Salallahu Alayhi Wasalam (Peace Be Upon Him), an expression used by all Muslims upon hearing or saying the name of their beloved Prophet Muhammad. The expression means May Allah bless him and grant him peace. (Class notes, October 4, 2012) Regardless of my not writing this expression throughout this paper it should be assumed that I as a Muslim and all other Muslims reading, should pay their respects to the greatest prophet of Islam every time his name is mentioned.
Muhammad was born into a respectable monotheistic family of merchants in Makkah but lost both of his parents at a young age. His grandfather and uncle raised him and provided him with somewhat of an education. By the age of 30, he had established himself as a merchant in the Arabian society, where he dealt with peoples of different religions and cultural traditions. It wasn’t until he was 40 years old that he underwent a profound spiritual experience that transformed his life into one of the greatest and most influential religious leaders in history. This spiritual awakening left Muhammad with the convictions that in the entire world there is only one deity, Allah (God), He was the ruler of the universe, that idolatry and the recognition of other gods amounted to wickedness, and that Allah would soon bring his judgment unto this world. (Text, Page 207)
Muhammad underwent a massive change due to the spiritual awakening, from a normal merchant, to a great prophet and messenger of Allah. Prophet Muhammad started experiencing visions, which he understood as messages or revelations from Allah, delivered through the archangel Gabriel, instructing him to spread his faith to the world. Because the Prophet did not know how to read or write, he presented oral recitation of the revelations he received during his visions, and his followers prepared written text of his teachings. The Muslims compiled the magnificent poetry, the written versions of the Prophet’s revelations and issued them as the Quran, the holy book of Islam. (Text, Page 207)
Memorizing the Quran is a journey of a lifetime. To solidify over 600 pages, containing 6,236 verses, comprised in about 9,050 plus lines of pure Arabic text down to every letter and syllable is a miraculous feat. Some, like myself, may not even understand a single word in the entire book because of the language barrier, but persistently and painstakingly continue to memorize it. It's not something easy nor is it something that can be done over a few days. It's an experience of a lifetime and a unique experience because there is no other book across the globe that is memorized so accurately, so rigorously. It becomes a part of you to the point that you are really going to be repeating each of those 9,050 plus lines hundreds if not thousands of times over and over during the course of this journey.
The path to knowledge is filled with thorns; I was about to feel these thorns. The day that I got sent out to the Madrasa, the first day of my journey, I was about 10 years old and pleading my parents to not send me away. I knew I would enjoy this journey but what scared me at all was what I heard about the “Sheikhs” or Quran teachers. I had heard from the students of the Madrasa that the Sheikhs would beat them if they didn’t memorize their assignment correctly or even if they had too many mistakes while reciting. It was obvious that our parents didn’t care one bit, all they cared about was us memorizing, some for the sole purpose of gaining status within their community, others for their own selfish and wrong intention to wear a so called “crown of gold” during the Day of Judgment according to Islam, and very few for the just reason that Islam really preaches to preserve the word of God through memory since manuscripts can easily be destroyed. Although, at this point I only had one way out of this situation, which was to actually complete the memorization of the Quran.
It took four full years of hard work and tears to completely memorize a book that I had no idea why I was memorizing. Today, after all this time, I finally understand why it was such a big accomplishment. All I ever hoped for in those days was a better explanation of why we were doing what we were, which our parents and other people of their generation lacked the ability to do.
According to Islam, an Abrahamic religion, there were well over one hundred and twenty-four thousand prophets that were taught by God to teach mankind. Every prophet came with his own laws but followed the rules set by the prophets before him. The first prophet, who is believed to be Adam in most religions, was the first human on this earth. In Islam, the last and the most important prophet is believed to be the great Prophet Muhammad. It is believed by all Muslims in the world that the Angel Gabriel had appeared to Prophet Muhammad in the cave Hira near Makkah, reciting to him verses of the Quran, thus beginning the revelation of the Quran.
During the time of Prophet Muhammad, illiteracy was very common in Arabia. The Arabs preserved their histories, genealogies, and poetry by memory alone. When Prophet Muhammad proclaimed the verses later collected as the Quran, his followers naturally preserved the words by memorizing them, as did he when God had revealed the verses to him over a twenty-two year period. The memorization of the Quran was very important to Muslims in the past and is also in the present. Memorization is considered more secure –a manuscript could easily be destroyed, but if the Quran were memorized, it would never be lost.
Hafiz, literally meaning “guardian” in Arabic, is a term used by modern Muslims for someone who has completely memorized the Quran. In other words, a Hafiz is the guardian of the holy book of Islam, the Quran, and protects it from ever being destroyed by memorizing it. Most Hafizes have studied as children in special Islamic schools or Madrasas, being instructed in rules of recitation and vocalization as well as committing the Quran to memory, all to protect the very exact words of God from destruction.