The Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) said in a hadith recorded in Bukhari, related by Uthman ibn Affan:
“.خيركم من تعلم القرآن و علمه”
“The best of you is the one who learns the Qur’an and teaches it.”
The word تَعَلَّمَ ta`allam is in a form which means takalluf (effort/exertion), meaning that the person struggled to learn the Qur’an, that their learning the Qur’an required effort and difficulty. Similarly, yesterday we talked about nations before us that struggled to carry the Torah. Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) uses the word hummilu at-Torah (they struggled to carry it).
خيركم khayrukum means the best of the Muslims. This shows that the success, honor, respect and glory of this Ummah is with the book of Allah (swt). That’s why I encourage our brothers and sisters who become Muslim that, after learning prayer and other basics of Islam, they should focus on the Qur’an. Find someone who can teach you the Qur’an. I meet Muslim brothers who tell me all the bad things about a particular scholar. I ask the brother if he can read Surah Fatiha. I find that he cannot even read the Qur’an properly, but he was able to speak about a scholar of Islam. What kind of Islam is this? When the Companions of the Prophet ﷺ became Muslim, the first thing they concentrated on was Qur’an and how to pray. Alhamdullilah (praise be to God), I thank my teacher in Oklahoma. He was a large man from Senegal. When I became Muslim he grabbed me and he said, “Listen, learn the Qur’an and learn Arabic. Don’t waste your time with groups.” I remember he told me some stories about Senegal that I want to share with you.
First he said: “In my town in Senegal (St. Louis, which is next to Mauritania) if someone amongst the people of knowledge wants to get married he must first memorize the Qur’an, pray taraweeh with the Qur’an and also memorize the Mu’wattah of Imam Maalik.” Of course this is difficult for us today—we have difficulty memorizing the 40 Hadith of Imam Nawawi, but this criteria shows us the level of their study.
Then, my teacher told me that he finished learning the 10 major qiraat (recitations) of the Qur’an and he learned that from his sister. He said, “My father considered the Qur’an to be a simple pre-requisite that had to be done, and so he didn’t teach it to me. My father was busy teaching usool al fiqh (philosophy of Islamic Law), lugha (language), hadith (traditions of the Prophet ﷺ ) etc. My father told me that for the examination to get the real ijaazah (certification) we would be given empty notebooks. Then we had to write from Surat Al-Fatiha to Surat An-Nas in two weeks. Every day you had to write a certain amount of Qur’an, which would then be given to the Sheikh. They read what you write and if you made even one mistake, you don’t get an ijaazah. Just one mistake. I asked my teacher, “Where is your book in which you wrote the Quran?” He said, “No, we don’t keep it. It is a gift for our Sheikh.”
The third story he told me is about his grandfather who was the Mufti of Senegal. He said one day a group of youth came to his grandfather and told him they wanted to study the philosophy of Islamic Law. He said, “No.” They asked, “Why?” He asked them, “How much Qur’an have you memorized?” They replied, “We’ve memorized twelve ajzaa (parts).” He said, “Start with Qur’an. Forget usool al-fiqh.”
The Qur’an is very important, and we should not neglect it. If you have the time and the resources of people available to teach you,,then you will be asked by Allah (swt) why you didn’t study and make the effort to learn. One of my teachers, Sh. Muhammed Al Mahdi from Al-Jazaair in Egypt, started to teach five subjects every day after Fajr. I stopped going to this class of his, and one day he came to me and said, “I’m going to bear witness against you on the Day of Judgment that you didn’t come to class.” Then, I started to come to class!
How many of us want to be the chosen people of Allah (swt)? The Prophet ﷺ said,
“.أهل القرآن أهل الله و خاصته”
“The people of the Qur’an are the people of Allah (swt) and His chosen people.”