I recently caught up with a young Ḥāfiẓ, brother Labib Abdāl (a current college student in Oldham, England) for the second session of the #MeetTheHuffādh series.
I asked him a few questions on memorisation, routine and technique. Here’s how it went down.
How and why did you end up memorising the Qur’ān?
“I learnt how to read the Qur’ān quite early according to my community where they have 5/6 year olds reciting very well. My parents then thought of the next stage which was memorising. At that age, you don’t make your own decisions so my parents decided I should start.
At the age of 8, my recitation was good enough to start memorising according to my first Ḥifẓ teacher. I didn’t have any idea what I was starting or how it would be. I was the most misbehaved student (amongst the students) coming up with new ideas on how to cheat the teachers. I enjoyed the atmosphere within the class due to the students around me, spending time with them was the real reason I was attending the Madrasah.
I then moved on to different Madrasah’s and carried out the same role which led me to being expelled each time. My parents then realised I was moving off track, they needed something to pull me back. I was in year 6 (primary school) when I first overheard a conversation that my parents may send me to Bangladesh for Ḥifẓ. I was very excited, not for the experience of a different country or freedom, but fundamentally just so that I can go on a plane ride. I was so fond of planes, this interest took me to the place which was my first place of guidance and knowledge. How sharp a bend can be!
On February 2007 I flew to Bangladesh to look for a waseelah (means) for guidance and knowledge.”
How was the experience in Bangladesh? What was your typical day like?
“So I spent three years in Bangladesh.
The first year was spent on playing around being a kid. Then my mentality changed after forceful restrictions were put in place by my authority. In that first year I did 6 Juz, in the second year I did 8 and the third year I did 10 Juz.
I was on Juz 24 when my father decided to bring me back to the UK so that I could take part in GCSEs. My teachers found out before me that my time there was soon to be over.
As a result of this, the teachers started rushing me to go ahead as much as possible forgetting the importance of revision (review). I understood this when I came back to England and realised I had forgotten from Juz 17 to 24. I was then admitted to a local school (Maktab) to carry on and finish. We started working solely on regaining Juz 17 to 24 first. After completing this, I had to work on Juz 1 to 17. This whole process took another 2 years.
The 3rd year was the year I finished and in that year I had my first Taraweeh training with my teacher.”
A typical day
“My day would start at 5/6am (Fajr). Then we’d have a 2 hour sessiom from 5–7 am or 6–8 am depending on Fajr prayer.
After that we would go home to rest, shower and eat before we came back to class which started at 10 am, this would go on till 3/4 pm with a break in the middle for ẓuhr prayer.
The final session used to take place at home, depending on the time of Maghrib which used to be around 6/7 pm where we would read till 10pm. Then it was bed time!
This was my routine between Saturday to Thursday. Friday was our day off — by the way, that didn’t mean a complete break from memorising.”
What memorisation technique worked best for you?
“There were four parts to memorising —
Firstly, the sabak, memorising verses that are new.
Secondly, revising (reviewing) the verses memorised most recently.
Thirdly, revising (reviewing) all the Juz that have been memorised.
Finally, self revision (review) which is revision that only requires that Juz or part to be read once which is often done by Ḥuffāẓ.”
New Memorisation Technique
“Melting the ice — I think it is essential when memorising new verses that it is done well as mistakes that are made in that stage has a negative impact on the future. I still have such mistakes and it is very hard to get rid of them. Mistakes in terms of the context I am referring to are flaws such as stretching or shortening in the wrong places, reading the wrong Harakah/Vowel, so reading something as Fathha when it’s supposed to be Dammah etc.
I would start by making myself a challenging target, a target I feel I could meet and that would bring the most out of me.
Before going to sleep I would be reading my targeted verses 10 –15 times, by now the verses should be easy on my tongue and be free from any Tajweed defects and also be very familiar to me.
I’ve noticed that what I think of or, what I do before going to sleep has an impact on what I dream of. What your brain thinks of during the whole night, the brain doesn’t stop. I’ve had such scenarios where I’ve dreamt of something that I was thinking of before I went to sleep. Likewise my mentality is, if I read verses before I sleep, my brain thinks or reads them verses while I’m sleeping — resulting in verses sounding and feeling very familiar in the morning. Dr Matthew Walker, University of California, Berkeley sleep researcher, tells the National Institutes of Health “…Sleep after learning is essential to help save and cement that new information into the architecture of the brain, meaning that you’re less likely to forget it.” My spiritual leader also has a saying in this formula:
“Doing the Dhikr of Allāh before going to sleep is as though Dhikr has been done throughout the whole night”.
“In the morning whether it’d be before or after Fajr prayer, I’d start memorising verse by verse, more specifically word by word, starting with 2/3 words depending on the size of the words.
I would repeat them 10 –15 times looking, then I would test myself by reading those words without looking making sure I can see the words clearly.
Moving on to the next few words, I would carry on from a previous word that I know already so that all the words stay connected. Once the first and second verse is done, I wouldn’t go to the third verse straight away, I would go back to the first verse to bring back clear vision of the verse. After memorising the third verse, I would go back to the first and second verse and read it a few times to increase strength, like this I would complete my target.
Finally, to gather all the verses memorised, I would read all the verses together about 10 times. By now the words, verses and the order should be in memory. There may still be mistakes which could be acknowledged by testing yourself or getting it tested by a class mate, once the mistakes are known, mistakes could be rectified by giving it some extra attention.”
Revision of verses that have been memorised most recently.
“This revision is tough and also very sensitive for it needs to be revised a few days after the initial memorisation. On my day off from the Madrasah, I would memorise the parts I’d memorised throughout the week.
Notice how it appears to be ‘memorising’ twice?
Well despite the new memorisation being fresh, it still needs to be read as though you are memorising and not revising (reviewing). I would do that on all my days off and I would also add the previous weeks into it as well.
After a Juz is complete, I would revise the whole Juz in quarters and get it tested. After that in halves then finally as a whole, being tested in all stages. I’ve seen a common pattern with students that they forget very easily when it comes to revising (or should I say memorising) the parts that have been memorised most recently.”
Revising the parts or Juz memorised
“Depending on how many Juz an individual has memorised, a guideline should be instructed to the learner on how much the learner should revise daily.
For 10 juz and below, quarter daily is sufficient in my opinion, for 20 and below — a half. For 30 and below, you should be doing a full Juz daily.
Revision (or review) must be kept on track — forgetting a Juz or parts can cause fall back or delay in other parts being memorised. It also mentally affects a learner if their back portions are weak or forgotten. There is no point going forward if what you are going forward with doesn’t stay with you.”
“This is when the Juz or parts are read independently without getting it tested. This is a crucial part when it comes to maintaining memorisation. A teacher once told me, without this type of revision, it’s quite impossible to maintain the memorisation of the Qur’ān. From that day I’ve paid a lot of attention to this.
Till this day, self-review has been a big part of the process of maintaining. I don’t do anything throughout the whole year rather this. This formula maintains my memorisation and Taraweeh improves and strengthens my memorisation.
This in my opinion should be done according to how much has been memorised.
10 Juz = 1 Juz
20 Juz =2 Juz
30 Juz = 3 Juz
If you’ve memorised 10 Juz then 1 Juz should be self revised daily. That’s the drill. This is to keep your tongue wet and regain vision of what you’ve memorised. The Ḥuffāẓ that have finished should do a minimum of 3 Juz daily. The more the better. That should keep the box packed and undamaged.”
Preparation for Taraweeh
“Preparation would start 3 months prior to Ramadān through extra revision and psychologically preparing my mind and heart for what is coming.
I increase my revision (review), and start reading each Juz twice before proceeding to the next Juz. I read roughly 6 Juz daily for these 3 months. I cut down on responsibilities and socialising enabling myself to pay extra attention towards the Qur’ān.”
My typical day in the month of Ramadan is as follows:
“I lead late night Taraweeh prayers so my timetable is a little different to other Ḥuffāẓ that lead at the original time.
After Fajr prayer, I read my part a couple of times Ruku’ by Ruku’ (paragraphs system). Reading each Ruku’ a few times before moving on, this would take approximately an hour or so.
The next session would start after ẓuhr prayer using the same routine, revising Ruku’ by Ruku’ but also giving more attention to the difficult parts, this session is read with more depth than the first session. By now, my part is ready.
After that, throughout the rest of the day till ‘Asr salaah, I would read my part after every hour or so allowing my memory to forget so I can reignite the need of reading more. After ‘Asr salaah, me and my Taraweeh partner (my teacher) recite in our mosque in front of the attendees, it’s a tradition in majority of the mosques in my area.
After Iftār, I would rest for a while before I start praying 10 Raka’ optional prayer. I would read my Taraweeh part sticking with the 10 Rak’a providing me the extra sense of where I should stop and start in Taraweeh. This method really helps with dividing the part I am to read in Taraweeh in to 10 parts.
This method was passed on to me from my teacher as his teacher passed it on to him. I really feel the effect of it all when I stand to lead and recite the glorious words of Allāh.
Confidence was always an issue, not just with Taraweeh but everything that is associated with performing in front of an audience.
Due to lack of confidence, regardless of the level of effort I put in to preparing the part I am to recite while leading that day, I would still shake when I stand to lead. My throat would still dry up frequently. My voice would still rattle unknowingly.
Leading Taraweeh is the highlight of every year, it’s always in the back of my mind but Alhamdulillāh, from the first year of leading till today, the improvement has been immense, improvement in reciting and confidence.”
What would be your top 5 advice for those that are memorising?
- “Commitment and dedication — the first crucial step needed before taking any other steps is having the desire of memorising, being committed and dedicated, without this, the other steps are worthless. Regardless of how much advice and help you receive, without the desire, it’s not possible.
The outcome of desire, commitment and dedication is concentration. Reading a part of the Qur’ān with the intention of memorising but without concentration has no benefit and concentration comes from having the desire, being committed and dedicated. I personally wasn’t motivated as you know but gradually with the help of teachers and surrounding it all changed.
- The Sabak — The first memorisation is the first impression of the Qur’ānic verses to your memory. The stronger the Sabak, the longer it will last, the better the final outcome. A strategy should be put in place in terms of the amount of Sabak learnt daily. Sabak is probably the easiest element in memorising the Qur’ān. Some may think otherwise.
- Reviewing — many students are fooled into believing that Sabak is the most important part of memorising. It’s the first part but not the most important. Reviewing and revising should be prioritised highly, this will show most benefit in the long run. Keeping the back strong from day one! Knowing the back well has a psychological effect when it comes to Sabak. Not knowing the back parts pulls you back from moving forward with full force. It reduces confidence, pulls away motivation leading to the disappearance of desire, commitment and dedication. Drilling a nail in the same hole for the second time reduces the strength of that nail staying in place meaning rememorising the forgotten Juz doesn’t come with the same strength in comparison to the strength level when maintained from initial memorisation. Once the back is maintained, it feels really good to learn more and more Sabak leading you to the finish line faster.
- Starting early — I’ve come to realise why someone should start Ḥifẓ at a young age, I’ve seen it myself with my students. When teenage life kicks in, the surroundings change colour. Influence of others around you becomes a big factor. GCSEs come in, after school revision takes place. Time becomes precious and limited. When time becomes limited due to other reasons than memorising, it really gets tuff and ends with disappointment.
- Character — memorising the Qur’ān doesn’t make you a saint. It surely hasn’t done so with me. Qur’ān is a gift from Allāh, the light of the Qur’ān will not enter in to every heart. We need to make sure our hearts are clean and have sufficient space. We should work on our ‘Amal, we should make sure we are doing everything we can to please Allāh. All these are essential in order to reach the top of the mountain. May Allāh accept us all!”
What would you do differently if you had the chance to do it all over again?
“I would start my journey earlier. If I had started earlier, I most likely would’ve completed Ḥifẓ in Bangladesh. I wouldn’t have rushed anything and my Ḥifẓ would’ve been stronger but I am more than happy with what Allāh wrote for me.
Finally, I would have looked at revising and reviewing with higher importance. I didn’t really focus on revision until I needed to. I didn’t understand the importance but now I know.
I’m happy and thankful to Allāh for everything he has given me.
I’m thankful for the support I got from my parents and family. I had no clue what I was doing as a child, my parents went through everything to put me where I am today. Alhamdulillāh.
May Allāh bless you Qāri' for all your hard work for the Ummah, especially for the students of Qur’ān. May we all rise on the Day of Judgment with the title Ahle — Qur’ān.
If you want to get in touch with Labib, you can do at Facebook (/labib.abdal) or email: email@example.com