An Interview with a Quran Teacher: Ustadha Huda Gadhban

The Qur’an was sent as a guidance to all mankind by Allah (سُبحانهُ و تعاليٰ). It is also a clear sign of distinction between right and wrong.[1] Everyone who reads the Qur’an with sincere intentions has experienced the truth of this, understood that the Qur’an is a guide for humanity, and many of them eventually became Muslims in this way.

In this interview, you will read the conversation we had with a woman who devoted her life to the Qur’an education. With the system she has established as a result of years of experience, you will see how she helps her students of different ages from all over the world with determination and sincerity and how she maintains this pace in her daily life with her children and family.

We are talking about Ustadha Huda Gadhban, who is currently living in Maryland, USA. We welcome you to read our interview in order to get to know her better and to have more information about the ‘memorization program with understanding the Qur’an’, which she developed and named “Muddakir”.

1. Ustadha Huda, could you please tell us about yourself? At what age did you memorize the Quran? Who was your model and what made you decide to become a hafidh?

Bismillahirrahman Rahim 

Alhamdulillahi wassalatu wassalamu ala Rasulillah,

Rabbishrahli sadri wa yassirli emri wahlul ukdeten min lisani yafkahu kawli.

Alhamdulillahi Rabbil Alemin, I finished my memorization of the Qur’an when I was 18 years old. I grew up in a family full of ‘ulama (scholars) and they put great emphasis on “al ulum-u sharia” (the science of Qur’an, hadith and fiqh). 

My family’s method of raising children was unique. They wanted us to focus on our schools and our professions in the university, but at the same time they encouraged us to learn directly from the scholars and al-mutun (the authentic texts). When you memorize them, you have a general knowledge of ilm-i sharia in your mind. I grew up among scholars, loving all this. My brothers and sisters were also very successful in these subjects.

I grew up in a city called Al-Ain in the United Arab Emirates. Whenever there was a United Arab Emirates-wide Quran competition, I would participate too. For eight or nine years in a row, I won first place in these competitions. We also used to go to Qur’an camps during summer. 

When I was in third grade, I loved reading Tafseer al Qurtubi by Al Qurtubi and Tafseer Al-Munir by Sheikh Wahbah al-Zuhaili. Tafseer al-Munir was the first tafseer written clearly according to the themes of the Qur’an. When I was in fifth grade, I decided to set a goal to recite and memorize a certain amount of pages from the Mushaf everyday. I was very young and realized that I couldn’t memorize without understanding. The two tafseers I’ve mentioned above helped me a lot. I started focusing on the topics and memorizing them. Then, I began teaching the Qur’an when I was 16.

Around that time, I started hosting halaqa (study circles) in our house for the 4th and 5th grade students. With them, I used the same method that helped me to memorize. I continued that until I was 18 years old.

Then, I moved to Yemen to study medicine. There, I met a sheik who has a very short sanad[2] to Rasullullah SAS. I started going to him after my classes. I read the Qur’an in front of him with ash-Shaatibiyyah[3]. This is a way of reciting the Qur’an for Hafs an-Aasim (Hafs’ recitation of Aasim’s method). I was 19 or 20 when I received my sanad (proof of qira’at) Hafs an-Aasim and the basic rules of qira’at. 

2. It must be wonderful to have a Qur’an teacher at home. Do you teach your own children? 

Alhamdulillahi Rabbil alamin for my five children who are huffaz (memorizers of the Qur’an). All of my three boys and one of my daughters finished their memorizations. The fifth one, my younger daughter is on her way, inshaAllah.

Children’s memorization ability is very strong. This should be used very well. I believe that the ages between 6 and 12 are the best ages for children to memorize the Qur’an. They either compete with their classmates to memorize, or they get more serious with another adult besides their parents. That’s why I don’t approve of the idea of teaching one’s own child.

But I always encourage my children in their studies, and make sure to prepare a right environment for them. For example, for my three boys, we had a sheik who used to come to our house for four days a week to help them memorize. We lived in Riyadh, KSA back then. Alhamdulillah, they got their ijaza (certification) when they were 10, 11 and 12 years old. And I sent my older daughter to school where she finished her memorization. 

As I said earlier, I encourage and support my children in their studies. I don’t celebrate birthdays, I celebrate their accomplishments after every 5 parts of the Qur’an (juz) they complete. When they achieve a milestone I take them on a trip and when they finish the whole Mushaf I throw a big party for them. But of course, as a family, we always have conversations on Qur’anic topics. We talk and try to understand things together. And they are really impressed by the Muddakir program.  

3. How did the idea of Muddakir develop?

As I previously mentioned, the idea of “The Muddakir Program” was a fruit of spending so many years with the Qur’an, from the time I was really young, when I started to teach those young girls.Then I traveled to Germany to continue my education in medicine. I also continued teaching the Qur’an and tajweed in German there. But because I was translating from Arabic to German I had to understand the ayat more deeply. Focusing on tajweed and qira’at with understanding the ayat pushed me to focus on tafseer. 

The turning point happened when I moved to Riyadh. After having five children I was so busy just reviewing the ayat that I memorized, but I felt like all the pages of the Mushaf were the same for me. Even though Arabic is my mother tongue, I couldn’t quite understand its meaning. I never stopped teaching tajweed or reviewing the Mushaf but I thought my relationship with the Qur’an should be different and I have to rebuild this relationship. 

With this in mind, I attended a school in Riyadh where they reviewed the whole Mushaf. I also went to another school where they study the topics (mahawir) and then memorize the related ayat. I loved the way they teach. And this reminded me of Al Tafseer al Muneer by Dr. Wahbah Al-Zuhayli. Actually they took the idea from that book but they made it more organized with maps. After using this technique I realized that the way I memorize and the quality of my memorization had improved. At the same time we were studying Al Wujuh wa An Nazhair. This book tells us that Arabic words in the Qur’an can have different meanings. And I thought this would be very useful for those who don’t speak Arabic while reciting the Qur’an. And I had a deeper understanding that the Qur’an is not revealed to Arabs only. Allah (سُبحانهُ و تعاليٰ) sent His Book to everyone. And there should be an easier way to memorize than the way we know of -just repeating the ayat. This is why I loved the thematic approach and focusing on mutashabihaat (similar ayat within the surah or with other surahs) in addition to the Al Wujuh wa An Nazhair. For example, in general, huffaz (memorizers of the Qur’an) may start from one sura and find themselves in another surah while memorizing similar verses. I thought this method might help in this matter and should be added in our studies.

After one year in Riyadh I was offered to teach. I discussed my ideas with the ustadhaat (teachers) who wrote those books to add a few things but because I had to move to the US, those plans have failed. But I started the idea of Muddakir with a group of teachers that I knew before. And I decided to write my own books. I took the permission from my ustadhaat to use their books, to add some of the ideas they had and also include their names in my book which they agreed to. I also added English explanations to the book I wrote here. I hope it makes learning easier for the English speaking students.

Nowadays the thematic study of the Qur’an has become very famous in Arab countries. Unfortunately, we couldn’t offer this way of study in other languages. With this in my mind I started to teach in English parallel to what I was teaching in Arabic. SubhanAllah Allah (سُبحانهُ و تعاليٰ) put so many barakah with His fadl (grace) of course. I couldn’t accomplish anything without His fadl and also without the help of a group of muddakirat. (Muddakirat are the students of muddakir and muddakir is a person who puts effort to understand.) This word is mentioned in Surah Al-Qamar (54:17) : 

وَلَقَدْ يَسَّرْنَا الْقُرءَانَ لِلذِّكْرِ فَهَلْ مِن مُّدِّكِر

The meaning of this ayah is: 

And in truth We have made the Qur’an easy to remember, but will any take heed?”

Allah (سُبحانهُ و تعاليٰ) will make this Qur’an marvelously easy for this person “muddakir” who puts effort to understand. I really experienced this phenomenon while teaching. Alhamdulillah I finished one whole cycle of Muddakir and the hafiidat (memorizers of the Qur’an) finished the whole Qur’an within 6 years. Ya Rabbi lekel hamd.  

4. How did you decide to open the class worldwide?

First of all I should say that this was Allah’s (سُبحانهُ و تعاليٰ) plan. I always thought I could continue this program even if I have ten sisters by my side who are sincere. Alhamdulillah, with Allah’s (سُبحانهُ و تعاليٰ) help, more people started to have interest in the program and the number of students kept increasing. We saw students from different age groups and languages improving and memorizing easily. I also developed the program in German and applied the same idea but opening Muddakir worldwide was a different story:  

I have a very close friend of mine who lives in Jacksonville, FL. She visited us in 2016. This was our first year of Muddakir. She loved our class and asked me to organize a Hangout video meeting with the 12 students from Jacksonville. I told her that I was not thinking of expanding now, but she could call me anytime and I could explain the program if she needed any help. SubhanAllah her response was “Think again”. 

In the second year, we had some muddakirat (muddakir students) who happened to be here in Maryland but they had to go back to their country or another state. They were very upset because they had to leave before they could finish the program they had just started. This made me reconsider my decision, and I thought maybe we could unite these students with the Jacksonville sisters. This is how we started our lessons via Periscope, and then we switched to Hangout for a while. At that time we were still working on improving our program. All this happened before Zoom became famous in 2017. This is how we officially started Muddakir’s online sessions. At that time we had students who formerly lived in Maryland and had moved to other states, in addition to students from Jacksonville, FL and Germany.

I visited Germany in the summer and gave an example from the Muddakir lesson on Surah al-Sajda. The participants were very interested and decided to join our program. There were also two sisters from Türkiye who had returned to their country. SubhanAllah, we were really ready before the pandemic spread. During the pandemic, our program was already ready on Zoom. Alhamdulillah we never stopped. Since we continued our program without a break, many students discovered this program and joined in. Soon we started to receive students from Malaysia, South Africa, India, Canada, Europe, Türkiye, Egypt, England and also a muddakir from New Zealand. Alhamdulillah, Allah (سُبحانهُ و تعاليٰ) made this easy for us.

5. You have a big family mashaAllah. How do you manage this in your everyday life?

Alhamdulillah Rabbil alamin, having a family is a great responsibility but I have to say that the Qur’an organizes my time and I see the barakah and blessing in teaching the word of Allah (سُبحانهُ و تعاليٰ), and having this program in my life.

I remember when I moved back to the US, my husband asked me if I wanted to do a Master’s or PHD. I have a good degree in my bachelors. I said “no, I would like to focus on my kids and myself”. I would be very busy If I went to school. For me, it was the time to take care of my 5 kids at home. They were growing up and they needed my help and support. Alhamdulillah this was the best decision I took. 

As the idea of the Muddakir program developed, I swear I started to see the blessings of the Qur’an more. The Qur’an has become a part of our lives, and this motivates me even more to continue this program.

As for the Muddakir students, they are all very special. They are people of the Qur’an and Allah (سُبحانهُ و تعاليٰ). You will only see khayr from them. So alhamdulillah, they always keep me on the track and add something new to me. I am very grateful for teaching this program.  

6. What would be your advice to sisters who want to memorize the Qur’an? 

My advice to anyone who really has the intention to memorize the Qur’an is, they should just start without thinking how they can accomplish the task. And I always say to the sisters; “ just enjoy, enjoy your journey with the Qur’an”.

The Qur’an is the word of Allah (سُبحانهُ و تعاليٰ) and has come to us for guidance. We should read it with love, not because we have to. Feel that the Qur’an is your companion, your friend. Like when you want to talk to a best friend about your feelings, hopes and ideas at the end of the day, just open your Qur’an and feel and experience this feeling, and you will find that it will truly change your life.

In summer and winter, when you are at home or traveling, when you are sick or in good health, when you are busy or free, do not finish your day and go to sleep without dedicating at least half an hour to the Qur’an. Even your salah will be different. You will see the change because you will understand the word of Allah (سُبحانهُ و تعاليٰ). And everything in your life will be in order and you will be in balance, subhanallahil azeem.

Again, my advice is do not hesitate, just start and enjoy it. 

Jazakallahu khayr.

Wa iyyaki Ustadha Huda,

May Allah (سُبحانهُ و تعاليٰ) increase your knowledge and reward you generously. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule and sharing these valuable experiences with us. 

Interviewed by Nurgül Çelik 

Jan 2023/ Jumada al-Akhira 1444


[1] Al-Baqara,185: The month of Ramadan in which the Qur’an was revealed, a guidance for mankind, (a book of) clear proofs of guidance and the criterion (distinguishing right from wrong).[2] The Sanad or Spiritual link is the chain of transmission of knowledge from Prophet Muhammad pbuh to the current physical living Teacher of that field. It also proves the authenticity of that specific knowledge.[3] This is the matn of the poem Ash-Shatibiyyah by Imam Ash-Shatibi that is considered the main text that outlines the seven readings of the Quran.