The first night of the Israeli aggression on Gaza in August 2022, I woke up three times, hoping that it was over — or maybe I wanted to believe that it was all a dream. Each time, I opened my WhatsApp account and reached out to my friend Abeer.
“Is there still war?” I asked her. Outside, it was quiet, with no sound of missiles.
“Unfortunately, yes,” she said. “Now try to get some sleep.”
We said good night to each other, and I hoped Abeer and I wouldn’t lose each other before morning. I put my phone under my pillow and tried to go back to sleep. A good night hasn’t knocked on Gaza’s door for a long time. Happiness only comes to her as a visitor and then vanishes at once.
I’d been excitedly preparing for my Qur’an Khatma party. Qur’an Khatma holds great value for Muslims. It means to recite the entire Qur’an from memory before one of our Qur’an teachers. This is clearly a great challenge, but everyone here wishes to do it. It elevates one’s position in society and also with Allah. The person who memorizes the Qur’an honors his or her parents and earns a crown in heaven called Al-Waqar, dignity.
I admired people who memorized the Qur’an, because I saw in them calmness and politeness. I noticed the careful way they spoke, as well as their closeness to Allah. I wanted to be as close to Allah as they were.
I thought that completing Qur’an Khatma would help me change some qualities in myself that I was not satisfied with, such as raising my voice in anger, and that it would help me be more like Muslims who had memorized it. All my friends were memorizing the Qur’an, which made me happy for them, and jealous, too. I have always been a person who is jealous of the accomplishments of others and wants to achieve them, too.
So I decided to start memorizing. I had previously started memorizing but had not completed the project. This time was going to be different. I had only 60 days to memorize the Qur’an, according to the memorization project that I joined. I would not allow myself to quit. I would have to memorize 604 pages, equivalent to 114 surahs, or chapters. This is a difficult matter, because it is not permissible to change the surah or explain it in my own words. I would have to adhere to the literal text without any changes, even if another set of words had the same meaning.
All the surahs of the Qur’an are beautiful, but I prefer Surat Yusuf, because it contains the complete story of Prophet Yusuf, which makes me feel optimistic. It begins with a dream of Prophet Yusuf and ends with the realization of this dream. It starts with everyone’s malice and hatred for him and ends with his happiness and return to his father. Surat Yusuf makes me relax and feel that Allah is with me and will manage all my affairs and help me achieve my dreams.
During the Israeli assault, I was nervous that I would not finish memorizing the Qur’an in time. I still had left to memorize five juz,’ or parts, out of the 30 parts of the Qur’an. I wanted to finish memorizing the remaining five parts between a Saturday and a Thursday. I’d prepared my own plan to finish the memorization in 50 days. But according to my plan, the party would land on the Thursday of what turned out to be the week of aggression. The war was an obstacle that threatened to prevent me from achieving my dream.
Because I could not go to the memorization center in person, what helped me was doing the memorization at home and the recitation via WhatsApp calls. My teacher at the memorization center started listening to me online. This was tiring and frightening, as missiles were booming all around us. We were afraid that we would lose one of us while we were reading. But we continued and resisted, despite the scattered thoughts and fear. I had difficulty memorizing with the television buzzing with news of the killing of a family and the injury of a child, with my younger brothers around me crying.
But I saw the rest of the people involved in the memorization project reading and making progress, which inspired me to work harder. Perhaps this was what pushed me ahead of the plan that I had prepared for myself, in spite of the war. In two or three days, I had finished memorizing the entire Qur’an. Once I’d finished, we were able to hold the party as planned, in which I recited the last page of the Holy Qur’an.
The party was in my home, with family, friends and my teachers in my memorization journey. My feelings, and those of my family, were mixed between joy and pain, like the smell of roses mixed with the smell of blood in the aggression.
I wore a white thobe, the traditional Palestinian dress. I felt victorious over the occupation’s attempt to stop me from fulfilling my dream, so I wore the dress of Palestine, whose identity we have retained as Palestinians since ancient times. The chocolate cake was in the form of a Qur’an with my name written on it. We also had some petit fours and juice. I decorated the room with streamers that said, “Congratulations on Your Thirty Lights ” in reference to the light of the 30 juz’ of the Qur’an.
My feelings were indescribable when I recited the last page of the Qur’an. I felt accomplished and that I had overcome the obstacles imposed on me, foremost of which was the occupation. I remembered all the difficulties I had gone through. And I cried, because I hadn’t gotten over all those obstacles easily. My dad and mom were crying too, as were my friends and everyone else. They congratulated me with the phrase, “Congratulations on your 30 lights.” They were happy because I’d memorized the Qur’an and did not let the Israeli aggression stop me.