Ask Munir Abdulhadi to recite a verse from the Qur’an, and he’ll do it without a glance at the page. In fact he could recite the entire book, in Arabic, by heart. He’s memorized all 604 pages, all 6,666 verses.
“It motivates me to do the good which our God tells us to do in the Qur’an,” Abdulhadi said. “To have it in my heart, and to have it in my brain, to memorize it. I’m basically like a walking Qur’an, you could say. And I learn from it every single day, and I try to convey the message that it spreads.”
Abdulhadi took up the challenge when he was in Grade 8. In order to fit it into his schedule, he took time off school and studied privately to keep up with his other subjects. The memorization process began with one page a day. By the end, he would memorize five or six a day. He had completed the holy book in less than nine months.
“I’m seen as a role model, and it kind of sets me straight, because I know I’m a memorizer of the Qur’an and I know that’s a big responsibility. So I know what to do and what not to do, and it keeps me grounded I guess.”
Memorizing the Koran in Arabic (CBC is vague about whether he understands the language) strikes me a example of Islam and some of what it stands for: unquestioning obedience to authorities and, ironically, little true examination of the texts of Koran.
I chanced to read more about the subject in a book written by an Ahmadi Muslim who later converted to Christianity. His writing is not the same as a Muslim who has become an atheist — they tend to be much less, shall we say, tactful. So despite his conversion I think even CBC should trust him.
He is from a Pakistani family and did not speak any Arabic at all.
Some excepts (Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity, by Nabeel Qureshi)
Muslims who recite the Quran regularly are regarded as pious, whereas Muslims who only contemplate the meaning of the Quran are regarded as learned. Piety is the greater honor, and most Muslims I knew growing up could recite many chapters of the Quran from memory, but rarely could they explain the meaning or context of those verses.
This is true even for Arabic speakers. Arabs speak colloquial forms of Arabic that vary by region. If they want to learn a form of Arabic that approximates classical Arabic, they have to learn it at school. The language of the daily prayers is not personal to anyone…
We were taught to read the Quran melodically, making the sound of the recitation as beautiful as possible. Some men dedicate their lives to this practice, perfecting their pitch, tempo, pronunciation, and melody.
It may seem harmless, but putting this above true examination of the texts has been a disaster.
I also learned from his book that he believed Islam was a religion of peace. Why? Because his that is what his parents told him. And why did they believe it? Because that is what the Ahmadiyya community had told them. Everything was based on authority. The concept of critical examination of the texts of Islam barely exists. And it certainly does not exist among the Ahmadiyya as he described them.
This is in sharp contrast to Christianity and Judaism: the Bible has been studied from every conceivable angle. Of course, devout Muslims may attribute this practice to the growing agnosticism and atheism in the West. So they are even more strict about examination of the Koran than they might have been centuries ago.
Here is a modern Koran reciter (called a hafiz):