In fact, there is a great merit in memorizing the Qur’an and teaching it. One earns tremendous reward in committing the Qur’an to heart, acting upon it and conveying its message to others. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, says in this regard: “The best amongst you is the one who learns the Qur’an and teaches it.” (Reported by Al-Bukhari).

But you cannot depend solely on Latin transliteration of the Qur’an if you want to memorize the Qur’an properly. There are sounds in Arabic that have no equivalent in English and cannot be properly shown in transliteration. Even when dots are added under certain letters to distinguish two similar ones (for example, seen س and sad ص ), a reader tends to ignore the dots and mispronounce the letters. Furthermore, speakers of different languages will pronounce the Latin letters in different ways. (For example, the letter j to represent Arabic jeem ج will be pronounced differently by speakers of English, German and Spanish.) Therefore, it is best to learn to read the Arabic alphabet and get the help of a person who is knowledgeable in the science of tajwid and who can recite the Qur’an properly. Even native Arabs need such kind of help in order to memorize the Qur’an properly.

Reading and memorizing the Qur’an needs the study of the science of tajwid (rules of vocalization). Through this one knows how to pronounce sounds properly, where to start and stop, and where it is not permissible to stop or continue so as not to twist the meaning. There are special signs for these rules that are not represented in transliteration.

Therefore, transliteration cannot exactly represent the special language of the Qur’an and the different rules of vocalization (tajwid).

In this regard, Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states: “It is not at all advisable or recommended to memorize the Qur’an by simply relying on transliteration; it may even be wrong to do so, since it may condition oneself to making major mistakes in reading or pronunciations, and thus one may end up distorting the noble Qur’an.

The Qur’an properly should be learned from the mouth of a qualified teacher. In the event of someone not being readily available, the next best thing to do is to buy a taped recitation of a well-known qari’ (reciter) and follow his recitation for practice.

In the modern world, since there are numerous teaching aids available in the form of videos, cassettes or computer software, there is no excuse for people to rely on transliteration. Remember, once we condition ourselves to read the wrong way, it will be very hard to unlearn it.

Therefore, we might as well begin it right. Although a little hard in the beginning, practice, in sha’ Allah, will make it perfect. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) assured us that when a person tries hard to learn the Qur’an, he receives great rewards. Allah says, “Verily, with every hardship comes ease!” (Ash-Sharh: 5).”

While a new Muslim might use transliteration to learn how to pray and to read Al-Fatihah and one or two short surahs, this should be replaced with learning to read the Arabic script as soon as possible. If you cannot find a qualified teacher, you can listen to a recorded recitation of the Qur’an. There are web sites and CDs that teach the reading of the Arabic script and that give a recitation of each verse separately as an aid to memorizing.