Quran Focus Academy Blog

American writer spends year debating Holy Quran with Muslim scholar

What happens when an American writer and a madrassah-trained scholar debate the Holy Quran in a bid to find interfaith understanding? A powerful journey to help bridge one of the greatest divides shaping our world today.

If the Oceans Were Ink is American writer Carla Power’s story of how she and her longtime friend Sheikh Mohammad Akram Nadwi decided to tackle the “ugly stereotypes and persistent misperceptions” that were dividing their communities.

“People are going back to the basic texts, and they’re stripping away centuries of culture and tradition and looking for what they see at the heart of the religion,” she says.

Power provides readers with details of her year with sheikh Akram and how the Quran provided her with many moments of grace. “I found comfort in how small I felt reading the text, as when I considered the images of the ‘lord if the heavens and the earth and everything in between, and Lord of all points of the sunrise.’  Even as a nonbeliever, I still found myself taking refuge in the Quran classes as a clam inlet from daily life.”

Carla Power

Carla Power

Power notes the greatness of the Quran by highlighting the triviality of worldly matters like the “close on Wall Street, the exam score or dress size, even happiness itself” that seemed nothing next to the fact that from God we come and to God we return. She describes this as “constant reminders of one’s own puniness and powerlessness.”

She also shares a personal experience that made her realise the essence of the word InshAllah. “When my mother died, I remember thinking how sensible it was, the Muslim practice of saying InshAllah after every plan, every promise, no matter how minor, since only God can be sure whether next Wednesday’s lunch date will indeed be kept. It was a comfort, in a season of grief, to hang out with a community that honored this world’s certainties.”

On her understanding of namaz, she writes about it as a symbol of devotion to God. She mentions studies on the postures of Muslim prayers by scientists who have concluded that they encourage calm and flexibility. While standing straight strengthens the arrangement of muscles in the body, bowing helps stretch out the lower back and hamstrings, and sitting after prostration keeps joints mobile. In relation to this, Power notes how “Akram’s prayers have rendered him culturally supple, too, stretching his humanity in surprising ways. The act of return, to his prayer mat, to his Quran and his classical text–has often afforded an expansion of his worldview, not a restriction of it.”

She beautifully describes the sheikh offering his prayers and the meaning attached to his every move. She writes, “In standing, kneeling, bring his forehead to the earth, then standing again, his attention returns to his origins and destination, which are one and the same.” She also shares the words of the sheikh, who connects the experience to a “feeling of returning to the arms of your mother, when you are a child.”

The author explains the meaning of existence for the sheikh revolves around God, in the shape of a circle. The circle has God at its end, beginning, and every point in between. This sheds lights on his belief that “from Allah he has come, and to Allah he will return,” with everyday circling back to God.

On starting her Quran lessons, as she was able to understand its message, she realised that it is more than just a book. Instead, she reflects on its reach to Muslims around the world as a “metaphor of return. It is a place to which the faithful return, again and again.”

She explains, “I’d come a long way from earliest encounter with the Quran, but I still hadn’t understood that it was far more than a much-revered book. Over the course of the year, I began to see that the Quran was not merely a set of pages between two covers. Calling it a book, something one can read from beginning to end, embalms it in expectations. It was just another way of limiting it into something small: an amulet, a manifesto, an instruction guide, a political tool. In the life of a Muslim like Sheikh Akram, its meaning is much more diffuse.”

On questioning the sheikh about how to better understand the Quran, she shares his response, “Read. Keeping reading the Quran. Read it, and read it again. Return,” echoing the command that Prophet Muhammad had heard upon revelation.

Islamic Quran academy opens in Tatarstan, Russia

An Islamic academy has opened in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Bolghar Historical and Archaeological Complex in the Tatarstan Republic of the Russian Federation on Thursday with the intent of raising Islamic scholars for Russian Muslims.

Islamic Academy Tatarstan Russia

The Bolghar Islamic Academy opened with Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov, Turkey’s Kazan Consul-General Turhan Dilmaç, Religious Affairs Secretary of Turkey’s Moscow Embassy Dursun Aygün, chief mufti of Russia and head of the Central Muslim Spiritual Directorate Talgat Tadzhuddin, President of Russia’s Muftis Council Rawil Gaynutdin, Tatarstan’s Mufti Kamil Samigullin and other religious leaders in attendance. The academy will offer six-month Quran courses. The Bolghar Historical and Archaeological Complex went under restoration and was included on UNESCO’s World Heritage Site List last year. “The new academy will raise Islamic scholars not only for Tatarstan, but also Russia’s [other] Muslims,” Minnikhanov said.

Dilmaç also said two religious lecturers have been sent from Turkey to give Quran courses at the academy. “We are pleased with their efforts. Bolghar will remain both a historical, educational and religious city,” he said. Speaking to Anadolu Agency (AA), Aygün said Quranic recitation courses will be extended and offered to religious staff in Tatarstan, Bashkortostan and other parts of Russia. An international conference was held with the theme “Religious view of Muslims on the concepts of nation, religion and civilization.”

Teaching the Holy Quran in Uyghur, China

Mosques fail to offer enough space for worshippers at regular Friday prayers for Muslims in two prominent cities of the Uyghur Autonomous Region of China: Urumchi and Kashgar. People have to take to the streets and squares without bothering others. The Idkha Mosque in downtown Kashgar is the largest mosque in the region. More than 30,000 people join the Eid prayers performed in the square that also hosts the mosque. The Idkha Mosque was built in 1442 and was enlarged three times. Around 700 people can perform prayers in the closed area of the mosque.

There are 28,000 clerics (24,000 appointed to mosques) officially assigned to the Uyghur Autonomous Region. There are schools teaching lessons on the Quran in the local towns that offer courses lasting two to three months. Graduates of elementary and high schools are admitted to these schools. China has nine years of compulsory education during which no religious courses are offered. There are 10 Quran courses in China. The Xinjiang Quran School is the only officially recognized school for teaching the Quran in Xinjiang Uyghur region in China. It is also the only school that teaches the Quran in the Uyghur language in China. The hadiths are recited in Arabic but the explanations are in Uyghur. Students study for five years in the school to receive their qualifications and Muslim graduates who are appointed to serve the people are given a monthly allowance. There are 10 different ethnic Muslim groups in Xinjiang and those other than the Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and Huis are able to communicate with each other. The graduates of the school teach the Quran to the public and some work as members of the local popular congress. The Chinese Religious Affairs Directorate and the Chinese Islamic Affairs Department regulate the appointment of students abroad. Of these, 37 students continued their education in Egypt. The Huis have nine other Quran schools in other parts of China. The Huis teach in the Chinese language.

The construction of the Xinjiang Quran School started in 1983 and the school was completed in 1987. It receives financial aid from the state and the Chinese government gave 250 million yuan in 2012 to construct a huge new school that now hosts 300 students and 70 teachers. They train clerics in eight undergraduate and three pre-undergraduate programs. Mainly religious and cultural courses are offered, with cultural courses constituting 3 percent of the curriculum. The cultural classes include ethnic and religious policies. Uyghur literature, Arab language and literature, and history are also being taught. Seventy percent of the courses are focused on religious studies, which include studying the Quran, recital, tawjeed (rules of recitation), methodology, Islamic jurisprudence, Islamic theology and culture, the life of the Prophet Muhammad and Arabic grammar. Male high school graduates aged between 18 and 22 are admitted to the school in a two-stage exam.

The Xinjiang Quran School is a religious school that trains clerics. They do not admit female students. There are three different types of religious education: clerical school, Quran courses and Quran schools. Women are allowed to receive religious training from their fathers or husbands at home.

The school offers help every year for those who would like to perform the pilgrimage in Mecca. The pilgrims have to meet several conditions, including having sufficient financial resources, being healthy and able to travel. Every year, nearly 14,000 people in China travel to Mecca for the pilgrimage. Of these, about 3,500 sign up for the pilgrimage in Xinjiang. Turkish Religious Affairs Directorate President Mehmet Görmez has paid a visit to Xinjiang twice. He was appointed president after he returned from Urumchi. For this reason, it is argued that Urumchi brings good luck.

Hasan KANBOLAT   h.kanbolat@todayszaman.com

Previously Published in Todays Zaman


Learning to Read the Holy Quran

An Invitation to read the book of books

There are some books that need not be read once or twice but scores of times. There are books that simply decimate you, that don’t need our recommendation but that judge us. There are books that one would not like to part with even in grave. There are books that need certain moral and spiritual qualifications to be understood, or we would fail to drink from the fount of wisdom. There are books that must be in the curriculum of life’s education. What is the book that is most urgent reading for anyone  who cares about higher things of life including wisdom and ethics? I argue it is, first of all,  a divine book. Let us try to read one today.

Imagine any reason for praising a work or at least paying attention to it and one may find that the Quran illustrates the case. If impact of a work counts, the Quran we know created history and new civilization. If readership or recitation counts, it is amongst the most read, most memorized, most recited works. If inherent linguistic and literary excellence counts, it is, by almost universal consensus amongst the best scholars of Arabic language and the Quran, a feat that we ordinarily describe as miraculous. If loftiness of themes, polyphony and polysemy count, it impresses in the same way that other sacred scriptures impress. Countless commentaries have been written and keep coming. The best minds from philosophers to Sufis to poets to scientists have been struck dumb by it and they have joined in the great tradition of commenting on it. Some of the most influential modern minds  including psychologists like Jung have also joined in this group by commenting on certain verses or chapters. From Nietzsche to Derrida we see glowing tribute paid to the aspects of legal, mystical and philosophical culture inspired by the Quran. Heidegger,  arguably the greatest figure in twentieth century philosophy, deemed himself a philosopher in the Arab tradition of philosophers. In previous centuries literary giants from Carlyle to Goethe have been struck by the Quran.  If speaking to – rather shaking –  depths of our being is a criterion, its power is too well known to need a comment.  If inimitability is the criterion,  we find that from its contemporary Arab poets to James Joyce in Finnegan Wake, attempts to dilute the force of the claim of inimitability have patently failed.

How come some of the greatest Orientalists and those who approached the Quran from purely academic reasons become its for good? How come volumes have been devoted to apparently as simple things of the Quran as orthography of letters by the best minds? The Quran inspired art, poetry, philosophy and number of traditional science constitute a significant part of cultural heritage of mankind. The Quran has stayed and will stay

The Quran consumes the reader or the reader fails to read it. It transforms, it devastates as a great beauty devastates. Man’s salvation lies in getting ready for such a transformation. Great tragedy or poetry seeks to accomplish something similar.

There are books that one should pray for getting access to them. The sacred scriptures and writings of saints are such books. If one isn’t able to enjoy the Quran despite linguistic and other resources at one’s command, one needs to investigate why. Perhaps some notions bequeathed by shallow education or misinterpretations need to be addressed. I seek to argue that the key claims of the Quran are self evident and none can find them problematic. Let us try to see how we can appreciate the Quran as an open invitation to all of us including the Muslims (usually Muslims think they know the Quran  and it is other communities that need to be invited to it.)

Learn Quran Reading Online

Who can refuse invitation to explore the science of the self or psyche (anfus) and the cosmos (aafaq) to which Al-Quran invites all? The Quran invites us to pay attention to ontological Quran, the text of flesh, blood, matter and soul  that constitutes anfus and aafaaq. Who can finish exploring them? Who can finish reading the Quran this sense? Who can’t entertain Quranic invitation to take sensory experience, reason and history seriously as sources of knowledge? Who can have issues with the invitation to see all religions from Adam to Muhammad (PBUH) received through prophets as explicating one Deen – Al-Islam i.e., submission to Truth/Reality? Does Truth need any other certificate to claim our assent? The Quran doesn’t give a view or interpretation of truth that one could subject to certain ideological critique but asks man to submit to Truth not its particular truth but Truth as such wherever one finds it. Kufr is concealing the truth and who can approve of it?

La Illaha Illallah, read with the help of illumined reason, contains the whole essence of metaphysics as Schuon has noted.  Read with the help of metaphysical, spiritual and esoteric commentaries the Quran is perfectly seen as the deeper voice of both our hearts and minds. Nothing that is revolting to reason or ethics can be in the Quran.

The Quran convinces or saves by virtue of its appeal to Signs of God that are for everyone to contemplate in virgin nature, in rhythms of cosmos, in the music of our souls, in perfections we find everywhere getting embodied in life and universe. The best use of aql leads to a state that the Quran calls heaven. Only the knowledgeable fear God, the Quran declares? Now who can vote against these things?

The Prophet’s mandate is to teach the Book  (all books that are worthy of attention are in a sense in the Mother of Books, Ummul Kitab that is the epithet of the Quran) and love of wisdom (hikmah) and purify the souls. Aren’t all great teachers revered because we think they help us in achieving these three objectives?

What the Quran calls faith in Al-Gayyib is understandable as respect for what Marcel calls mystery that is existence or life and  what Stace foregrounds as depth dimension of things that refuses access to rationalist’s tools. Who is the fool to claim to have demystified the world or emptied it of wonder?

Two of the greatest Muslim scholars of the twentieth century including Allama Anwar Shah Kashmiri once tried to experiment with changing or substituting a verse, a word, a letter in the Quran and investigate if it would change the overall sense and structure. Needless to say, the experiment failed. A good review of major points regarding the literary excellence of the Quran is in Hamza Andreas Tzortzis’ “An Introduction to the Literary and Linguistic Excellence of the Quran.” There are numerous books on Aijaz-i-Quran that cumulatively do make a strong case for engaging with the Quran for modern man.


One of our greatest calamities is that we are disconnected from the Arabic language. Teach children Arabic and the Arabic Quran will, most probably, hook them for ever to its miraculous form and content. Hardly any preaching needed. Teaching the Arabic language is the antidote to alienation from religion we currently see in new generation. Ask schools you pay handsomely, for arranging for Arabic teaching. Most of us need to better our Arabic if for no reason than at least enjoying the Quran aesthetically. Faith will take care of itself.

Muhammad Maroof Shah

Previously published in Greater Kashmir



Manners of Reading the Holy Quran

Be careful when you handle this holy book. Remember, it is not an ordinary book. We need to do the following for giving to the glorious Quran its due respect:

Before you begin reciting from the Quran, seek refuge with Allah (swt) from the Satan, by saying – ‘Aoodhu Billahi Minashaitanir Rajim.’

Take Allah (swt)’s name, before you begin to read, by saying – ‘Bismillah.’

Try your best to be in the state of Wudu, when reciting from the Quran, and sit in a clean place.

Begin reading with a clear intention of seeking only Allah (swt)’s pleasure, not any other worldly gain.

Turn the pages gently and slowly to the required page. It is best, if you use a bookmark at the place you finished last, so that there is no unnecessary flipping of pages.


Maintain humility, tranquility, and respect, while reading the Quran.

Read the Quran in a moderate voice.

Read the verses with short pauses in between.

Be careful about the Makharij (pronunciation of the letters). Give every letter its due right.

Read the Quran attentively, calmly, and sincerely.

Ponder over the words of the Quran and make efforts to act upon them.

Be grateful, when the verses of Shukr (being grateful) are mentioned and seek refuge with Allah (swt), when asked.

Listen quietly and attentively, when the Quran is being read.

Do not put the Quran on the floor or near a person’s feet.

Do not leave the Quran open, when not being used, or turn it face down on the table.

Do not step over the Quran, if it is lying on the ground or at a low level, such as a prayer mat.

Do not use the Quran as a support to write on.

Do not place things on the top of the Quran.

Do not scribble unnecessary things on the pages of your Quran.

Do not touch the Quran with dirty hands.

Make sure you keep the Quran out of the reach of children that may tear its pages.

Do not eat, while reading from the Quran.

Sit in a proper, respectable position when reading it.

Try not to talk in between, while reciting from the Quran.

Keep the Quran in a clean place.

Learn as much as you can about the Quran by reading an authentic translation in the language of your preference.

Keep the Quran within your reach and in sight.

Let no day pass, without reading or reciting from the Quran.


Author: Affaf Jamal

The Oldest Quran Found – Could Be From Time Of The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)

Part of what is believed to be the world’s oldest Quran has been discovered in a somewhat unlikely place…Birmingham.

The manuscript found at the University of Birmingham among other Middle Eastern books and documents was found by a PhD researcher, who suggested further tests.

When radiocarbon dating was used on the text, written on either sheep or goat skin, it was found to be at least 1,370 years old, making it the oldest recorded script.

It was found that the probability of the text coming from between 568 and 645 was higher than 95%.

Oldest QURAN

The text is the oldest recorded Quran manuscript recorded

This could actually date it during the life of the Prophet Muhammad, who is generally thought to have lived between AD 570 and 632, according to the university.

David Thomas, a professor of Christianity and Islam at the University of Birmingham,told the BBC: “According to Muslim tradition, the Prophet Muhammad PBUH received the revelations that form the Koran, the scripture of Islam, between the years 610 and 632, the year of his death.”

“The person who actually wrote it could well have known the Prophet Muhammad PBUH. He would have seen him probably, he would maybe have heard him preach.

“He may have known him PBUH personally – and that really is quite a thought to conjure with.”

Prayers and making dua during Ramadan or Ramazan

The following dua (prayers) are recited at the beginning and end of the fast to indicate and affirm the intention of the fast.

A person’s intention when fasting, is to bring him/herself closer to Allah.


Dua (Prayer) at the Beginning of the Fast :

Wa bisawmi ghadinn nawaiytu min shahri ramadan

I intend to keep the fast for tomorrow in the month of Ramadan


Dua (Prayer) at the End of the Fast :

Allahumma inni laka sumtu wa bika aamantu wa alayka tawakkaltu wa ala rizq-ika-aftartu

O Allah! I fasted for You and I believe in You and I put my trust in You and I break my fast with Your sustenance

Ramadan: 5 Free Apps For Islamic Prayer Times, Fasting Calendar, Sunrise Sunset Alarms, Mecca Compass

Technology is rapidly becoming a valuable tool for Islamic observance and many Muslim faithful have increasingly been turning to smartphone apps to help them fulfill religious obligations. With the holy Islamic month of Ramadan approaching, the utility of such apps in supporting the spiritual and practical elements of the 30-day fast make them an especially useful option for some.

Ramadan 2015:

An all-in-one Ramadan toolkit, this popular app not only features a calendar for the holy month, including prayer times, but also the ability to modify prayer times based on different locations for convenience during travel. The Android app also has a feature that sends a reminder about charitable giving, also known as Zakat al-Fitr, an obligation for Muslims during Ramadan.


Islamic tradition holds that Ramadan was when the Quran was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad and, as a result, many Muslims use the month as an opportunity to read and recite their holy book. This tradition has made the iQuran app, which offers the full text and audio of the Quran along with an English translation, tremendously popular among many congregants, according to Benyahya. “People use it a lot,” he said. “It’s very much going to be used and exhausted during Ramadan.”

Islamic Finder’s Athan Prayer Timings:

Muslims are obligated to pray five times a day, at pre-set intervals with times that change according to the season. One of the most popular prayer time calculator apps, the Islamic Finder app allows users to track daily prayer times, log their prayers in a personalized prayer book and even offers directions to nearby mosques. The app also has a prayer call alarm feature (with the option of switching to vibrate mode) that can help alert users to the sunset and sunrise which mark the start and end of fasting, respectively.

The popularity of these apps has enabled some Muslims to become even more devout in their religious practice. “If you forgot to pray, you might not be responsible, because you’re human; you forget and you can make it up later,” said James Otun, a 35-year-old American technology aficionado, in an interview with the Guardian. “But not now that you have those apps, that might change things in God’s level.”

Qibla Compass:

Knowing when to pray is one crucial aspect of Islamic prayer. The other is knowing in which direction to pray. Apps like Qibla Compass are dedicated to helping Muslims figure out the direction of Mecca, which Muslims around the world face as they pray. While some can usually calculate the direction by using the compass feature on their smartphones, this app does the calculation automatically based on a user’s location. The app also comes with accessibility support for people with visual impairments.

Ramadan Kareem:

Ramadan has traditionally been a time of spiritual reflection for Muslims, who give up food and drink during the sunlight hours and avoid vices like gossiping throughout the month. In addition to striving for spiritual purity, the sense of deprivation fostered through fasting is also meant to inspire charitability.

This is why many Muslims use the month as an opportunity for charitable giving and volunteer work. The Ramadan Kareem app by the Muslim Giving Project, is designed to facilitate this important obligation by connecting Muslims to civic organizations and projects that they can donate to or get involved with as a volunteer. The app also provides daily charity inspirations throughout the holy month.


First Islamic theology school in Scandinavia

Mina Hindholm Imam Khatib school will take on students aged 18 and up from Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

The northern European region of Scandinavia has officially opened its first Islamic Theology boarding school, known as an Imam Khatib school, in the Danish city of Slagelse.

The school is due to take on students from Denmark, Norway and Sweden and will teach the national curriculum along with Turkish and Islamic lessons in the fields of Qur’an, Hadith and Islamic creed.

Boarding school head Ahmet Deniz told Anadolu Agency said that Mina Hindholm will be Denmark’s first official Islamic school for students aged 18 and up. The school, which is Europe’s second Imam Khatib after the one in Belgium, already has 52 students.

Muslim Schools In Canada

Islamic Schools in Canada

1. Aishah Siddiqah Islamic Institute – Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada
2. Al-Rashid Islamic Institute – Cornwall, Ontario, Canada
3. Az-Zahraa Islamic Academy – 8580 #5 Road, Richmond, BC, Canada
4. B. C. Muslim School – Richmond, British Columbia, Canada
5. Calgary Islamic School – Calgary, Alberta, Canada
6. Darul Uloom Canada – Chatham-Kent, between London & Windsor, Canada
7. ISNA Canada – Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
8. Mariyah Islamic School – 3667 LAWRENCE AVE EAST Toronto, Ontario, Canada