora of life lessons, whether that be in regard to Islamic jurisprudence, the ontology of God, or the process of purifying one’s heart.

I have compiled a list of a few lessons I learned in studying an elementary aqidah (theology) text with a disciple of Shaykh Nuh, who is a scholar of theology and jurisprudence in himself. Without further adieu, here are some of the lessons I learned.

1) If you want to know the character of a man, ask his wife. People may think someone is great, but his wife will tell you how he actually is. One of the greatest proofs of the prophethood of the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is that he had 11 wives over his lifespan and they all died upon Imaan (faith).

2) Humans are never static. We are always incrementally changing. No one changes in anything overnight. People are either gradually getting better, or gradually getting worse. Every day, you should sure that you are always improving. Do not get worse. If you only pray your Fard(mandatory) prayers, start to pray Sunnah(recommended prayers). If you are already praying your Sunnah prayers, improve the quality of your prayer or pray nafl (optional prayers).

3) Hope in the Mercy of God, and fear of His Justice, are two wings that we need to balance. If one has too much hope, they will become complacent and think they can refuse to follow God’s rules, and do whatever they want, because God is Merciful. If one has too much fear, they will give up. They will inevitably sin (as all humans do), and lose all motivation to better themselves.

4) The believer has great hope in the Mercy of God, while also great fear in His Justice. It is an understanding of “If everyone were to enter Heaven except for one person, I would think that person is me. And if everyone were to enter Hell except for one person, I would think that person is me.”

5) Whether we do something good or bad, we turn to God. If we do something good, we thank God (i.e. say Alhamdulillah). If we do something wrong, we turn back to God(i.e. say Astagfirullah and/or make tawbah).

6) Everyone should have a healthy skepticism of their sincerity. Aisha (May God be pleased with her) said: “Only a hypocrite does not believe that they are a hypocrite.”

7) You are fighting a constant war of attrition with your carnal desires. Your soul (ruh) and lower self (nafs) battle it out until one party stops fighting. Either your soul gives up and lets your carnal desires overtake you, or your carnal desires cease to exist (i.e. when your physical body dies). Wage war on your carnal desires for as long as you live.

life lessons, aqidah

8) The sign of guidance is being self-aware, constantly reflecting and taking oneself to task. The evidence of this is repenting, and thinking well of others. If we find ourselves making excuses for our actions, refusing to repent for sins, or thinking badly of others, we need to change that.

9) The issue with religious people is that they are often tribalistic and exclusivist. The issue with secular people is that they often have no clear meaning in life, and are ignorant of what lies beyond our inevitable death. One should be able to cultivate this meaning without being tribalistic or arrogant towards others, who have not yet been given guidance.

10) There are philosophical questions regarding free will and determinism. But it is ultimately something that is best understood spiritually. An easy first step is to understand the actions of others as predetermined while understanding your response as acts of free will. This prevents one from getting too angry at what others do to them.

11) Always think the best of the beliefs of other Muslims. Do not be in a rush to condemn people as heretics or kuffar. Make excuses for people, and appreciate the wisdom and experiences behind those who may be seemingly strange in their understanding of things.

12) Oftentimes, people get obsessed with the problems of society and ignore the need to change themselves. We are not political quietists. But we recognize that if you want to turn society around, the first step is to turn yourself around.

13) Do not slam other individuals’ religious beliefs. It leads to arrogance and just makes them more defensive. If you are discussing theology with non-Muslims, be kind to them, even if pointing out flaws in their beliefs. People are more attracted to Islam through people of exemplary character than they are through charismatic debaters or academics that can tear them apart. As my teacher put it rather bluntly, “Don’t slam Christians on the Trinity. No one can actually explain it anyways.”

14) In the early period of Islam, worshipping God with perfection was the default. Then people strayed away and there was a need to coin this term called “Sufism.” All it means is to have Ihsan (perfection or beauty) in the way you worship God, and in the way you conduct each and every part of your life.

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Ten Things You Didn’t Know About The Kaaba- Video

Dr Muhammad Wajid Akhter




Every Muslim knows the Kaaba, but did you know the Kaaba has been reconstructed several times? The Kaaba that we see today is not exactly the same structure that was constructed by Prophets Ibrahim and Ismail, may the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon them. From time to time, it has needed rebuilding after natural and man-made disasters.

Watch to learn ten things that most people may not know about the Ka’aba, based on the full article Ten Things You Didn’t Know About the Ka’aba.

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Eid Lameness Syndrome: Diagnosis, Treatment, Cure




How many of you have gone to work on Eid because you felt there was no point in taking off? No Eid fun. Have you ever found Eid boring, no different from any other day?

If so, you may suffer from ELS (Eid Lameness Syndrome). Growing up, I did too.

My family would wake up, go to salah, go out to breakfast, come home, take a 4+ hour nap and then go out to dinner. I didn’t have friends to celebrate with and even if I did, I wouldn’t see them because we stuck to our own immediate family just as they did.

On the occasion that we went to a park or convention center, we would sort of have fun. Being with other people was certainly better than breakfast-nap-dinner in isolation, but calling that a memorable, satisfying, or genuinely fun Eid would be a stretch.

I don’t blame my parents for the ELS though. They came from a country where Eid celebration was the norm; everyone was celebrating with everyone and you didn’t have to exert any effort. When they moved to the US, where Muslims were a minority, it was uncharted territory. They did the best they could with the limited resources they had.

When I grew up, I did about the same too. When I hear friends or acquaintances tell me that they’re working, doing laundry or whatever other mundane things on Eid, I understand.  Eid has been lame for so long that some people have given up trying to see it any other way. Why take personal time off to sit at home and do nothing?

I stuck to whatever my parents did for Eid because “Eid was a time for family.” In doing so, I was honoring their cultural ideas of honoring family, but not Eid. It wasn’t until I moved away that I decided to rebel and spend Eid with convert friends (versus family) who didn’t have Muslim families to celebrate with on Eid, rather than drive for hours to get home for another lame salah-breakfast-nap-dinner.

That was a game-changing Eid for me. It was the first non-lame Eid I ever had, not because we did anything extraordinary or amazing, but because we made the day special by doing things that we wouldn’t normally do on a weekday together. It was then that I made a determination to never have a lame Eid ever again InshaAllah.

I’m not the only one fighting ELS. Mosques and organizations are creating events for people to attend and enjoy together, and families are opting to spend Eid with other families. There is still much more than can be done, as converts, students, single people, couples without children and couples with very small children, are hard-hit by the isolation and sadness that ELS brings. Here are a few suggestions for helping treat ELS in your community:

Host an open house

Opening up your home to a large group of people is a monumental task that takes a lot of planning and strength. But it comes with a lot of baraka and reward. Imagine the smiling faces of people who would have had nowhere to go on Eid, but suddenly find themselves in your home being hosted. If you have a big home, hosting an open house is an opportunity to express your gratitude to Allah for blessing you with it.

Expand your circle

Eid is about commUNITY. Many people spend Eid alone when potential hosts stick to their own race/class/social status. Invite and welcome others to spend Eid with you in whatever capacity you can.


You can enlist the help of close friends and family to help so it’s not all on you. Delegate food, setup, and clean-up across your family and social network so that no one person will be burdened by the effort InshaAllah.

Squeeze in

Don’t worry if you don’t have a big house, you’ll find out how much barakah your home has by how many people are able to fit in it. I’ve been to iftars in teeny tiny apartments where there’s little space but lots of love. If you manage to squeeze in even two or three extra guests, you’ve saved two or three people from ELS for that year.

Outsource Eid Fun

If you have the financial means or know enough friends who can pool together, rent a house. Some housing share sites have homes that can be rented specifically for events, giving you the space to consolidate many, smaller efforts into one larger, more streamlined party.

Flock together

It can be a challenge to find Eid buddies to spend the day with. Try looking for people in similar circumstances as you. I’m a single woman and have hosted a ladies game night for the last few Eids where both married and single women attend.  If you are a couple with young kids, find a few families with children of similar age groups. If you’re a student, start collecting classmates. Don’t wait for other people to invite you, make a list in advance and get working to fend off ELS together.

Give gifts

The Prophet ﷺ said: تَهَادُوا تَحَابُّوا‏ “Give gifts to increase love for each other”. One of my siblings started a tradition of getting a gift for each person in the family. If that’s too much, pick one friend or family member and give them a gift. If you can’t afford gifts, give something that doesn’t require much money like a card or just your time. You never know how much a card with kind, caring words can brighten a person’s Eid.

Get out of your comfort zone

If you have ELS, chances are there is someone else out there who has it too. The only way to find out if someone is sad and alone on Eid is by admitting that we are first, and asking if they are too.

Try, try, try again…

Maybe you’ve taken off work only to find that going would have been less of a waste of time. Maybe you tried giving gifts and it didn’t go well. Maybe you threw an open house and are still cleaning up/dealing with the aftermath until now. It’s understandable to want to quit and say never again, to relent and accept that you have ELS and always will but please, keep trying. The Ummah needs to believe that Eid can and should be fun and special for everyone.

While it is hard to be vulnerable and we may be afraid of rejection or judgment, the risk is worth it. As a survivor and recoverer of ELS, I know how hard it can be and also how rewarding it is to be free of it. May Allah bless us all with the best Eids and to make the most of the blessed days before and after, Ameen.

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