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Quranic guardian

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Part of a series on the Qur'an Quran cover

Mus'haf

Sura · Ayah

Qur'an reading

Tajwid · Hizb · Tarteel · Qur'anic guardian · Manzil · Qari' · Juz' · Rasm · Ruku' · Sujud ·

Translations

List

Origin and development

Meccan revelations · Medinan revelations

Tafsir

Persons related to verses · Justice · Asbab al-nuzul · Naskh · Biblical narratives · Tahrif · Bakkah · Muqatta'at · Esoteric interpretation

Qur'an and Sunnah

Literalism · Miracles · Science · Women

Views on the Qur'an

Shi'a · Criticism · Desecration · Surah of Wilaya and Nurayn · Tanazzulat · Qisas Al-Anbiya · Beit Al Qur'an


Hafith or Hafiz (Arabic: حافظ قرآن or حافظ‎, plural huffaz), literally meaning 'guardian', is a term used by Muslims in modern days for a male who has completely memorized the Qur'an. A female hafiz is a hafiza. Hafiz, however, traditionally is used for a scholar who has mastered and memorized 100 000 Ahadith complete with their narrators and chains of transmissions.

Overview

The Islamic prophet Muhammad lived in the 7th century CE, in Arabia. In those times, many people were not literate. The Arabs preserved their histories, genealogies, and poetry by memory alone. When Muhammad proclaimed the verses later collected as the Qur'an, his followers naturally preserved the words by memorizing them.

Early accounts say that the literate Muslims also wrote down such verses as they heard. However, the Arabic writing of the time was a scripta defectiva, an incomplete script, that did not include vowel markings or other diacritics needed to distinguish between words. Hence if there was any question as to the pronunciation of a verse, the memorized verses were a better source than the written ones. The huffaz were also highly appreciated as reciters, whose beautifully intoned words were accessible even to the illiterate crowd. Memorization required no expensive raw materials (in an age when there was no paper in the Muslim world, only vellum). Memorization was also considered more secure -- a manuscript could easily be destroyed, but if the Qur'an were memorized by many huffaz, it would never be lost.

Even after the Caliph Uthman ibn Affan collected and organized the Qur'an circa 650-656 CE, oral recitation of the Qur'an was still honored and encouraged. There are numerous traditions of oral recitation. Most huffaz know only one version, but true experts can recite in several traditions.

Huffaz are highly respected within the Islamic community. They are privileged to use the title "Hafiz" before their names. They win this title by passing one or more tests. In one test, they are asked to continue the recitation of a passage taken randomly from the Qur'an. As they do not know which passage will be chosen, they must know the whole text in order to be sure of passing. In another test, a would-be hafiz might be asked to recite verses containing a specific word or phrase.

Most huffaz have studied as children in special Islamic schools or madrasahs, being instructed in tajweed (rules of recitation) and vocalisation as well as committing the Qur'an to memory. To give some idea as to the nature of this undertaking: The Qur'an is divided into 114 Surahs (chapters), containing 6,236 verses (comprising some 80,000 words or 330,000 individual characters).

During the holy month of Ramadan, special daily prayers called Tarawih are read in the mosques every evening. Tarawih prayers include Qur'an recitation. One juz' (1/30th of the Qur'an) is recited by a hafiz on each of the thirty days of Ramadan. If the audience is at all large, several huffaz will be present. Any hafiz who stumbles is sure to be corrected and this is called luqma, a correction done by another hafiz.

A number of scholars point to hadiths that state that a hafiz will be rewarded on Qiyamah (Judgement Day), as will his or her parents, and will be granted the ability to intercede on behalf of ten sometimes narrated as 25 family members.

"He who learns the Qur’an and practices upon it, his parents will be made to wear a crown on the day of Qiyamah, the brilliance of which will excel that of the sun if the same were within your worldly houses. Hence, what do you think about the person who himself acts upon it?" (Abu Dawood).

"Whoever reads the Qur’an and memorises it, while he regards what it makes lawful as lawful and its unlawful as forbidden (i.e. he practises according to it), Allah Ta’ala will admit him into Jannah and will accept his intercession on behalf of ten such persons of his family who were doomed to the fire of Jahannam" (Tirmidhi).

It is important to note however that in the classical Arabic lexicon, the word 'Hafiz' was not traditionally used to refer to one who had memorized the Qur'an. Instead, the word used was 'Hamil' (lit. one who carries.) 'Hafiz' was used for the scholars of Hadith, specifically one who had committed 100,000 hadiths to memory (i.e. Al-Hafiz [Ibn Hajar]) In those days, memorizing the Qur'an was so commonplace that it was not even accorded great distinction; today, the study of Islam having become a specialized field, it is a mark of distinction.

Today, the largest number of people that are Hafiz of the Qu'ran, can be found in South Asia, particularly Pakistan, although it's not an Arabic speaking country.

Practice

Having memorised the Qur'an, the hafiz or hafiza must then ensure they do not forget it. To ensure perfect recall of all the learned verses requires constant practise. Any hafiz or hafiza who forgets any verse due to failure to practise may, according to scholarly tradition, expect to be woken up blind and as a leper on the Day of Judgement. This is one of the reasons there are very few hafiza, because the day to day responsibility of running a household leaves little time for a woman to practise. [1]

Parallels in other religions

Although Christians usually do not aspire to memorize the Bible in its entirety, some Christian groups do place an emphasis on the student's memorizing exactly the text of at least some Biblical passages. For example, at the national finals of the Assemblies of God Bible Quiz in the USA, participants may be required to perfectly recite a seven-verse Biblical passage within 30 seconds. The National Bible Bee, planned for 2009 in the US, whose participants will compete in their ability to learn and recite word for a word a specific Bible passages, is said by its organizers to award the “largest prize of any academic competition of its kind”.[2]

See also

External links

  1. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/msid-1271666,prtpage-1.cms Mohammed Wajihuddin "The Messengers: Reward of the faithful" The Times of India (22 Oct 2005, 2044 hrs IST), retrieved 5 May 2009
  2. National awards, from biblebee.org

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