Salaam Alaikum Sister Maryam, could you introduce yourself to us?
My name is Maryam Amir. I recently launched an app named Qariah which features Qur'an reciters from all over the world who are women. A lot of my work is focused on highlighting women's voices all over the world. [I also focus on] helping people connect back to the Qur'an.
You are a hafidh al Qur'an; can you talk about how you got started on this journey?
Growing up, I was afraid of becoming spiritual. I was really scared of discovering a relationship with Allah (SWT). My dad decided that we all go to Mecca that year, and alhamdulillah after going, seeing the Kaaba for the first time changed everything in my life. That moment was when I realized that I wanted to know who Allah (SWT) is. After I came back, I started by reading the Qur'an in Arabic. Since I am not an Arab and I also had not opened the Qur'an in a very long time, I struggled with reading. I was reading very slowly. Then I decided to read the English translation since it was much easier for me, and that's when my life really transformed. The more I read the translation, the more I felt like Allah (SWT) was talking to me. The more that I read, I thought I want[ed] to memorize this. I want it in my heart all the time instead of relying on having to open the book each time. I started at 17; I started learning tajweed then I started memorizing with a teacher. It took me seven years, which was something I wasn't expecting since many people finish in a year. However, I realized everyone is on a different journey, and I didn't even know Arabic in the beginning!
Can you share an unforgettable moment you had while you were memorizing the Qur'an?
When I was studying in Cairo, Egypt, I was memorizing Surat al Maidah at the time. SubhanAllah, wherever I'd go, everywhere was playing Surat al Maidah. I'd walk into a mall, and Surat al Maidah would be playing in the background. I'd sit in a taxi, and the taxi driver would all of a sudden open Surat al Maidah. SubhanAllah, the Qur'an is always with you, and I truly felt this everywhere I went. This surah signified the beginning of my journey. The Qur'an is so personalized; I'm sure everyone has had their own experience that is similar.
What do you recommend to parents who want their children to approach the Qur'an with love and curiosity?
I recommend approaching the Qur'an with your children with enthusiasm and excitement. What if when you are talking about the Qur'an, you guys are also eating ice cream and sharing your favorite ayahs in the Qur'an with each other? Whenever you're playing, try to incorporate the Qur'an with it. Try to make it interactive and fuel their curiosity. Listen to your children and answer their questions; carry this curiosity outside of the Qur'an classes at the masjid.
So, from what we've heard, you have a second-degree blackbelt in Taekwondo. How'd you get started on that journey?
I actually come from a family of black belts. It's a privilege, and it's a generational thing for us. My mother has a black belt; my brother has a black belt, etc. I started when I was just five years old. I was a second-degree blackbelt by age 11. When I started wearing hijab, I stopped training with the main studio and started training one on one with my mom, and alhamdulillah that's how I was able to maintain it.
Salaam Magazine's fall edition is around salat. What does salat mean to you?
Salat, for me, is a connection with Allah (SWT). Salat, for me, is grounding; it's joy, and I wish it was taught like this to everyone instead of feeling as if it's a burden. Salat gives you purpose in how much we're overwhelmed with things we have to do and also what we don't have to do, like the times we're so bored out of our mind. Allah has mandated particular times for salat, and I think it's such a gift for us. Taking time, stepping away, and realizing the blessings we have that some do not have. You're giving your body, soul, and mind that time.
You recently released the Qariah app. Can you talk more about it?
Absolutely! Qariah is the women's reciters app. It is a streaming audio app. It has over 60 reciters from all over the world from all different backgrounds. We have disabled, abled reciters who read in different Qira'ats. We just wanted the app to show everybody that no matter what your background is, [or] what your reality is, that the Qur'an is for you. We went through a lot of processes trying to reach out to our reciters on the app and the evaluation process, where we tried to make sure the recitation was [as] perfected as possible. For phase two of the app, we're going to make it a more interactive app inshAllah! We still have a long way to go, but we're trying our best.
It is wonderful to meet you! JazakAllah sister Maryam!
It's my pleasure!
To watch the full interview, check out our YouTube channel: Salaam Magazine.