By Samuel Gonzalez
Of all the holy texts that exist in this world, the one which has been memorized the most is the text of the Noble Qur’an. Memorizing the Qur’an is important for Muslims for several reasons:
1) Verses are recited and rehearsed in the daily salat
2) Memorizing the Qur’an has traditionally been a part of Islamic history since its incipience
3) Innumerable rewards are guaranteed for those who memorize and recite the ancient, sacred Arabic.
In fact, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is reported to have said:
“Whoever recites a letter from Allah’s Book, then he receives the reward from it, and the reward of ten the like of it. I do not say that Alif-Lam-Mim is a letter, but Alif is a letter, Lam is a letter and Mim is a letter.” [Jami’ at-Tirmidhi]
Most Muslims around the globe do not have the privilege of knowing Arabic as a first language, which begs the question – Why memorize the Qur’an in Arabic if I don’t even know Arabic?
The reward for struggling to recite in Arabic is doubled, for Allah is kind and patient (see Sahih al-Bukhari 4937, Book 65, Hadith 458) to those who love Him and His Book.
Furthermore, the Arabic of the Qur’an is simultaneously elegant yet simple, eloquent and easy-to-digest – its verses are full of rhymes, elliptical repetitions, and short phrases which make its memorization easy, even for non-Arabic speakers.
While both Christians and Hindus cherish their Scriptures and memorize bits and pieces, the act of memorizing entire chunks at a time is a phenomenon unique to Islam and the Qur’an; very few individuals have memorized the Bible or the Vedas, nevertheless, countless students have the entire Qur’an locked in their hearts and minds, which testifies to the divine origin of this Book.
Below is a list of a few short surahs which are easiest for beginners to memorize in order to be used for prayers. This selection is based on the number of verses, length of ayat, and content. Despite their brevity, their content is sufficient wisdom to guide one for a lifetime.
- Say, God is One
- God is the Absolute, Eternal
- He does not beget nor is he begotten
- And there is none like unto Him
This surah powerfully and articulately summarizes the entire message of Islam: That there is only One God, and that He reigns supreme over all other idols, illusions, and distractions of this earthly life. The Prophet equated this passage to “one-third of the Qur’an,” suggesting its importance in the hearts and minds of believers. It is short, sweet, and extremely easy to memorize, given its short length and simple rhyming scheme.
- Say, I seek refuge with the Lord of Mankind
- The King of Mankind
- The God of Mankind
- From the mischief of the Whisperer who withdraws
- The Whisperer who whispers into the hearts of Mankind
- Among djinn and among men.
Similar to the previous surah, this one also declares the sovereignty of God over and above everything on this earth. Furthermore, it is a supplication to receive God’s protection, making it very important to recite in prayer. It was revealed to the Prophet as a simple manner of warding off the djinn and banishing the subtle whisperings of the devil. Whenever we feel tempted, reciting surah an-Nas is a marvelous reminder that the Lord of Mankind is with his servants and protecting them.
- Say, I seek refuge with the Lord of the Dawn
- From the mischief of created things
- From the mischief of Darkness as it overtakes
- From the mischief of those who blow into knots
- And from the mischief of the envious one when he envies.
The title of this surah means “The Dawn,” which suggests cleaving to the light and rejecting evil, which is emulated in how the rays of the sun flash through the darkness to reveal the sunrise. In it, three forms of mischief are called out by name and a supplication is made to unite with the light of God, which shines through our hearts, minds, and spirits. Living in a world where decency is disposed of and wickedness is glorified, it would make sense to memorize and recite this surah often.
- I swear by the Token of Time
- That humanity is in grave loss
- Except for those who have faith and perform deeds of righteousness and exhort one another towards Truth and exhort one another towards Patience
God swears by time itself that humanity is doomed, and then provides four solutions to this universal ill. Time is something that everybody has an opinion about, but nobody can really explain its existence – time creates and progresses, but it also destroys everything material; time never rests and its mystery is conquered by our spiritual gain, not our material gain. While many cling to material pleasures, almost worshiping money and wealth as deities, this surah teaches that those who cling to God and perform righteousness will transcend even the most powerful grip of time.
- To you we have granted Abundance
- Therefore turn in prayer and sacrifice to your Lord
- For the one who hates you will be cut off from Future Hope
There is a reference to Abundance, a heavenly fountain from which springs wisdom, grace, knowledge, mercy, goodness, truth, and insight. The Prophet himself indicated that its bank is made of gold and its bed is constructed of pearls and rubies. In this extremely short passage, Allah equates His Generosity (i.e. the abundance granted, universally, to those of planet earth, as well as the particular generosity He has shown towards all of us) with a set of valuable treasures. In short, it is a reminder of the doctrine of spiritual riches, which will outlast time, and that those who reject the Lord and His servants will pay a grievous consequence.
- When the help of God arrives alongside victory
- And you witness the people embracing God’s Religion in crowds
- Celebrate the praises of your Lord and pray for forgiveness, for certainly He is the Acceptor of Repentance
This passage is exceedingly victorious in tone, prophetically encapsulating the mission and ministry of the Prophet of God (pbuh). As a result of his preaching, he was cast out from his natal town of Mecca, eventually migrating to Medina, and later, to Abbysinia, and gradually the confederate tribes of Arabia sought to destroy him and his followers.
Gradually, however, Allah revealed his plan in history, and granted the Muslims victory in battle, success in expanding the Message of Truth, and the bloodless conquest of Mecca. All victory comes from the help of Allah.
- Indeed, We have sent it [the Qur’an] on the Night of Power [or Fate, Destiny]
- And what will make you realize what is the Night of Power?
- The Night of Power is better than 1000 nights
- In it descend the Angels and the Spirit by the permission of their Lord on every matter
- It is all peace until the break of dawn.
This surah describes the night when the Noble Qur’an was first revealed to Muhammad (pbuh). The third verse suggests that the wisdom found in the Qur’an is better than a thousand months of life-experience. It is unknown on what date the first revelations actually occurred, but Islamic history indicates that it was on one of the odd-number nights in the last ten days of Ramadan – during this time, it is imperative to worship as much as we can, perform as many good deeds as we can, and forgive debts, for the rewards for the acts of worship performed on this night will be multiplied a thousandfold.
- Say, Oh Disbelievers
- I do not worship what you all worship
- And you do not worship what I worship
- And I will not worship what you all worship
- And you do not worship what I worship
- To you be your way and to me my way.
The six ayat in this surah resemble one another closely, making it very simple to memorize. This is because each verse utilizes the same words and phrases, but changes the conjugation. Furthermore, the Arabic words utilized in this surah appear all over the Qur’an and are essential words to know when digesting the Book of Allah.
This passage is an excellent prayer, or declaration of one’s loyalty to God, especially for Muslims living in countries where pagan iconography and symbolism runs rampant. The message of God’s Unity, the True Religion of al-Islam, and the Community of Muslims are at the heart of this surah.
Although these surahs are some of the shortest and simplest, so simple that a child can memorize each one with just a little bit of time, their content contains the most noble and majestic truths that have ever been revealed to humankind. For many reasons, the holy book of Islam, the Qur’an, is extremely unique, but no other book in the history of the universe has been able to succinctly encapsulate the secrets of the world, the keys to success in both this life and the next, and the subtle spiritual realities that saturate us in such short, sweet, and eloquent words.
What do you think? Share your reflections below!
- Jami’ at-Tirmidhi 2910, Book 45, Hadith 36
- Sahih al-Bukhari 4937, Book 65, Hadith 458
- The Noble Qur’an – Text, Translation, and Commentary by Yusuf Ali