Quranbit: Using Technology to Inspire Quran Learning, Bit by Bit
By TOI Editorial Team
[This article was originally published on The Ocean’s Ink, a blog that aims to nurture changemakers in the Muslim community.]
When Masjid Wak Tanjong (MWT) first mooted the idea of learning the Quran via WhatsApp, it did not seem possible or feasible.
However, the Malay proverb sikit-sikit, lama-lama jadi bukit (bit by bit, we can make a hill) describes perfectly Quranbit’s underlying basis. The established programme under MWT, which first started out as a pilot programme, has certainly helped many defy the odds of learning to read the Quran with bite-sized lessons led by accredited asatizah (religious teachers) on WhatApp.
What started off as a way to help connect Quran teachers with students at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 because of mosque and centre closure, is now a programme reaching out to thousands of Quran learners in Singapore and 23 other countries today!
Companion During the Circuit Breaker
With physical classes not working out for months due to closure of mosques and learning centres, coupled with everyone being at home for hours on end, many were mourning the loss of face-to-face Quran classes.
“Many students were impacted and many asatizah also lost their income. Quranbit came to fill in that gap,” said Ustazah Arina Adom, Quranbit’s Manager.
At that point, the newly-started Quranbit team experimented with different modes of learning before finally deciding on WhatsApp as the preferred platform. From Zoom to other learning apps, there was still that missing sweet spot.
“There’s a steep learning curve for asatizah and students. That’s when we realised WhatsApp is accessible and available on most people’s phones in Singapore without requiring advanced IT knowledge,” added Ustazah Arina.
Customizing Lessons with the Power of Bit by Bit
"With Quran learners coming in from different entry points and abilities, it was obvious that there needed to be customisations of the Quran syllabus," said Muhammad Mohamed Rahim, a Wak Tanjong Board member who advises the Quranbit team. After weeks of brainstorming and conceptualisation of the Quranbit programme, the team curated a unique syllabus that could meet the needs of students coming from different competency levels of learning the Quran.
Understanding that a Quran lesson via video call or video recording could never replace a full-fledged class, Quranbit leverages on the idea that learning bit by bit will bring Quran students gradual success as long as they are consistent. As students take baby steps to improve their Quran reading step by step, line by line, the Quranbit team held on to the belief that being consistent with just a little everyday will contribute to a student’s success.
Reading just one Quranic verse or ayah a day, students are able to record and send their readings to their allocated asatizah via WhatsApp and, later on, Telegram. The teacher will then evaluate the reading, provide a grading or a score, as well as a recorded verbal feedback about the students’ performance. Another ayah is then sent to the student for the next day’s assignment and this continues until the student completes the syllabus for the level.
The Quranic verses are also arranged by ability levels, starting with the Iqra’ syllabus for beginners all the way to the Quran for more advanced learners. There are no age limits; anyone who wants to read the Quran is able to register and be part of the programme. Quranbit has students from as young as 4 to even elderly adults as old as 92!
Intent on making the programme free for all, the Quranbit team has experimented with multiple ways to make Quranbit self-sustaining. At the same time, paying Quranbit teachers is necessary as this was a platform aimed to help improve their livelihoods during the pandemic.
On top of that, the team also had to think of how to make the system sustainable. When the number of students started coming in by the dozens, the team knew that they would need a more sustainable platform than just using a simple WhatsApp Business account. The team also needed to ensure that they were tracking the quality of the sessions and that the students also had their expectations met.
Eventually, the team invested in an omnichannel platform to ensure that they could coordinate and monitor the ongoing lessons as well as improve the registration and onboarding process. While the platform proved to be useful for the onboarding process for asatizah and students, the platform was part of overhead fees the team had to take into consideration.
The Quranbit team then came up with a tiered payment system:
- Quranbit students learn for free while they are in the Iqra’ and Quran stages.
“This way, we can make sure that basic Quran literacy is available for free to everyone. Through these two stages, you not only get enough lessons to learn how to recite, get familiar with the tajwid rulings, but also receive ample practice to become fluent and confident in reciting the Quran,” says Ustazah Arina.
Once students graduate from the free stages, they are given the option to enter the Tilawahbit stage where they get to Khatam the Quran with their asatizah. This stage is a premium feature. Students pay a fee of $60/month to continue learning.
- The fees collected from Tilawahbit students help to fund the free lessons and provide sponsorships for Tilawahbit students who are on financial aid.
However, every donation to Quranbit comes a long way. “We rely heavily on donations from students and the general public to raise the remaining amount required to pay our asatizah every month,” added Ustazah Arina.
She added that between $30,000 and $60,000 come solely from donations every month, with the mosque topping up any shortfalls.
Touching Lives with the Quran
There are many inspiring stories from Quranbit, a testament of the impact that the programme has left on its participants. On the Padlet page where participants and students write ‘Love Notes for asatizah’, heartfelt words in English and Malay are proof that the programme has ignited meaningful connections to the Quran between teachers and students.
From a cabin crew to housewives, from young children to the elderly, messages of thanks filled up the page with over 200 testimonials. What colours all the testimonials are how Quranbit and its asatizah have opened up doors to the Quran to many who started off not knowing a single Arabic letter or who had been disconnected from the Quran for a long time.
Ustazah Arina herself also recalls fondly an 80 year-old grandfather who was a Quranbit student.
"He told the asatizah that he was very eager to learn the Quran before he would pass away. When he first started, he was unsure and stuttering. Alhamdulillah, after several months, he is now able to read the Quran and is still learning with us today.”
For Ros, a housewife and mother of three, Quranbit has helped to fit Quran learning into her busy life as a mum. Ros started out from the beginner Iqra stage in Ramadhan 2020 and is now reading Quran.
"I wanted to improve my Arabic and reading with the guidance from the asatizah,” said Ros, who is now currently reading Surah Al-A’raf. She said she was most motivated with “the patience from the asatizah” and how she could "recite at her own timing.”
Indeed, with lessons happening at the students’ own time and asatizah’s convenience, Quranbit lessons mould into the student and teachers’ schedules to ensure that lessons carry on. This works well for many, including odd-job workers, shift employees and even if the asatizah could hold a full-time positions elsewhere.
A Little is Better than Nothing
With the fact that Quranbit’s lessons are bite-sized, it offers small wins and encourages students to celebrate small milestones to motivate them to keep going. It is hard to forget the renowned saying by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH): "Take up good deeds only as much as you are able, for the best deeds are those done regularly even if they are few." And certainly, with hundreds of students now at the Quran stage as testament, one cannot help but feel the blessings that accompany the programme.
For students like Ros, Quranbit has become an inevitable part of her life. When asked what is her goal and if she would still want to continue with the Quranbit programme, she responded: “I would want to finish (reading) the Quran and (learn) the meaning too. InshaAllah, I will still want to be with Quranbit and keep improving my recitation.”
May Quranbit continue to impact more eager learners of the Quran for many years to come. Indeed, bit by bit, it has l created mountainous benefits not only to learners locally, but internationally as well!
Donate to ImpactHive!
ImpactHive is a platform where all of Masjid Wak Tanjong (MWT)'s impact-making initiatives come together. Quranbit is just one of them. Just like how bees work together by individually collecting pollen bit by bit, MWT’s ImpactHive enables the public to make a collective large impact by making individual bite-sized impacts. This can be done through supporting its initiatives. Apart from Quranbit, ImpactHive also encompasses the Community Pantry and Infaq Friday programmes. To contribute to ImpactHive, click here. Do note that there are options to become regular donors as well, with very affordable monthly contributions.
Other ways to contribute:
- Donate directly to Quranbit
- PayNow to MWT UEN: S35MQ0068A
- Bank transfer to OCBC CURRENT ACCOUNT: 5818-0894-6001
- Do remember to specify which projects you'd like to support in your remarks!