As his voice recited a section of the Quran of which I understood the meaning partly, suddenly I felt that in the intonation and rhythm of the recitation was hidden a call which had awakened a memory code in my genome. Every cell in my body awakened and took notice; it was a call to my soul, a rhythm that was embedded in my DNA, which awoke to it instantly.
With it my soul took flight on the wings of the memory of my DNA back to my roots in the desert of Mother Africa or the sands of Mecca I do not know which nor did I care. The intensity of the response within me was complete; there was no hesitation and no thinking involved. It was at a primitive limbic level, a memory stored in my genome, which had awakened to its mother call. I realized that I was no longer thinking but responding………..Labaik Allah humma labaik, but before I could travel further into my roots and understand the significance of the call, the recitation ended and we went into the Ruku…………..
It started out as a normal evening in a small town in the south. A Qari with amazing credentials was visiting as a detour from a big city. We were there to listen to him with the cynical thought in some minds that if I don’t make it to the mosque we can always listen to him or others on line. Well this was an evening when the myth of what you listen on line being the same as what you listen live from the heart of a Qari who has dedicated his or her life to reciting the word of Allah, was busted.
One of the secrets of the Quran was revealed that evening. Why was Rasullah pbuh commanded to recite? And not write? Or listen only?
In this evening lies the clue that I hitherto knew at an intellectual level but had not understood it even while standing in the Haram surrounded by the tilawat of the grand Imams.
In the Quran are hidden the codes of recitation. There are seven musical meters unique to the Quran. In my assessment Allah Subhanawataala in creating us has programmed those meters of rhythmic recitation into the DNA of our cells, which hold the memory of our Creator.
This gives the inner responses when we listen to the Quran being recited live, or when we ourselves recite it.
Thus when we recite the Quran at death we feel solace, when we recite it at a birth we feel happiness, when we recite it in anguish we feel comforted and when we recite it in fear we feel secure. All this is not an external manifestation of listening or reciting the Quran; in my view after the evening with the Qari it is a gut level response to the call that has been programmed within us.
Thus even though we can read “about “the Quran or study the tafseer of the Quran and understand the commands and try to follow them, or study detailed explanations by mufasareens and learn the fiqh of the acts of daily living, we still find it difficult to obey. In this we are no different than a non -Muslim professor of Islamic studies at Princeton or elsewhere who also does all that and yet does not believe and finds herself unable to respond to the call within it.
It is why the Quraish forbade the incoming pilgrims and its own people from listening to the recitation of the Quran, it is why Hindus poured lead into the ears of the lower caste to prevent them from listening to the Quran……..they at a very primitive level understood the call and knew the danger they would face in the response to it.
It is why a strong and fearsome Umar (RA) melted when he heard the Quran being “recited” It was not only the words but it was his DNA waking up to the call of his creator and responding to Him…………..
The rest of the evening was a sort of a workshop on tajweed and tarteel………and rhythm with an overt avoidance of naming the meters as musical meters by the Shaykhs because of the abhorrence that the Muslim clergy have to music in general
Nevertheless the fact is that Allah Subhanawataala does not make a single thing without a reason. I have for a while wrestled with this dilemma: if we are not supposed to listen to music why did Allah Subhanawtaaala create a center in the brain which recognizes and decodes music and has one of the most intricate wiring within the brain? Why when sometimes spoken language is wiped out with a stroke, music memory remains. Why are people reduced to tears of sadness and joy in listening to music?
This evening held the partial unraveling of this mystery.
As it turns out the Quran has seven meters hidden within its ayas………..I cannot tell you the details as I am not an expert but what I understood was that these meters express “huzn” or sadness or “farah” or joy at various levels. Thus when Allah Subhanawataala speaks of “the Fire of Hell” the heat, the intensity of the anguish, the fear of being in it and the horrific state is expressed far more in the intonation of the meter rather than the words. On the other hand when Allah Subhanawataala offers the gardens of Paradise, the intonation changes to beauty, love, joy and peace and is felt at a very primitive level beyond the active recognition of just words and meanings.
The evening ends with far too little recitation for my needs and I am left with a deep longing for this recitation that takes me on the wings of memory to my origins and perhaps to my Creator.
I understand now the state of the groupies of rock bands who respond in a similar manner but instead of going beyond to seek their origin from their Creator they stop at the lead singer and get distracted………
Recite in the name of thy Lord…………………
May he give me the ability, cognition, voice and the training to do so in a manner that my soul can leave during recitation and hone towards Him who calls……………inshallah!
Listen with your eyes closed: (to avoid distraction)