The Heat of the Halaqa

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

والصلاة والسلام على نبينا محمد وعلى آله وصحبه أجمعين

It’s your turn to read. Your heart beats a little faster. You put together the letters, vowels and other symbols in your mind and as quickly as you can and try to make the sounds come out as  correctly and as smoothly as possible. Then a word comes up with both a ghain and a khaa, you can’t control your throat. The next word has a yaa at the end … or is that an alif maqsoorah? While you try to decide you know your classmates are waiting, patiently for their turns. The teacher reads the word for you and you repeat, but you’re thinking: I should have known that.  You feel yourself perspiring under the heat of the halaqa. Maybe you know how it feels. When you are sitting in the halaqa (learning circle) learning to recite the Quran there is this pressure and heat of being ‘on the spot’.

The Halaqa in Medina

When I lived in Medina, I used to sit (unofficially) in a large halaqa with a teacher named Us-tatha Soraya, an Indonesian by birth who grew up in Saudia. She was very tough, would not let you get away with the smallest mistake. All the students sat in a circle and each one would come up and sit in front of the Us-taatha face-to-face to read when it was their turn.  One day an Egyptian sister came up to read for Soraya. She was reading surat ul-Adiyaat. She couldn’t get out one word without Soraya stopping her ‘Laa! Laa!”  Now if you can get a feel for the situation, This halaqa was not inside of a classroom but in the al-Masjid aNabawi (Prophets Mosque) sallallahu alyhi wa sallam in Medina. If you have ever been there you know how huge it is.  So not only are there 15-20 Taalibaat (students) around listening to you be corrected. There are also people passing by, praying, walking around, drinking Zamzam water, etc. You really felt that you were on display. After being cut down harf by harf (letter by letter) in the first 3 ayaat, the Egyptian sister couldn’t take any more.  She stopped reading. The halaqa was silent. Her lips began to shake and the tears started to roll down her cheeks. I really felt it for her. You would think the teacher would take her by the hand and give some words of encouragement. But No! The Us-taatha sat unmoved watching and waiting for her to finish her cry. Then she said, ” Lets’ continue.”

The Online Halaqa

is a virtual place to learn and not quite as pressurized as being in a huge masjid but there can be anxiety and frustration.  a reason some sisters prefer one-on-one classes and that is understandable. Although there are bonuses from with a group

1/ benefiting from the mistakes of your classmates

2/ pushing yourself to catch up with a stronger student

3/ seeing other students struggle with the same challenges that you have

These benefits you will never get from sitting one-on-one.

Whether you are reading one-on-one, with a group, or on your own with YouTube, the focus is to read often enough that reading becomes easier and flows more naturally.

Are you are reading Quran in Arabic, even with difficulty? You can take yourself to the next level as we are starting some 2 and 3-month Live courses for the Winter season. The Beginner’s Quran Recitation     is a basic course in Tajweed to train the parts of the mouth and throat to give each letter its right. We also invite you to Quranic Arabic course using Everyday Arabic to Understand the beautiful speech of Allah.

Have a look using the links above and I hope to see you in class!

Subscribe to our mailing list for free eBook with audios.



To Learn Quran, Fight Yourself

Shaytaan will whisper, “Reading the Quran is too difficult, leave it on the shelf.”

Our brain will try to keep us in a comfort zone and if we are not careful weeks, months, and years can go by and we have not progressed or worse, we have gone backwards. We think we are “doing ok” because we listen to lectures and don’t engage in any major sins but we are not reciting, memorizing or even pondering the Book of Allah. Beware that Shaytaan wants to reduce our rewards by keeping us from this noble struggle of learning Quran.

Climbing the Hill

The first stage of reading Quran in Arabic is like climbing a hill.  Know that learning the Quran is a skill to be developed over time, and this development has stages. So you learned alif-baa, can connect the letters, have mastered the shedda, tanween, and other rules of reading, now you must connect yourself to the mus-haf (Quran in Arabic).

You sit with the mus-haf to read. You feel the stress of coming out of the comfort zone and pushing against yourself. Letter for letter, vowel for vowel your mind is working to apply all the rules you learned. If you are in front of a teacher, or sitting in a group, you will feel yourself becoming nervous maybe even hear your voice shaking, feel your hands sweating.  You can’t find a flow. Your reading is choppy and very slow and may sound like: fa-le-ma jaa-aa-hum…, trying to recognize and pronounce Arabic letters correctly while applying the kesra and damma in the right place. As you read, you notice markings and symbols in the Quran that signal new rules you have not yet learned. At the end of your reading you let out a “Whew!” It is mental gymnastics.

This is a critical stage

I want you to realize that this is a critical stage in your learning. If you continue, keeping your promise to push yourself and read a little each day, you will start to have small breakthroughs that will bring you much joy. You’ll struggle to read and figure out a word and then find that it’s a word you know! (Moo-saa, sa-laam-un, al-malaa-ikah). Short surahs that you had learned through English letters, will become more clear as you confidently begin to make corrections. These small triumphs will keep you encouraged and become a reward for your effort. Each time you sit to read, you will notice it becomes just a little bit easier and little less stressful as you recognize letters and vowels and apply rules much more quickly.

Remember this:

Everyone has struggled like this. All the Muslims whether from countries like the Arab Gulf, India or Indonesia, all have struggled like this to learn Quran. The only difference is that most of them struggled in their childhood, while you are struggling in your adulthood. So this must be an encouragement for us to make sure that our children learn to read Quran at the earliest age possible. Quran for children is more important than Mother Goose rhymes, cartoons or video games. The Muslim child should learn to read the Quran in Arabic, even before learning to read his native language whether it be English French, Chinese or Russian.

So although you are learning as an adult, your struggle is normal and should be expected.

Beware of this, and this is very important:

If you quit at this stage, you will go backwards. Just like climbing  a hill, if you quit you will never reach the top to sit and enjoy the view. Those sisters who close the mus-haf and put it back high on the shelf because it’s too hard, may not return to it for months or even years. It’s easy to get busy with life; we have husbands, children, work, laundry, cooking. Time moves on and the belief that it’s too hard’ becomes so strong, that it’s easier and easier to ignore the Book of Allah. Al-hamdulillah we are  praying, wearing hijab, and avoiding major sins. But deep in our hearts we imagine the Quran looking down on us from the shelf asking us, why have you made hijrah from me?” Deep inside we know that our heart never felt the happiness it felt while learning to read and recite the Book of Allah.

Some people classify themselves as ‘stagnant’ due to their time away from learning Arabic and Quran. Actually, after months or years away from learning Arabic and reciting Quran, when we come back sometimes we find we have to start again from scratch.  We learned how to read Arabic but we ‘we don’t remember too much. We memorized a juz of Quran but we forgot half of it. Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raa-jioon.

So PUSH THROUGH the pain and keep climbing. There is nothing stopping you except you. Nobody can do this work but you. My relationship with the Book of Allah can go as far as I allow it go. Because the Quran is always calling us back to it once we’ve had a taste of it Once we experienced that rise in Imaan that comes from reciting the Book of Allah, our hearts will always be yearning for it but we have to fight ourselves and win.

Nadiya Johnson

Arabic Language Curriculum & Instruction