Blessings of Hifz: A Mother's Story

Umm Sarah

Posted: 5 Sha'ban 1435, 03 June 2014

When my older brother finished memorizing the Qur'an and started leading taraweeh back in the late 90s, it wasn’t all that common for children born in the US to have completed hifz, especially without going overseas. An LA Times reporter interviewed my family for a story on his accomplishment. She asked me, then 11 years old, if I was also planning to memorize the Qur'an like my brother. I told her I wasn't sure yet and then she asked me, "Do you feel that boys are encouraged to memorize the Qur'an more than girls?"

"No," I replied. I didn't want the story to take an "Islam's treatment of women" turn, especially by someone who wasn't aware of the whole picture. But my answer was only half true.

I had started memorizing the Qur'an with my older brother, but then paused after memorizing only two of the thirty juz. He was more dedicated and continued. But it would be exaggerating to say the issue was only about dedication. Although my parents encouraged all of us children to memorize and study the Qur'an, the general belief then was that memorizing the Qur’an was not a thing girls needed to do. Most of the few hifz schools that existed then only catered to boys. "A girl can't lead taraweeh," I would often hear people saying. "How will she keep the Qur'an memorized afterwards? Especially since she won't be able to read during times of the month. So what's the use of doing hifz anyway?" There was no need to burden a girl with this responsibility of reviewing the Qur’an for the rest of her life. Especially when she couldn’t use it to benefit the community by leading taraweeh prayers or the like.

Despite this, I started memorizing again at home.  This was an unconventional way to memorize, as children interested in this achievement usually go to a hifz school and follow a rigid routine. I took it one surah at a time, with no clear end goal in mind. I wasn't sure whether I was going to complete memorizing the entire Qur'an or stop before that. I had pauses here and there, but eventually, by the grace of Allah, I finished in 2004.

I loved having the relationship with the Qur'an that memorizing the Qur'an gave me, but there were no practical benefits or uses of my hifz in sight then. By the next year both my older and younger brother were leading taraweeh at the masjid and everyone in the community appreciated the fact that they had memorized the Qur'an. As far as me though, most people didn't even know I had memorized the Qur'an and even if they did, it made no difference.

But, ironically, I only truly started appreciating what a great, great blessing hifz is after becoming a mother.

The first time I found myself really appreciating my hifz was when I went to Pakistan to study Islamic sciences. That is also the first time I learned that it's not an uncommon thing at all for a girl to have memorized the Qur'an. About one third of my classmates were hafizas and I was fortunate to be among them. There were many advantages of having memorized the Qur'an while studying Arabic and Islam. While other students had to struggle to remember ayahs that teachers quoted for daleels, look up the proper wording of ayahs, etc. hafizas had a headstart. The Qur'an, the base of all Islamic knowledge, was in our hearts. Just a simple reference to an ayah was all we would need to understand and remember an issue. Often, teachers would ask us to help quote an ayah they couldn't recall. The subjects of Arabic and tafseer, especially, became easy. Needless to say, having memorized the Qur'an helped me excel in my studies. When I returned and started teaching classes, the benefits of hifz were obvious in everything. I could quote ayahs easily without having to look them up, something that was especially useful in tafseer.

But, ironically, I only truly started appreciating what a great, great blessing hifz is after becoming a mother. And I say ironically because most people thought the "burden" of hifz would be most difficult to carry then. Instead, only after motherhood I realized the great value of this treasure. And as the blessings of hifz come to color every day in my and my daughters' lives, my appreciation for hifz grows more and more.

Although there is no minimum limit for recitation in taraweeh and it can be easily prayed individually at home, for most people the only opportunity they get to listen to the recitation of the entire Qur'an in prayer is by praying taraweeh at the masjid. And in north America, unlike Pakistan, this includes women who regularly attend taraweeh prayers in nearly every masjid, where spaces are provided for them. But with Ramadan being in the summer now and taraweeh starting after 10 PM and ending near midnight, attending taraweeh at the masjid is not an easy thing for mothers of young children.  Last year, I also realized that I would not be able to attend taraweeh at the masjid. But unlike most other mothers I knew, I had a better option. And that was to complete the recitation of the Qur’an in taraweeh by myself.

This had always been a dream of mine ever since I completed my hifz, and something that many hafizas, including my classmates in Pakistan,actually do every year. But for me, it remained a goal that I never actively worked towards. Most years, I was too tempted to pray in the masjid with the community than stay at home and pray by myself, even though it would give me the much needed opportunity to review my hifz.

But last Ramadan, when my second daughter was just two months old and my first one not yet two, I decided that this would be the year that I would finally attempt to accomplish this dream. I would spend as much time as I could during the day---in between nursing and changing diapers and chasing after a two year old---reviewing the part for the night, and reading it to my husband. At night when everyone else left for taraweeh, the best part of my day would start. The girls would sleep; I would pray. If they were feeling fussy or woke up, I could adjust. I’d take a break between rakahs or perhaps start praying later. Sometimes, they'd just play or watch as I prayed. I didn’t have to worry about missing rakahs, or about my fussy baby bothering others.  And at the end of the month I had accomplished my goal. I had recited the entire Qur’an by heart in prayer. It was the most empowering and fulfilling experience in my life, not to mention how it helped me strengthen my relationship with the Qur’an, or how it saved my Ramadan at a time when motherhood chores were too taxing for me to use my time the way I would have liked to in Ramadan.

Often, people use motherhood and the responsibility of looking after kids as an excuse for girls NOT to do hifz. How will she be able to review the Qur’an and keep it memorized with all those other responsibilities? But this experience led me to feel that motherhood should be counted among one of the many reasons for a girl to DO hifz.  True, it is a bit more challenging to keep reviewing the Qur'an during this busy period of life. But having an excuse to review the Qur'an is a good thing. I would hear fellow moms complaining about their lack of ability to attend taraweeh, about missing out on the recitation of the Qur'an. And I felt incredibly blessed to not have to worry about this at all, to have had my own awesome solution.

This isn't the only way hifz has benefited me as a mother. Being a hafiza means the Qur’an is automatically your constant companion, something that is very comforting to me as I navigate the ups and downs of motherhood. Being a hafiza also means I am able to give my daughters a lot more exposure to the Qur'an. As they accompany me when I go to the masjid to teach the Qur'an, or when I'm just reading the Qur'an myself I feel blessed that I am able to put them in such an environment and pass on the Qur'an to them directly without having to depend on others. It's too early to see much result but I wouldn't be exaggerating if I said my nearly three year old daughter is more fluent in juz amma than most of my much older students. A lot of this is because of the blessings of hifz. And I pray to Allah that He increases their love for the Qur'an as they grow older.

As far as not being able to read the Qur'an during certain times, something that people often bring up when explaining why they don't encourage their daughters to memorize, that's not really as big an issue as it seems. Sure, it might make hifz a bit more challenging. But the break from Qur'an often provides a chance to recharge interest and return with even more excitement and motivation, something that (to-be) huffaz are often in need of.

For any girl who might have been having doubts about whether doing hifz is really worth it, I assure you it absolutely is.

I am sharing this to show that memorizing the Quran is a means of great blessings and goodness for everyone, male or female, mother or not. Not everyone needs to use this blessing in the same way. There are different ways huffaz can benefit their community. For me, to read the Qur'an to my daughters is much more fulfilling and beneficial in the long run than leading thousands of people in prayer or being on stage and reading for an audience.

It is heartening to see more and more girls memorizing the entire Qur'an. We have come a long way from the time that families would train their sons to be huffaz while leaving their daughters struggling with basic Qur'an reading, let alone memorization. For any parents who might be wondering whether they should encourage their daughters to memorize the Qur’an, I guarantee you that this is the most valuable gift you can give any child. For any girl who might have been having doubts about whether doing hifz is really worth it, I assure you it absolutely is. And the older you grow and the more entangled you get in life's challenges, whatever you may be facing, hifz is the anchor that will keep bringing you back to the Qur'an and ensure that the Qur'an remain your lifelong companion.