MALEGAON – Shabbir Ahmed, 45, has been leading the Tarawih, a special night prayer during the holy fasting month of Ramadan, in this small town of Maharashtra state for more than twenty years.
For him, this honor is the culmination of tireless study and practice throughout the year.
“I do daily and rigorous preparation for 11 months so that I can lead the special night prayer in the month of Ramadan,” Ahmed, who sat cross-legged on a clean mat, told IslamOnline.net.
“I devote at least two hours daily for recitation of the Qur’an.”
In Ramadan, adult Muslims, save the sick and those traveling, abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.
Most dedicate their time during the holy month to become closer to Allah through self-restraint, good deeds and prayer.
The Tarawih prayer usually includes the recitation of the entire 114 surah and 6,666 verses of the Qur'an divided on the days of the month.
Ahmed says that just 15 days before the beginning of Ramadan, he recites the entire Qur’an in one sitting without looking in the book.
“This is the longest and final revision call.”
Ahmed, who is not a full-time imam, says that during Ramadan itself he usually recites the assigned chapters of the holy book at least ten times in a single day.
“When I go onto the prayer mat to lead the special night prayer, it’s the eleventh time.”
Ahmed does not understand Arabic but this has never been an obstacle.
“I don’t know Arabic. But that has very little to do with memorization of the Qur’an.”
He asserts that memorizing the Qur’an is the easy part, while preserving the Word of Allah in human heart is that makes a difference.
“What matters is your intent. If your intentions are pure, then Allah will guide and help you to memorize His Book.”
“Ramadan is our most beloved month,” he told IOL.
“We, memorizers of Qur’an, prepare for months to recite the holy book in the special night prayer,” he explained.
“Ramadan is a month to bear the fruits of labor.”
Hafiz Ibrahim, one of the most senior memorizers, recalls the old days when there were very few people who would come forward to brace this uphill task.
“There was a time when very few families would volunteer to devote their sons for memorization of the Qur’an but now things have changed,” he told IOL.
“Malegaon alone has thousands of such persons.”
Ibrahim feels blessed to have led fifty five Tarawih prayers before his retirement because of his age.
“All you need to do is stay calm and not panic,” he advises the younger generation of Qur’an memorizers.
“The key to successful recital lies in daily practice,” he explains.
Ahmed sums up the mood for him and fellow Qur’an memorizers.
“It is like our examination,” he says cheerfully.
IslamOnline.net August 20 2009