With the Name of Allah, the extremely Merciful at this very moment, and the extremely Merciful at all times.
Allah says in Surah Al-Qamar, Chapter 54 verse 17:
And We have certainly made the Qur’an easy for remembrance, so is there any who will remember? (54:17)
How many times do you meet a person, learn their name, and say “nice to meet you” only to see that same person the next day and have no idea what their name is?
Most of us “suck with names” or just don’t like memorizing things. I get it, sticking with fall-backs like “brother” and “man” are clutch when we forget names. We’ve been trained in a society where understanding is everything and memorizing means nothing- and for good reason in some cases (like memorizing math solutions). However, there are certain instances where memorization is very important. Take for example: names, directions, medications…and for Muslims: Qur’an. And if you put memorization and understanding together, you have a deadly combo and are another intellectual level- like Zakir Naik mashaAllah.
In fact, we have a great legacy of amazing memorizers. It is reported that Imam ash-Shafi’ee (rah) needed to cover the notes in the margins of books because he was afraid it would interfere with what he was trying to memorize (the content of the book)! There are collectors of hadith that memorized thousands of sayings from the Prophet (saw)- with the exact chain of narrators.
The Qur’an is meant to be read with understanding and implementation, but memorization is also important because it is something that is recited. We’ve created many excuses as to why we are not pursing memorizing Qur’an. We don’t have time. We don’t have a teacher. Perhaps we are afraid we can’t do it, if we do it we will forget it, or we just aren’t “religious” enough to commit the Qur’an to memory?
Whatever our excuse is, let’s kick it to the curb. The single biggest roadblock to anything we want in life is a well crafted excuse. It is what blocks us from realizing that we can do more than we think. This includes memorizing and understanding Qur’an.
Instead of making excuses, we should ask, how can we boost our memory to memorize Qur’an? And can this help us memorize other things in daily life?
Memorization takes practice. You don’t wake up one day able to memorize anything and everything that comes your way. Improving memory takes practice and patience, and the more you memorize, the better you will become. Nothing has proven this fact to me than my own experience with the Qur’an.
I’m going to tell you something about myself that you may or may not believe: I hated memorizing things for most of my life. I always complained that if I understood the material that would be enough, and that if I needed some random fact, I could just “look it up.” However, my tone changed when I started to memorize Qur’an. In fact, the easiest thing for me to memorize, easier than anything I’ve ever memorized for school-be it pathology or medical pharmacology- is the Qur’an. Additionally, when I started to memorize more Qur’an, my memorization improved so much that I could memorize other things faster. This is how I was able to squeek by in Pharmacology and Med Micro during medical school. I can only imagine how this would help a hafidh!
But it didn’t start out that way. In fact, I struggled to memorize Qur’an in the beginning. I felt bad because I had forgotten portions that I memorized as a kid. However, what started as a quest to recover lost verses, became an addiction to memorize even more.
The moral of the story is that if we want to do something, make a sincere intention and put a sincere foot forward. Allah will take care of the rest, provided we stay consistent.
I’m far, far away from being a hafidth, but I have spoken with many and read many articles about how to improve memorization. Here are the results of that research, tips that have helped me so far in my continuing journey with Qur’an, with more tips and online resources from where I’m summarazing them from in Part 2 inshaAllah.
(NOTE: Of course, the best tip anyone can give is to have a teacher. These tips are designed to help those who may not have access to a teacher or are unable to sit with one for whatever reason).
- A sincere intention
Why do you want to memorize the Qur’an? If it is to recite like a great Qari and have people praise you for your beautiful voice, you might want to take a step back and revaluate. As with everything in life, we get what we intend. Our intention should be to please Allah and hope for the reward, not to please the people and hope for their praise. A few examples of rewards associated with memorizing Qur’an can be found here, and they can certainly be part of our intention and motivation.
- Minimize sins
I mentioned Imam ash-Shafi’ee’s (rah) amazing memory in the beginning of this post. How did he get there? He once said:
I complained to Wakee’ (his teacher) about the poorness of my memory
So he directed me to abandon disobedience
And informed me that the knowledge of Allaah is light
And [that] the light of Allaah does not guide the disobedient
If we want to memorize more efficiently, we need to cut our sins down and do our best to avoid them. A practical way to implement this is to pray 2 extra rak’ah for forgiveness before sitting down to memorize Qur’an. InshaAllah we will clean our sins and then be ready to receive the light of knowledge from Allah.
- Pick a time and be consistent
We have many distractions in life. To memorize efficiently, pick a time that has the least amount of distractions so you can solely put your energy into memorizing. Some people like to memorize after Fajr, others choose to memorize before sleeping. Others do it during downtimes throughout the day. The point is to pick a time and stick to it everyday so your mind gets used to the routine of memorizing at a certain time every day. A more detailed study strategy will be in part 2 inshaAllah.
- Stick with one print of the Qur’an
Believe it or not, many Huffadh can visualize the pages of Qur’an as they recite from memory. You might say “But I don’t have photographic memory.” You don’t need photographic memory to visualize the page in front of you: all you need to do is to memorize from the same Qur’an each time, and you’ll automatically start taking “mental pictures” of the pages, especially if you constantly review. A common one most people recommend is the standard “Madani Mushaf.” I would recommend it also; I used to memorize out of a different print style and I saw a vast improvement when I switched over.
- Pick a set amount to memorize and be consistent
Whether it’s weekly, daily, or monthly, it’s important to set a certain amount as a goal to reach. It might be as little as 4 verses per month or as ambitious as 1 page per day. Select a goal that is attainable for you and stick to it. A good piece of advice I heard from Shaykh Abdul Bary Yahya is to think: “How much can I memorize easily on my busiest day?” This should be the amount you should start off with, so you don’t create excuses on your busiest day. Once a consistency is built, then you can worry about building up.
- Listen to the recitation…repeatedly
The Qur’an is beautiful, whenever you listen to it, it never disappoints. Youtube is full of reciters of Qur’an, just search the chapter title of the Surah you want to memorize and put it on repeat. Listen to it while you drive, while you are on the subway, while you walk to school, while being bored at home, or whenever you have free time. Try different reciters and see which one you like the best. If you listen to it enough, you’ll start to memorize parts of it unconsciously, especially if you enjoy listening to it. This is why many people are able to memorize music so fast, because it’s always on repeat (especially if you listen to the radio). An added bonus is that even if you forget while reciting from memory, sometimes you just have to remember the tone that your favorite Qari uses and you’ll be able to recover it!
Continued in Part 2 inshaAllah…