Studying for Sarf

“ If you are grammar nerds you will love this” Her voice gathers excitement still soft but tinged with joy and wonder……..” but if you are not” she continues “you will become one”

Am I a grammar nerd? Just because I am loving it even though I am probably the last in the class as far as acquisition of this language is concerned.

The surprising thing for me is that even though I feel as if I am the last runner in a marathon, I am not crestfallen or berating myself. In my view this new stance has a combination of factors that contribute to this arising optimism, particularly in someone who has always been competitive and desirous of being in the first row of learning and in everything in life.

It is the teachings of the Shaikh about Tazkiyah which constantly turn my head to focus on the goal and also the journey.

The Quran continually reminds me that end results are with Allah and that is not what I should be worrying about it is the journey, my enthusiasm for it and my sincerity for it is what matters.

When I as in Hifz class, I remember being awake worrying that I am not doing well in Hifz at all. I open this book that I had ordered from Amazon on how to do hifz. The first line read…….”Never say it is difficult, it is the book of Allah” ( the language of Allah) i.e. if you struggle with sincerity he will slowly open the door to you…….in accordance with your level of desire and effort.

I  am in Quranic Arabic class, sitting in my living room in Istanbul as the sun wraps up its scintillating garment that have been shedding sparkling jewels on the turquoise waters of the Bosphorus all afternoon. The heat of the day has gathered in my living room and made it an oven. Finally I breakdown and decide to turn on the air conditioner despite the niggling of guilt about global warming issues and use of air conditioners etc.

She comes into the class quietly gracefully and with a private reserve that you can feel even through zoom. While the day is wrapping up in Istanbul it is starting in gusto across the Atlantic.

Her voiced tinged with wonder and awe at how the change in one harakah (vowel) completely transforms the meaning is infectious. Her voice drops in tone with respect and humility as we address the grammar of the Lafz e Jallala ( The word Allah) and all to do with it. Never for a moment does her teaching reflect boredom or frustration at our ignorance or slow progress.

Her patience with the stragglers is endless. I am grateful that she does not teach with cynicism and sarcasm like many others but encourages us by what we know and building on it.

I cannot say much of her physical attributes as shortly after the opening dua we are deep in the words which are slowly and surely opening the doors to the mysteries that Allah Subhanawataala has promised to reveal to us.



I am six years old and in Karachi reading Quran with my Ustanijee ( Quran teacher). I am constantly making mistakes of fatha and kasra (vowels) mostly because of my inattentiveness as my eye is constantly moving to the cute kittens that have invaded our verandah.

Ustanijee stops and covers the page of the Quran with her hand and looks at me sternly, which is not very stern as she has a gentle face, cleansed by the reflection of the Quran she teaches day in and day out. She does it to eke out a respectable living for a single woman in a mans world and of the rich elite, materially competitive class who as of yet are still desirous that their children should know how to read the Quran.

She calls me by my name ………” “Do you know that if you even make a mistake of a zair or zabr ( kasra or fatha) it is a sin because you will change the whole meaning of the sentence!”

I stop to look at her in amazement and in my six year old mind I try to sort through the words in English and Urdu where the change of a vowel would change the meaning……and nothing comes up” I silently think she is just trying to make me pay attention………and I carry on”

As we are on Sarf where the change in a fatha or kasra not only changes the meaning but can totally confuse the subject at hand. This may be the reason why translations are so varied and sometimes even conflicting.

 In order to translate the Quranic words one not only has to know the grammar, but the context, how the Quran refers to that word elsewhere in the Quran and the vocabulary all rolled into one at the same moment.

I am horrified at all the mistakes I still make while reading in tajweed to my teacher and all the mistakes I made in the past and was not even aware of them. If I stayed in the nawafil of Istighfaar for the rest of my life I would not be able to make up or absolve myself from just the humungous number of mistakes that I have made.

My Arab friend says “ your struggle as a non-Arab for whom this language is foreign brings more hasanaat than one who knows the language” Her words are hope and balm on my heart.

 I now truly understand the misnomer that “ignorance is bliss” which is a two-edged sword. Ignorance of the Quran keeps us away from all that is good and stymies us in time, thus it cannot be bliss except of the temporary kind that an ostrich finds when faced with a predator.

The evening marches on in Istanbul as Ustadah takes us into the perilous though exciting voyage of Sarf and while in class on the roller coaster of Sarf I feel “ I got it!” that is the type of exhilaration that she brings when she teaches Quranic Arabic Grammar.

Like all good teachers she knows (even across zoom) who knows the answers and who has not been studying. It is disconcerting but I am thankful of the days when she does not call upon me not because I haven’t done the homework but I am not sure what I have done is correct and have thus not sent it in.

The Sheikh teaches us Tazkiyah tun Nafs and encourages us to practice it every moment and I say if you truly want to test your Nafs and rein it in the best thing you can do is enroll in Ustadahs class on Quranic Arabic. Not because she may yank your Nafs, but your Nafs itself will be peeled layer by layer and you will either shed it like a snake skin and begin to learn in earnest in your naked vulnerable new self or………

The other possibility is that you may continue to hide behind the false bravado of ignorance prompted by the Nafs and pretend tp know it when you dont and thus be forever veiled from the sweetness of lifting the veil to the Gardens of Jannah which you glimpse here and there in between the Quranic ayahs as we study the grammar of each word.

The sun sets on Istanbul, behind the Galata tower and the Adhaan of Maghrib comes across the Bosphorus loud and clear first and foremost from Aya Sophia which has been recently restored to a place of prayer once again. It is then followed by adhaans from the rest of the mosques like a symphony.

Sunset #istanbul#Galata Tower

I cannot pause nor lift my head from my note book because I know that if I do, I will lose my place in the marathon to understanding the path to Jannah………..


  • Sheikh Mokhtar for continuing to have hope in me towards learning & practicing Tazkiyah tun Nafs
  • Sr H for showing me this path
  • Jannah institute for organizing this course
  • Ustadha for being patient with me
  • My classmates for bearing with my simplistic questions and perhaps finding them entertaining
  • My Nafs for remaining humble, acknowledging that I cannot be on top of the class and not insisting that I give up.
  • Istanbul with its 3113 mosques that encircle me with the barakah of the Salah and Dhikr that goes on in them and saturate the air I breathe.


*to Allah Subhanalwataala who has placed me in this path. 

* To RasullAllah (peace be on him) whose salawaat always energise me to take the next step.

DUAS: needed from you my readers, for me to continue on this path.


  1. Beautiful read 🙂
    Mashallah, May allah make your learning easy for you and take you from strength to strength in everything you do!


  2. Asalamalaikum Asma
    Truely beautiful and so true ! Nadia and I are also doing Arabic with almadina sohba it’s very
    Challenging Alhamdolilah I love it please pray Allah accepts it


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