If, like me, you’re a Muslim with little to no connection to the Arabic language, then you’ve probably got an itch at the back of your head. It’s annoyed you for eternity to the point that you’ve given up on addressing it. You just deal with it.
You go to that tiny room at school or at work to pray but you don’t really know what you’re reciting. You’re just going through the motions- you’re in and out like it’s a toilet break.
Come Ramadan and now you’re praying taraweeh at the mosque. You can hear people quietly sobbing to themselves and it makes you sad because you don’t know what it feels like to cry at the words of Allah. You notice the silence of people’s kushu, and all you can think about is (not your actual prayer) but how much you wish to be in that sisters shoes. You wonder what it’s like to be so attentive in your prayer, so attuned to the verses being recited.
You feel a like a foreigner in an identity you are trying to call home.
You know that Islam is not an Arab religion, and you love Islam and know that it is the universal truth. But when you don’t understand the original language in which Allah’s message was revealed, you feel a sense of disconnect and displacement.
You feel distant from Islam when you can’t connect to the ayat in the Qur’an. You forget the names of the sahabah that you’re trying to look up to as your ‘own people’ because they all sound the same to you. And you’ve given up trying to memorise those short surah that you keep mixing up and forgetting. Everything seems inaccessible to you that it may as well be written in Ancient Chinese script.
It’s as if there is this massive concrete wall between me and my Islam. It’s as if I can hear the ocean waves on the other side. I know it’s there, but I can’t experience it for myself. I see Arabic as the ladder that will get me to the other side. I want to be immersed in my Islam, like I’m swimming in an ocean of knowledge and inspiration. I want my Islam to feel familiar. I want to feel at home.
That’s the itch at the back of my head. And over time that itch grew into a massive sore between my eyes that I just couldn’t ignore anymore.
So I wrote down a vision for what it would look like when I’ve climbed over to the other side of that wall:
I hear the Maghrib athan and enter the mosque, not just because I obey the command for me to pray, but I sincerely want to be there too. I am calm and hopeful. The imam raises his hands and starts reciting. I’m focused and everything else dissolves into the background until it’s just Allah and me now. Allah is speaking to me, striking at my heart. Small tears start to swell and run down my cheeks. Nothing else in the world matters now. The salat ends and I’m so grateful for it. I look forward to the next time I converse with my Creator.
Learning Arabic isn’t easy. I’ve stumbled and quit many times.
Then I imagine my vision coming to life and renew my intentions. It’s hard but one day it’s all going to pay off. One day I’ll enter the mosque and I won’t feel out of place. One day I’ll carry the Qur’an with me like an intimate friend. One day there’ll be no itch to scratch.
Does any of this resonate with you? Let me know in the comments…
– your sis Nis