Before learning the Quran, a person has to start with a preliminary book called the Qaida. This has the Arabic alphabets (28 in all) plus the different shapes of the alphabets when they are joined. A religious teacher makes you learn their different sounds. After finishing the Qaida, you start with the Quran.
Normally, parents start with their children at an early age. They hire a teacher who can come and spend time with the child to make him or her learn. Now times are different. It’s easy to connect to a teacher via internet. My learning started at the age of three. A maid servant would accompany me to a nearby mosque. My lessons were thrice a week. I used to dread going there. The moulvi sahib (religious teacher) would be punishing boys left and right (I was the only girl there). Though he was never harsh with me, it was scary for me. Fortunately, my father got posted from that area so my learning came to a stop.
After a longer period, I started again with a lady teacher. My mother would send me to her house twice a week. This lady was a smiling sort of a woman. I don’t think I learnt a great deal from her. After my mother died and I shifted from uncle’s house to live with my father, my school started. Father hired another moulvi sahib to come in the evenings daily, except for weekends. I would be tired from school and homework, and there would come the moulvi sahib. I resented him a lot. Why? Because he would make me recite the Holy Book over and over (there was no escape from it) and my elder brother Lala would go scot free after a few minutes of his lessons. I would be sitting for hours on end (to me the time looked endless) and wanting to go and play.
One day I got so fed up with my teacher I threw my sipara (one of the thirty parts of the Quran) down on the floor. It was a terrible thing to do. I expected dire punishment from him, but he calmly told me to pick it up and went on with the lesson. I don’t exactly remember when I finished learning the Quran. Perhaps I was about seven.
I was eleven when my father gave me a Quran with English translation by Abdullah Yusuf Ali as a gift. It was a marvelous gift. To this day, I have not seen a better translation. Before that, I did not know what was written as it was all in Arabic. Reading the Holy Book with translation opened its doors to me. My favorite time was reading the Quran after Fajr (morning prayers). Here, I confess sheepishly, I think as a child the stories fascinated me more than the religious aspect of it.
My childhood reading continued into adulthood. The Quran has always been my mentor, guiding me on the right path. Shukr Alhumdulillah (thanks and praise be to Allah) for giving me this Book. I would have been lost without it. Reading it has always been an uplifting experience for me. The Quran opens a person’s spiritual eyes. I always feel a sense of wonder,joy and elation. I feel truly blessed. There so many people who go through life unaware of what they are missing.