How To Layer Your Approach to Revision & Addressing Mistakes

In today’s fast-paced world, the art of memorisation is too often taken for granted. Especially when it comes to the beautiful verses of the Manifest Qur’ān, the journey of Hifz can be an overwhelming one. Yet, for a dedicated few, the intrinsic value of preserving the Words of the Qur’ān in one’s heart remains an unparalleled endeavour.

One such individual, who is memorising at 48, has so far achieved a commendable milestone of memorising six Juz’ of the Qur’ān. His commitment is awe-inspiring: a full-time job, family commitments, and still, the hunger to not only memorise but deeply understand and reflect upon the verses. However, like many of us, he found himself trapped in a challenging maze – not of memorisation, but of revision.

Challenges in the Hifz Revision Journey

The primary issue facing him is the lack of a stable routine. Given his fluctuating schedule and a burning desire to memorise more verses, he’s found himself constantly battling with forgetting what he’s already learned. This has challenged him to get through his revision without giving them the depth of attention they deserve, which in turn, causes him to commit mistakes repeatedly. There’s just not enough time.

Furthermore, the similarity between certain verses, known as Mutashābihāt, has proven to be another formidable challenge. Despite resorting to specialised books and constant revision, these verses still pose a stumbling block. It’s a sentiment many hifz students can resonate with: How does one differentiate between verses that sound or look similar?

He has challenges with not only similar verses, but linking verses, adding or dropping word, or even the vowels. That’s a lot to deal with, and a lot of stress is added on top with the fact that mistakes are not tolerated.

Identifying the Problem Areas

Upon close introspection, several observations become evident:

  1. Pressure of Completion: The pressure to complete a juz’ a day can lead to superficial revision. This “race against time” doesn’t allow one to pause and fix the mistakes thoroughly.
  2. Emotional Connection: The emotional state of an individual is intricately tied to the daily revision progress. When progress isn’t achieved, frustration and disappointment set in, potentially affecting the overall mood and commitment.
  3. Current Techniques: While the teachers advice on reading the page twice and then listening to it is valid, the pressure to cover a fixed portion daily makes this process difficult to maintain.

Interestingly, his method encompassed more than just rote memorisation. Reading translations and going through tafseer provides him with a deeper understanding of the verses, adding layers of context and meaning to the memorisation process. His Shaykh recommended reading the page twice, then listening to its recitation, and repeating in case of mistakes. But time doesn’t permit.

Seeking solutions for revision

In a plea for guidance, he reached out, seeking not just any solution, but a sustainable one that could be interwoven into the fabric of his daily life. He was not just looking for a quick fix but a deeper understanding of his challenges and a pathway to overcome them.

I reminded him to:

  • Embrace Breaks: One does not need to be in perpetual motion. Pausing new memorisation or reducing it for dedicated revision sprints can be valuable. This ‘reset’ can offer clarity, reinforcing what’s already learned.
  • Grading Memorisation: By rating each section based on its fluency and retention, it offers a clear picture of which areas need more focus, allowing one to prioritise their revision accordingly.
  • Consistency over Perfection: While the aim should be error-free recitation, it’s vital to remember that consistency in revision, even with minor mistakes, is better than sporadic perfection.

While the process of memorisation is undoubtedly laborious, ensuring its retention is a long-term commitment that can pose distinct challenges. One innovative solution proposed to streamline this process is the “Layered Approach to Revision.” But what does it entail, and what advantages does it offer?

The Layered Approach Explained

Imagine you’re revising, and as you do, you encounter multiple mistakes. Rather than attempting to correct all of them simultaneously – a task that can be both overwhelming and counterproductive – the Layered Approach advises focusing on one specific error at a time.

Let’s elucidate with the example of revising Juz’ 30 of the Qur’ān. During the first cycle of revision, you identify several mistakes but choose to concentrate only on one. You would consciously note the rest, but not dwell on them. Once you’ve pinpointed that singular mistake, you dedicate separate sessions to practicing and rectifying just that error. This could be integrated into daily routines like salaah or designated before or after salaah.

On the subsequent cycle of revising Juz’ 30, you would shift your focus to another mistake, while also ensuring the previously corrected error remains intact. This approach continues, cycle after cycle, until all mistakes are addressed.

For example, focus first on harakāt mistakes, correct them by understanding why this is happening and creating connections. Start changing them. Repeat the correct recitation many times over. Then move on to where you’re getting similar verse mistakes, and then move on to other types of mistakes.

Will you encounter new mistakes on the way? You might. This happens often, but don’t worry about it. Keep reading. You need time.

Advantages of the Layered Approach:

  1. Reduced Cognitive Load: By focusing on one mistake at a time, you reduce the cognitive strain. This can be especially beneficial for older individuals, given the natural decline in cognitive flexibility as one ages.
  2. Enhanced Retention: By concentrating your energy on a single error, the chances of rectifying and retaining the correction increase.
  3. Reduced Stress: Overburdening oneself with the pressure of perfection can lead to anxiety and diminished performance. This approach alleviates such pressures.
  4. Tailored Learning: People have varying capacities for learning and retention. This method allows for personalisation based on one’s unique strengths and weaknesses.

Challenges and Considerations

While the Layered Approach has evident benefits, it’s essential to remember that it’s a long-haul strategy. This method might extend the overall time needed for revision. Furthermore, it’s crucial to communicate this approach to one’s teacher or Shaykh, ensuring alignment in teaching and learning methods.

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