Between the ages of seven and nine, my Monday and Wednesday nights revolved around Quran reading classes which my two elder brothers and I, more often than not, refused to attend.
It was not as though our heads were neck deep in homework or anything like that.
We were just boys being boys.
Our parents forced us into it and we only did what was natural – Rebel.
They told us how the wife and husband duo who’d be teaching us are parents of Singaporean-Malaysian pop icon, M. Nasir; seemingly more excited at the prospect of us meeting a pop icon than actually receiving a proper religious education.
We caught a glimpse of M. Nasir once and my brother told my mother once we got home and she nearly fainted.
To this day, I’m still unsure whether she’s a huge fan of his, or was just feeling light-headed that day.
Our friends would wait for us at our designated meeting area (a huge playground next to the Community Centre), and milled about until one of us would say, ‘Time to go home!’
And that’s usually an hour and a half after we’d stepped out of the house.
Being the youngest of the three, I would pester them and ask, ‘Why can’t we go home earlier? Why do we have to stick around the playground for so long?’
One of my brothers would simply reply, ‘To make it more believable.’
I never really learned how to read the Quran inasmuch as I had mostly memorized each verses phonetically through transcriptions.
My Muslim friends in secondary would make fun of me for it.
Especially this guy named Mat Noh.
He’d go all guns blazing each time he hears someone mentioning my lack of Quran knowledge.
Somebody must have made him king of Quran recital, I thought.
And then one day during recess, a kid from secondary one came up to our table and said, ‘Mat Noh! You forgot your Muqaddam in class yesterday evening! I’ll bring it to our next lesson!’
Everyone burst into laughter except me, and Mat Noh, of course.
Instead of taking pleasure in his raging mortification, I empathised with him.
He got up and left; this straightforward gesture elicited me to shed an ounce of sympathy for the poor guy.
I approached him after school that day and he apologized for what he’d done.
We let bygones be bygones; an unheralded level of maturity between two fifteen year old boys.
I ended up resuming my Quran lessons at the center where he was learning to read the Muqaddam.
I concluded my Quran education five months later and Mat Noh followed suit three months after.
This achievement still ranks high in my list of things I’m proud of.
Years later, I still had this lingering sense of dissatisfaction in my gut.
Something was missing.
But what could it be?
I had already read the Quran from cover to cover.
Then it struck me that while I had already read The Quran, I still haven’t figured out the meaning of its content.
So I made my way to one of the bookstores along Arab Street and purchased an English translated Quran.
I found myself getting thoroughly lost in its beauty.
Of course it isn’t exactly similar to the Arabic version for some things might have been lost in translation.
Some of my favorite verses in The Quran:
“Avoid much suspicion, in deeds some suspicions are sins. And spy not neither backbite one another. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would hate it (so hate backbiting). And fear Allah, verily, Allah is The One Who accepts repentance, Most Merciful” (Qur’an 49: 12)
“Surely those who guard (against evil) are in a secure place, in gardens and springs;” (Qur’an 44:51-52)
“Hold to forgiveness; command what is right; But turn away from the ignorant.” (Qur’an 7:199)
“We have not sent you but as a universal (Messenger) to men, giving them glad tidings, and warning them (against sin), but most men understand not.” (Qur’an 34:28)
“When our revelations are recited to them, they say, “We have heard. If we wanted to, we could have said the same things. These are no more than tales from the past!” (Qur’an 8:31)
“If they pass by some vain speech or play, they pass by it with dignity.” (Qur’an, 25:72)
“The reward of goodness is nothing but goodness.” (Qur’an 55:61)
A young Singaporean whose life revolves around writing, live music, ice-cream, Arsenal Football Club, and sometimes, drifting in and out of existential crisis. He is currently working on a book of short stories titled, ‘Singaporeans Cried When They Found Out Their Hearts Were Made In China.’