A few years ago during the lockdown, I caught up with Hafiz Ziyad Asghar (UK) who recently memorised the Qur’an in 4 years. At the time he was in his final year at university while also studying the Islamic sciences. Here’s our discussion:
How did your memorisation journey begin?
I started memorising when I was 16 in the last year of school. It was towards the ending of Ramadan during the summer holidays. During the last portion of Ramadān, I was listening to the Imām recite in the Taraweeh and just thought to myself, that I want to do that as well. It moved me so much for the first time in my life. Though I didn’t understand anything being recited, it just moved me and started something in me.
So I went home and started to try and recite the Qur’ān. At this point, to recite one Juz’ took me around 3 hours. Then I contacted my Imam and asked if he was doing a ḥifẓ class. So my grandad, my mum, and the Imam got together and started a class. Because I wanted to do it, they thought others might be interested too. So we started the class with around 7 of us.
Then I went to do my A-Levels at College and most of my ḥifẓ was done during this time. It was tough. I remember coming home and telling my mum, I can’t do it! It was a lot to take in. It’s a big commitment. If I were to give advice, it would be that you really need to be committed.
What was it that you felt during the Tarāwīh that night? What was your intention for ḥifẓ?
To be honest, I don’t know what it was that I was feeling. It was a pull and when I started memorising I thought it would satisfy what I was feeling. But as I started memorising and I realised this wasn’t what was drawing me close. It was more about understanding what was being said, and why it moved me.
What route did you take for your memorisation? Where did you start from?
I started on the 30th all the way till the 1st Juz’. My brother also did up to 26th but then started from the 1st. The reason that I did differently was that my teacher wanted me to lead the Taraweeh.
What was your daily commitment towards memorisation, alongside secular studies?
In the beginning, I would do an hour after Fajr and then another 2-3 hours, after getting back from college, at the Masjid. So 3 hours a day and occasionally 4 hours a day. I finished memorising within a duration of 4 years. For me to have done it in 4 years meant that there was a lot more to lose compared to someone doing it in a few months.
What was method for memorising the Qur’an?
At the start, I was getting used to reciting again. For a month, I was correcting my recitation. I started memorising doing an āyah at a time. At the start, I found it really tough but I was determined. And then eventually progressed to 1 page. I increased this according to my degree of comfort. I would recite ahead and assess how difficult it felt. From 1 page it became 2 pages. And at one point, I memorised the entire surah Kahf in one session. I also did the entirety of Juz’ 1 and 2 in two days. I was at the end and determined to finish it. Your enthusiasm increases. If I had picked a page, I would start from the beginning of the page till the end. I would just keep reciting it again and again until it stuck in my mind.
I found that my visual memory was my strength. I find that if I can’t visualise something then I’m just mindlessly reciting. In fact, if I couldn’t remember a word, I’d just keep looking at it. I’d patiently stay with the word until it comes into my mind. It was like I was absorbing it.
But a big part of my memorisation was listening as well. Most of the time I would listen to ‘Abdul-Rahmān As-Sudais, because of his speed and tempo. Sometimes though I found that I would still miss things in the recitation I listened to.
What was your system for review?
For my revision, I have to go to my teacher because I won’t do it at home. During the lockdown, I had to do it at home. This is the hard part of the journey. During memorisation, I had the Sabak, Sabki, and Manzil system.
Once I finished my memorisation, I was doing half a Juz’ daily initially. Eventually, I made it to 1 Juz’ a day and maintained that with consistency. The goal is to make a khatm every month.
I open the Mus’haf and recite an entire Juz’ by looking first. Then I’ll do it without looking and correcting my mistakes as I go along. At times, I will do it entirely from memory without looking at it all.
What did you do for your recent memorisation?
I would do it in quarters (IndoPak Mus’haf has 4 per Juz’) and for a week I will recite the quarter as part of my revision.
What Surah did you find the most difficult?
Generally, I find the 24th Juz’ hard (specifically Surah Ghāfir and Fussilat) and specifically Surah an-Nahl from Juz’ 14. One of the hardest quarters is the first quarter of Surah an-Nisā’ (especially āyah 11 and 12). Although it wasn’t difficult to memorise, when I think about it, it is definitely one of the hardest quarters. From the perspective of revision, I’ve found it to be difficult.
Did you have days where you couldn’t memorise at all?
Yes, there were days when I’d fall asleep in the masjid! One of the things I appreciated from my teacher was that he never even raised his voice at me. If he knew that I’d messed up, he would just give me an angry look. Sometimes I was absolutely shattered when coming to the masjid and couldn’t memorise anything. Alhamdulillah, my teacher was understanding but he had to keep the standards high. He didn’t want me to fall behind. So if he noticed that I was struggling, he had to recite whatever I was able to. Then I’d come back the next day and complete the rest. I can’t stress how important it is to have a good teacher.
I think it’s all about training your brain. Once you’ve trained your brain through memorising in a certain way, you become used to it. Then you’ve got to stick to it.
How did you manage and balance your secular studies with memorisation?
For 4 years I lived with the Qur’ān constantly on my mind even in my classes at college. I would sit there thinking about what I read yesterday. You think you lose concentration in class or can’t revise but to be honest if you’ve got the determination, you can handle multiple things at the same time.
It was the most stressful time of my life. My A-Level exams were the hardest I’ve ever done as well. I did Maths, Physics, Chemistry, and Biology.
I did have moments where I couldn’t memorise but it was my teacher that motivated me. He would remind me even when I couldn’t memorise. Even if I hadn’t done a page, in my mind I had done a page. That was my mentality. At times, I would have to stay till after ‘Ishā’, and my teacher needed to go home.
What are some benefits that memorising Qur’ān has had in your life?
I’ve been learning Arabic and Islamic sciences and I find it way easier after having memorised the Qur’ān. Let’s say it’s a Fiqh class, I can link the āyāt to certain discussions. Memorising the Qur’ān is one of the best things an individual can do. The more I have learnt Arabic, I feel my Qur’ān is getting stronger. There’s barakah that I find and I tend to make quicker progress than my classmates. It can be hard to maintain piety as someone that has memorised because society places a higher standard on you.
How did you feel on the day that you finished memorising?
I was actually ill on that day but I went to the masjid and finished. I almost started crying. It’s a feeling that you can’t describe. I remember feeling really ill at the same time and overwhelming.
What was advised by your teacher?
Generally, he’s not expressive. He didn’t show much emotion but was really happy. He’s proud of me. He advised me: Before you memorised the Qur’ān, people thought of you as a normal person, but now that you have they will see you differently. Even if you’re not that person, you need to be that person. You have to be the person to live up to the Qur’ān even if you’re not that person. To strive to live in accordance with the Qur’ān. I thought I was not worthy of the Qur’ān but I need to become worthy of it.
What are the top three pieces of advice you would give to the students who are currently in the pursuit of memorising the Qur’ān?
- To be determined, passionate and ambitious.
- To learn Arabic.
- To have a good teacher.
Allāh grant success!