March 06, 2005

Memorizing the Qur'an

arnof79 wrote: "is't very interesting!. To the best of my lill knowledge, there is no one which can recite the bible by heart. any idea? and what is the explanation?"

The Bible in its entirety (New and Old Testaments), I don't believe, was ever intended to be recited or memorized in full (although I believe portions of the Old Testament were written for the purpose of recitation). The Bible, of course, was written by numerous authors as opposed to the Qur'an (one - Allah (swt)). Moreover, the Bible is a combination of different writing styles, being mostly prose with a smattering of poetry. The Qur'an has a unified style, being neither prose nor poetry, but using some of the elements of poetry, such as rhymes and near-rhymes.

People are able to memorize the entire Qur'an due to several reasons. First, as I mentioned above, there is the poetic element of rhymes and near-rhymes. To the best of my knowledge, virtually every verse of the Qur'an ends in a rhyme or near-rhyme. For example, Al-Ikhlas:

Qul huwa Allahu ahad
Allahu alssamad
Lam yalid walam yoolad
Walam yakun lahu kufuwan ahad

"Say: He is Allah, the One and Only; Allah, the Eternal, Absolute; He begetteth not, nor is He begotten; And there is none like unto Him." (112:1-4)

As you can see, each verse ends in an "ahd" sound. Even the verses that are the most "legalese" rhyme. (Ask your local legislators to try writing laws that rhyme! ;) )

Another reason why the Qur'an is memorized by so many is that children are encouraged to learn the Qur'an. Many are taught the Qur'an by rote, others learn Arabic and are able to memorize because they have an understanding of the language.

Of course, for us adults, memorizing the Qur'an may be more problematic; however, there are numerous websites that provide recitations by various people that allow us to listen to the proper pronunciation of the verses. You might find this page, Short Surahs of the Quran, to be of interest. (All of these audio clips are set up for RealPlayer.)

With regard to memorizing the Qur'an, one of my favorite quotations is from Mohammad Marmaduke Pickthall, an Englishman who converted to Islam and translated the Qur'an into English in the 1930s. In his footnote to verse 55:17, he wrote:

"It is a fact that the Koran is marvellously easy for believers to commit to memory. Thousands of people in the East know the whole Book by heart. The translator [Pickthall], who find [sic] great difficulty in remembering well-known English quotations accurately, can remember page after page of the Koran in Arabic with perfect accuracy."

"And in truth We have made the Qur'an easy to remember: but is there any that remembereth?" (55:17)

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