Was chilling and watching channel 4 yesterday. Channel 4 is Iqra TV, by the way, I’m not sure whether it’s from Saudi or Cairo, but they always broadcast all five Jamaats from either Mekkah or Medinah, and these days they’re broadcasting Tarawih as well.
I love watching the jamaat prayers, I love seeing everyone lined up, Arabs, Africans, Indonesians, Pakistanis, Caucasians, and tons of people I can’t label, all of them touching shoulders and facing the same direction. It doesn’t matter that they don’t all speak the same language (though we should, really) but everyone’s worshipping the same God and they’re standing together as brothers. I love seeing the worshippers break their fast too, there are over a million guys sitting together eating dates, olives, bread, and passing things to each other though you know most of them can’t even understand each other. Though there are times when the discord in the Muslim Ummah depresses me, there are also times when the harmony and discipline makes me all warm and fuzzy on the inside. Iftar is one of those times. A million hungry people sharing dates and bread, then they all help clean up, pray together, and then go home. Awwww…
I digress. Anyway, I was watching the Tarawih prayer and I was surprised to see that they had finally put subtitles on the bottom of the screen, so I could read in English which surahs the Imam was reciting in prayer. I was reading the translation and saw one particularly brilliant line of the Qur’an (they’re all brilliant actually, but that one struck me as being particularly beautiful) and I nodded, and I was like Yeah, SubhanAllah. And I was shocked to see one of the guys nod and smile during his prayer at the same time!
It was so freaky, until I realized (duh) the guy could understand the Qur’an and what the Imam was reciting. He didn’t NEED subtitles, he understood the beauty of that particular passage in its original form, and he nodded and smiled too. I was jealous, almost insanely jealous, and so sad. I still am sad. I can’t believe that I would need someone else to tell me what the Qur’an says, because my Arabic is so bad that I wouldn’t be able to tell myself. It’s a handicap, actually, a really big one. And there’s potential for confusion there. Someone could give me a bogus translation or interpretation and I would have to take their word for it, because I would have no way of verifying it for myself. I can’t understand my own Holy Book, the pages of beauty and wisdom I’m supposed to be using to guide my life. Shame on me.
This was the second big reminder just this week of how illiterate I am. The first was when I went to Sadaat’s blog on Ramadan and found it to be in Urdu. Everyone’s been telling me it’s an absolutely beautiful post, but you know what? I can’t read it. My Urdu is only slightly better than my Arabic. I’ve never studied Urdu before, everything I know has been picked up from being thrown into the language head-first.
I lament my lack of language skills, and I get to feeling like it’s terminal or something. But you know what? It isn’t. There’s no reason why I can’t learn Arabic, especially when I want to so badly. And if I did this ok with just hearing Urdu, maybe I’ll do better if it’s written down somewhere for me to study. I think I’m going to add that to my list of things to do: Learn to understand my own Holy Book! Stop being such a lazy illiterate!