You might find yourself constantly reading about methods for memorisation and revision of the Qur’ān. But you find so many and feel overwhelmed by the choices. You feel lost and overwhelmed by choice. What’s the best Hifdh method? Just tell me one thing I should do!
This often leads to a type of analysis paralysis (a.k.a overthinking) or being spoilt for choice. Increased choice can lead to greater anxiety, indecision, paralysis and dissatisfaction. You end up spinning wheels. Overthinking can lower our performance on mentally-demanding tasks, kill creativity, eat up willpower, and makes us less happy.
We shouldn’t be feeling like this when it comes to the task of memorising the Qur’ān.
How can you stop analysing and just start?
When I started my Hifdh journey there wasn’t a website like this that shared methods and much more. No one had shared anything with me. How do I start? How do I memorise?
We were just told to start as instructed under a teacher. But I felt dissatisfied with my progress. I needed answers. I was slow, starting and stopping. I wanted to figure out a way that was better. So I tried things. You’re doing the same thing!
I soon discovered things through my own experimentation and collecting data from around the world. The most important discoveries were from self-awareness. Once I paid attention I recognised that I picked things up well through listening. So I started to listen to the Qur’ān. Yet one of my teachers would mock me saying, “You need to listen?! We never used to listen. What’s wrong with you?”
He took the PenMan Digital Quran that I had at the time but I kept going. I kept learning. I kept experimenting. Today I share everything that I have learnt (and continue to learn) over the last two decades.
I would never be where I am today had I not started.
1. Start with V.A.R.K
VARK stands for:
- visual learning (pictures, movies, diagrams)
- auditory learning (listening, discussion, lectures)
- reading and writing (making lists, reading textbooks, taking notes)
- kinesthetic learning (movement, experiments, hands-on activities)
It’s the idea that students learn best when teaching methods and learning methods or activities match their learning styles, strengths, and preferences. The VARK quiz for young people and adults allows you to see, to a certain degree, what your learning preferences are. To understand what your learning styles are. This leads to further self-awareness. You learn about things that you should incorporate into your Qur’ān learning.
This idea does have opponents. Psychologists and researchers suggest that this theory has debunked and has no evidence to support it. No less than 71 different models of learning styles have been proposed over the years. None of which they say provides adequate evidence as a basis to justify incorporating learning-styles into learning. Instead, they propose ideas of working smarter. “If you read a piece of text through twenty times, you will not learn it by heart so easily as if you read it ten times while attempting to recite from time to time and consulting the text when your memory fails.” –The New Organon, Francis Bacon.
These ideas are not always relevant to Hifdh. The Qur’ān stands alone. Nothing compares. You can use techniques that science has found to be of benefit, yes, but you can also use those that science hasn’t been able to evidence. There are things that every one of us feels more inclined towards. There are things that help some of us while the same can’t be said of another. Some of my students have a level of visual capacity that I’ve not experienced. Likewise they don’t experience the auditory capacity that I experienced.
Can you train yourself to become attuned to something? Can you train your brain to become more auditory, visual, or otherwise? Perhaps you can. Once you start, staying consistent and making observations on how you do things with an eye on improvement will allow room for improvement. Many memory champions claim to have poor memory. What then made them into memory champions? They trained in techniques. The more they did it, the better they got. They worked the memory muscles using a particular learning style.
When memorising the Qur’ān, instead of thinking about what methods to use try to focus on things that you know to be true for yourself first. Look at how you learn best in other disciplines. Think about everyday things. How do you memorise things? Do you memorise things even if you didn’t understand them? If so, how? Do you memorise through listening? If you memorise a phone number, how do you do it? How do you keep it remembered thereafter? Do you write things? Did you use any particular technique? There can be clues in every day things that you can potentially apply to your Qur’ān memorisation experience. Things like listening, writing, teaching, flashcards, self-testing, quizzing, deep understanding and connection.
2. Know yourself further
Before making a choice, you can get so focused on trying to find the ‘best method’ that you don’t get anywhere. Instead of trying to determine whether something is right, pick one based on what feels right, factoring in:
- your learning preferences
- your time, energy, and availability
- your commitments
- your learning capacity
- your commitment levels
- whether you’re doing it with a teacher, alone, or with a buddy
Once you have a clear picture, choose one method that ticks most of your boxes. Start and stick with that method. You can then make adjustments to it as needed. Every method is adjustable.
Make a concrete plan around that to get yourself started. It’s the commitment that determines the end.
Let’s look at an example.
‘Ā’ishah is a mother of 3 young children. She has her own hobbies. Her time is dedicated towards her family and house. Her husband works and is out for most of the day. She wants to memorise the Qur’ān, set an example for her children and teach them as well. She knows that she’s busy throughout the day but she has pockets of time where she can memorise. She knows that she can also use her time while doing other tasks to listen to the Qur’ān. She knows that she likes to understand the Qur’ān. She knows that she’s most sharp in the morning and is drained by the night. She knows she can’t memorise a lot.
She’d need to think about what method is suitable for her. It could be that she begins one day a week where she memorises and recites to someone. For the rest of the week she can prepare the next one. This gives her time to do a little at a time but also an opportunity to understand and listen to the āyāt. She knows that she has some time in the morning and so she will use that time. She knows this is something she can do to get her started.
Note: She might not find a method, that’s an exact fit but she can learn from various methods taking the best elements suited to her situation and make her own.
3. Start before you feel ready
Action is a tactic in itself. Action determines success. Those who memorised the Qur’ān before us did exactly that. They didn’t have a wealth of information at the tap of a button but they had teachers. The teachers taught them the way they were taught. The students had a commitment to action and a respect for the process. They primarily relied on repetition. By starting and simply repeating things until you know it, you will start to understand the process. You’ll get a feel for what it is you need to do. This is another method to get yourself started. Just choose a sūrah that you would like to memorise. Divide it out across a time period. Memorise according to that plan. When you memorise, repeat, repeat, repeat.
4. Revisit your ‘why‘ and set a period for trial and error
Remember what it is that you’re trying to embark upon here. This is a blessed task. Look at why you want to do this and realise that Allāh will reward you for the process itself.
If you’re still thinking, write down the situation, get it out of your head and onto paper. Write down your specific desired outcome. Write down your favoured options. Make a choice. Make Istikhārah. Take action. Trust the process.
If you want to try a select number of methods, do it as a trial basis of up to 3 months. Perhaps one method per month. Don’t drag any longer. Then choose one or combine the best of what you learn to form a more tailored method.
5. The most popular or widely used
When doing your research you may find that there are certain methods that keep being mentioned. There might be certain techniques or elements like listening or repetition style that are widely mentioned. You can cut out anything else and start with one of those. One of these popular methods is the method of Imām Qāsim. If you start it, stick to it. Whenever you feel like you’re slipping and it’s not working, just make adjustments.
6. Get a teacher
You can’t figure it out? There’s too much for you to figure out? Get a teacher. The teacher will tell you what to do. It’s often the students that struggle the most but due to their adab and deep desire for the Qur’ān and the connection and respect for the teacher that they succeed. The teacher can help you figure what to do. Make you a plan. Having a teacher is the best thing you can do.
7. Refine your memorisation process
If you feel whatever method you’re using isn’t doing the job for you, it might not be the method that’s the issue. It could be certain tweaks that are needed. A memorisation process can always be refined and improved depending on your situation. Always strive. Always make du’ā’. Always do the right things.
If you need help to refine things, ask a Hāfiz to give you some time where they can sit and observe you memorising. Hopefully not in a weird way but this should provide you with an opportunity to get some outsider experienced perspectives. Others that have been there before might notice things that you’re not. Get some feedback.
If you’re interested, I’m open to having sessions with you where I can teach you refinement processes or methods in a live class. If you’re interested, get in touch!
May Allāh grant blessing!