I was walking amidst worshippers on the third floor of Masjid al Haram. Deep in thought, I was suddenly interrupted by hearing someone’s incredible recitation of the irresistible Qur’an.
I stood still, my heart captivated by the recitation. As I slowly sat in my spot, other worshippers came and began to sit near me, whisking out phones to capture the voice. It sounded like this:
As he finished, the man next to him began to explain that this reciter was Shaykh al-Shirbini, an Imam of a masjid in Cairo. Those around him begged him to continue reciting and he politely refused. The crowd got larger, persisting in their demands until he finally continued reciting and then engaged in conversation with the crowd.
His recitation reminded me of the world renowned Abdul Baset Abdul Samad, the Qari (Qur’an reciter) who almost every Qur’an teacher suggests any new student of tajweed (rules of recitation of Qur’an) to follow in order to perfect their recitation. For so long I had wanted to know how to get the same pitch as the great Qari, having heard more than once that it’s attainable even for those who are not born with it. I couldn’t hold my question in any longer.
He told me: Listen to Shaykh Abdul Baset over and over, focusing on smaller surahs (chapters of the Qur’an)to get the tone and inclination. And over time, the more that I listen, the easier his pitch will come.“Excuse me,” I spoke through the crowd, “I have a question!” The Shaykh and the man sitting next to him looked to me with kindness and welcomed my inquiry. “If someone wants to recite like you—with that same tone inclination—how can they do it?” The Shaykh smiled and responded with one word: “Practice.”
I haven’t attained that pitch yet, although I’m sure many readers have. (If you worked on attaining it, please write an article sharing with us tips on how to do so!) Thus, this reminder isn’t about getting down that type of tone inclination. This reminder is about his one-worded reply: Practice.
When I first started memorizing the Qur’an, my voice, my tone, my melody was horrendous. I hated hearing myself. My teacher would recite with a melodious voice and the words of the Qur’an would just enter my heart. And then I would recite and sound like nails on a chalkboard.
One day, I asked her how I could get to her level. How could I recite and actually enjoy what I heard? How could I not sound so…horrible?
She smiled and replied, “You’re just starting. I’ve been doing this for years. As you increase in your memorization, you’ll get your own flow and your voice will begin to fill. Don’t worry, it’ll just take time and practice.”
And that’s exactly what happened. It took time and practice. And that’s the key; you and I may not sound like a famous Qari, especially when we first begin. However, with time and Allah’s help, we’ll start to carve our own groove with our Qur’an.
Many are those who have lamented to me of their inability to recite beautifully, to memorize quickly or to remember what they’ve memorized. Those who’ve almost given up countless times have told me, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me!” The real question, however, has little to do with what may be wrong and everything to do with how hard or consistently one is putting in the effort.
Shaykh al-Shirbini and all of my Qur’an teachers gave me the same advice. Whether it’s the way one recites, the speed with which one memorizes or the strength of the actual memorization and review, all of these rest on one thing after the help of Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He), and that is: Practice.
We all have the ability to attain levels we see in others and wish for ourselves. The real question is not why we cannot get there. The question is: Are we willing to put in the effort and dedicate the time to become like those we wish to be?
For tips on how to memorize the Qur’an read: Part I
For tips on understanding the Qur’an for non-Arabic speakers read: Part III
For tips on how to review what one has memorized of the Qur’an read: Part IV