By Amina Darwish
I remember listening to different reciters as to help me memorize Quran. I remember loving how they made the Quran come alive. I remember how I wanted to learn tajweed just to be like them. One of my top two favorite reciters was Sheikh Abu Bakr Al-Shatiri. We would play the Quran in the car when we traveled long distances as a family and he was one of the favorites. We were told that he was coming to Qalam campus to visit us. I felt like a young child meeting an exciting celebrity, except it was the Quran that gave him his status. We wondered what he would be like. I imagined an old man with a big beard, maybe wearing a thawb. I wondered if he would speak to the women in the class. Until the day he finally came to class.
He was not what I had expected at all. He was very normal. He was down to earth. He smiled. He wore regular clothes. He sat at the front of the class. He laughed with us and made us all feel comfortable in his presence. His humility was shining through. He politely asked our teacher what was expected of him. He was asked to just give us some advice and share some of his thoughts with us. So he looked down for a second and gathered his thoughts. He smiled. He nodded. Then he started tell us how to be a successful at serving the community. It was clear that it was his passion.
He told us about 5 things every community activist should have. The first was sincerity. He smiled gently, shook his head, and said if it is not for Allah, what is it worth? The second was patience: patience with people, and patience to get the work done, which brought him to his next point. Don’t be overly sensitive. To be able to serve, you have to let things. You cannot get upset with others. It wasn’t about them anyway. But it was still important for people to see your good character. And to be able to use this influence to guide others. He reminded us that the Prophet peace be upon him was known as the honest and trustworthy, and that people respected him even before he became the Prophet of Allah. He said we similarly should be deserving of people’s respect. Then finally he told us not to rush the results. They are not up to us, but the work was. Then he tied the last point back to the first. He asked why would anyone rush the results rather than ask Allah for help. Did we forget who it was for? He told us that the secret to success in all of this is simply to ask Allah for His support. And what better support can we get? Then he asked and wondered why anyone would ever do anything without asking Allah for help and support.
He was so down to earth. I had almost forgotten that he is the same man whose voice filled the car with a beautiful recitation of the Quran whenever we traveled as a family. But then, one of the students asked how to memorize the Quran with excellence. Then I was quickly reminded of why Allah had blessed him and gave him the Quran as a gift. He said you must memorize the Quran very well the first time. He said even if it took 10 years, don’t take short cuts. Memorize the Quran and do it well. He said he would recite each verse 21 times. Then he would recite the one after 21 times. And he would continue until he reached the middle the page. Then he would recite all the verses together 21 times. He talked about how by the time you were done, you should be able to write the ayah from memory. I was so floored. I had never heard of anyone having that much dedication to the book of Allah. It is true what the companion Ibn Abbas may Allah be pleased with him said, that people get from the Quran what they intend to get. May Allah bless Sheikh Shatri and make he make us all from the people of the Quran.