I have a tremendous amount of respect for sisters who have memorized the Qur'an, and the magnitude of the endeavor. Over the past few years I have tried to memorize the Qur'an, little by little. I was embarrassed to spend time around my peers knowing only a handful of surahs from the end of the Qur'an. I heard Yasir Qadhi say about applicants to IlmSummit that the amount of Qur'an memorized was a factor in admission, and being a hafidh was ideal. After learning to read Arabic and studying tajweed, memorization became a bit easier, but I still wasn't really headed towards becoming a hafidhah or anything, and didn't even have one whole (or even half) juz in my head. I was just trying to learn about as much Qur'an as kids learn in Sunday school. And that's not exactly the same level as "serious" students of knowledge, even though I considered myself as serious as the rest. I've just gotten a late start and have to make up a few (like 20) years.
I still know about that much Qur'an, but for now my focus has changed. On applying to Bayyinah, while taking a reading/tajweed test, the sister I was speaking to suggested that I start reading the Qur'an in Arabic more frequently. She suggested I start with about half a page a day, and work up to two pages a day and just read every day.
So I started doing that, making gradual progress and trying to read a page or two daily. But on my recent trip back to North Carolina to visit my family, with plenty of time spent on planes and in airports, my reading of the Qur'an improved tremendously, just by reading it much more, and more often. When I left, I was still reading Surat al-Baqarah, and now alhamdulillah I'm reading Surat al-Ma'idah. Perspective? I had been reading Surat al-Baqarah since April.
And then I got this crazy idea that I would try to keep reading more, and try to have completed it by the end of Ramadan. I'm still not reading very quickly, and unfortunately I don't understand much, but I can tell that my reading has improved--speed and accuracy. Now that we're into the month of Sha'ban, I don't have much time to get there, but I think I'm going to at least try.
So for now I've stopped memorizing to focus on reading. And as I said, it is making a difference.
When I first came to Seattle, I talked to some other convert sisters about this particular struggle, reading Qur'an with enough proficiency to be able to read on a regular basis. For instance, there is a hadith about reading Surat al-Kahf on Fridays--but imagine if it took you from the time of jumu'ah until maghrib to finish it? That is, if you could commit yourself to sit there and struggle through the pages for that long.
And at the time, it bothered me that even though I was memorizing short chapters I still couldn't sit down and read something like Surat al-Kahf on Fridays, or Surah Ya-Seen in the morning, or Surat al-Mulk after 'isha. And I don't think I'm there yet still, but I am getting closer. Although, for now all my reading time is pretty much devoted to getting through the Qur'an the first time.
Even though now I'm reading it with understanding, I can't help but appreciate that I'm forming a habit that will continue through my study of Arabic. And once I have learned enough Arabic to understand it inshaaAllaah, I hope that the meaning will unfold as I continue to read it, over and over and over.
I have heard that the Companions used to finish reading the Qur'an in a week--though now we might finish it only once in a year at Ramadan, or less than that. And although I've read a translation completely, I don't think it's quite the same as reading the Arabic. So here I am publicizing my goal--to finish reading the Qur'an for the first (but hopefully not last) time. And then, to maintain a habit of reading the Qur'an daily, and eventually to memorize it in entirety.