By Izzati Bahri
These days seeking knowledge has become more accessible than ever. It is no longer unusual to hear about someone attaining professional qualifications through unconventional education streams such as online courses. Alhamdulillah, for the better part of the past half decade, I have been blessed with the opportunity to extend this accessibility to teach Qur’an recitation online.
While it may seem like a straightforward process, learning Qur’an recitation online is not an easy feat. You would notice that the dynamics in a cyber-classroom is quite unlike that of a physical classroom. The simple truth is that platforms such as online courses provide seekers of knowledge with more autonomy and control – this, however, requires discipline and better self-management.
The complexities of seeking knowledge can be viewed from the four main relationships involved.
The first relationship is between the student and himself. Like all acts of worship, quran recitation starts with renewing our intentions. This is important because it will serve as our constant source of motivation especially when we need it most. Aligning our actions with our intentions allows the end goal to be attained much easier, insha Allah. A famous hadith recorded in Bukhari and Muslim is a valuable reminder that seeking knowledge is worship and should only be done for Allah’s sake and His pleasure:
“Actions are according to intentions and everyone will get what he had intended.” – narrated by Abu Hafs ‘Umar Ibn Al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him)
Within the context of seeking knowledge, this means doing everything in our power to maintain focus and discipline which starts with putting ourselves in a conducive environment – doing everything in our power means having our class in a quiet area free from distractions, with reliable internet connection. This will make it easy for us to keep steadfast in delivering our ‘ibadah, but of course it doesn’t stop there.
The second relationship is between the student and his teacher. In Islam, teachers are highly regarded because of the responsibilities that come with their jobs. We must remind ourselves that in addition to us and our classmates, the teacher could be overseeing tens of other students, possibly hundreds or even thousands (this would most likely be world-renowned or well known Islamic scholars, may Allah have mercy on them). Having to oversee the development of so many people cannot be easy. One way to realise the gravity of this situation is to think of someone having children – having a few kids allows better focus and more pampering while having more kids can get to be a handful sometimes. Think of all the names the teacher has to remember, on top of having to remember the important things like the students’ areas of development and weaknesses.
This is why, the least we could do is give our teachers the respect they deserve. In a physical classroom, showing respect becomes a much easier task as the teacher is able to see us, and would acknowledge our silence and attention as an indicator of respect. In a cyber setting however, the teacher would not be able to see us, so they have no choice but to trust us and give us the benefit of the doubt. We must return the favor by honoring that trust and not betray it by conducting ourselves appropriately when interacting with the teacher, beit in class or outside of class.
The third relationship is between the student and his classmates. Following the point above, we must note that the teacher will in fact have other students besides us, and this of course includes our classmates. They deserve as much of the teacher’s time and attention as we do. So we must take it upon ourselves to give the other students a chance to communicate with the teacher without feeling judged, pressured or rushed. The truth is, often, the knowledge we seek extends far beyond the syllabus we enrolled in – it also encompassess the ettiquettes we must adopt in an educational setting. This requires patience, in waiting for our turn to speak, as well as respect for fellow classmates, who like us, are embarking on a journey of personal development. There is no reason why we cannot learn from the interactions between the teacher and the other students.
The last relationship is between the student and Allah. Unlike the relationship with the teacher, our relationship with Allah does not end when our courses end – it is eternal. And although this may very well be the most important relationship of the four, there’s not much else that needs to be said. There is not a time that Allah is not aware of us, so there should not be a time when we are not aware of Allah.
At the start of my career as a teacher, I fooled myself into thinking that online courses are much easier to subscribe to, as we are in control of our timing, and of our environments. In the last five years however, I’ve seen why these are in fact the very reasons why it is much harder to seek knowledge online than in a physical classroom. It became obvious why personal development has to come from within, it became clear how well this development is reflected through our relationships with others. While it definitely takes a lot more strength, there are lots of things we can do to take advantage of these conveniences.
I have devised 5 things to do for better development in an online Qur’an recitation course:
- Visualise what you hear – As most online classes are not conducted visually, this means we’re relying a lot more on hearing what and how our teachers/classmates recite. Visualising the sounds we hear makes the Quran recitation a lot easier to decipher, which makes it easier for us to spot and correct our own mistakes. If it helps to see your teacher recite, you should be allowed to ask for this, provided the teacher agrees to it.
- Record what you recite – Believe it or not the hardest person to hear is yourself. It is easy to see the difficulties and weaknesses your classmates are faced with, but for some reason it is not that apparent when you are listening to yourself. Often, when your teacher corrects your recitation, you would think “…but that’s exactly how I said it!”. There is a chance you did not need correction in the first place, but it’s best to have a recording of it so you can playback and listen to the session again. This will let you hear what other people hear, and make you understand how your pronunciations sound from the outside, instead of only knowing what it sounds like from the inside. Recording also helps tremendously during practice.
- Emulate the experts – When it comes to quran recitation, a lot of students find it easier to repeat then to read. There are plenty of reciters to emulate, however for the purposes of developing your tajweed it is important that we do not get too caught up in creating melodies. We must first perfect the notes before we can perfect the tune. The danger with focusing on melody is that you may distort the properties of the Qur’anic letters in an attempt to keep the melody of your recitation. This is a very innocent but dangerous mistake which we need to constantly be mindful of. For the riwayah of Hafs ‘An Asim Toriq As-Shaatibiyyah, the three shuyukh I would recommend listening to are Sheikh Muhammad Siddiw Al-Minshawi, Sheikh Mahmoud Khalil Al-Hussary, and Sheikh ‘Abdul Basit ‘Abdus Samad because these legendary reciters are known for their immaculate technique in Qur’an recitation.
- Practice, practice, practice! – There’s little that needs to be said about this because we are all familiar with the concept. It is not common for us to get good at something without putting in the hours and hard work (unless by Allah’s mercy) and this applies just as well to Qur’an recitation. Students often find it easy to progress if they practice reciting what they need to recite outside of class hours for at least three times a week. Put in the work and insha Allah, the rest of the development will fall into place.
- Seek support – support comes in all shapes and sizes. The first we must seek is of course from Allah, and by that I mean pray. We must pray that Allah makes our journey easy for us and that we are able to accept and overcome whatever obstacle comes our way. Other forms of support comes from your family and other individuals who are qualified to give you lessons. In the case of an online class, it is also important to get technical support (either from the Academy you enrolled in or anyone else that’s available) as this correlates directly with the quality of the lesson you will be getting.
May Allah make us sincere and steadfast in seeking His knowledge and pleasure. We are definitely in need of every good He generously bestows upon us.