How to Memorise by Listening to the Qur’ān

I was walking on the streets of Hayy ath-Thāmin (the eighth zone or district) in Nasr City of Cairo. I was so interested to know what happened in the mosques and schools there. In particular, the Qur'ān memorisation schools. I'd learned of a local mosque after a friend took me down to see a teacher. So I went along into the mosque between the 'Asr prayer and Maghrib for the Qur'ān memorisation circle. As far as I remember they had a 6-month Hifdh programme there. I went to check it out.

Straight away, I saw a huge difference in the experience I got used to back home in Manchester. I was used to a class around benches on the floor rocking away reading out aloud with a loud angry teacher! Over in Cairo, I couldn't tell who was the teacher and who was the student. People were all over the place - I mean, there was no sign of a structured class. It was a simple process, anyone could come in at any time and read to one of the teachers. The teacher was always kneeling against a pillar with a bunch of adults and children around him. Yes, adults and children! This was a session where it didn't matter who you were, where you were from, and what age you were.

I meet a 6 year old hafidh

I walked in and sat down thinking this is so awesome. I was next to the teacher and he said, "Start reciting." Before I started I explained my situation and that I was here to revise and continue my memorisation. He was cool and I began reciting. Whilst I was reciting there was a young boy that caught my eye. He was staring at me. Most importantly he was closely guarding my every word. He was a Hāfidh!

Our conversation

He got me so motivated. I was amazed when listening to him recite. I decided to have a chat with him even though I could I knew it was going to be difficult to converse. So I ask him, "Have you memorised the whole of the Qur'ān?" so he said yes. I then asked him to tell me his story, "How have you done it? How so young?"

He explained that...

"My mum and dad used to play Shaykh Muhammad Khalīl al-Husarī all the time. Even when I was not born yet. I grew up with Shaykh al-Husarī. I started memorising when I was 4 by repeating the words with my father. I listened to Shaykh al-Husarī too."

Boom!

The reason I'm sharing this moment with you is that its such great inspiration. That day there were so many children but many adults too. All chasing the same goal - complete mastery of memorising the Qur'ān.

Here are some lessons I learned that day:

  • Don't disregard your age, it doesn't matter what age you are. Just pursue the goal with the right intentions.
  • It is great to be amongst the young even if you are a lot older. You inspire them and they can inspire you too.
  • Don't underestimate what you feed your children at a young age. What they listen to and what they see. Children learn with their eyes and ears. In fact, it is said that they learn 80% with their eyes. It shapes them. So make sure you get them attached to the sound of the Qur'ān before they open their eyes. When they open their eyes, have them see your attachment to the Qur'ān. It will help ease memorisation for them.

How can you memorize the Qur'ān by listening?

Listening to Qur’ān had a direct impact on my own journey. The first Huffādh in existence listened to Qur’ān and today many hearts receive it by listening too. They are writing the Qur'ān as well. It's incredible.

Shaykh 'Abd al-Rashīd 'Alī Sūfī grew up listening to the Qur'ān. Every day at Fajr and Maghrib without breaks, there was an obligatory circle at home with his father. Through this, he found himself having memorised the Qur'ān. All he needed to do was recite over it. Whether you're busy or not, keep listening to the Qur'ān.

Listening in order to do Hifz is powerful. Hearing is an ability that is largely a passive process in receiving sound. Listening is a skill and something done consciously with thoughtful attention. It's giving consideration to meaning and is an active process. It's not limited to the ears.

When we listen to the Qur’ān with the intention of memorising it, we should also be active in our listening. Meaning that you actively try to repeat it, pay attention to every letter, sound, stretch, pause, and more. Passive listening will not get you very far unless it’s done consistently and continuously over years of listening.

What are some benefits of listening to the Qur'ān?

There are many benefits of listening to the Qur'ān for your memorisation (Hifz). Listening was the means by which the Prophet (ﷺ) memorised the Qur'ān.

Listening to the Qur'ān impacts the brain similar to music

Collectively, evidence suggests that listening to rhythmic Quranic verses activates similar brain regions and elicits comparable therapeutic effects reported in music and rhythmic therapy. It changes negative emotions into positive ones.

Listening to the Qur'ān reduces anxiety

The current evidence indicates that listening to Qur'ān recitation is a useful non-pharmacological treatment for reducing anxiety.

Listening to the Qur'ān is a means of mercy and healing

Allāh says:

وَإِذَا قُرِئَ ٱلْقُرْءَانُ فَٱسْتَمِعُوا۟ لَهُۥ وَأَنصِتُوا۟ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُرْحَمُونَ
So when the Qur’ān is recited, then listen to it and pay attention that you may receive mercy. (7:204)


وَنُنَزِّلُ مِنَ ٱلْقُرْءَانِ مَا هُوَ شِفَآءٌۭ وَرَحْمَةٌۭ لِّلْمُؤْمِنِينَ ۙ وَلَا يَزِيدُ ٱلظَّـٰلِمِينَ إِلَّا خَسَارًۭا
We send down the Qur'ān as a healing and mercy for the believers, but it only increases the wrongdoers in loss. (17:82)

There are so many examples of this throughout time and will remain so till the end of time. For example, listening to Surah ar-Rahmān as a form of therapy has give many people cure and healing.

Listening through the right ear gives the most benefit to memory

According to a study conducted by researchers at Auburn University in Alabama, children were able to remember 35% more information when they listened to it in their right ear than when they listened to it in their left ear. The study also found that adults showed a similar, but smaller, advantage for listening in the right ear. The study suggests that people of all ages depend more on their right ear than their left, and remember information better if it comes through their right ear. The study also found that in certain situations, right-ear dominance persists long into adulthood.

Listening at a louder volume helps recall

Studies have shown that listening to information at a louder volume can improve memorisation. This is because louder sounds are more likely to be processed by the brain's auditory cortex, which is responsible for hearing and memory. However, these studies used music as a means of testing. Excessively loud sounds can be distracting and hinder the learning process.

Reading out loud can also improve memory recall, as it engages the acoustic way of encoding or storing memory. Repeating information aloud to oneself or to someone else can improve long-term memory recall which is why having a teacher or a buddy to recite to is important. Therefore, it is recommended to listen to the Qur'ān at a moderate volume and to read out loud when trying to memorise.

Does listening at a slower speed or faster speed make a difference?

Listening at a slower or faster speed can help you depending on the situation.

In fact, studies have shown that listening to information at a slower speed can improve memorisation. This is because slower speeds give the brain more time to process the information, which can make it easier to remember. Some say that slow processing undermines learning and attention, and it contributes to learning difficulties such as attention deficit, dyslexia, or auditory processing disorder.

Listening to information at 1.5x or 2x speed has become increasingly popular, with many people claiming that it improves efficiency and saves time. Ultimately, the decision to listen to something at a faster speed should be based on personal preference and the specific context in which the information is being consumed. Whenever you want to be more efficient and save time, listening at 1.5x or 2x speed can help.

Which reciter should you listen to for Hifz?

Choose a recitation that is with excellent standards of tajwīd, clarity, and speed you can keep up with. The likes of Khalīl al-Husarī, Muhammad Siddiq al-Minshāwī, 'Abd al-Bāsit 'Abdus-Samad, Dr Ayman Suwayd, Dr Sāmir an-Nass, al-Ma'sarawī, and the likes are ideal.

You may also do experimentation by switching to see what reciter benefits you the most. A sister that used to listen to al-Husarī struggled. When she switched to al-Minshāwī, she was a lot better. Also, there are many sisters that are recording these days, sisters do check them out!

Listen and repeat

Listen for however long you need but make sure you're repeating alongside it. You want to be actively listening. Look at the mus'haf at the same time where possible. You can even record yourself and listen to that while looking. You can help yourself by closing your eyes and imagining the page and words.

Sometimes a Qāri’ can be too fast, or too slow, have loner breath than you, stops in places you may not or pay attention stopping signs that you pay attention to which means you struggle to follow along and imitate them. You can always record yourself but have it checked by someone else as well listening to it yourself. You can increase the speed 1.5-2x to save time or even slow it down to pay more attention to the details. You should listen to recitation before memorisation and after memorisation.

Listen to an ayah at a time

Listening to smaller chunks at the start works better. So go through an ayah on loop. Then the next and the next till the end fo your target portion. Then listen to all of it. This can be 10, 20, or 30x. You can increase the speed as you get more fluent. This saves time.

Listen at night

When I used to memorise I would take an ayah at a time, 10-20x and repeat alongside it. Combine them and go to sleep (ideally with it on loop). When you wake up start memorising it.

Work in pairs or groups

Group memorising benefits auditory learners. Go through your memorisation yourself first. Listen to it and be fluent with it. Then work with a partner working through an ayah at a time going back and forth with each other. You can review in the same way.

Connect with the ayah

Read the meanings of the words through translation and tafseer. When you listen to the ayat, it will help you connect your mind to it. Another means to help you would be to teach or speak about the ayah aloud to someone else. This can also be an audio diary for yourself.

What about listening to recitation for revision?

I think this should not be done as a regular practice but only when you are tight for time (again you can make use of speeds 1.5-2x, or slower) or for self-testing when you have no one to recite to.

Other ideas

Watch videos listening to the ayah, the commentary, and animated videos for example by Free Quran Education.

With review, you don't need to be listening but it can help greatly. You should really be reciting yourself from memory and can listen to that, especially in the absence of a teacher or partner.

I know a sister that memorised while cleanings and cooking through listening. It's also great for them while on menses.

What if you have hearing difficulties?

Perhaps you have Tinnitus (ringing in the ear) and find it difficult to listen. You need to avoid listening and using headsets/headphones until your symptoms improve. Many have reported refraining from using them helped clear the symptoms. Keep a balance when listening. Also be careful with diet, and exercise. Instead of listening, try to use writing instead.

May Allāh allow us for good and accept us for good. May he place the love for Him and His people in our hearts. And may we love those actions that are beloved to Him.

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