The blessed month of Ramadan has arrived, and alhamdulillah we welcome the fasting, the joy of being with family during iftar and attending community events like RTP’s Open Iftar. However, it is important to remember that Ramadan is the month when the holy Quran was revealed. One of the many ways Muslims actively engage with the Quran is through its recitation during taraweeh. In fact, even entering a mosque, and seeing men, women and children, from all walks of life praying side by side has a ‘Ramadan-feel’ to it.
Yet, taraweeh can often be overlooked. This might be because it takes place late at night and difficult to balance with school or work, but the truth is for non-Arabic speakers it can be boring. While local mosques try to recite the whole Quran and encourage following along, little guidance is given to those who do not understand a word of Arabic. To support those, who despite a language barrier seek to enjoy taraweeh, below are eight simple tips that you should try out.
- Get hyped for the night
Remind yourself that Ramadan is a gift that comes only once a year, and that there are great spiritual benefits from praying taraweeh:
‘I heard Allah’s Apostle saying regarding Ramadan, “Whoever prayed at night in it (the month of Ramadan) out of sincere Faith and hoping for a reward from Allah, then all his previous sins will be forgiven.”’ (Sahih Bukhari)
— Abu Huraira.
So why not shower, dress well, smell good, and head to the mosque with your family and friends. Even if you are praying taraweeh at home, prepare some water and snacks, as well as your favourite surahs that you can personally reflect on during taraweeh.
- Choose your favourite mosque
This is all up to you! What do you look for in a place of worship? Whether it is because the imam has a great voice, or there is a kebab shop just as you leave the mosque at 1 a.m., choose a mosque you simply feel comfortable in. Do not forget to pay attention to recitation, general comfort and atmosphere!
- Familiarise yourself with Arabic
Every day, set aside time to read a few pages of the Qur’an in the English translation. Ideally, this should be accompanied by reading and/or listening to the verses in Arabic. The English translation will make the surah more memorable, and in turn easier to recognise during taraweeh.
Top Tip: Listen to the Quran while commuting to work, university or school! You can listen while you’re cooking, cleaning or even on your journey to our Open Iftar. The more exposure and interaction you have with the Qur’an, the more familiar you will be with its flow and content.
Writer’s Favourite: Quran recitation and English translation podcast –https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/mishari-ibn-raashids-recitation-quran-translation-its/id1016304387?mt=2
- Prepare a translation ahead of time
Find out what the imam will be reciting during taraweeh ahead of time! You can ask him personally, phone the mosque, or follow along yourself – some mosques cover a juz (part) a day. Then, read the translation before the actual recitation – on your way back from work, after ‘Asr or on your way to the mosque. This will help you reflect on the general meaning, even if you don’t understand every single word during prayer.
App with Quran translation and audio – Quran Explorer: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/quran-explorer/id451133186?mt=8
- Focus on key words and/or Quranic stories
Try focusing on key phrases! When reading the Quran, you will notice that words are often repeated. For example, common words like samaa’ (sky), ardh (earth), jannah (paradise), naar/jahannam/jaheem (hell) will start to become familiar. So, when you hear the word “Jannah” during your prayers, you are able to engage with the reading and think of the most beautiful place you can imagine.
Also, the Qur’an is filled with parables and stories about past prophets. Familiarise yourself with these stories and the lessons they provide. For example, if you were to hear the name “Yusuf” or “Ya’qub”, the story of Yusuf should immediately come to mind. Hypothetically, if you were to be dealing with the loss of a loved one, you could gain strength from the moments of fear, sadness and loss that Ya’qub felt as a father losing his son.
Ya’qub cried so much he lost his eyesight, but despite the pain he still said: “[…] Patience is beautiful [for me]. And Allah is the one sought for help against that which you describe.” (Qur’an 12:18)
- Memorise with a purpose
We should ensure that we are constantly memorising Qur’an, with full knowledge of what each word and verse means. This is not an easy-fix! However, it will benefit us in our long-term goal to engage with the Qur’an in prayer.
Top tips: Whether it’s after Fajr or before you sleep, it is essential to be consistent. Start with memorising one verse a day and know the meaning of that verse. Use the same mushaf or app and just recite the verses over and over again. Throughout the day, recite what you memorised in your daily prayers even if it is one verse, this will keep the verse and its meaning fresh in your mind. I also recommend starting with the back of the Qur’an where the chapters are shorter.
- Learn Arabic
Another long-term solution is to learn Arabic! Enrol yourself online, or in a local Arabic course and learn basic Quranic Arabic. Becoming familiar with the vocabulary, grammar and syntax will help you appreciate the Quran at a much deeper level. Soon you’ll be able to actually feel as though Allah is talking to you directly.
- Bayyinah TV’s Arabic with Husna: http://bayyinah.tv/
- Ibn Jabal Institute: http://www.ibnjabal.com/home/
- SOAS Language Centre: https://www.soas.ac.uk/languagecentre/languages/arabic/
Writer’s personal note: I, myself, only started learning Arabic around five years ago and honestly, learning Arabic was, and still is, difficult. But trust me, the sweetness you taste when you understand a verse or a few words of the Word of your Lord, it will be worth the struggle. I always motivate myself with this hadith:
“The Messenger of Allah s.a.w. said: Verily the one who recites the Qur’an beautifully, smoothly, and precisely, he will be in the company of the noble and obedient angels. And as for the one who recites with difficulty, stammering or stumbling through its verses, then he will have TWICE that reward.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
— Ai’sha (May Allah be pleased with her)
Take a step back, and breathe! Arabic in itself is a difficult language to master, and the efforts we make as Muslims to understand the Quran may at times seem overwhelming. It’s important to acknowledge that we’re not going to understand the Quran overnight.
Make sustainable goals based on your own capabilities and ask Allah to make the process easy:
We have made it easy to learn lessons from the Quran: will anyone take heed? (54:40) —Holy Quran
Also, choose certain days to sit back in the masjid. Choose to pray a certain number of rakaats for taraweeh, and follow the recitation with the English translation instead. This way you would get rewarded for sitting, reading and understanding, while marvelling at the power and wisdom of the Quran.
It’s about starting a relationship with the Quran – not a race to finish it! With every difficulty and struggle you are building a personal relationship with Allah. Know that He is Al-Shakoor, the Appreciative, and He appreciates every struggle and loves our sincere efforts.
“…My servant draws not near to Me with anything more loved by Me than the religious duties I have enjoined upon him, and My servant continues to draw near to Me with supererogatory works so that I shall love him…”
— Hadith Qudsi