The Five Fortresses Method For Memorizing Quran

Al-Husoon al-Khamsa – The idea of this method is to protect your memorisation of the Qur’ān with five specific layers. This method was developed and popularised in Egypt by Dr Sa’eed Abul ‘Ulā Hamzah. Subhān Allāh, it’s been so popular that it’s also recommended by teachers in Masjid an-Nabawiy, and even books, apps and commentaries have been made on it!

In this article, I’ll share the method, how it works, and how you can benefit from it.

Who is the method suitable for?

As you’ve already perhaps picked up, the method is primarily used by Arabs. Don’t let that put you off from trying it.

Anyone that can recite the Qur’ān fluently and correctly can definitely benefit from it (from the get-go). You’ll also need a good amount of free time (up to 2+ hours) available to you. It’s something that even children (10+) can make use of too.

It’s similar to the methods used in the sub-continent.

What is the five fortresses Hifz method?

The method is called al-Husoon al-Khamsa (الحصون الخمسة) in Arabic. The word حصون ‘Husoon’ drives from the word حصن ‘Hasuna’ which means something that is fortified or protected against attack. In other words, something that is well protected and guarded.

Visualise your Qur’ān memorisation like a citadel.

Imagine you’ve built a city that is protected with bastions (structured walls) where the strongest part is the citadel. The city sits in the middle. It’s a precious castle and you’re keeping watch over it.

When you built it, you made sure you build a security system (the bastions). You are well prepared such that if anyone were to come and attack your city, every layer of protection would have to be knocked down. They would need to get through every hurdle to hurt you.

The “five fortresses” is actually your city and bastions. The entire idea of this Hifz method is to build these five fortresses for your memorisation so that if something slips (off memory and through one fortress), you’ll have other fortresses to protect it.

What are the five fortresses?

The five fortresses are as follows:

  1. Regular Qur’ān recitation and listening to the Qur’ān (al-qirā’ah wal-istimā’)
  2. Pre-memorisation preparation work (at-tahdīr)
  3. Memorisation (al-hifz al-jadīd)
  4. Revision of recent memorisation (al-murāja’ah al-qarīb)
  5. Revision of past/old memorisation (al-murāja’ah al-ba’īd)

These can be looked at in three layers or stages just like other methods:

  1. Building the foundations (preparation)
  2. Building the blocks (memorisation)
  3. Guarding the building (revision)

Stage 1: Building the foundations

This stage is all about preparation where there are two fortresses: (a) recitation and listening, and (b) advanced preparation.

Fortress 1: Regular Qur’ān recitation and listening to the Qur’ān

The first fortress is designed to help the student perfect his Qur’ān recitation and get familiar with the words and pronunciation of the Qur’ān. The idea is that the more you recite, the more you’ll create an imprint within your memory. You’ll begin to pick things up over time.

Recitation (qirā’ah)

The expectation is to be able to recite up to two juz’ daily (at most) from the Mus’haf (copy of the Qur’ān). This can be done in one sitting or throughout the day and at a pace that is fast (hadr) or medium.

It should not take the student more than 20-40 minutes to recite one Juz’. If it does take longer, then he can recite along with listening to the recitation of the pages he is reciting.

If you can’t do 2 Juz’ daily, you can recite one Juz’.

Listening (Isti’mā’)

The student should listen to the Qur’ān while also looking at the Qur’ān of up to a Hizb, 10 pages, or half a Juz’ daily.

Fortress 2: Pre-memorisation preparation work

The second fortress is designed to help you build even more familiarity and fluency. This has three parts to it:

  1. Weekly preparation
  2. Daily (or nightly) preparation
  3. Pre-memorisation warm-ups

The weekly preparation is where you recite the pages that you will memorise the following week. So if you’re memorising a page daily, you’ll recite 5 to 7 pages. So let’s say, for example, your week is from Saturday 10/7 to Friday 16/7 and you’re memorising from page 8 to page 14, you’ll be reciting the next 7 pages (due next week – Saturday 17/7 to Friday 23/7) as your preparation (page 15 to 21).

The daily (or nightly) preparation is where the day/night before memorising, you make time to repeat it in advance. This means listening to your portion (for 10-15 minutes) with full concentration and memorising for 10-15 minutes before going to sleep in a relatively fast way. You can listen to anyone that is recommended: Shaykh Khalil al-Husari, Shaykh Muhammad Siddiq al-Minshawi, Dr Ayman Suwayd, or others.

The pre-memorisation warm-up is where immediately before the new memorisation, you will make repetition of the page or portion intended. This should be with a fast pace (hadr) reciting from the Qur’ān with concentration for 15 minutes (about 15 times).

This completes the foundation building phase. You can see that this process alone is very thorough (and can take up to 1.5 hours) and if followed well, your ability to memorise will be a lot easier and quicker, in shā’ Allāh.

Extra: For those who don’t understand Arabic, you should also look to add brief sessions to look at the translation and tafseer for the portions you intend to memorise within the preparation phase.

Stage 2: Build the blocks (memorisation)

This is the memorisation fortress. This is designed to help you memorise quicker after all the preparation work you would have done through the first two fortresses.

Fortress 3: Memorisation

We’ll use a page as an example. It is to be memorised within 15 minutes and ensure that you are avoiding mistakes. Keep reciting and repeating by looking and without for 15 minutes and reciting at a slow pace (tahqeeq) with sincerity and patience. It is expected that after all the preparation work, you should be able to do a page within 15 minutes (or push it to 30 minutes). Have someone listen to it.

Note: Repetition is key. Why is the process split around different sessions of repetition? Dr Sa’eed adopts the idea of spaced repetition. He speaks about a study that had different groups try to memorise a text through repetition. One group were tasked to repeat the text 60 times in one session. Another was asked to repeat the text 60 times across two sessions (so 30 times in each). Another group was asked to repeat the text 60 times across three sessions (so 20 times in each). Another group was asked to repeat it 60 times in three sessions (60 in every session). The results showed that those that repeated it 60 times in all three sessions distributed across the day. They had the best recall.

Stage 3: Guarding the building (revision)

The final stage is all about revision. This is designed to make sure you do not neglect your recent and past memorised portions.

Fortress 4: Revision of recent memorisation

This is revising your recently memorised portions of up to 20 pages counting back from the page you memorised on the day. This is to be done without looking.

These 20 pages are also gradually formed. If you memorise one page today and review it tomorrow, then the pages become two pages and so forth until it reaches 20 pages per day. It should take about 20 minutes if you regularly review daily and do not be lazy about it. Remember the hadith (take care of this Qur’ān).

When you first start, your recent and past memorisation will be the same. So let’s say, you’re memorising the 30th Juz’ to begin with and have reached halfway – you’ll revise the entire half. When you reach the end of the 30th Juz’, revise the entire Juz’. When you reach the new Juz’, you can being to split the revision up into recent and past/old. Your recent revision will be 20 pages.

The revision is done either in Tadweer (medium pace) or Hadr (fast pace – preferred).

Fortress 5: Revision of past/old memorisation

This is the second part of the revision in the fifth fortress. This is to be done once a week where you recite 40 pages of revision (2 Juz’).

This is also done at either a medium or fast pace (preferred).

Some teachers have made changes to this and had advised on doing 20 pages that come before the 20 pages of your recent revision. Others say you can stick with the 1 Juz’ a day rule for your revision of the past especially when you’ve memorised up to 10 ajzā’. After that you can move up to 2 Juz’ when you’ve complete 20 ajzā’ and then 3 Juz’ when you’ve complete your memorisation.

Examples of the five fortresses in practice

Here are some models as an example:

Example 1: Someone that has memorised 4 pages and is now on his 5th page

What would someone in this position do?

  1. Weekly preparation: reciting the pages that will be memorised the following week (10 minutes)
  2. Preparation for the 5th page (15 minutes)
  3. Night preparation for the 6th page (15 minutes) and listening, if possible (10 times for a period of 10 minutes).
  4. Memorise the 5th page (15 minutes)
  5. His recent revision will be the previous 4 pages (approx 5 minutes)
  6. There is no past revision
  7. Monthly preparation (continuous reading) of two Juz’ a day (40 minutes at most, using the gradual method).

The time required on this day is around 109 minutes (split over the day and in the prayers etc). That’s almost 2 hours.

The order in which he does things doesn’t have to follow a strict routine. Timings may differ person to person.

Example 2: Someone that have memorised 20 pages and is on page 21

  1. Memorise the twenty-first page (15 minutes).
  2. Revision of the recent: review the 20 pages adjacent to the memorisation page – from page 3 to 22 (20 minutes)
  3. There is no past revision (zero minutes)
  4. Pre-preparation: for the twenty-first page (15 minutes)
  5. Night preparation: for the twenty-second page (15 minutes) and listening if possible (10 times for 10 minutes).
  6. Weekly preparation: reading the 7 pages that will be memorised the following weeks memorisation (10 minutes).
  7. Monthly preparation (continuous reading): two Juz’ (40 minutes at most, using the gradual method)

Time required on this day: 125 minutes (split over the day and in the prayers etc). That’s just over 2 hours.

Example 3: On the first day of the week, someone has memorised 26 pages and is now memorising the 27th page

  1. Memorise the twenty-seventh page (15 minutes).
  2. Revision of the recent: review the 20 pages adjacent to the memorisation page – from page 9 to 28 (20 minutes)
  3. Revision of the past: (6 pages) from p. 3 to p. 8 (6 minutes)
  4. Preparatory preparation: for the twenty-seventh page (15 minutes)
  5. Night preparation: for page twenty-eight (15 minutes) and listening if possible (10 times for 10 minutes).
  6. Weekly preparation: reading the 7 pages that will be memorised the following weeks memorisation (10 minutes).
  7. Monthly preparation (continuous reading): two Juz’ (40 minutes at most, using the gradual method).

The time required on this day: 131 minutes (distributed over the day and in the prayers etc). That’s 2.1 hours.

Example 4: On the first day of the week, someone has memorised 60 pages (3 juz’) and is now memorising the 61st page

  1. Memorising page sixty-one (15 minutes)
  2. Revision of the recent: review the 20 pages adjacent to the memorisation page – from pages 43 to 62 (20 minutes)
  3. Revision of the past: (40 pages) from page 3 to page 42 (40 minutes)
  4. Pre-preparation: page sixty-one (15 minutes)
  5. Night preparation: for the sixty-second page (15 minutes) and listening if possible (10 times for 10 minutes)
  6. Weekly preparation: reading the 7 pages that will be memorised the following weeks memorisation (10 minutes)
  7. Monthly preparation (continuous reading): two Juz’ (40 minutes at most, using the gradual method).

Time required on this day: 165 minutes (distributed over the day and in the prayers etc). That’s 2.7 hours.

Example 5: The second day of the week where a person who has memorised 61 pages and now memorising page 61

  1. Memorise the sixty-second page (15 minutes)
  2. Revision of the recent: review the 20 pages adjacent to the memorisation page – from p.44 to p.63 (20 minutes)
  3. The review of the past: only one of the 40 pages (1 minute)
  4. Pre-preparation: page sixty-second (15 minutes)
  5. Night preparation: for page sixty-three (15 minutes) and listening if possible (10 times for 10 minutes)
  6. Weekly preparation: reading the 7 pages that will be memorised the following weeks memorisation (10 minutes)
  7. Monthly preparation (continuous reading): two parts (40 minutes at most, using the gradual method).

Time needed on this day: 116 minutes (distributed over the day and in the prayers etc).

Example 6: The second day of the week where someone is memorising their 81st page

  1. Memorise page eighty-one page (15 minutes)
  2. Revision of the past: review the 20 pages adjacent to the memorisation page – from p.63 to p.82 (20 minutes)
  3. The review of the past: it will only consist of 20 pages of the 40 pages (20 minutes) which is from p.43 to p.62. Note that on the day before, 40 pages were reviewed (from p.3 to p.42)
  4. Pre-preparation: page eighty-one (15 minutes)
  5. Night preparation: for the eighty-second page (15 minutes) and listening if possible (10 times for 10 minutes).
  6. Weekly preparation: reading the 7 pages that will be memorised the following weeks memorisation (10 minutes).
  7. Monthly preparation (continuous reading): two parts (40 minutes at most, using the gradual method).

Time required on this day: 135 minutes (distributed over the day and in the prayers etc). That’s 2.25 hours.

Example 7: A week schedule of someone that has memorised 25 Juz’

DayNew memorisationRecent revisionPast revisionPreparation (weekly, nightly, warm-up)Recitation
Monday1st page of 26th Juz’Previous 20 pagesJuz’ 1-27 pages (weekly), 15 minutes prep at night, 15 minutes warm-up40 pages (2 Juz’)
Tuesday2nd page of 26th Juz’Previous 20 pagesJuz’ 3-47 pages (weekly), 15 minutes prep at night, 15 minutes warm-up40 pages (2 Juz’)
Wednesday3rd page of 26th Juz’Previous 20 pagesJuz’ 5-67 pages (weekly), 15 minutes prep at night, 15 minutes warm-up40 pages (2 Juz’)
Thursday4th page of 26th Juz’Previous 20 pagesJuz’ 7-87 pages (weekly), 15 minutes prep at night, 15 minutes warm-up40 pages (2 Juz’)
Friday5th page of 26th Juz’Previous 20 pagesJuz’ 9-107 pages (weekly), 15 minutes prep at night, 15 minutes warm-up40 pages (2 Juz’)
Saturday6th page of 26th Juz’Previous 20 pagesJuz’ 11-127 pages (weekly), 15 minutes prep at night, 15 minutes warm-up40 pages (2 Juz’)
Sunday7th page of 26th Juz’Previous 20 pagesJuz’ 13-147 pages (weekly), 15 minutes prep at night, 15 minutes warm-up40 pages (2 Juz’)

Four weeks schedule for the five fortresses method

Let’s look at what a schedule based on 5 days memorisation (instead of 7) might look like.

Starting week one

Fortress OneFortress TwoFortress ThreeFortress FourFortress Five
Recitation & ListeningPreparation
(weekly, nightly, warm-up)
New memorisation
(5 days)
Recent revision
(20 pages)
Past revision
(40 pages)
1-2 recitation, listen 1/2 Juz’Recite 5 pages (weekly), no need for nightly or warm-up yetNot yetNot yetNot yet
3-4 recitation, listen 1/2 Juz’Recite 5 pages (weekly), no need for nightly or warm-up yetNot yetNot yetNot yet
5-6 recitation, listen 1/2 Juz’Recite 5 pages (weekly), no need for nightly or warm-up yetNot yetNot yetNot yet
7-8 recitation, listen 1/2 Juz’Recite 5 pages (weekly), no need for nightly or warm-up yetNot yetNot yetNot yet
9-10 recitation, listen 1/2 Juz’Recite 5 pages (weekly), no need for nightly or warm-up yetNot yetNot yetNot yet
11-12 recitation, listen 1/2 Juz’Recite 5 pages (weekly), no need for nightly or warm-up yetNot yetNot yetNot yet
13-14 recitation, listen 1/2 Juz’ Recite 5 pages (weekly), go over first page at night.Not yetNot yetNot yet

Second week

Fortress OneFortress TwoFortress ThreeFortress FourFortress Five
Recitation & ListeningPreparation
(weekly, nightly, warm-up)
New memorisation
(5 days)
Recent revision
(20 pages)
Past revision
(40 pages)
15-16 recitation, listen 1/2 Juz’Recite 5 pages (weekly), recite the page for today for warm-up, and recite the next page for tomorrow at nightFirst pageNot yetNot yet
17-18 recitation, listen 1/2 Juz’Recite 5 pages (weekly), recite the page for today for warm-up, and recite the next page for tomorrow at nightSecond pageYesterdaysNot yet
19-20 recitation, listen 1/2 Juz’Recite 5 pages (weekly), recite the page for today for warm-up, and recite the next page for tomorrow at nightThird pageLast two daysNot yet
21-22 recitation, listen 1/2 Juz’Recite 5 pages (weekly), recite the page for today for warm-up, and recite the next page for tomorrow at nightFourth pageLast three daysNot yet
23-24 recitation, listen 1/2 Juz’Recite 5 pages (weekly), recite the page for today for warm-upFifth pageLast four daysNot yet
25-26 recitation, listen 1/2 Juz’Recite 5 pages (weekly)Revise all pagesNot yet
27-28 recitation, listen 1/2 Juz’ Recite 5 pages (weekly), recite the next page for tomorrow at nightRevise all pagesNot yet

Third week

Fortress OneFortress TwoFortress ThreeFortress FourFortress Five
Recitation & ListeningPreparation
(weekly, nightly, warm-up)
New memorisation
(5 days)
Recent revision
(20 pages)
Past revision
(40 pages)
29-30 recitation, listen 1/2 Juz’Recite 5 pages (weekly), recite the page for today for warm-up, and recite the next page for tomorrow at nightSixth pageRevise all pagesNot yet
1-2 recitation, listen 1/2 Juz’Recite 5 pages (weekly), recite the page for today for warm-up, and recite the next page for tomorrow at nightSeventh pageRevise all pagesNot yet
3-4 recitation, listen 1/2 Juz’Recite 5 pages (weekly), recite the page for today for warm-up, and recite the next page for tomorrow at nightEighth pageRevise all pagesNot yet
5-6 recitation, listen 1/2 Juz’Recite 5 pages (weekly), recite the page for today for warm-up, and recite the next page for tomorrow at nightNineth pageRevise all pagesNot yet
7-8 recitation, listen 1/2 Juz’Recite 5 pages (weekly), recite the page for today for warm-upTenth pageRevise all pagesNot yet
9-10 recitation, listen 1/2 Juz’Recite 5 pages (weekly)Revise all pagesNot yet
11-12 recitation, listen 1/2 Juz’ Recite 5 pages (weekly), recite the next page for tomorrow at nightRevise all pagesNot yet

Fourth week

Fortress OneFortress TwoFortress ThreeFortress FourFortress Five
Recitation & ListeningPreparation
(weekly, nightly, warm-up)
New memorisation
(5 days)
Recent revision
(20 pages)
Past revision
(40 pages)
13-14 recitation, listen 1/2 Juz’Recite 5 pages (weekly), recite the page for today for warm-up, and recite the next page for tomorrow at nightEleventh pageRevise all pagesNot yet
15-16 recitation, listen 1/2 Juz’Recite 5 pages (weekly), recite the page for today for warm-up, and recite the next page for tomorrow at nightTwelth pageRevise all pagesNot yet
17-18 recitation, listen 1/2 Juz’Recite 5 pages (weekly), recite the page for today for warm-up, and recite the next page for tomorrow at nightThirteenth pageRevise all pagesNot yet
19-20 recitation, listen 1/2 Juz’Recite 5 pages (weekly), recite the page for today for warm-up, and recite the next page for tomorrow at nightFourteenth pageRevise all pagesNot yet
21-22 recitation, listen 1/2 Juz’Recite 5 pages (weekly), recite the page for today for warm-upFifteenth pageRevise all pagesNot yet
23-24 recitation, listen 1/2 Juz’Recite 5 pages (weekly)Revise all pagesNot yet
25-26 recitation, listen 1/2 Juz’ Recite 5 pages (weekly), recite the next page for tomorrow at nightRevise all pagesNot yet

You’d continue in this way and your past revision will only begin when you reach beyond 20+ pages of memorisation.

I hope this helps and makes sense.

May Allāh grant blessing!

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