The 6 Year Old Hafiz

Reprinted from The Muslim News by Ahmed Versi

Wonder Boy in UK

This month saw the visit to the UK of a six-year-old boy who is not only a hafiz of Qur'an but also has a unique command over the meaning of the ayah (verses). Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabatabai, whose mother tongue is Persian, is also fluent in the Arabic language and is a master of the Arabic grammar.

In his travels to Saudi Arabia during Hajj, Bosnia and now Great Britain, the scholars of Qur'an have been amazed by his deep knowledge and understanding of the Qur'an. Shaykh Abdul Rahman of Saudi Arabia is claimed to have said: "Sayyid Muhammad Husayn is a great miracle of the Qur'anic knowledge and the history of Islam and no one has ever witnessed such a prodigy." Amongst his many achievements he has also memorized 800 ahadith (sayings of the Prophet (pbuh)) and the poetry of Sa'di and Mohtasham Kashani.

The burning question that I had been waiting to ask was how he was able, at such a tender age, to not only memorize the entire Qur'an by heart, but also able to understand, analyze and interpret the ayahs. "He was just two years old, when I first realized his talent, says his father, Muhammad Mahdi. Muhammad Husayn learned by listening to his mother, Aminah, who is also a hafizah. Muhammad Husayn had already at that age memorized, on his own, the thirtieth portion of the Qur'an. He memorized the verses by listening once or twice. However, he would, and still does, read the Qur'an daily in order to help him retain what he memorizes.

Muhammad Husayn replied to me by quoting from the Qur'an:

"We will make you recite so you shall not forget." (Qur'an A'la:6)

He has photographic memory but he also has the ability to understand and convey the meanings of the Qur'an. One of the unique characteristic of Muhammad Husayn is that when he answers any question, he always answers quoting from the Qur'an. He does so even with his family and friends (he can communicate like any other child but uses the Qur'an whenever he can). "When he is in a meeting, speaking with scholars and ulama, he uses the Qur'anic language, when he is with his family and friends, he also uses the Qur'anic language, but with the latter not always", explains his father.

His father used sign language to explain to him the meaning of the ayahs. He would read one verse, then use a sign language or a combination of signs for complicated words. After many hours of training, Muhammad Husayn would, at the tender age of two and half years, be able to recite to his father the relevant verse when Muhammad Mahdi made the appropriate signs. Muhammad Husayn has learned about 800 signs.

During the interview, Muhammad Mahdi asked me to pick any ayah and he used sign language. Muhammad Husayn then recited the verse just by watching the signs. So why isn't he like other hafiz in that he wants, at such a young age, to understand the verses? Muhammad Husayn once again quotes from the Qur'an after a lot of thought: "That is better for you and purer." (Mujadilah:12) He only quotes what is relevant to the answer. So in this case he quoted a phrase from ayah 12.

However, then the father intervenes and explains what his son means. "When one speaks through the language of the Qur'an and understands it, one therefore speaks in a pure and more proper way. And those who speak from the Qur'an speak less but their meaning is more complete."

So does he just learn the religious sciences, or does he also study other subjects? Muhammad Mahdi replies: "He studies the Qur'an, ahadith and Arabic. I teach him Qur'an and tafsir (interpretation), and he has two professors who teach him Arabic literature and Arabic grammar and another two teachers who teach him other nonreligious sciences."

Which was his favorite part of the Qur'an? He liked stories of Prophet Yusuf (pbuh) and Ya'qub (pbuh), quoting form the Qur'an: "We narrate you the best of narratives." (Yusuf:3) The Qur'an says it is the best of the stories, added his father. Muhammad Husayn then added: "Most surely there are signs in this for a people who reflect." (Ra'd:3) His father explained that the Qur'an encourages us to reflect on events mentioned in the Book.

Most of us do not even know what career to follow even after GCSE's. But I thought I would ask anyway. "What would you like to do when you grow up?" Muhammad Husayn answered: "On you is only to deliver (the Message)." (Shura:48) His father elaborated: "He wants to do what Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) had done, that is to give the message of Islam to the people."


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August 1998
Jumaada Awal 1419
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6 Year Old Hafiz