How English Literature Shapes My Personal Connection with Alqur’an

Something inside of me always seeks the answer to this question: what is my life goal? I started questioning myself when I was a little girl after I knew almost all of my neighbors were undergoing life patterns that looked similar to one another

Completing education, working for some months or years, getting married then raising children. I didn’t want to live like that, I said to myself at that time. I was a naïve young girl who was searching for something different from others.

The wish of “becoming different than others” came true. I hoped I could study Accounting so that I would be part of the mainstream. But I failed the test then I ended up at the English Literature Department. I have always loved the English Language but I never heard of English Literature. I enrolled in the subject because it is for Bachelor Degree. It took two years before I realized that I was in the right place.

Long story short, my love for the foreign language stays the same. Studying the subject always makes me happy. The feeling doesn’t change from the first time I knew the language when I was 10 years old until today. 25 years go by. The love for the subject stays where it is. I can’t thank Alloh swt enough for the knowledge that he lends me with up to now.

Yet, the question of what is my life goal doesn’t end there. Repeated romance failures made the inquiry resurfacing, stronger than ever. Years of consuming myself with Western songs, books, and movies introduced me to the term “home”. I was in my 20s at that time. My thought about “a home” was a husband and some children like what people say. At least, that was my conclusion from the Western culture that I enjoyed.

As I said earlier, my romance stories always hit rock bottoms. During the gloomy period, I was developing a deep connection with English classics. I admit that my genuine love for English Literature began after I graduated from university. I spent hours reading heavy books that I recently realized most of them deal with psychology. Although the books were written centuries ago, they look relevant today because the authors actually talk about us.

I hid behind the beauty and brilliance of the books. I talked to myself that I would read books by the Victorian authors for the sake of art. Metaphors, universal message and my favorite is always, always about characters that they created. Little did I know, or I probably didn’t want to accept the bitter truth that Thomas Hardy, George Eliot, and John Steinbeck, are human beings, after all. They are full of flaws, imperfect creatures.

Some of you may regard fiction is for pure pleasure. But for me, English classics speak way deeper than sweet words or happily-live-ever-after finales. I take literature seriously. The authors’ opinion affects me deeply.

Until today, I find it hard not to click on articles about them or English Literature. I have to fight against myself when it comes to reading books about English Literature or Islam.

I have been a Muslim for my entire life. But I never loved Alqur’an with all of my heart until two weeks ago. My heart lacked something although I completed reading the Holy Book, memorized some of the ayat and read many articles regarding Islam. I needed to start all over again, but where?

Even when I knew what is my life goal, something requires contemplation and self-searching, yet again. I have found out that my life goal relates to my love for reading and writing. Alloh swt chooses me to spread His ayat through easy-to-digest, popular stories without reducing the essence of it. I thought I would start from the history of Islam because I also love history. Sometimes I thought I simply needed to share what ustadz Nouman Ali Khan said in his sermons. That would be more than enough, I assumed.

But those are insufficient. My root isn’t firm and pure to begin the journey. I kept rejecting the whisper inside my chest that said I needed to study the Arabic language. I once took the Arabic language course but I survived for one meeting only. The experience confirmed my thought that yes, the language was difficult and too complicated.

By then, I had been listening to the sermons by Nouman Ali Khan for two years. But I ignored parts when he quoted Arabic words from the Holy Book. I was interested in his tafsir or lessons learned from the ayat only.

Alloh swt hada plan that was completely beyond my thought. When the ustadz announced he would travel for his Dream Worldwide program, I was excited simply because I would meet him again. I didn’t think of studying the Arabic language seriously despite the program is about teaching classic Arabic for understanding the Qur’an better.

By the time the course was nearby (which was due on 20th November), I needed the course more than ever for the sake of making use of spare time. I was half-unemployed and was gradually recovering from devastating heartbreak. It took huge efforts to complete the seven-day program. Sometimes, I wanted to flee from the auditorium when the ustaz wanted us to memorize some words in the language. He often picked some of us who raised their hands challenging themselves over what he asked for. For example, he wanted us to repeat certain Arabic words then gave us chocolates or candies if our answers were true. Of course, I wasn’t one of the clever students, LOL!

Surviving each session was a huge achievement already. By the time the program ended, I had mixed feeling. I was happy that I kept my own promise that I would attend the program. I skipped one session only because of teaching job, by the way. At the same time, I was gloomy because I missed the class, the enthusiastic fellow muslims, the crowd and of course, Mr. Nouman himself.

Yes, the Arabic language is hard. I can say it’s twice or three times more difficult than the English Language. But the program makes me realize one profound thing. That I don’t see the Arabic language as an impossible subject to study. That the language isn’t that scary and deadly like I used to think.

With hard efforts I refresh my view about the Holy Book from the Arabic language lens. I read again the handout that the ustadz gave. I answered exercises that he talked about in the class again. Not yet finished as I had busy working life. But I enjoyed doing that.

As I strive for studying the language, I start recognizing the treasures of the Holy Book that surprisingly, comes in terms of literature. Every time I think of the Holy Book, my mind races to what makes one of the English classics impressive for me. I used to admire the classic storytelling structure. Foreshadowing, puzzle like method proves that the authors of the classic is genius people. As the book develops, at least I can get the point. Everything makes sense at the end. But the Qur’an isn’t arranged in that organization.

And that what makes the Book so challenging. Other questions will be: What factor that makes the naming of each surah? What’s an ayat, anyway? Why doesn’t He put story about the Prophet Musa AS in one surah only? Why should He need to spread it in some surah?

Alqur’an contains super-rich metaphors that overpower those in the classics as the former shortens them whilst the latter needs to explain them in sentences. It’s without any reasons that Alloh swt chooses the Arabic language that is very scientific and wealthy for the Qur’an. For delivering lengthy messages, He needs to say it with one or two words.

Add to that are timeless values and relevance in the Qur’an that surpasses values in the classics. The classics convey messages that stand against the time but not all of them are just. But the Qur’an is fair. And that’s the tiniest thing that I know at the moment.

I can’t believe that the door to appreciate the Book eventually comes from the subject that I initially felt trivial and useless, which is English Literature. Truly, no knowledge is ever wasted. We’ll just have to keep looking for what it leads us to. And for me, the path brings me to the Qur’an. Please pray for me, my friends, that my journey is always, always sincere and pure. If I lose them, the journey will mean nothing. And I pray that all of us find our way back to Him and His Book with our pristine love, amiiiin.