Quran Memorisation: Surprising Ways To Improve Your Memory

There are many surprising ways to improve your memory that can help improve your memory and your Qur’ān memorisation skills. It’s all about what you do on a daily basis. It’s called memory training.

So many of you ask about how you can improve your memory because you experience a lot of forgetfulness. It’s always important to look at why you might be forgetting and how you can improve your memory health. These include what you eat, how much you eat, how you sleep, and your daily activities.

A Hifz student is a memory athlete

Today, I want to share one thought with you. That thought is to remember that you’re a memory athlete. An athlete thinks about every aspect of his or her life so that they can be highly optimised for athletic success. They will think about time, exercise, diet, food, drink, sleep, and activities. Everything will be done in a way that helps them toward their goals. Likewise, a student of Qur’ān memorisation, should think about what they’re doing and how they can optimise their lives so they can memorise better.

Here are some of the things you should think about.

Memory training for adults

(1) Testing your recall

One of the things we do when memorising the Qur’ān and doing our revision is that we’re constantly testing our recall. But we can make our memory sharper by randomly testing our recall with other daily things. For example, if you’re going to go shopping, you can write a list, memorise it, and then try to recall it. One small past study suggested that writing and organising lists helped older adults recall word lists more effectively. Just by using everyday situations, you can build your memory muscles.

Memory exercise: Try recalling anything you memorised an hour or so later.

(2) Learn Arabic

Learning a new language grows new cells in the brain. Plus, being bilingual was associated with a lower risk of developing dementia in one meta-analysis published in October 2020 in Psychonomic Bulletin & Review. Learning Arabic, though, has many benefits. You can begin to understand the Qur’ān and memorise it more easily. Swedish scientists have found that those who studied Arabic (among other languages) in their study had an increase in the hippocampus and the areas related to language learning in the cerebral cortex. Learning Arabic improves your perceptive and cognitive skills.

(3) Learn to sing Qasā’id and Inshād (Naat)

Many studies have proven to show that participatory performing arts like singing, drama, visual arts, and expression can not only improve the memory of older adults but also improve their mood.

Memory exercise: Try memorising a basic poetry text on Tajweed like Tuhfatul Atfāl or take any Qaseedah or Nasheed and try sing it, even better in a group.

(4) Stop using a calculator

Figure out your math in your head or on paper. One small study, published in Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology in 2021, suggested that solving math problems had a positive effect on participants’ cognition. You can make this exercise more difficult — and athletic — by walking at the same time. Walking while recalling your Hifz also improves your recall and focus over time.

(5) Learn to cook

Studies suggest that cooking improves cognition and has many benefits. Cooking involves the various senses and your memory. It’s a great way to develop skills and also recite and listen to the Qur’ān at the same time. When I was in Egypt memorising, I had to cook and learn many other skills. At this point, I could memorise the most I ever managed to do in one day.

Memory exercise: When cooking try to recall verses of the Qur’ān that mention foods. You can also try doing tasting tests and figure out what taste belongs to which ingredient.

(6) Storytelling and teaching

Storytelling is a great mental stimulant, helping you focus on important details, associate emotion with your memories, and recall important life events with ease later on. It has been used as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, too. When memorising the Qur’ān, you’ll find stories and verses of reflection, discussing these, teaching, and storytelling these to younger people can help you memorise and not forget those verses. Verses that consist of heavy ruling like in an-Nisā’ tend to be harder to memorise. These can be memorised well through teaching and storytelling too.

Memory exercise: Before you go to sleep at night, replay the day’s events in your head. Try to recall the details from each moment, starting from the minute you woke up to when you climbed into bed.

(7) Do something that involves a lot of hand-eye co-ordination

Learning a sport or doing an acitivity that requires a lot of hand-eye co-ordination keeps the brain active and healthy. This is very interesting as it can include many things. These can be hobbies like knitting, painting, drawing, doing puzzles, and racquet sports.

2019 review notes that elite athletes who participate in high demand sports tend to have improved attention and faster information processing speeds. One study found that chewing gum while completing a task could improve concentration and memory. A review noted that boosting your balance, strength, and aerobic capacity — that is, your body’s ability to use oxygen for energy — can help protect your brain as you age. They suggest yoga, golf, or tennis as exercises that boost brain health, while Harvard Health Publishing recommends swimming for its brain-boosting benefits.

An older study from 2011 notes that crossword puzzles may delay the onset of memory decline in people with preclinical dementia. Another 2018 study found that puzzles activate many cognitive functions, including perception, mental rotation, working memory, and reasoning.

2019 study compared brain function and connectivity among tai chi practitioners and those who did not practice it. The researchers found that the tai chi practitioners had enhanced connectivity between different regions of their brain. They proposed that this may improve cognition and decrease the rate of memory loss. Tai chi is something that I have done and have found it very beneficial.

Hifz Tip: Engaging in some form of exercise before memorising the Qur’ān can help you engage and memorise better. Try it!

(8) Have a go at memory exercises

Memory exercises can have an important place in sharpening and improving your memorisation skills. The better memory exercises involve learning something new, something complex, varied and interesting materical, and frequent engagement.

Here are some memory exercises to try.

(1) The 4-Details Observation Exercise

This is memorising four details of people you meet. It can be the hat or hijab they are wearing, the colour of the eye, the ring or coat they’re wearing, and the shoes, for example. The goal is to observe the details and then recall them later. This is a passive memory training method because you’re just trying to remember things you observed. This also makes you become a lot more observant.

(2) A number exercise called “Add 3 Minus 7”

This is a fun numerical memory exercise you can try. You have to pick any 3-digit number. Then add 3 to it 3 times. Then minus 7 from the new number 7 times. You have to repeat this process at least 5 times and pick a new 3-digit number the next time. You can also take 4-digits if you like and challenge yourself further. For example start with 1278 and add 12, 12 times and minus 11, 11 times.

(3) Number skipping

To do this, you have to count from one to ten but you have to skip the even numbers on the way up. This skipping doesn’t mean that you count, 1, 3, 5, etc. Rather, it means that you pause on the even digits but actively try to not say them. There’s a version of this with the alphabet as well called the The Field.

(4) Repeat what people say in your mind

You can train your brain to focus on what people are telling you and remember what they say. This is a type of presence. Follow the words being spoken to you by repeating them in your mind silently. This boosts your cognitive function and helps you remember more. When you’re listening to the Qur’ān, you should try to do the same.

(5) Practice visualisation

The more you can create pictures in your head, the more you can remember. It gets even better when you can not only picture something but feel it. Smell it or hear it. This helps build connections and you can remember those things like no other.

(6) Mind mapping

Research has shown drawing maps to be very beneficial. There is a lot of information available on this across the internet. Scientific studies suggest a 10%-15% increase in retention when using mind maps. In this study, participants were asked to complete a short test based on a 600-word passage of text prior to being randomly allocated to form two groups—one where they could pick whatever study technique they wanted, and the other where they had to use mind mapping. The “mind mappers” did much better, especially when testing their long-term memory. Even more interesting: the researchers found lower motivation in the group that had to use mind mapping—probably because selecting your own study method is more motivating—and suggested that higher motivation in using the method would result in yet even better memory recall results.

(7) Deliver something without notes

Build a chain, building blocks, memory palaces, or use mnemonic linking to remember a presentation without notes, memorising key information for meetings, or keep focused during lectures or talks.

(8) Dual N-back memory training

This is a training system that is used to grow a persons IQ and memory. There have been a number of studies on this system that show the training improves working memory. It’s not the best of processes but have proven to beneficial for many people. Today there are apps that have built for it. Give it a go.

Memory training for children

While a lot of the previous methods can also apply to children, there are other things children can do.

(1) Practice deep breathing

Deep breathing is important.

Practicing deep breathing (“elevator breathing” or moving the breath to all parts of the body) helps improve memory and emotional control. Kids love doing this, so do it often.

Start by having your child sitting in a cross-legged position or lying down and breathing naturally. After they have practiced breathing naturally, say the following to them:

“Imagine that your breath is like an elevator taking a ride through your body. To start the elevator, I want you to breathe in through your nose. Now breathe out all your air. Now breathe in and take your elevator breath up to your chest. Hold it. Now breathe out all of your air. Now breathe in and take your elevator breath up to the top floor, up through your throat into your face and forehead. Hold it. Now breathe out and feel your elevator breath take all your troubles and worries down through your chest, your belly, your legs, and out the elevator door in your feet.”

(2) The Concentration Game

Memory and concentration exercises are essential for all of us. For younger children, arrange a few of their toys in a row. Then cover them and remove one. Check with them to see if they can tell you which one is missing.

You can also have them try to remember short lists of familiar household objects. Try remembering them backwards and forwards.

Put random objects in front of older children and teens for 15 seconds, then remove them and see how many they can remember. Begin with five and gradually increase the number as they master the task.

You can also help auditory memory by giving them a random list of numbers or words and having them repeat it back to you.

(3) Daily challenges

You can read a book, listen to something, or watch a video with your child, for example, and ask question about what was happening. Discuss the events and also the feelings, not only how the characters were feeling but what your child was thinking and feeling. Share your thoughts and feelings too. Taking time to teach, encourage, and participate with your child in these activities will not only improve brain function but will build relationships and reduce stress in all who participate. Play may be the work of the child, but it is good for adults to slip into their own inner child now and then as well. So exercise your brain along with your child’s, knowing you are having fun together while promoting growth.

There are many things that we do that have an impact on our cognitive functions, take the time to look at what you do and how you use your time to optimise your memory powers.

May Allāh grant us all goodness and blessing in our time, actions, and memory.

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