My First Acquaintance with the Qur’an

Part One

Elmira Akhmetova

When I was born, the strength of atheism was already declining in the Soviet Union. Yet, the ghost of atheism, and horrible memories of the Stalinist assault on Islam and Muslims were still very alive in the hearts of people.

School children, in order to get good marks, were obliged to proclaim their godlessness at every possible occasion like concluding their essays with a clear proclaim that there is no God or exalting the atheist Communist regime. Since the punishment for practicing Islam was severe, our parents were silent about our Islamic identity.

But my encounter with Allah and His revelation, the Qur’an, had happened when I was about 5-6 years old. While my parents were at work and my grandmother was busy with house works, I liked to visit an old lady, named Maryam, who lived in our neighbourhood. Since she used to live alone, she was always happy for my endless visits and inquisitive questions.

With my childish curiosity, yet, I found out that she never opens her door for me once a week, Thursday evenings (later, when I learned about prayer times, I understood that this was the Maghrib time).

Once she again did not open the door for me, the curtains were closed, light was off and no any voice heard from inside. But I strongly felt that she was in.

I continued knocking her door for a long time so loudly, and it worked! She opened the door and let me come in. She said to me that she was reading. I asked why in darkness and what you were reading? Then she showed me few very old pages (later I knew that these pages consisted of the surahs of Yasin and al-Mulk) written in a very different script.

“These are the pages from the Qur’an, the revelation of Allah,” she said to me and carefully placed them inside of her mattress. “Please, do not tell to anyone, said she, I might be punished severely…” Only few years later I learned that there was a severe punishment for keeping any pages of the Qur’an in houses.

From that day, my secret search for Allah and Islam had begun and my neighbour auntie Maryam was my guide.

At the age of seven I went to a Soviet atheist school as it was compulsory for all Soviet children. I also had to declare that there is no God, but yet, my first knowledge about Allah and his religion, Islam, and his sacred book, the Qur’an, was deeply rooted in my heart. But I was obliged to keep my faith in Allah in secret until the collapse of the Soviet Union soon.

I was able to see the copy of the complete Qur’an when I was studying in the university. With the removal of the iron curtain, Saudi Arabia sent thousands of copies of the Holy Qur’an to post-Soviet Russia and I bought one. I am happy that I was able to learn to read and understand it and that I have full freedom today to practice my faith, alhamdulillah.

Part Two


Writer is a faculty member at International Islamic University Malaysia