Assalamu Alaikum, everyone! One of the fundamental but perhaps most daunting tasks that all new reverts face is learning to read Qur’an. While most born Muslims are given the opportunity to learn while they are young and while their brains are still flexible, those who choose to convert to Islam may find their journey a little less simple. If you are a native English speaker or speaker of any of the Romantic languages, you may find learning to read and write Arabic quite difficult. The way this language is set up is completely different to how we are used to speaking. Aside from the obvious differences in alphabet, pronunciation is on a whole new level with sounds that I have never before had to make. This is what makes learning Arabic fun but also extremely challenging.
As my husband has so patiently told me, learning this language takes time and because the Qur’an has been spread all over the world, pronunciation will differ with everyone. An Arabic person will tell you how to pronounce a certain word much differently than how someone from Malaysia will teach you. And while the way a born Arabic speaker recites the Qur’an is typically the correct way, for almost everyone else in the world the language is so different from their own that it is a struggle to adopt the correct pronunciations for every word. You simply have to exercise patience, practice consistently, and try the best you can. The goal is to be able to ready the Holy Qur’an and to understand its teachings. And, if this offers any bit of comfort, learning to pronounce the letters once they are connected into words is much easier than learning to pronounce the letters individually.
Why am I saying all of this? Because I am having so much difficulty learning to read and pronounce Arabic. English is my first language with Spanish coming in at a close second. Spanish also happens to be in the same family of languages that I am familiar with and I began learning it when I was in elementary school so I have been able to pick it back up easily. Arabic is an entirely different ball game. I am having to learn a new alphabet, new ways of pronouncing things, and new sounds that don’t exist in English or Spanish. Combine all of this with the fact that my Qur’an teacher, who also happens to be my British husband, tends to pronounce th as f. His teaching is wonderful, he’s patient and thorough but even the cultural differences in how we pronounce certain letters has caused some confusion and frustration. He also happened to learn Qur’an the Urdu way which is slightly different. But, I think once we realized that we pronounce certain letters differently, it cleared everything up. I’m laughing right now remembering how seriously he looked at me as he pointed out thaa’ was pronounced with a th like “fhaa” and I couldn’t wrap my head around how that was possible.
It has been a challenge, and we are nowhere near finished but, alhamdulillah that we get to undertake this challenge together through the mercy and goodness of Allah (SWT). So, if you’re feeling stuck or extremely frustrated, just know that this is normal. Instead of giving in to the negative feelings, use them as motivation to conquer these obstacles. If you need to, slow it down and focus on perfecting one letter a day. And remember that there are plenty of free resources online, especially YouTube, that are fantastic (and free) which are perfect for if you are trying to teach yourself. If you can, try to find local classes or a generous brother or sister willing to help teach you. I find that practicing with someone who has gone through it themselves is so much more helpful than trying to carry on by yourself. I pray that Allah (SWT) will guide each and every one of you through this journey and that your hearts will be filled with love and praise for Him as you learn to read His words.