Quran for the Impaired
As a baby, he was given to the orphanage and was adopted by a loving couple when he was 8 months old. His selfless mother brought him to our weekend school – a Qur’an school for the visually and hearing-impaired. Kadir, now 6 years old, was told by the doctors that he would never be able to see. His mother, a very faithful woman, tirelessly prayed to Allah for her adopted son. Kadir is now able to recognise some colours, letters and numbers. “Allah is most great,” she says, “if He wills, the impossible becomes possible.” Kadir is a very enthusiastic young boy who has started learning the Qur’ān with us. After his first lesson, he says goodbye with the following words: “Bye, my rose-scented teacher, see you tomorrow!”
I am Şeyma Erkoç. I studied Islamic Studies and am currently working for the Religious Affairs (Diyanet) in Turkey as a Qur’ān teacher. I started off teaching children and now specialize in teaching the visually and hearing impaired. After realising the need for Qur’ān teachers for the differently abled, three years ago, I decided to take lessons. First, I graduated from a course in sign language. After that, I decided to also learn the Braille alphabet to be able to help the visually impaired, too. There was no course in Kayseri, the city where I am from. So I contacted the Religious Affairs and asked to open a class. It has been three years now and I haven’t looked back since.
The work I do is very inspirational. It teaches me ever so often that the Qur’ān is a book of remembrance, inspiration, wisdom, knowledge, truth and law. It is indeed a cure for the hearts and a guidance and mercy for the believers.
Visually Impaired & Learning the Qur’ān
Husain is in college. He has been visually impaired since birth. His father died when he was a baby. His biggest supporters have always been his mother and grandmother. Under normal circumstances, his teacher would be a male person. However, due to his Qur’ān being a special one, his mother asked us to help him. She would accompany him each time and would not leave his side until the end of the lesson. Husain would ask us constantly: “I really want to learn the Qur’ān. How long will it take and when will I start?” What makes it difficult for Hussain is that his finger-tips are numb. Hence he has difficulties in reading the braille alphabet. This is one of the reasons why in school, he prefers to listen and memorise everything his teacher says. Hussain has an extraordinary memory. To be able to memorise the Qur’ān, however, he also needs to be able to develop a ‘feeling’ for it. With the help of Allah, the tireless prayers of his mother and Husain’s relentless enthusiasm, he succeeded and is now a very good reader. “Let us celebrate this with a cake!” I say; with each of my children’s success, we celebrate with a cake and they receive a prayer mat and prayer beads.
After establishing his prayers as well, Husain explains how content and happy he is. “Thank you for teaching me the Qur’ān,” he says “I will read for my late father’s soul and will keep you always in my prayers.” He adds that he wants to become a Hāfidh; one who can recite the whole of the Qur’ān by heart. “What else could I wish for? I shall help and support you where I can,” I respond.
May you also become a Hāfidh of the meaning thereof.
Learning the Qur’ān with Hands
Kismet is a 55-year-old sister who cannot hear or speak. Due to this impairment, hands become ever so important. Hands speak, supported by facial expressions… Kismet’s hands have become rough and stiff due to years of hard work. She came to our lesson with great happiness – we hugged and got to know each other.
On our first lesson together I realised how difficult it is for her to twist her hands and fingers. Most of the signs are too hard for her and she is not able to manage. “How is this going to work?” I say to myself. To be fair to the other students, I ask my advanced students to keep teaching her and practicing with her. They are all so tremendously supportive. Still having difficulty with some letters and sounds of the Alif Baa text book, I albeit reluctantly, let her start reading the Qur’ān. In a very short period of time, she overcomes all those difficulties and is now learning tajweed [a set of rules for the correct pronunciation of the Qur’ān], mashaAllah [God has willed it]. Everyone who has supported her is surprised about the sudden improvements of her hands.
The Qur’ān is a book of prayer and supplication and a most beautiful and miraculous invitation.
Will I be able to see in the Hereafter?
A 9-year-old, visually impaired student of mine once asked me about the hereafter. After we talk about it and heaven, she exclaims with great excitement: “Really? Will God give me the most beautiful eyes? Will I be able to see in the hereafter, in heaven?”
I am deeply touched by her purity and innocence.
When I watch my students and their learning journey I often ask myself the question: “Maybe it is us, who are really impaired?” Many years have passed and each time I witness the success of my students, I get very emotional.
Because they cannot hear, they cannot memorise. They quickly forget what they have learned. Hence, they have to constantly repeat. When they forget, they become embarrassed and sad. Sometimes they are angry with themselves. Although it is not in their hands… “Do not worry, I will explain again,” I say in sign language, and we start all over again.
Even when saying “I seek protection in Allah from the accursed shaytan”, they confuse the signs. They forget the sequence. It is difficult. But they perform their daily salah. When prayer-time has come, I struggle keeping them in the classroom. Once I asked myself: “They struggle so much with memorising. What are they reciting during salah?” So I ask one of my students and receive a very self-confident response: “I say Allah.”
“Good,” I respond, “you keep saying Allah and do not stop making salah.”
Not being able to hear, speak or see – these are not obstacles; they are not the real obstacles. The real obstacles are forgetting the need to understand, learn and strive for Allah.
May Allah make us see the obstacles in ourselves and grant us with the strength to overcome them.