Memorization of Koran is A Sacred Feat

November 25, 2000

Source: The Houston Chronicle

On November 25, 2000, The Houston Chronicle reported that "Sheik Mamdouh Mahmoud was 10 years old when he finished memorizing the 114 chapters of the Quran, the holy book of Islam. 'I started when I was 4 and finished memorizing it by 10,' said Mahmoud, now 28 and imam of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston's southeast zone mosque. Committing the Quran, also known as the Koran, to memory is expected of imams and is commended to devout Muslims. A person who memorizes the holy book is known as a hafiz, Mahmoud said. Muslim countries boast many schools dedicated to teaching children the memorization of the Quran. The achievement is so valued that the Islamic Society of Greater Houston established Dar-ul-Uloom School, a school for Islamic studies and Quran memorization in southwest Houston. Imams will recite portions of the Quran from memory at night mosque services known as taraweeh during the holy month of Ramadan, which begins Monday. The entire sacred book will be recited during the month, which is considered the holiest of the lslamic lunar year. Muslims observe a strict sun-up to sundown fast during Ramadan. One of the traditional devotions during Ramadan is to read the entire Quran because Muslims believe this is the time the holy book was revealed by the angel Gabriel to the prophet Mohammed. 'You not only memorize it but you recite it in a certain way,' said Mahmoud, a native of Giza, a suburb of Cairo, Egypt. It must be memorized in the classical Arabic language and recited with smooth and balanced pronunciation to show reverence to the revealed word of God. During the 90-minute recitation each evening, three fellow huffaz will be standing by to correct or prompt Mahmoud, although he rarely needs assistance...Exhaustive weekly and monthly tests are part of the learning process. At his own final examination for hafiz, Mahmoud faced three scholars who randomly selected verses and expected him to recite from that point. Memorizing the Quran is more than just a memory feat, he said. 'If you keep it in your heart, that means something great. (Memorization) influences you to behave in a certain way. A person has to be pious and righteous.' Knowing the Quran is regarded as a virtuous achievement in Islam. A person who is a hafiz will be able to intercede for his family members during the Last Judgment, according to Muslim beliefs, Mahmoud said. Dar-ul-Uloom School, 1209 Conrad Sauer, began two years ago for concentrated Islamic studies, including Arabic and translation. Memorization classes followed a year later, said school head Jaleel A. Syed. Of 30 students ages 7-19, seven are pursuing hafiz studies. Two educators are available to help students learn the Quran in about two years, he said. The first two hafiz graduates are expected in about six months. The current class is entirely male, but Syed said if enough girls apply, a separate class may be formed."