Bookbinding of the Quran in Leather and gold classic Ottoman style courtesy: Osman Doruk

The heated pavements of Istanbul send up undiluted unremitting heat with no end in sight. I stay inside the apartment but the dull headache that had started when I was outside has begun to knock behind my eyes and is rapidly transforming to the vice grip around my head that so many of my patients have described to me. As time passes with every hour it tightens, a little bit more, just like the interrogation irons.

Though I think I know it is the heat, dehydration and a touch of anxiety on the unresolved state of my flight to the US, a little whispering in the back of my mind reminds me of the symptoms of the C virus. I shake my head and negate it and yet the tension mounts with every hour. I take medicine, pray, and do the usual hyperhydration techniques I would teach my patients but to no avail. As my head vice tightens by the hour, my BP rises progressively to previously unfamiliar heights.

In this scenario every evening I have a class on Quranic Arabic being conducted by Jannah Institute.

I feel the need to release myself from all the three online classes I am in, but that would mean I am a quitter and that is one title I have never earned.

Then I ponder about missing a class or two but that is not my demeanor either.

So, as the evening approaches I turn on the zoom and the sweet voice of our teacher Ustadah F fills the room.

I feel like she is a guest in my living room and deserves my undivided attention. Yet as She patiently teaches through the maze of Arabic grammar pertaining to the Quran and during that time it seems like a piece of cake. Afterwards……..

I cannot shake my mounting headache.  I have always as a physician worked though pain, fever, illness and family tragedies so I slog on.

After all this is the easiest avenue of learning of Quranic Arabic that I have been offered in the form of a class room in my living room.

However, when I sit down to do my homework, the intense desire to look back at the charts that I should have in my memory banks, tells me that my foundation is not firm.

Ustadah answers every question with the patience of Eyub and treats the smartest and the dumbest students’ questions with the same serenity.

No one had ever told me that hidden in the grammar of Quranic Arabic is the magic wand of Harf e Jarr that can transform the meaning of the word depending on how and where it is being used.

Thus, all those statements made by past teachers and all the defensive answers to Islamophobic attacks which used Quranic ayahs or sometimes incomplete phrases from the Quran were always dubbed to be “out of context.

’ I always thought “out of context” meant “out of historical context or out of context in relationship to revelation which is all true.

However unbeknownst to me I was not aware of the magic wand of the Harf e Jarr which could do wonders with a single word by transforming the meaning of a phrase and eventually a sentence in the Quran. It appears anywhere and everywhere transforming the meaning of a phrase in a manner that boggles the mind at its power.

As Ustadah unravels the mysteries of the Harf e Jarr and how it transforms the word following it all those ayahs that I had struggled to memorize come to the fore like blinking neon lights.

Had I learned Quranic Arabic simultaneously with English, Urdu and Persian  in kindergarten onwards I would be in the world of the Quran in a much more authentic manner than now. My path in Life 101 would be determined by the Divine Workbook, rather than the meanderings of people who tried to translate the Divine word.

I recall our past Imam reminding our tafseer class that we have to seek the meaning of a word how it is referenced in the Quran and not necessarily as it is used in common Arabic.



But no one had spoken of the magic wand of the Harf e Jarr that could make just one ayah of Surah Fatiha such that a treatise could be written on it and yet would be incomplete because of the depth of what happens when the magic wand is waved or withheld.



Do I fully know what Harf e Jarr is? The answer is NO, it is the tip of the iceberg, where the real magic of discovery lies within and under it.

My compliments to our teacher Ustadah F who has taken the Quranic Arabic, tailored it to a novice like me who like most Pakistani and Indians can read and recite the Quran with ease without really understanding Arabic.

The most poignant example of this is in a movie called “khuda kay liye” where the Pakistani boy is being interrogated about 911 because he is wearing a small pendant which has the ayet al kursi on it. The interrogator asks him to read it which he does without difficulty and then the interrogator asks him what it means and the boy says :” I don’t know” and the interrogator gets mad with him and says “ How can you read something you don’t know the meaning of?”

Thus, it is with the entire subcontinent of Indo Pakistan where millions of Muslims can recite the Quran from memory without understanding a single word of it.

There is no doubt that Allah has promised ten hasanaat for each alphabet of the Quran, but if one is to use it as a handbook for life 101, one has to be as equally amazed as the interrogator in the movie above where one wonders why we were not taught Quranic Arabic along with the recitation of the Quran.

This class in Quranic Arabic is unlike any class that I have attempted in my search for learning Arabic and given up in the early stages.

How is it different:

  1. It has a limited number of students so it is almost like having a private tutor
  2. It is in a zoom classroom so you know your classmates and yet are not distracted by their physical presence.
  3. It has a helpline, and a chat group where problems and positive resolutions can be discussed and in which the Ustadah also participates with solutions after the students have made sincere attempts.
  4. It is every day almost so the tide of continuity is unbroken.
  5. It crosses the Atlantic as if the Ustadah is in my living room in Istanbul.
  6. The building blocks are solidly placed one by one in an organized and methodical manner by the Ustadah.
  7. The Ustadah has no Nafsani behavior with the students, she is confident of what she knows and finds resources if not absolutely sure and she does not demonstrate favoritism which is a natural with most teachers.
  8. Recordings of the classes are available on video which is an amazing resource for revision and also demonstrates what stupid questions I could have avoided if I was focused and fully attentive.
  9. It is far more valuable than the tuition we paid for it.
  10. The workbook and Handbook are both goldmines.

So, once my headache receded and I realized I did not have the C virus, my enthusiasm for learning picked back up to delve further into what else and where else would the magic wand of harf e Jarr work……….


The Bosphorus at night under the moon, the

The scintillating lights of the Blue mosque, the turquoise blue of the Bosphorus and the staccato computerized female voice announcing the passengers to gather their belongings reminds me that the car ferry is arriving, they all call to me, pulling at my attention to disentangle me from the magic wand of the harf e jarr moving around on the pages of the Quran uncovering mysteries heretofore unknown to me.

Whose call do I answer……………..?


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: My gratitude to Allah and his ebaad for introducing me to this class via Dr. H,  For my dear friend  FQ for encouraging me to stay the course while offering reprieve, gratitude to be in the same class as my young niece, and my deepest gratitude to all the friends who have been a pillar of support during my time in Istanbul. Thank you!

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