Hafiz (//; Arabic: حافظ, romanized: ḥāfiẓ, حُفَّاظ, pl. ḥuffāẓ, حافظة f. ḥāfiẓa), literally meaning "guardian" or "memorizer", depending on the context, is a term used by Muslims for someone who has completely memorized the Quran. Hafiza is the female equivalent.
The Islamic prophet, Muhammad, lived in the 7th century CE, in Arabia in a time when few people were literate. The Arabs preserved their histories, genealogies, and poetry by memory alone. When Muhammad proclaimed the verses of the Quran, his followers preserved the words by memorizing them. After the death of Muhammad, anywhere from 100,000 to 150,000 had it memorized perfectly at the time of its inscription, ensuring the authenticity of the Quran.
The Arabic writing of the time was a non-marked script, that did not include vowel markings or other diacritics needed to distinguish between words. Hence if there was any question as to the pronunciation of a verse, the memorized verses were a better source than the written ones. The huffaz were also highly appreciated as reciters, whose intoned words were accessible even to the illiterate. Memorization required no expensive materials; at the time there was no paper in the Muslim world, only vellum.
Muslims believe that even after Caliph Uthman ibn Affan collected and organized the Quran circa 650–656 CE, recitation (from memory) of the Quran was still honored and encouraged. There are numerous traditions of recitation. Most huffaz know only one version, but some experts can recite in several traditions. However this does not change the meaning of the content.
The Quran is divided into 114 Surahs (chapters), containing 6,236 verses (comprising some 80,000 words or 330,000 individual characters). If you memorize 20 ayah (verses) a day, it can be completed in 1 year. Most huffaz have studied as children in special Islamic schools or madrasahs, being instructed in tajwid (rules of recitation) and vocalisation as well as committing the Quran to memory.
Huffaz are highly respected within the Islamic community. They are privileged to use the title "Hafiz" before their names. They are tested on their knowledge. For example, in one test they are asked to continue the recitation of a passage taken randomly from the Quran. As they do not know which passage will be chosen, they must know the whole text in order to be sure of passing. In another test, a would-be hafiz might be asked to recite verses containing a specific word or phrase.
The 2.5 million strong Isma'ili Shia Dawoodi Bohra Muslim community led by the 53rd Da'i al-Mutlaq Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin counts 4000 members as hufaz. The Syedna is a hafiz himself as was his predecessor Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin. The Syedna has wished for at least one hafiz in each household which has resulted in over 100,000 people taking up the hifz aided by Mahad al-Zahra, an appendage of Aljamea-tus-Saifiyah, dedicated to Quranic knowledge and memorization.
In the classical Arabic lexicon, the word hafiz was not traditionally used to refer to one who had memorized the Quran. Instead, the word used was hamil (i.e., one who carries.) Hafiz was used for the scholars of hadith, specifically one who had committed 100,000 hadiths to memory (for example, Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani).
The Quran (lit. a "reading" or "recitation") is distinct from the recorded sayings and deeds (Sunnah) which have traditionally been ascribed to Muhammad, which are instead preserved in a separate set of literature collectively called the "Ahadeeth" (lit. "news"; "report"; or "narration").
Hifz is memorization of the Quran. Muslims believe that whoever memorizes Quran and acts upon it, Allah will reward him and honour him greatly for that, so that he will rise in status in Paradise to a level commensurate with what he memorized of the Book of Allah. Abdullah ibn Amr narrated that the Messenger of Allah said: “The Hafiz-e-Quran (a person who has memorized Quran) will be said on the day of Judgment: Recite and rise in status, recite as you used to recite in the world, for your status will be at the last verse that you recite.” (Jami` at-thirmidhi 2914)
Having memorised the Quran, the hafiz or hafiza must then ensure they do not forget it. To ensure perfect recall of all the learned verses requires constant practice. The memorisation of the Quran was important to Muslims in the past and is also in the present. Yearly, thousands of students master the Quran and complete the book with interpretation and also memorisation. The Quran is perhaps the only book, religious or secular, that has been memorized completely by millions of people. In Pakistan alone, Qari Hafeez Jalandhari, the general secretary of the Wafaq-ul-Madaris, which is a central board accounting for most of the religious seminaries in Pakistan, says that, in its network of madaris, "one million children have become Hafiz-e-Quran after an exam was introduced in 1982", with more than 78 000 (including 14 000 girls) every year, which he compared to the yearly output of Saudi Arabia, which is of 5000.
For Muslims who are attempting to memorize certain suras but are unfamiliar with the Arabic script, the ulema have made various elucidations. There are mixed opinions on the usage of romanization of Arabic due to concerns about mispronunciations, higher approval of writing systems with close consonantal and vocalic equivalents to classical Arabic or relevant and effective diacritics, and a preference for Quran tutors or recorded recitations from qaris or any device with clear audible sound storage technology, such as CDs or cassettes. The most important sura to memorize is Al-Fatiha.
According to Shi'a sources, Ali, the cousin of Muhammad, is considered one of the first Hafiz in Islamic history because he was known to have memorized the entire Quran while other Sahabah including 'ibn Masud, Umar, and Hudhayfah knew only portions.
- Ludwig W. Adamec (2009), Historical Dictionary of Islam, pp.113-114. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0810861615.
- "Mahad Al-Zahra - Al Jamea tus Saifiyah - Asnaad Holders". www.mahadalquran.com. Retrieved 2019-07-25.
- Wajihuddin, Mohammed (22 Oct 2005). "The Messengers: Reward of the faithful". The Times of India. Retrieved 29 July 2013.
- William Graham (1993), Beyond the Written Word, UK: Cambridge University Press, p.80.
- Naya Din (10 April 2019), "Pakistan’s largest madrassa network produced 1m Hafiz-e-Quran: Qari Jalandhari", Samaa TV. Retrieved 18 April 2019.
- The Multiple Realities of Multilingualism, Page 159, Elka Todeva, Jasone Cenoz - 2009
- al-Kulayni, Muhammad ibn Ya‘qub (2015). Al-Kafi (Volume 3 ed.). NY: Islamic Seminary Incorporated. p. 76. ISBN 9780991430864.
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- Qur'an and Hafidh Number on islam101.com
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