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  • From left to right: My alarm clock that I rarely hear (I sleep like the dead), Daddy, Sister, Me, Mama, and the Quran from which I recite.

    Tonight Mama, Sister, Niece and I had a mini completion of the Quran recitation ceremony. The one who actually finished the recitation was Mama; she recites the Quran diligently after the morning and evening prayer. This is the third time she had completed the recitation this year. Me, I have yet to complete my second (or is the third?) round, being the ill-disciplined brat that I am.

    We took turns reciting from chapter 93 (Ad-Dhuha: The Forenoon) until the last chapter (114; An-Nas: Mankind). My niece recited the chapters that she had memorised from school; she did a good job of mimicking the reading, but I know that her auditory memory is a lot stronger than her skills at reading the verses. My voice was hoarse and raspy, thanks to the cough that still plagues me, but at least I didn't sound too bad (I think).

    At the end of the ceremony, we offered a little prayer for Daddy and my sister's father-in-law who had also departed for his next journey last December. Sister was wiping her eyes surreptitiously, but I remained dry-eyed until Mama started reciting the conclusion prayer for the ceremony. My tears wouldn't stop as I gazed upon the chair and desk that Daddy used for any reading and writing in the room he shared with Mama.

    Daddy was an insomniac. He would often fall asleep at eleven, wake up at 2 or 3 am, and remain wide-eyed until the call for morning prayer floats in the cool morning air. He would fill in the wakeful hours sitting at his desk, studying the Quran's translation, chapter by chapter, verse by verse. I think he read up on the bits that he recited after the morning prayer, as was his habit since his retirement. Before he was diagnosed with colon cancer, his recitation voice was a strong and mellow baritone. Mama used to chastise him on his haphazard treatment of the tajwid (punctuation) and pronunciation, but to me, I love that he recited it in his own way, lyrical with his own personal melody. His voice faltered during the time of the chemotherapy, but after he was declared to be in remission, his voice grew stronger and stronger. However, about a year ago, his voice faltered again, but I thought it was just age catching up with him. His weaker voice never stopped him from his recitation; I miss hearing him read the Quran out loud in the morning.

    The Quran and the translation that he used show how many years it was thumbed and used daily. The spines are all cracked, the binding had loosened. He used a bookmark, eschewing dog-eared pages. If you are not careful when you lift the tomes, the pages appear to slip and slide inside the hardcover binding. Every year during the Ramadhan (fasting month), he and Mama would compete to see who could complete the recitation first, and would hold the recitation conclusion ceremony together. Occasionally, I would join them for this, but more often they'd just huddle together in their room, and only announce it like an afterthought later.

    The majority of Muslims recite the Quran, but rely on translations to know what it means. This is akin to reading out loud the Bible in its original Aramaic, and then referring to the King James version to understand the message. This is because the majority of Muslims are non-Arabs and do not speak the language at all. Unlike the Christians who reads the Bible in a language they know, many Muslims continue reciting the Quran in its original form; not many bother to look up the message in a way that they would understand. Many would proudly say that they have completed reciting the Quran from cover-to-cover, but rarely do they announce that they've read the translation (for those who do not understand Arabic, much less Classical Arabic).

    I think the reason why Daddy remains one of the least judgmental person I know was because he read the Quran and understood its underlying meaning. The Quran have more verses dedicated to treating fellow humans with kindness, justice and compassion in comparison to verses of condemnation (which is only the province of the Almighty, not us mere mortals). I should take a page out of Daddy's book and read the Quran in words that I could understand, if only so that I could be a fraction as lovely a person that he was.
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