04 Dec Hifdh, your brain & memory formations
بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيمِ
Assalaamu ‘alaykum wa Rahmatullah
On a regular basis I receive resource-based articles on hifdh and the process of memorisation from readers & students, eager and generous in sharing what inspired, taught or reminded them. And it’s pieces such as this week’s that never cease to amaze how incredibly complex yet beautiful, the human mind is!
When a Fee Qalbee reader forwarded this piece to me on Friday, it inspired me to open my gratitude journal for the second time that day, reminding me of how the actual process of Qur’aanic memorisation was and continues to be a miraculous gift from The Almighty SWT in my life! JazakiAllahu Khayran for sharing, sister Shareefa!
It’s also a wonderful piece to share with loved ones who, whilst supportive of your Hifdh journey, may not fully understand what it requires of you and how the process transpires. A perfect reading piece too, for those new the world of ‘hifdhing’ – welcome!
Tips to Help You Memorize the Quran
How Your Brain Works
Neurons are the building blocks of the brain, and all thinking (including memory and consciousness) is based on these little cells. Neurons connect to each other across synapses to form neural networks through which information is passed from neuron to neuron.
Synapses appear to adapt to how much they’re used: the strength of the signal they give can be strengthened simply by sending it out as often as possible. The more a particular synapse is used, the stronger the signal it sends.
What Are Memories and How are They Formed?
Memories are created, stored, and reinforced by the stimulation of neurons by impulses. The first stimulation— reading an aya for example— leaves a memory trace or pattern in affected neurons. Repeating and recalling a memory further reinforces the memory trace, making it stronger and easier to access.
The more you recall this memory trace, the stronger it gets and the more permanently it will be stored. Our brain stores sensory information for just a fraction of a second, then some data moves into short-term memory while other data goes into working memory.
Finally, some of that information goes into long-term storage in various parts of the cortex, much of it returning to the sensory cortex areas where we originally received it. A major factor determining which bits of information make it this far is their association with previously existing bits of information.
How Does All This Help Me Memorize the Quran?
There are four steps in applying all this to memorization of Quranic content:
1. Set goals.
Organize the content in a way that facilitates memorization. How? Starting from the last juz (one of thirty parts into which the Quran is sometimes divided), which contains the shorter surahs, will enhance one’s sense of achievement, since the length of these surahs renders them more easily committed to memory.
Your initial target content should be juz 28, 29, and perhaps Juz 30. You can divide the remaining portion of the Quran into three sections, with each section containing a larger portion.
For example, you could divide the remaining portion as follows: approximately 20%, 35% and 45%, with each portion larger than the previous, thereby presenting an increasing challenge.
This is just one example; you can easily make goals for yourself that you’re comfortable with, even if they divide the content into more sections. In any event, the first step in memorization is to read and reread the target content until you’re comfortable that you’re able to quote the content accurately.
This will entail a number of attempts, taking manageable parts of each section at a time. The individual should recite each portion and eventually the total Juz to someone who is capable of monitoring the accuracy or one’s recitation.
The purpose of this is to encode the information into the short term memory and then into the working memory. Once this is accomplished for the selected part, the individual is prepared to go on to the next phases. Once the final phase is complete, the individual returns to the next part of the section and completes the process again.
2. Activate short-term and working memory.
In this phase, the object is to practice recalling, not merely repeating. The objective is to permit one’s brain to engage in consistent recalling of the information so that the neural pathways will be strengthened and reinforced to facilitate remembering the information.
The more effectively one implants the information into the short term memory, to be conveyed to the working memory, the more effective will be the recall process.
A fundamental strategy in memorization is association. Alhamdulillah, Allah (swt) has incorporated association into the process of memorizing the Quran, as well as the repetition of ideas because of the thematic unity of the Quran.
The Quran contains in excess of six thousand ayaat, of which approximately two thousand bear a resemblance to one another, varying from total correlation to minor differences (one letter, one word, two words, etc.)
3. Build long-term memory with memorization.
The individual should recite each learned portion of the Quran until she or he is confident that the recitation is correct. Once one portion is learned, recitation should include the next portion until one can accurately recite one whole juz. This is the point at which the individual should integrate the recitation of the target content into one’s life processes.
For example, one should incorporate the target content into one’s salah. The target content should also be recited whenever and wherever it is feasible.
Once you’ve committed one juz to memory, this juz is then added to the one or more previous juz that you have memorized, and the process of the previous phase is repeated until the entire Quran is committed to memory.
Last But Not Least
Even though I’m saying this at the end, there’s one essential step that should come before all the others. You must not enter into the memorization process to boost your reputation, to show off, or solely for the present life.
You must enter into the process of Quranic memorization with a pure intention to learn and memorize recitation solely for the sake of Allah (swt).
Allah (swt) says: Say, [O Muhammad], `Indeed, I have been commanded to worship Allah , [being] sincere to Him in religion.’ [Quran, 39:11]
Get Ready To Recite With Understanding
The most critical ingredients in your formula for success will be your intention as well as your firm resolution to achieve your goals. Regarding intention, it’s absolutely essential to enter into the process of Quranic memorization with a pure intention to do it solely for the sake of Allah (swt).
Allah (swt) says: Say (O Muhammad): `Verily I am commanded to worship Allah (Alone) by obeying Him and doing religious deeds sincerely for His sake only.’ [Quran, 39:11]
Regarding the second ingredient, resolution, Aisha narrated that the Messenger of Allah (swt) said: . . . And the most beloved deeds to Allah are those that are continuous, even if they are few . . . [Bukhari]
Memorization of the Quran is a challenge. Nevertheless, Allah has provided assurance: And We have certainly made the Qur’an easy for remembrance, so is there any who will remember? [Quran, 54:40]
Let’s Get Started
The points below are intended to assist you; they aren’t iron-clad rules, but rather tips to to help you achieve success in your efforts.
1. Establish memorization goals and objectives. The goals are what you plan to achieve in general, and your objectives represent the specific goals in terms of what you hope to achieve on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. It is essential that you stipulate a daily memorization limit; otherwise you can overburden yourself, which runs the risk of weakening your efforts.
2. Get familiar with the section you want to work on for a given session. Read the section for understanding, because– as stated above– understanding is the cornerstone of memorization, in that the target section is then associated with cognitive awareness.
3. Make sure your pronunciation is correct. Your first attempt at pronouncing your recitation should take place in the presence of an individual thoroughly familiar with Quranic recitation so that you can be assured that your pronunciation and recitation are correct. Only move on to a new section when you’re comfortable with your performance on the first one.
4. While looking at the Quran, read the section ten times. Then attempt to read the section without looking at the Quran. If you make an error in the section, start again. Once you can recite without looking, the section has been committed to memory. This doesn’t mean that it’s instilled in memory; you must periodically return to what has been memorized to assure that the section has been captured by the memory.
5. Once you’ve memorized these lines you should keep them close at hand. You should recite them in your salah. Also recite them to yourself, wherever you are, whenever you can. You should constantly refresh its position in your memory during “down time” such as waiting for the bus, standing in line at the store, etc. Improve your tajweed as you recite these lines in your daily life.
6. Focus! Don’t begin another ayat until you’ve completed the ayat you’re now memorizing. This again is related to understanding. Allah (swt) arranged the Quran in a manner that– although it exceeds our comprehension– has a thematic value, and we need to take advantage of this unity for both understanding and memorization. Associate what you’re attempting to learn with what you already know. The greater our mental connection to information, the greater will be our success in remembering it.
7. Be consistent! Don’t skip a day unless it’s absolutely unavoidable. Keep track of the achievement of your goals and objectives, and assess your progress on a monthly basis. This has the two-fold purpose of assuring a good pace and providing motivation for you to continue striving. Nevertheless, do not attempt to surpass your established limits.
8. Use the same copy (mushaf, or written form) of the Quran throughout your memorization campaign. To do otherwise can be substantially confusing, deterring the understanding that’s the basis of effective and efficient memorization.
9. Be attentive to the parts of the Quran that resemble other parts. This enables you to take advantage of association, a major facilitator of the memorization process. Identify the patterns of the verses; the Quran is mutashaabihaat, which means that it has a definitive pattern. Alhamdulillah, through the thematic unity of the Quran, Allah (swt) has incorporated association as well as repetition into the process of memorizing the Quran. Approximately two thousand of the more than six thousand ayaat bear a resemblance or total correlation to one another. The difference can be as little as a letter or two.
May Allah (swt) bless you with success in your efforts.
Keep in mind that the rewards are great:
Ibn Mas’ud (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said, `Whoever recites a letter from the Book of Allah, he will be credited with a good deed, and a good deed gets a ten-fold reward. I do not say that Alif-Lam-Mim is one letter, but Alif is a letter, Lam is a letter and Mim is a letter.’ [At- Tirmidhi].