Do you work hard to memorise Qur’ān only to go blank when reciting it to someone? Or perhaps someone randomly tested you and just can’t do it. You go mind blank.

We’ve all been there at one point or another. It’s that feeling of your mind going blank, where you stop at the start or in the middle of an āyah. You can’t think of anything. Sometimes this can happen with other day to day things like remembering where you just put something.

Mind blanking is a fight-or-flight response that occurs when we enter into a state similar to mind wandering. A mind blank happens when no stimuli is brought to mind, whereas mind wandering occurs when thoughts unrelated to the current task are brought to the forefront of our attention.

This article will detail:

  1. Why you might be drawing a blank
  2. What practical steps can combat Hifz mind blanking
  3. What strategies could be used for prevention

Why you might be drawing a blank

There can be many reasons, internal and external that can be a cause for this. Some of the causes include:

  • Change: In order to get new results, the brain may need to learn a new style of thinking. Your brain isn’t used to it yet.
  • Anxiety associated with reciting before a someone: Our fears and the feelings of vulnerability that comes with reciting before someone is a common stress-prompting event that causes us to draw blanks.
  • Anxiety associated with tests or exams: This is what we call test anxiety. Test anxiety is a psychological condition in which people are distressed and anxious when they are being tested. While many people feel stressed and anxious before and during exams, test anxiety can actually hinder learning and cause poor test results. Both memory and performance are hampered by test anxiety. It is more difficult to recall when you are stressed. The more difficult it is to recall, the more agitated you become.
  • Medication: If you experience brain fog after recently taking medication, then you should talk to your doctor or healthcare professional to make sure that it is a side effect of the medication.
  • Lack of sleep: When we don’t get a good night’s sleep, we’re less efficient.
  • Feeling overwhelmed: If we do not take steps to care for ourselves, our hectic lives may wear us down. When we realise we don’t have enough resources due to an overload, our brains often go blank.
  • Low confidence, overly stressed, nerves and overthinking: When you’re not confident, you’re nerves are increased as well as your stress levels. In this situation, if you’re learning your new lesson and you’re due to recite it to your teacher, you can begin to dwell and overthink over the consequences of any mistake, and even begin to doubt yourself and whatever it is that you’re reciting.
  • Medical conditions: There are conditions that are often linked with blanking out. They typically include inflammation, fatigue, and changes in blood sugar levels. Those diagnosed with fibromyalgia may experience mental fatigue on a daily basis. Other conditions that cause empty-headed symptoms include anemia, hypothyroidism, depression, arthritis, lupus, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Then there are reasons that are more related to your learning process. These include:

  • Not reciting out loud or rehearsing: A lack of practice that mimics how you’d perform in front of someone can lead to test anxiety, nerves, and low confidence. If you’re memorising in your mind and not aloud, you might feel as though you know it perfectly but when you recite it out aloud, it can be a different story.
  • Not getting tested by someone else or self-testing first: There’s only so much you can do in your preparation efforts but one cause for going blank paired with nerves can be not having built your own confidence through self-testing or having someone else listen to it first.

What practical steps can combat Hifz mind blanking

Being proactive can help you cope with the worries, frustrations, and loss of control that this mind blanking can bring.

Pure unfiltered confidence is key. This is built by being proactive.

1. Understand how the brain works

  • Accept that the brain can become overworked and requires a rest. Getting brain fried is very real.
  • The brain has the capacity to store an infinite amount of information but cannot always retrieve it immediately.
  • Short-term memory, long-term memory, and attentiveness determine your ability to retain, recall, and retrieve information; it’s not your fault.
  • Remember, your mind and body are connected in a lot of ways, so make sure you stay on top of your physical health. For example: Stay hydrated. Avoid junk food. Opt for nutrient-rich foods more often than not. Stick to a regular sleep schedule. Take time off to recover when you get sick. Commit to regular exercise, even if it’s just a 15-minute walk.

2. Don’t take it to heart too seriously

  • Your Hifz goal is important to you, but so is your personal life. If you focus on one and exclude the other, both might end up suffering.
  • Re-adjust your expectations and temporarily reset your goals.
  • Remind yourself of the days where you did really well. You’re still the same person!
  • Don’t contemplate over what might be. Focus on just starting. No overthinking. Mistakes always happen.
  • Remember that you need time. Hifz is a process of training. It’s memorisation. Do you remember when children learn the Arabic alphabet, they memorise it… but when you asked them randomly they don’t know it? They had to go through it in their heads. Eventually they are trained to recall letters randomly. Remember if you cannot recall something during a random test or when reciting before someone, it doesn’t mean you don’t know it. It could be that you don’t know well enough yet to that level.

3. Use specific techniques to help you

4. Know it well

  • Carefully analyse when it happens, and identify any triggers.
  • Use self-testing methods, buddies, or someone else to test you first. Seek prior boosters.
  • Talk to the teacher first, if it helps to settle you down. Tell them that you know it and you worked hard but feel anxious. Ask them to pray for you before you start. Try to relax.
  • This means getting comfortable informing people your mind has gone blank. Panicking and worrying about the potentially humiliating consequences of having nothing to say at that moment will not help your thoughts come.
  • Read Salawāt/Darood, istighfār and make du’ā’ before you begin.
  • If you memorise with a certain strength like visual or audio, make this connection stronger. Nurture it.
  • Once you’ve memorised your new portion, after a few hours, have yourself randomly tested and try to recall it all.
  • Randomly test yourself with regularity with your recent and past memorisation. It will help you get used to random testing. E.g. “Continue from: (says āyah or part of āyah).”
  • Review over time will eventually get you where you want to be. Make sure you don’t neglect revision. Get a revision partner, if needed, revise bouncing off each other per āyah or page. Ask questions. Push yourself.
  • Use apps to test yourself.
  • Record yourself and listen to it.
  • Learn deep breathing exercises. Incorporate them into your life as a way to stabilise and maintain a sense of inner calm. At the moment of the blank brain, take a long, deep breath, relax, collect your thoughts, and allow your memory to do its job before anxiety sets in. Breathe through the nose.
  • Center your attention outside of your mind. Take notice of your environment with the help of your senses. Breath deeply and let the anxiety fade on its own.
  • Do not memorise passively. Be alert and attentive to the page or āyāt you want to retain, remember, and retrieve later.
  • Keep written notes and ideas.
  • Don’t over-exert your mind when it goes blank. Some argue that if you don’t know what’s next, it’s best to look at the Mus’haf rather than spending time thinking over what it is. This leads to better recall in the future.
  • Taking rosemary: Smelling this reduces test anxiety and significantly enhances memory. not only does it improve short-term memory but also prevents Alzheimer’s disease.
  • If you familiarise yourself with your new portion to memorise, in a way that you strive to become an expert, you are less likely to flub or go blank. Read the translation, Tafseer, feel the āyāt, listen to them, practice well and be confident. If you make a mistake, it’s ok. With time and repetition, it will improve so long as you keep trying.
  • Teach the āyah to someone else, preferably someone younger than you. You might say that you’re not qualified to give explanations, but that’s not the idea here. The idea is that you say the Arabic and have the young one repeat it. Say the translation and have them understand it without adding your own interpretation.

5. Know yourself

  • Be aware and honest with yourself about any personal issues, losses, elevated stress levels, or unresolved traumas that might be getting in the way of your capacity to function optimally. Self-care, breaks, regular support, and healthy outlets are necessary for sustained productivity and performance.
  • If you need to get medical attention, please do get yourself checked. “Your body has a right over you” – Hadith.

May Allāh grant blessing!

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