Every Ramadan, I (and countless others in the world) will finish the Quran from Al Fatiha to An-Nas. If you were religious like my grandpa, finish it thrice. Maybe even more.
So last Ramadan, I was reading the Quran. I had been lazy during the first few days, so was catching up. All of a sudden, I just felt so frustrated. The words, the beautiful words, were not making any sense.
You see, I don't speak Arabic. People ask me why after having lived in the Middle East for 18 years I cannot speak Arabic. I tell them I can speak just enough to call a taxi but the thing is, you didn't need Arabic as a school kid. My Arabic classes were a joke (it's actually good blog fodder [word courtesy:Isheeta] but for another day). Most of the Arabic words I knew were swear words (courtesy my Arab 'friends' - the 'polite' words were to the tune of qalb, himmar ...).
So I am reading the Quran - I am just regurgitating the words. They make no sense to me. The Quran is a beautiful book - just listen to a good recitation and you will fall in love with the enchanting verses even if you don't know the meaning - but I have decided it has to make sense to me.
I told this to an uncle and he was like 'why? The Prophet said reading the Quran is reward itself'. I told him the Prophet was dealing with Arabs at first. Even then, when they didn't follow something, they would go to someone who did, right? Besides, the first page of the Quran tells you man is Khalifa or God's deputy on earth. How can we deputize for Someone if we don't understand what He told us? So last Ramadan, I decided come the next time, I am going to read the Quran with translation. It will go slow, so I might not finish the Book.
You would think this would be the sensible thing to do. I mean, it's not like I decided I am going to pray in Bengali from today.
But no - every friggin person is like -no way, you gotta finish the Book. It's not even an act of worship anymore - it's a ritual. For some people it has even become a badge of honour. 'I have finished it two times' 'oh really, my son just did his third khatam this week' and so on.
Well, here is another Ramadan. Once it starts, I decided the focus will not be so much as to finish the Book but to understand it. Atleast the first one-third. I have already discovered a word-for-word translation of Quran at emuslim.com. After all, can't let the Saudis have the all the fun of being the 'interpreters' of the Book, eh? They sure made a mess of it so far.
A sign I once saw at a mosque made perfect sense. It read:
STOP READING THE QURAN ...Tags: Quran
... like a parrot.
Read it with meaning at [name of institution here]