Having finished my cathartic, orienting, renewing Hajj pilgrimage, I sat after Fajr (pre-sunrise prayer) in the basement of our Mecca hostel on the last morning of the journey. The Imam (prayer leader) spoke to the group and advised us to stay connected to the Quran upon our arrivals home, beckoning the non-Arabic speakers to read it in our native tongues to truly grasp the words and embrace and receive them in our cores. It dawned on me then that I had never read the book in English, that my connection to and understanding of it, the Muslim faith and God were inevitably limited. I resolved to return home and read every verse in English.
I came back and dusted off the Thomas Cleary translation of the Quran that had been gifted to me nearly a dozen years prior but had gone largely untouched. I toted it with me as I dropped off Sulaiman at Granada Islamic School and then would slip into the adjacent mosque prayer hall. There, I’d sit and read a page or two before heading off to work. Other days, I’d read a few pages before bed or after Fajr prayer. All the while, I would fold the corner of pages when I fell upon a verse that struck me or I wanted to return to.
A couple months into my venture, my copy with all its folded page corners sat in my backpack that someone stole from my car. Devastated but not deterred, I ordered a new copy and started from the beginning, methodically reading again, scouring for the “folded corner” verses and discovering a few others.
114 chapters, 300 pages, dozens of folded corners and about 9 months later, this morning, on the last day of Ramadan, I finally finished reading the Quran from cover to cover in English for the first time.
The experience was clarifying and confusing all at once, answering many long held doubts and questions but prompting new curiosities, concerns and uncertainties, connecting my depths to God and this faith and at the same time straining certain spiritual strands and stirring up new internal strife. But Alhamdullilah (Praise be to Allah), the journey and struggle to growth, clarity and the divine continues. Time to read it again.