Cover photo by David Rodrigo, Unsplash.
Thirty hours. That’s about how long it takes to read the Qur’an from cover-to-cover.
During the month of Ramadan, it’s common for Muslims to complete the entire Qur’an by reading/reciting one section each day. Each section takes about an hour on average, give or take 10-15 minutes on either end of that estimate.
Only when the Qur’an is in Arabic is it actually the Qur’an. If it’s translated into any other language, it’s considered an “interpretation” of the Qur’an rather than the Qur’an itself.
What’s a Juz’?
How does a Muslim know the right amount to read each day during Ramadan? Someone along the way has conveniently divided the Qur’an into 30 juz’. We read one each day. The plural form of juz’ is ajira, but I rarely hear anyone use the latter to pluraiize juz’.
Because Arabic plurals are complicated and hard to remember, many English speakers will just add an “s” as in “surahs” and “ayahs.” The words “surah” and “ayah” are often translated as “chapter” and “verse” respectively. But like so many Arabic words, they really don’t have an accurate English equivalent.
Like juz’, these divisions help us navigate the Qur’an, which has 114 surahs and 6,236 ayahs (not 6,666 as some loons like to claim).
Adding the “s” to the end, we would get “Juzes.” That doesn’t sound right. So like hadith (plural: ahadith), English speakers often pluralize such words by leaving off the “s.” For I example, “I will read 2 juz’ and study 3 hadith.” There are words pluralized this way in English, such as “deer.” One deer, eight deer…not “deers.” So this works.
I don’t know if there is technically a right or wrong way to render such words. To me, the easiest way is the “best,” regardless of the “official” verdict—whatever the source of that may be.
To recap, the Qur’an is sectioned into juz, surahs, and ayahs, in order of descending size. This scheme provides a kind of map that makes for easier reading and citations.
YouTube Makes it Easy
If you want to test this idea the Qur’an can be read or recited in 30 hours, got to YouTube. Search “Qur’an Juz’ X English Subtitles,” where X is whatever Juz’ you choose between 1 and 30.
Surahs are generally longest at the beginning and get shorter and shorter toward the end. This isn’t strictly true, as there are variations in the pattern, but that is the overall trend.
The Cow, the second surah, is really long. It provides a summary of the whole Qur’an. By the end, the last few surahs are just a few lines long.
When Do Muslims Read and Recite?
Ramadan is not the only time most Muslims read the Qur’an. Portions of it are part and parcel of daily prayers, which Muslims must learn to recite in Arabic.
Muslims recite Al Fatiha, The Opener, 17 times per day during their 5 daily prayers. Even though it’s at the beginning, it is pretty short. This is typically the first verse a new convert to Islam will learn by heart.
Muslims must memorize several verses to say during prayers. The easiest verses to remember are the ones toward the end because they are short. For this reason, you’ll find many new converts reciting the last three surahs: Al-Ikhlas (sincerity), Al-Falaq (daybreak) and An-Nas (mankind).
Some Muslims memorize the entire Qur’an in Arabic, even if Arabic is not their mother tongue. A person who does this successfully is called a hafez. Hafez means “keeper” or “one who remembers.” This way the Qur’an is preserved down to the last letter, not only in written form but in the hearts of the Muslims.
Both individually and collectively, reading and recitation of the Qur’an are ongoing throughout the year.
Some communities also have a monthly Qur’an Khatam, where Muslims finish the Qur’an collectively. Usually between 15-30 people will read 1-2 Juz’ over the course of the month so that the whole Qur’an is finished. Sometimes the Qur’an is read in sets, meaning that during a given month, the group collectively reads the entire Qur’an 2, 3 or even 4 times.
At the end of the month, everyone gathers together to celebrate, often with a potluck. This celebration includes special recitations and communal prayers, including supplication for those who have asked the group to “make dua’” (pray) for themselves or someone else.
Most Muslims make a habit of reading, reciting, and listening to the Qur’an on a regular basis.
Yes, Muslims Read Their Book
Reading the entire Qur’an from cover-to-cover is a common practice for Muslims. This practice seems less common among some other faith traditions.
If you ask their believers, you will soon find it’s common for them to have literally never read their own book in full. Not in its original language, and not even in translation in their own language.
I’ve read that it takes two or three times as long to read the Bible in full or about 70-90 hours. I’m not sure if that number is accurate. I only know one Christian in real life who claims to have read the entire Bible. I’ve never heard of anyone memorizing it in any language from cover-to-cover, which would certainly be daunting if not nearly impossible!
Reaching the Whole World
These days those who are interested in the Qur’an are very fortunate, alhamdulilah.
Beautiful recitations are at the fingertips with anyone who has access to the Internet. Many are in the original Arabic with subtitles in different languages, English being one of the most common.
Anyone can take an hour a day to go through the entire Qur’an in one month, insha’Allah. Though a newcomer who takes up this torch will find the Qur’an is a book like none other.
There is a difference between merely reading the Qur’an vs studying and understanding the Qur’an. But reading and enjoying the beautiful sound of the recitations is a good start.
Here is a recitation of Juz’ 30 with English subtitles by one of my favorite reciters, Mishari Rashid Alafasy. Enjoy. 🙂