I was alone that weekend.
The night was closing in. My roommate was not at home. My friends were probably chilling out at the usual coffee spot, but I decided not to join them.
Instead, I was home alone in my swanky New York apartment on Murray Hill, my hands rustling through a stack of financial and business books and magazines. I was looking for a book to study for my Series 7 & 63 certifications, which were required for my job at an international financial institution.
That was when my eyes fell upon the Quran atop the bookshelf. When was the last time I read the Quran?
I could not remember.
My hands reached out for it. Using my t-shirt, I wiped off the film of dust that had collected on its cover. I opened it, ever so tentatively, as if I was quietly knocking on the door of an old friend whom I had ignored for so long. I found myself staring at the beginning of Chapter 21.
A Silent Wake Up Call
Surah Al-Anbya. The chapter on the Prophets.
I had read it many, countless times before. This time was different, for reasons you’d probably never guess. I wish I could say that I gained some sort of epiphany after reading a particular verse, or that I felt an electrifying reconnection with the Quran that shivered down my spine.
None of that happened though. Not even a tear was shed. There was just emptiness. My head was blank.
For someone who had memorized the entire Quran at the age of 11, this emptiness was terrifying.
It’s true what they say. You don’t know what you have till it’s gone.
Born and raised in New York to Pakistani migrants, I grew up in a traditional Muslim home nestled in the midst of a Western world.
At 10 years old, I begged my parents to let me join the madrasah – a Quran memorization school run by Pakistani scholars. I wanted to join because my older cousin, who was studying there, tricked me into believing that they ate ice cream everyday.
My parents gladly agreed and enrolled me in the madrasah. What I thought was going to be a fun experience with ice cream turned out to be the complete opposite. There was no ice cream. The hours spent studying were intensively brutal. I had to do more homework than I ever had to do in my life. Even when I went home for the weekends, I had to continue studying.
I was too embarrassed to ask my parents to put me back in normal school – especially since they were so proud that I was memorizing the Quran. So I studied really hard to memorize the Quran just to be able to leave the madrasah as soon as possible. A year and half later, I achieved my goal and became a Hafiz.
I was really proud of my achievement, but also really glad to finally be out of the madrasah and back in normal school. Little did I know as young child that in 11 years time, I would be staring at a wooden bookshelf, experiencing a terrifying emptiness from being unable to recite Chapter 21 from memory.
How much of the Quran had I taken for granted? How long have I neglected the Quran since leaving the madrasah? Could I ever remember it all back? I knew what I had to do next.
The Comfort of Allah’s Grace & Mercy
The cold splash of water on my face was a familiar comfort.
After taking my ablution for Isha’ prayer, I prayed to Allah like I’ve never prayed before. It wasn’t rolled out like the robotic habit I had adhered to in all the years of my life. This prayer was different because I had been struck by the emptiness of missing the Quran.
In the space of this stark emptiness, I realised that had I never before actually felt a deep spiritual connection with Allah, ever. Although I had memorized the Quran at a young age, it was mechanical. Now, that I was older and more mature, I wanted more.
So here I was, a successful 22-year-old financial analyst earning an enviable 6-figure income in New York, craving for spiritual nourishment no amount of money can buy. I stood before Allah in prayer, begging him to reconnect me to His words on a deeper level.
Please Allah, forgive me. Please Allah, make it easy for me to memorize the Quran again. Please Allah, do not leave me feeling spiritually empty like this.
The Unfolding of A New Chapter
After that day, the changes in my life crept up upon me as how the sun’s rays slowly illuminate the horizon. I left my job in finance and finally pursued my entrepreneurship dreams, collecting colourful experiences of failures and triumphs with numerous ventures and technology startups.
On the side, I achieved re-memorizing the Quran in seven months. I led terawih prayers during Ramadan for the first time in my life. As my daily reconnection with the Quran deepened, so did my desire for spiritual nourishment.
I began reflecting on how I was applying the Quran into my daily life, my work, and my relationships with family and friends. I spent time with imams to learn more about Islam, lapping up the wisdom they shared.
People who witnessed or heard of my evolving journey began approaching me for advice. How did I memorize the Quran again? What tips can I give them? How do I connect with the Quran at a deeper level?
I gladly shared my experience. After three years of soul searching, all these pieces came together and gave birth to the idea of founding Quran Academy in Summer 2014.
Creating a Fun, Easy & Social Way to Memorize the Quran
Fast-forward to 2016 and my life is a stark contrast to what it was five years ago. From living in a swanky Manhattan apartment and earning 6-figures, I was now living with my parents and have not earned a salary for two years. I depleted my savings to invest in developing a revolutionary Quran memorization app.
I spent tireless hours fundraising and securing investors to believe in Quran Academy’s vision. I knew it was all worth it when I spoke to one of the early beta testers of our memorization app for the iPad. In tears, she expressed her gratitude of how the honesty of my struggling journey to re-memorize the Quran had inspired her, and how our app is helping her memorize and reconnect with the Quran.
Its features merge the best of centuries-old memorization techniques that I learnt in the madrasah, with my passion for mobile technology and social gamification.
I am very grateful to Allah for guiding me on this journey and giving me the opportunity to help others too. I pray that ‘Quran Companion’ can help other Muslims easily access and reconnect with the Quran daily through memorization, and in turn discover a priceless journey to spiritual nourishment and connection with Allah.
Find out how you can enjoy a 14-day free trial of ‘Quran Companion’, plus receive a free ebook, ‘QURAN in Memory, In Heart, In Peace: 7 Essential Steps that Make Quran Memorization Easy & Meaningful in Your Daily Life.