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Fasting & Ramadan Prayer Qur'an

How Can I Enjoy Listening to the Qur’an in Taraweeh When I Don’t Understand What is Being Recited?

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The Qur’an Series: Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI Part VII | Part VIII | Part IX

Originally posted in August 2012

During Ramadan, many of us attend taraweeh (night prayers) at the masjid. Some of us stay until the Imam leads us in witr (a final supplementary prayer). For many of us, this can amount to over two hours of prayer time and for many of us, we understand almost nothing.

Sometimes, during the recitation of the Qur’an we hear the people around us crying profusely and we wish we could understand what could be so powerful that those around us are reduced to such tears. We can sometimes make out a specific word, but within a moment, we are back to indistinguishable meanings and simply wishing we knew what was going on.

I used to have no idea what was going on in the prayer. I remember standing for lengthy time periods behind the Imam, trying to make my mind focus but finding it constantly drift off; it’s very, very hard to concentrate when the mind has nothing to contextualize. I eventually would settle on trying to think of anything for which I could possibly be grateful. But taraweeh prayers are long; without understanding, my heart would simply get bored and my limbs would always fidget. Thoughts of my day, my concerns, my hopes and my food cravings after a day of fasting would all filter through my conscious while I shifted around. It’s hard to keep still for that long when one is mentally checked out and physically disengaged.

However, Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala  (exalted is He) guided me to an action which changed my life and revolutionized my prayer and du`a (supplication) experience ever since. It’s simple, but it takes long-term dedication. The results, for me, were powerful and transformational. The common-sense solution that worked miracles in my life by Allah’s blessings: reading a translation.

Every single day, for a number of years, I would sit and read five pages of the Qur’an in the English translation. I would do this while both reciting and listening to the Arabic recitation, allowing my ears to become accustomed to the Arabic words associated with the English.

After a few months of this practice, the first Ramadan came. In my hometown masjid, the Imam would lead twenty rakahs (units of prayer). So I would pray eight rakahs and then sit in the back and read the translation of the verses for the next twelve. I continued this throughout Ramadan and was extremely consistent with this practice for the next year. Soon, my awareness of Arabic words increased; I realized that the Qur’an uses many of the same words over and over and I was able to recognize them. I was also becoming more familiar with the surahs (chapters); I had an introductory understanding of what themes were being discussed in certain portions of the Qur’an due to keywords and a general awareness of what the surah entailed.

By the second Ramadan, I was praying with purpose. While I still had no idea what every word meant, I had begun to comprehend general meanings of many of the chapters and I was able to grasp the overarching messages of some of the verses. I kept up my practice of praying eight and reading the translation. I even had a few emotional moments. I started looking forward to certain verses that were my favorites. I was finally beginning to understand and I was actually enjoying it; the sweetness of the Qur’an had penetrated my heart and taken hold of my body. Praying taraweeh in Ramadan became a means of nourishment for my soul and tranquility for my limbs.

I also began memorizing the Qur’an and the more I memorized, the more my vocabulary expanded. After four years of reading the translation consistently and memorizing the Qur`an, I was enthralled with the idea of praying for hours behind the Imam. I could not wait for Ramadan; all year I waited for the last ten nights specifically, when the Imam would recite the Qur’an for an even longer period of time. My character, my life’s purpose, my Ramadan experience completely changed because I finally grasped a general understanding of the Qur’an.

Six years after I began reading the translation consistently and memorizing portions of the Qur’an, I moved to Egypt to learn Arabic. When I started, I took a practice test and was placed in an intermediary level. However, when I met my teacher for the first time, barely able to communicate a few sentences, she was shocked. “Your vocabulary is so expansive,” she told me, “but you clearly are a beginner!” Needless to say, I was re-placed as a beginner. Throughout our lessons, my Arabic teacher would express her surprise at my ability to understand certain words in depth simply because they appeared in the Qur’an, while others I struggled with at great lengths. Eventually, she told me that my Qur’anic preparation was what helped me actually grasp the language and is what had originally placed me at a level far higher than I really was.

Focusing on learning Arabic in Egypt, even at a basic level, allowed me to come to appreciate the incredible linguistic miracles of the Qur’an. The grammar, the syntax, the rhetoric, use of specific words—an appreciation for the deeper linguistic mechanisms did not happen simply because I had read the translation for an extended period of time. However, by Allah’s blessings, my self-training had laid the groundwork and with it, I was able to appreciate the Qur`an, prayer, and du`a’ at levels far beyond what I had even imagined before making the commitment to seek understanding.

The lesson in this personal experience is that taking time to learn Arabic as a language, studying the grammar, syntax and rhetoric are very important, but not absolutely necessary for a meaningful relationship with understanding the messages of the Qur’an.  Studying Arabic can help create a more cumulative appreciation of the mind-blowing power of the Qur’an, but none of us needs to grasp onto a future hope or past failed attempts of being fluent in Arabic in order to emotionally and intellectually become attached to the Qur’an. Such a relationship can begin simply by dedicating oneself to understanding the general translation of the words of the Qur’an in our native languages, and that can take place at any place and time. It is one that requires commitment and time, but if a person is serious and dedicated, God willing, they will eventually see the benefits of their toil and they will begin to understand and fulfill their purpose with greater perfection and zeal.

Here is a suggested plan of action that should be fit to a person’s individual situation. This is what worked for me, and it will differ from one individual to another. If a person begins this Ramadan, taking advantage of the blessings of this month, with their own plan of action, insha’Allah (God willing) by next Ramadan, they will notice a marked difference in their taraweeh and Qur’anic experience. This is the month to make a commitment to act; this is the month of success.

  1. Read the Qur`an in translation every single day. Choose a chunk to read in translation daily (ie: five pages) and couple it with reading it in Arabic and/or listening to it in Arabic.
  2. During Ramadan specifically, choose to pray a certain number of rakahs for taraweeh, but also make it a point to sit down and follow the recitation with the English translation. What is of more benefit? Praying for hours without understanding and hoping to get rewards (insha’Allah) or sitting, reading and understanding, finding oneself captivated by the incredible power of the Qur’an and actually feeling oneself coming closer to Allah (swt) and changing one’s life to maintain that relationship with Him? Long term, in this life and the next, insha’Allah there are rewards for both. But for the one who strives, there is much more reward for a person who actually lives the Qur’an instead of standing for a period of time, completely tuned out because of a lack of understanding.
  3. For Ramadan especially, try to read the translation of the surah that will be covered in that night’s prayer. That way, even if one is not able understand what is recited specifically, one will know the general meaning of the verses and one’s mind can focus on those general lessons and messages.
  4. Hone in on key words and use them to focus on salah (prayer). For example, when familiar with the different words which indicate “Paradise,” imagine Paradise. Imagine standing in Paradise, with its breathtaking beauty…and suddenly finding someone covering your vision with their hands! When you turn around, imagine who you would want to see most in that moment. Your mom? Your dad? Your grandparent? Your sibling? Your spouse? Your child? Your best friend? Imagine. You haven’t seen this person in possibly decades, centuries—you’ve gone through life without them or death came to you first and you had been in the grave for some time. Then you made it through the Day of Judgment. You finally have entered Paradise—you passed the test! And suddenly, you are with the person who you loved and missed the most. How would you feel in that moment? Allow your heart to FEEL the verses talking about Paradise as they apply to you. Use keywords to help your mind and heart interact with the Qur’an’s message to you.
  5. Listen to the Qur’an and its translation constantly; while stuck in frustrating traffic, while cooking and cleaning, while walking from one end of campus to another; allow the recitation of the Qur’an to penetrate the soul and the translation of the Qur’an to crack the hardened heart. The more one listens to the Arabic recitation and translation, the more familiar one will become with understanding the Qur’an.
  6. Study the meanings of Qur’anic words specifically over time. Here is a suggested resource to begin: http://abdurrahman.org/qurantafseer/learnquran.pdf
  7. Throughout the year, work on tajweed  (correct recitation of the Qur`an in Arabic) and memorization. Over time, this will significantly aid in a special working relationship with the Qur’an, God willing.

Many of us complain about our inability to understand what is being recited of the Qur’an and to maintain focus or enjoyment in prayer due to this reason. I know the feelings of boredom, frustration and helplessness. I know what it means to blame our lack of “experiencing” the “Ramadan feeling” on our lack of understanding of what is being recited.

However, we have the capability to revolutionize this experience, with Allah’s Help. We can become of those who truly understand, whose hearts are captivated and whose limbs are calmly in awe, whose minds are blown away at what we are listening to of the Qur’an. The methods are there and the tools are available. The real question is: Are we willing to make the time and dedicate the effort?

Many of us have tried different methods to wake our hearts up in Ramadan and help them focus on the prayer when we do not understand what is being said. What tips do you have which have worked in your life? Please share them so we all benefit insha’Allah.

About the author

Maryam Amirebrahimi

Maryam Amirebrahimi received her master’s in Education from UCLA, where her research focused on the effects of mentorship rooted in Critical Race Theory for urban high school students of color. She holds a bachelor’s in Child and Adolescent Development from San Jose State University, where she served as the President of the Muslim Student Association for two consecutive years. Currently, she is pursuing a second bachelor’s degree in Islamic Studies through Al Azhar University’s distance learning program. Maryam spent a year studying the Arabic language and Qur’an in Cairo, Egypt, and has memorized the Qur’an. She has been presented the Student of the Year award by former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and holds a second degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. Maryam frequently travels to work with different communities to address a variety of social issues and writes about topics related to social realities, women’s studies and spiritual connections on www.virtualmosque.com.

108 Comments

  • JazakAllah Khairan sister for this beautiful article. I for one definitely want to bring change within myself for Allah’s help to come in better understanding the Qur’an. Those tips are very useful indeed.

  • Thank you for an inspiring article. I can really relate to this article. Alhamdulillah, before Ramadhan I found an article with tips on how to be prepared for Ramadhan. One of the tips is to read the translation of the portion of the Quran that would be recited on that particular night..alhamdulillah it really help me to stay more focused and khusyu’. Can’t wait for the Imam to recite surah Yaasin, ArRahman and AlMulk ….

  • Jazakhallah Khayr for this wonderful advice.I have been praying for a connection with the Qur’an especially during taraweeh.Inshallah I will make effort to follow your advice.

  • without even seeing the name i knew this amazing article was written by a woman. jazak’Allah for giving me a push to exert some effort towards understanding the qur’an.

  • Jazaakllaahu khayran for this inspiring article & advice. Tonight in taraweeh i was actually thinking ‘i wish i could understand what is being recited” then i read this SubhanAllah. Thank you, i really needed this! barakallahu feek:)

  • Jazakallahu khairan for such a heart touching article. May Allah-swt bless you, parents, family, friends, teachers and all.

    Barakallahu feek

  • jazakillah ukhty…it’s really amazing article.i can read Quran but i don’t know Arabic so i don’t understand what i read.i will try ur advice coz i really want to know what i read when i recite the holy Quran and i will start it with Quran translate

  • its gr8.and if u r too lazy for that and dont think u can do it,try this: learn the translation with recitation of the portion that imam is gona recite each day .

  • Jazak Allah khair for the practical tips.. I too found that reading the translation and listening to explanation of tafseer is very beneficial in this regard…

    For those who understand Urdu language i would recommend
    http://farhathashmi.com/quran/tafsir/
    which has personally helped me alot in understanding meanings of Quran directly from Arabic (without the help of translation)

  • To read the Taraweeh (and all 20) is an established Sunnah, while to read and understand it at the same time is a Nafl (optional) act, while commendable and preferred it will be a sin to leave the sunnah in order to fulfil a nafl. Time should be taken aside from the taraweeh salaah to pursue understanding, not during the salaah when now the better act will be to perform the taraweeh.

    • Salaam,

      That is true according to the majority of scholars. However there are those that hold Taraweeh as having no set number. I think the suggestion made in the article can be followed by the latter.

      Wallhu a’lam,

      Haq.

  • Thanks for sharing your experience…I more or less have “undergone” similar efforts that you did…but still a long, long way to go.

  • Asakam Alikom, I often read from the Quran while doing behind the imam but read the English transliteration. Is that okay?

  • Jazakallah u khairan katheeran sister. U have write an ausome article on this important issue.It has been my dream to recite in tajweed, to understand Quraan and to learn it by heart in sha Allah. Alhamdulillah first step i have covered, 2nd and 3rd are in process in sha ALLAH …May Allah subahna Help me and every one who wants to excel in the language of Quraan and People of Paradise..ameen ..jazakallah u khair for the beneficial links …Barakumullah u feekum

  • Jazakillahu khayr (-: thank you for sharing.

    I realised the same thing, that reading the Qur’an with translation, reflecting on the meaning, and trying to match words to their definition helps a great deal. By the time you read other surah or other ayah, you realise that words repeat, and you begin to be feel more attuned to your recitation as you feel more interested due to being able to distinguish certain words. A connection develops further while Qur’anic vocab increases masha Allah. By Allah’s mercy alone, memorisation helps sooo much alhamdulillah. Jazakillahu khayr for reminding about the significance of tajweed too. Softening the heart by the Qur’an begins with giving our time and effort to understand it. When we want to see ourselves clearly in a mirror, the glass needs to be cleaned and our eyes need to be open/vision needs to be clear for us to be able to see ourselves properly. The Qur’an similarly needs attention-it begins in our heart and renewed intentions are needed. Understanding the Qur’an begins with going to it like a humbled child, purifying intentions, asking Allah from the bottom of the heart to accept our efforts/to help us to draw closer to Him by letting us understand, love and obey His Words. It’s about not giving up-can really be an endurance test.

    Learning some Qur’anic grammar def helps, walhamdulillah. Learning words such as ‘thumma’, ‘kalla’, ‘wa’, ‘allathi’, ‘illa’, ‘la’, ‘jazaa’, ‘innahum’, ‘kulli’, ‘thalika’ etc. speeds up the process.

    Sorry for making this long, jazakillahu khayr <3

    May Allah help us to be of those who recite in the most beautiful of manners, reflect upon, understand, and especially to implement the Words of our Rabb. May we learn, respect, become humbled, and teach – may we not be of the hypocrites-Ameen.

  • PPS. Learning/listening to/reflecting upon Tafsir attentively also helps and is important. If we’re too busy, downloading some and putting it on our iPods etc. can help insha Allah.

    Bayyinah Institute has excellent Tafsir audio, masha Allah:

    http://bayyinah.com/podcast/

  • JazakAllah for this wonderful article. It truly brought tears to my eyes as i myself have experienced this in this year’s ramadhan Alhumdulillah. Its a completely different experience to know what it being recited by the imam. Time flies and you are left wanting for more when it ends…..

  • The Holy Qur’an is available in Every Language of the world. Ask Google for its Translation in YOUR Language, Download it & Start Learning it day by day Regularly. In this way YOU will understand what it Says & thus YOU will Enjoy MORE Listening to it in Taraweeh.If YOU START this right now, YOU will Learn & Understand most of its Words & even Phrases before Next Ramadan. Remember! It’s the Special Blessing of Allah that has made it Unique for the Holy Qur’an’s New Listeners as well, that they will LOVE & Enjoy fully Listening to it’s Reciting without Knowing it’s Meanings!

  • Barakallau feek for this article.

    How Can I Enjoy Listening to the Qur`an in Taraweeh When I Don’t Understand What is Being Recited?

    You can actually enjoy listening to the Qur’an without understanding – that is the miracle of the Qur’an.

  • Allahamduillah, for such people like you who teach others with the hopes of others learning. All these years I have prayed in Ramadan and I would come out tired and confused and question myself as to why I would stand for hours not understanding the verses spoken. InsAllah, I will follow the list to understanding the Quran one step at a time. Jak

  • SubhanAllah! I feel like you attended my lecture I gave the other day to the youth in my mosque!! I spoke to them about the raha-rest feeling your heart gets through the taraweeh (which means rest!) and how it may be harder to achieve this feeling if you understand the Quran.
    And subhnallah I also told them the SAME thing of how you began to understand! About 2-3 years ago I made it a goal to read every arabic aya followed by translation and now 3years later I understand the Quran alhumdallah, and the more you understand the more your khusho increases…how are you going to enjoy something you dont understand?

    Heres a script of what I said in the lecture:
    You want to achieve raha? You have to understand the Quran, so make it your lifetime goal to understand the Quran, and start now…make it your goal to read the arabic aya followed by the english definition and slowly the words will become familiar to you as many of them are repetitive throughout the Quran…and more importantly ask Allah to help you understand His words because in the end He is Qadr- on everything

  • Can someone explain the heaviness in my heart that I feel during prayer. Then I have to take deep long breathes. My heart feels very heavy during prayer. I’m a sinner and I’m not sure why my heart has such a connection with its Creator. Its like a different being altogether. When I go to sleep I feel so much peace in my heart that I start crying because I know this kind of peace may not last. Please I want someone to share same feelings it is way to comfort me. Will this peace last after Ramadan. I may go crazy if it does not.

    • Sister or Brother, may Allah swt help us all and guide me to speak to you. If you consider yourself a sinner that might weight heavy on your heart during prayer. If you pray to Allah swt for forgiveness during prayer that might explain the peaceful feeling after it. Allah swt wants us to ask for forgiveness, reach out, persevere in prayer, open our hearts to our Creator. When I was down I begged Allah swt crying for relief, then I remember something I heard in a lecture: “hold on to the rope of Allah swt”. My physical “rope” is the string of praying beads. I hold on to it as it is my direct connection to Allah swt while I do Dhikr (repetition of: subhannaAllahi wa bihamdihi – alhamdulillah – subhanna’allah – Allah Uakbar – Astagfirulah (forgiveness). May Allah swt have mercy on us, forgive us and save us from the hellfire. Ameen

      • AAWW Brothers n Sisters, Subhanna’Allah! I just came back from Taraweh… My heart was heavy during Taraweeh, astagfirulah because I was upset, distracted and angry, may Allah swt forgive me, with a sister next to me because of the smell. Forgive me but I wish my nouse did not smell anything but on the contrary it seems that every bad smell sits, stands, breaths on me. Forgive me but I can not stand it. Brothers n Sisters please shower before going to the Mosque. If u have smelly feet use Baking Soda to wash/soak them and put some inside ur shoes, inside ur socks. Bodily smells are extremely disruptive. Forgive me but I wish that I didn’t go to Taraweeh tonight. In between prayers I had to get up, pick up my prayer mat, my bag and move somewhere else. May Allah swt forgive me for my lack of resistance with bad odors. I felt, still feel, guilty for getting up and moving away. Some sisters were talking about “a sister that stood up and moved away”. If I committed a sin may Allah swt have mercy on me. Ameen My heart is still heavy.

      • Now Ramadan is over I still feel heaviness in my heart in prayer occasionally. I am not sure what this all means. You may right it could be related to sins. I’m not sure what this is about but you pointed me in right direction. JAk… Eid mubarak

  • Beautiful Maryam. Thanks for sharing this :). Even as someone who “understands” Arabic these tips and techniques are of benefit.

  • ‘Read the Qur`an in translation every single day. Choose a chunk to read in translation daily (ie: five pages) and couple it with reading it in Arabic and/or listening to it in Arabic.’

    I truly agree with the abovementioned tip in understanding the Quran. For me, even a page a day helps me a lot in understanding the meaning of this wonderful Quran.

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful article, let’s live life Al-Quran!

  • There’s also some nice resources online to learn the Qur’anic words, based off of this idea that there actually aren’t that many.

    There is a “Qur’anic Word of the Day” listserv that sends you one word from the Qur’an a day to learn (actually it’s only a few words a week, but that works out better since we’re usually all busy anyway). That is here:

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/QWOTD/

    There is a Qur’an word by word site that is lovely at:

    http://corpus.quran.com/wordbyword.jsp

    And there are apps that have flashcards of common Arabic words.

  • Dear Sister,
    May Allah swt reward you for sharing it with us. Ameen. May I ask to collect all the helpful websites in one paragraph n make it available to everyone?
    Jazak Allahir

  • Assalamualaikkum,

    Jazakallah Khair for article.

    The best part is that, we all have dreams, aspirations, wishes, aims etc . Reading the article might help to boost those wishes to a little higher level .

    But, We have to ask a question to ourseleves sincerely. Have we done or will do any practical steps to understand the quran, memorize the quran .

    No magics will work in this case. Sister Maryam in her other article has mentioned the importance of learning quran.

    We have to manage our time, lessen the usage of facebook, Sincere dedication and committment is the core for this.

    Worst part is that, we will have goosebumps reading the articles, but hardly we give a try .!!!

    May allah help each one of us to Learn the quran and fall in love with the Quran. Believe me , you start reading quran ,you will read it again and again. We are living in a world where ther is are no excuses !! everything is at your fingertips…

    Sincere dedication is needed…may allah help us all

  • I’ve always read the translation but without referring to each line of the surahs.. I read them like stories, therefore have not been able to enrich my Arabic (whatever scarce that I have of it). Perhaps your strategies might work. Thanks.

  • Salaam & Ramadan kareem,

    Jazaakum Allah khayr for this article filled with great advice on making the Qur’an more accessible to non-native speakers of Arabic. I just have one additional suggestion (forgive me if it has been stated already, as I didn’t read through all of the comments).

    The overwhelming majority of Arabic nouns/adjectives/verbs are based on a triliteral root (3-letters). Once you can figure out the root, and you know something about its meaning, you can better understand the meaning of the word you are hearing. For example, q-d-r has to do with ability, power, and destiny. God as Qadeer (the Powerful), Qaadir 3ala (able to do ___), yaqdir (He is able), etc. If you are able to hear the q-d-r in every word, you will be able to figure out that the verse you are hearing is talking about ability/power.

  • Jazaky Allah Khyran..this is very inspiring, the line that touched me the most was when you wrote, ” Praying taraweeh in Ramadan became a means of nourishment for my soul and tranquility for my limbs”. May it be like that always for you and the whole ummah :)

  • Assalamu alaikum.

    Taraweeh prayer is a superagatory prayer that is ideally not to be performed in the masjid. All nawafilm prayers are to be observed in the house. It is better we stick to the Sunna rather than to invent one.If it done to demonstrate to new converts, then it is O.K.

    Mustapha

  • […] How Can I Enjoy Listening to the Qur`an in Taraweeh When I Don’t Understand What is Being Recited?… by Maryam Amir-Ebrahimi Why taking the time to learn Arabic as a language, studying the grammar, syntax and rhetoric are very important, but not absolutely necessary for a meaningful relationship with understanding the messages of the Qur’an. […]

  • I’ve been trying the same thing for the last 6 years and alhamdulillah the results are as you describe them to be; another thing I did whilst reading taraweeh is keep the mushaf with me in salah and follow the translation as the imaam recites arabic in salah as well as sit down for the 12 and focus on translation alone

  • this is a very good article, jazakillah khair for sharing, although its important to pray all 20 rakaats of taraweeh :)

    and to the person above ^^ its not correct to hold the qur’an while praying salat

    and Allah knows best

    • It is fine to just pray 8 Inshallah, the Prophet (PBUH) never prayed more than 8 rakahs of taraweeh. The focus in qiyaam is on duration of standing up and reciting rather than the number of the rakahs. Also, IIt is permissible to hold the quran while praying nawafil prayers, not the obligatory 5 prayers. Since taraweeh are optional/additional prayers (nawafil) Inshallah it is fine to hold a copy of the quran and read from it during the prayer. Allah knows best.

  • […] children to remember. 6. If you find it difficult to concentrate during the long tarawih prayers, this article is for you. 7. Three components of Happiness, stated simply and eloquently in this blog series on […]

  • To anonymous re: holding the Qu’ran while praying…it IS permissible to hold the Qur’an while praying – see authentic hadiths reagrding Aisha (RA) on praying behind her Imam (Zhuqwan) while he held the Qur’an and read from it. W’Allah alam but please do not say something that is not true.

  • Alhumdulillah i did the same. I would follow english with the arabic playing in the background and was amazed how Allah allowed words to gradually seep in. Its a blessing.

  • truly inspiring and hope that Allah give me strength to follow such devine practice..jazakallah khair..finding this article isn’t coincidence!

    • ..and indeed finding this article is not by coincidence.. it what Allah provides for which is good..

      jazakAllah khairan for sharing these info

  • Salam. Just wanted to clear this whole thing about holding a mushhaf/Qur’an while praying. Depending on the madhab you follow, it will differ. In this case, it is important to understand the rulings each Imam of jurisprudence has given out. For Hanafis, it is completely impermissible to hold the Qur’an during any prayer. Shafii (I’m not too familiar with this). In any case, it is important to note that depending on the madhab one follows, the rules will differ. So no one person here is incorrect. Salam! :)

  • Salam. I hold a translation Quran with me when I pray taraweeh and follow along in English. I am not a scholar but I don’t think wanting to understand what the Imam is reciting would be impermissible. Islam is an easy religion, we shouldn’t make it hard for us, ask Allah for guidance and do as you feel comfortable in with situations that aren’t perfectly clear. Wa alikum assalam.

  • You are an inspiration sister. Masha Allah.. May Allah make you better than what i think of you, May He increase you and your family in goodness, and me included, in sha Allah. :)
    Allahumma Aameen.

  • You write, “Listen to the Qur’an and its translation constantly…” Might you recommend an audio resource?
    Thank you!

  • An interesting article. It is good that the site administrators reposted it. However, as I see it, there are some issues with the suggestions of this sister.

    In the mosque where I made shahada many years ago, her suggestion would probably not have been realizable: 1) During taraweeh prayers, the place was so crowded that there may literally not have been any place to sit aside to read the Qur’an’s meanings in English (or Spanish, French, or whatever in N. America); 2) In that mosque, even if I had tried, I would probably have been literally prevented from doing so. (As nearly as I could tell, there were a lot of narrowminded people there who would not have tolerated such “aberrant” behavior.)

    I was already of middle age when I made shahada years ago and am now a “senior citizen,” i.e., an older person. Like an estimated 50-75% (!) of all converts to Islam in N. America, I have pretty much fallen away. Although I still have some vague contact online with the Islamic community (why else would I be here?), I will not lie and pretend that I follow Islamic precepts any more. Again, the “dropout rate” of converts in N. America is pretty ferocious, but who cares?

    To be blunt, the language problem was an insurmountable obstacle for me. Try as I might, I just could not get over it. I just could not hold in mind English meanings while I was babbling in (probably badly mispronounced) Arabic what were supposedly prayers. I might as well have memorized the Paris telephone directory in Hindi for all I understood. I was just a trained parrot mindlessly enunciating meaningless syllables. And at my age, I doubt that things are going to change. (I have no figures, but I speculate that most converts to Islam in N. America are youngish and may be able to deal with these issues, but I was not and am not. However, nobody seems to care about us older folks. Try to find somebody my age in a lot of mosques who is able and willing to speak good English over a cup of coffee.)

    A few times I went to taraweeh prayers years ago, but it seemed to be such an exercise in futility that after a while I never went back.

      • Salaam. JAK. Thank you for responding. As it turns out, I have glanced at that series on this website, and I think it is good. However, unfortunately, it does not seem to be completely relevant to the situation of an older person who has physical, sometimes painful (but try to find a chair without someone griping), limitations trying to stand in the lines of the taraweeh prayer totally baffled and disconcerted by the literally incomprehensible chanting of the imam. What is the use? I should just stay home and read a translation. (And, as I mentioned above, some of us older people are literally incapable of getting over the language barrier, but again thank you for responding.)

        • salam brother Paul,
          I am a born Muslim, and relatively younger but I think I understand your turmoil since I dont speak Arabic too. Every Ramadhan I felt the same, and I would find myself making a new resolution and yet ended up where I was – emotionally detached during taraweh. I too at first thought it was the language issue but I think it is beyond that. Allah knows best.
          I pray that Allah won’t forsake you, myself and all Muslims especially the senior citizen reverts who are struggling to understand the deen. Let us pray for His mercy and guidance to let us all be close to Him in whatever way He seems fit our situation. Oh Allah, nothing is difficult if You wish to make it easy for us, and if You wish You would make it easy for us, please guide us, Allahumma amiin.

    • May God bless you. It sounds like you’ve definitely had difficult experiences, especially as an elder gentleman.

      May God fill your life with ease and blessings and surround you with angels and people who will be good companions for you wherever you are.

      maryam

      • Salaam. Thank you for replying. Apparently I forgot to check the box to receive notifications of replies, so I only now saw it. :(

        Again, I do not have figures, but from observation, I would say that it is not common for people much over forty, say (and I was already forty-six), to profess themselves Muslims for the first time. I would go to the mosque for the prayers in the evening and afterward linger, but I almost never overheard older men (extremely rigid separation of the sexes there, so I don’t know about women) speaking English. (Not many younger men, either, to be honest, except for a few teenagers.)

        From what I could see, that mosque (and at the time it was the only one close enough that I could get to with any frequency) was so heavily “ethnic” (several different groups) that even younger converts did not fit in well. As one already with some years, I was ignored, and the last few times I went anywhere, even in recent years, I have overheard even fewer (i.e., almost no) older men speaking English, so I am not optimistic. (Because I never married, have no children, and live alone, it might be hard for me to fit in, having less in common, even if there were other older men able and willing to speak my language.)

        • Mr Paul Bartley, I am probably to late to comment here but I actually came across this post as I am having a slightly similar issue. It must be very difficult for you especially for your condition/age. However, do not despair, the same Almighty that favored you by guiding you to the right path, the truth, and success, ISLAM, is the same Almighty that can help you because He sees what you are going through, in fact all the difficulties you are encountering would not have happened without His permission, this is called a test. I mean for you it is very easy since you are a little bit older,you only have to ask Allah swt with sincerity to guide and help you. And from that, you just keep trying and see the results. The problem in our community (Muslims)is that we do not know how to approach people, not that certain people are like this because they want to but because this the way they have become with time and all that other people say about Muslims in general tend to teach them to be too much reserved or between themselves. This is generally also between muslims and muslims, I have had scenarios whereas I offer salam to a muslim and they do not even acknowledge it while as a muslim we clearly know that greetings are compulsory. So you see in this position, what you can best do is the above and follow the sunnah of the prophet pbuh. Instead of telling everyone here (no disrespect) how those people are in the Mosque or how some other people do not fit in well, you should pray to Allah swt to guide them instead, that is better for as only Allah knows why things happen. InshaAllah, you will be fine, if you were never married or never had any child, that is God willing as everything else is, how can you tell for sure that if you had a wife and children , they could help you? you never know, there are many cases where wives /children unfortunately don’t have that sense, only YA RAHMAN can help so my brother, inshaAllah you will be fine, continue to thank the Almighty for what you have and we shall all pray to the Almighty that He helps, guide and make your affairs easy. Amin
          P.S: sorry if any of the content above upset you, not my intention at all.
          Thank you also for the sister for this beautiful post, may Allah swt reward you, Amin

          JakahAllah Khair

  • Salam, thanks for the article. I’m trying to increase my faith and basically become a better muslim so this article is putting me on the right track. Its quite a struggle.

    I have the EXACT problem described by the author — I just can’t seem to get in to Taraweh because I have no clue what is being said. There is definitely a feeling of “missing out”, especially when dua time comes.

    My question, as someone without a ton of Quranic knowledge, if I’m showing up some random day of Ramadan, how do I even know how to get to the spot in the Quran where the imam last left off? If I want to follow along in English, what is the best way to keep exactly with where he is? Even if one started at the right chapter when the Imam starts reciting, I imagine it would be pretty easy to lose your place if you’re new to the whole following along thing.

    Logistically I’m just trying to figure out the best way about this.

    Thanks ahead.

    • wa alaykum as salam warahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

      These are great questions! Here are my recommendations but I’m sure others figure it out in better ways as well!

      1- If you’re showing up on a random day, try to get in a little earlier and ask someone where they’ll be reading from that day. Usually you can get a feel for which chapter they’ll be in when they start and find it in the Qur’an and get a feel for where you’ll be reading from inshaAllah.

      2- I would recommend following along in English, esp if you’re not quite familiar with the chapter in Arabic, while sitting in the prayer hall or somewhere where you can listen and follow along [if possible. As brother Paul mentioned above not every masjid will accomodate for this]. If you don’t know the Arabic or can’t read it, it will be difficult to follow him verse for verse. But it should help you generally stay in the same chapter as he’s reciting. Also, you can check in time to time with someone there to see how you’ve kept up and where they are in comparison to what you’re reading.

      This is a process and like anything new, it’ll take a bit to get adjusted to the Arabic vs. the English, listening to it while reading the translation [esp if it’s not something a person is super used to and can kind of know where they are by a catch verse or something].

      It may feel frustrating at first and confusing, but just like anything else, with practice it’ll become familiar and easier, God willing :)

      I’m very excited for your journey and even more excited that you’re making the commitment! I know it’s a struggle. Working on increasing our faith is always a struggle but don’t worry! You’re not alone! Millions of us are going through the same processes you are, we’re all just in different parts of the journey with the same goal.

      May God give you success!

      Maryam

  • Ramadan Karim!

    Thank you for sharing your story. I volunteer teaching basic Hebrew reading skills for prayer and Torah study to adult learners at my synagogue. I will share this with my students.

    I wish you continued success with your studies.

    • Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing Bryan! Really awesome how you volunteer to help adults better connect with prayer and the Torah!

      Ramadan Karim to you too and I wish you continued success as well!

      Maryam

  • Asalamu Alaikum Sister Maryam, Ive been readina few of your other articles and Ma Sha Allah theyve really helped.

    Just one question, when you said to read the translation would you read all 5 pages in arabic and then read 5 pages of english translation or did you do it verse by verse, so one verse arabic & one verse english?
    & you said you did it while both reciting & listeninig to the arabic?

    Im just a bit confused lol, could you please explain the process in abit more depth for me please

    Jazakallahu Khayr sis

    • wa alaykum as salam warahmatullahi wa barakatuh sr. Leana!

      I would use an Arabic-English Qur’an. So half the page was the actual Arabic Qur’an and the other half was the translation of the verses, verse by verse. I would read 5 of those pages daily.

      For listening, basically I would listen to the verses and then pause the recitation so that I could read the translation.

      InshaAllah this helps! May God bless you in your studies of the Qur’an and in your efforts to come close to Him!

      Maryam

  • […] I am described as a dynamic, assertive, energetic woman. As a teenager, I did not necessarily want Islam to be a piece of my rambunctious identity. I was loud, crazy and fun and I saw piety and religiosity as opposite my most prized traits. At fourteen, my family decided we would visit Mecca for a holy pilgrimage. I was apprehensive; I feared that such a visit might make me somehow devout and that was the last adjective I wanted to use when describing myself. But going to Mecca was everything I never knew I needed. Seeing the Ka`bah transformed my life. And in an effort to maintain a connection with the Divine once I had returned back to high school, I began reading the Qur’an in the English translation. […]

  • I suggest there are courses on learning 80% quran by understandquranacedamy and islamic online university. These are short courses but result is Alhamdlillhi amazing.

  • Assalam’alaikum WaRhemathullahi WaBarakatahu,

    jazak Allah for this article. May Allah (swt) reward you for your efforts.This information is very motivating and encouraging for many people who have a desire to learn and understand Quran. May Allah(swt) make it easy for us. Ameen.

  • Assalaamu Aleikum warahmatullah wabarakatuh,
    Jazak Allah Khair for the article, I am one of those who found it very hard to remember too but alhamdullillah, I found a good way. Please excuse me if this sounds like advertising, but I’ve learned it through Understandquran.com, in a relatively quick way and with lot’s of repetition. On my own, I often forgot the English meaning right after studying it, so I just recited empty words. But now alhamdullillah I really feel the blessings of praying. Because they start teaching with basic salat, then dua, so on and so on.

  • Peace be upon you all please every one tell me that which arabic should I learn every body talk about learnung arabic but I don’t know that about which arabic they are talking about (modern stanard arabic) or ( quranic arabic? If Iarn modern stanard arabic can I understand quran bit or more ?

  • Jazaaki Allahu khairan sister for your advices.
    Almost two years ago I started a self-studying word by word translation of the Quran, focusing on root letters. once I am familiar with the words then when I recite or listen I can recognize some words and automatically I remember the meaning of the whole ayat, Alhamdulillah. As you well said it is a long process but the most worthy and most precious time spent, in shaa Allah. Making dua asking for help, it is a must, do not think you can do it by your own efforts.
    This is the website that I follow for studying word by word and the tafsir (tafsir 2010 by sister Taimiyyah Zubair has the complete Quran)
    http://www.farhathashmi.com/english-section/tafsir/

    They have also the app (Quran for All) but this particular tafsir is not complete. there is only til juz 20

    wa asalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh

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