The days are getting longer and all too hot. The heat is unbearable with the sun’s directness. Open windows can only do so much. Ramadan is the perfect moment for you to realize just how much the body needs water. We are sixty percent water, but in the middle of June, it can seem a lot lower than that.
This time I’ve tried to start reading the Qur’an on my own. So much of my identity has relied on this Holy Book that I’ve never read in its entirety. Although I am Arab and I speak fragmentations of the language, I do not have the ability to read it fluently at a pace that does not cause me frustration. For many Muslims who cannot read, for many Muslims who do not speak Arabic, for many Muslims who refuse to because of painful associated histories, I recognize the complication.
It’s been ingrained in my mind that to read the Qur’an correctly is to read it in its original language, my mother’s mother tongue. But people have abused the power of the language, giving it supremacy, twisting unclear passages to mean allowance of oppression. Never do I feel more self-conscious than I do when I read Arabic. Every word becomes splintered instead of full.
English is often to me what Arabic is to others. It’s a language I feel as though I was never meant to know, but I do. It’s the only language I am sure I can make people laugh in. It’s the language that makes people in Canada trust me as one of themselves instead of one of “them.” It’s the language I dream in. But it’s not the language I feel most comfortable in. I feel at times as though it has made me a messed up poster child for assimilation.
But I’m reading the Qur’an in English anyways because it is all I know how. I often try to chalk up my uneasiness towards certain passages as translation gone wrong. Reading in English always gives me the benefit of the doubt that English is too limiting. One word in Arabic can mean a bunch of different things, I say to myself. I try to negotiate one passage that I mentally cannot accept with dozens of others that help me make sense of this big, messy world.
I find myself having doubts so many times. But these passages I struggle with, I try to work out. I try to pick apart and find new meanings. So many other people are doing this with me. Muslims all over the globe are reading the Qur’an themselves, with their voices because that is what the Holy Book is here for. Each person can read it and pull their own truths out of the text.
I have to believe that there are ways in which who I am align perfectly with my religion, because religion is so, so malleable. The fact that I do not currently have the ability to read in Arabic should not stop me from feeling any less Muslim. Maybe I was never meant to read the Qur’an in Arabic this Ramadan. Or any future ones for that matter. Instead of feeling defeated, I am fine taking my time in English. I’m glad I am doing this at all. I’ll take what I can get.