'Mengaji': A journey into life

Friday, May 4, 2007

IF WE are like many Muslims, we probably have a copy of the Quran somewhere at home. Most often it occupies the top shelf of our bookrack, gathering dust, or is wrapped in a decorated cloth bag. It is the Holy Book and we are treating it like an untouchable, sacred relic to be kept in place of honour.

Sometimes we mouth of whatever few syllables that we have memorised. More often than not, we treat it as something that is irrelevant with our life. We are ignoring that the Quran is the words of Allah that speak to us.

When the companions of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) first heard the Quran from him, it became a living reality. They had no doubt that through the Prophet, Allah was speaking to them. When they recited the Quran and pondered its meaning, they were moved by it. Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) was a gentle, soft-hearted man, and when he led the people in prayer and recited the words of Allah, he could not stop himself from weeping. 'Umar became ill after reciting these verses: "Verily, the Torment of your Lord will surely come to pass - there is none that can avert it" [At Thur 52:7-8].

Muslims are told to not only read the Quran but to also ponder its meaning. There are at least five purposes for doing the mengaji. Firstly, we do it to obtain the knowledge and guidance from Allah, our Creator. Secondly, we read the Quran as part of our striving to apply and bring that knowledge into action. Thirdly, we seek to find a cure in it for our physical illness, and satisfy our intellectual and spiritual needs. Fourth, we read because we wish to communicate with Allah. Finally, we read because we wish to win the pleasure and blessing of Allah.

By reading the Quran, one is taken in a journey to seek treasures of knowledge and wisdom that guides one on the pathways of life and which will mould one's thoughts and actions. Pondering the meaning of the Quran provides one with deep insights to enrich and steer one along the right course. The Brunei Times spoke to a number of people about their needs to read and study the Quran. According to Saifullah Hj Chuchu, 19, A-level graduate, he went to Quranic classes "a long time ago, when attending religious school" where he was taught the proper techniques of reading the Quran. He did not have any groups that teach or discuss the Quran with him today. "I don't know anywhere that offers mengaji especially for my age group. Most classes are for younger aged children and some for older citizens."

Mohd Akmal is 25 and a nursing school student. He said he used to go mengaji when he was much younger, mostly on Fridays but also on Sundays. "I stopped when I was around 13 years old because I had to concentrate on my studies, as well as attending extra class and tuition classes."

"The ustadz always stressed the importance of proper tajwid. He taught us how to read more smoothly, like how to pronounce each jawi character properly" Akmal said. "Another teacher taught us how to read with different tones and rhythms. Also, sometimes they told us stories about the prophets. Sometimes they let us borrow books about the prophets from the mosque's library, just to teach us something extra."

"Nowadays, I'm getting a bit lazy," he said half-jokingly. "Besides, nowadays I'm always busy with my attachment work at Ripas."

Hajah Salmah is 44 and a housewife. She did not think it is necessary for her to go to Quranic study circles anywhere these days, because she already reads the Quran frequently at home by herself or with her family. "I think those Quranic circles are mainly for people who are not yet adept at the correct reading of the Quran. However I do send my children to the masjid to attend them and learn."

One male government worker, aged 38, said he still attends a Quranic circle every Friday morning. "I come because I want to ibadat (worship) and follow the way of the Prophet. Sometimes, I also help the surau's staff teach the younger participants." The material covered in the sessions usually includes the proper reading technique as well as general discussions on Islamic laws and etiquettes. Asking not to be identified, the man said he believed the activity benefited both him and his neighbourhood.

Zati is a 6-year-old student of PTE. She said she used to go mengaji every week because her parents told her to. "Mainly we were taught to read the Quran properly. Occasionally the teacher would explain the meaning of a passage and even tell a story," she said. Zati stopped going to the Quranic circle two years ago but did not say why. "When I still joined, there was a class every week though I sometimes didn't attend to concentrate on my examinations," she said. However, "If I had the time and I had a choice of joining again, I think I would."

The Brunei Times