The Hifz Journey Memorising the Quran In Public

I have been writing a weekly newsletter, memorisation motivation, tips, and tools for the last 22 weeks. In addition to that, I have been following the journeys of those striving to memorise the Qur'ān.

Today, I want to highlight one of those journeys. I encourage you to join the newsletter and share it with others.

Week 1 - Muhammad, finding his feet

Muhammad memorised 15 Juz’ when he was young but was never able to finish his memorisation ever since. He’s forgotten most of it. He’s been extremely depressed and challenged with life. He’s now trying to find his feet again. He’s always started and stopped. Always changed and chopped his plans. Always tried to go at it alone. Now he’s been in touch with me and I’ll try to help.

Last week, I had him make a commitment and pursue his goal of memorisation. The first thing I told him was to go and speak with highly qualified Qurrā’ who would might him feel uncomfortable. This was to get him over a personal hurdle. He did it but there’s more work to do. He’s struggling to take action.

Week 2 - Still finding his feet

After making a commitment to pursue his goal of memorisation, he spoke with some teachers. Since then, he’s still not done anything. He’s finding it difficult.

How did he get started with his Qur'ān journey?

When he was young he memorised using the 16-lined Qur'ān and would memorise a few lines at a time. Eventually, this became a page. He would spend at least two hours a day. He enjoys listening and feels that is his strength.

Why has he struggled?

It’s been 20 years that he has been trying to memorise. His struggles are consistency, starting and stopping, changing his mind, doubting himself, and wanting to find a way that’s effortless.

So the plan is that he wants to start again after Ramadān (2022), but this is another delay tactic. I have told him to start this week and focus on building a routine with the Qur'ān first. I have put him to account that if he doesn’t he will have to make a commitment to anti-charity. But easier said than done.

Week 3 - Muhammad, restarting a journey

After putting him to account, he finally started with the 30th Juz’, a little at a time.

One of his challenges: Perfectionist anxiety

He worries a lot about the quality of his memorisation. Making mistakes feels like a sense of shame so much so that the opinion of others will affect him. This means that he avoids reciting in front of others in case he makes a mistake. This in return makes it difficult for him to approach teachers. He needs everything to be perfect. Just like his delay tactic to tell himself that he will start after Ramadān, this also feeds delay. This perfectionist anxiety pulls him away from the task.

The solution is to embrace and own mistakes. I told him what I have told every student: I love mistakes, they motivate me. Without them, I can’t improve. Without them, I can’t seek higher standards. Without them, I can’t experience a type of satisfaction that I can’t otherwise get. Didn’t the Messenger of Allāh, peace, and blessings of Allāh be upon him, say, “By the One in whose hand is my soul, if you did not sin, Allāh would replace you with people who would sin, and they would seek forgiveness from Allāh and He would forgive them.”

Embrace your forgetfulness and mistakes in this sense - that you see it as an opportunity to become better, and to struggle. Change the mindset. Don’t be afraid.

Week 4 - Muhammad, starting a journey all over again

He continued with the 30th Juz’ and has taken a break for ‘Eīd. By going back to the Qur'ān, he discovered that he actually remembers a lot more than he realised. At least 2-3 Juz’ - which is of course great news!

Challenges he spoke to me about

Following last week’s perfectionist anxiety, this week he spoke to me about his outlook on his journey. He emotionally told me that he feels like a fraud and a failure: “I could have memorised by now, I shouldn’t have given up!”

He viewed himself as being lazy and wasting time: “I have had so much time and opportunity to memorise and complete it. But I have never taken it. I did 15 Juz’ 20 years ago and I think to myself, all it would have taken was to do a little at a time and I would have finished.”

I stopped him there and reminded him that this is another thing that is making you step back every time you want to take a step forward. Look at the fact that you still remember 2-3 Juz’. Look at the fact that your desire still remains intact and you feel guilty. Once you take consistent action, your steps forward will grow in distance, in shā’ Allāh but you can’t take those steps without the action. So we looked at why it’s so hard to take the steps. It turned out it’s not just the mentality, the emotions, or the anxiety - it’s also the energy and the amount of thinking that he’s doing. Because he’s taken so long to take action, he feels as though he needs to compensate for the loss of time. So in return, he always plans for quick gains and strides. Typically this is to memorise in 6 months or 12 months, only to realise he can’t. He then gives up and the cycle starts again. He’ll try one method and jump to another.

So this week, his challenge is to stick to one method but never think about how long it’s going to take, and how many mistakes he makes. Instead, he needs to think about getting his connection with taking action right first. Let’s see what happens this week!

Week 5 - Muhammad, trying to start all over again

After a break for ‘Eīd, he got the courage to book a session with a teacher for 30 mins on Sunday. He explained his situation to the teacher and the teacher said to start from Surah al-Baqarah. So, Mā shā’ Allāh, he’s started something, and we pray he can continue this momentum!

Challenges he spoke to me about

Following discussions about perfectionist anxiety, and feeling like a fraud and a failure - this week Muhammad spoke about Tajwīd. When he recited to the teacher (who was Egyptian), the teacher stopped him on his Madd and the letter Daad [Ḍād (ﺽ)]. The conversation with the teacher left him confused. The teacher was saying that he was pronouncing the letter from the front teeth making it into a heavy Daal ( د ). Instead, he should be pronouncing it from either side of the tongue. Muhammad though believed it was also correct to recite the letter with pressure at the front of the tongue and so it was okay to pronounce from the front. This, of course, affected him in the session and he began to forget things. This is what perfectionist anxiety can do to you. I explained to him that the letter does use the sides of the tongue alongside the inner faces of the top left and/or right molars and you press the tongue against the hard palate, but it must be directly behind the front teeth, not using the teeth. So just practice this and don’t let it pull you down. There are some good videos on it. You can visit one with Qari Wisam and Sh ‘Abdullah Khadra.

Week 6 - Muhammad, trying to start all over again

He’s continued working on Surah al-Baqarah, the 1st Juz’. In our last newsletter, our update was that he’d recited to a teacher but this last week he hasn’t. This didn’t stop him from reciting though. He’s been recording his recitation and testing himself.

Challenges he spoke to me about

After facing the difficulty of starting again, keeping a consistent routine is the next difficulty. With adult life, things can be all over the place, you can be overwhelmed with the number of things needed to be done. This is no different for Muhammad. My advice for him going into this week was to keep things simple and not leave things to himself again (go back to the teacher).

Week 7 -Muhammad, starting all over again

He’s continued to memorise from the 1st Juz’, however, this has been limited to 1 day a week as he struggles for consistency. He took my advice to keep things simple but hasn’t gone back to the teacher yet.

He wants to increase the days that he’s spending with the Qur'ān and wants a daily relationship.

Reflection

The importance of understanding who you are, being honest with yourself and having accountability. Muhammad has struggled on many fronts - health, wealth, time and deeds. But one of the things that have prevented him from progressing has been not recognising that when things are broken, you need to make changes. If you need help, reach out. If you need to do something out of your comfort zone, reach out. Muhammad started 6 weeks ago with zero, and after reaching out and being vulnerable, he’s now got a weekly relationship with the Qur'ān that he wants to grow. Had he not reached out and been vulnerable, he wouldn’t have made strides forward.

Week 8 - Muhammad, starting all over again

He hasn’t yet taken on a teacher and as a consequence, he didn’t do any reading! He needs to get back on track. This is the reality of accountability. If you’re not accountable, you’ll often fall.

Week 9 - Muhammad, starting all over again

In light of what is going on, I advised him to start even more basic and establish a routine of reciting Qur'ān. He had some health struggles but despite that, he was able to do that. He has been reciting Surah Mulk, Wāqi'ah, etc. His plan remains to restart from al-Baqarah!

Week 10 - Muhammad, starting all over again

He has been continuing the momentum by reciting Qur'ān consistently as a routine habit every night (Surah Mulk, Wāqi'ah, etc). He covered a portion of Surah al-Baqarah as well.

So he plans to continue to recite and slowly return to memorisation. It’s been 10 weeks and he hasn’t progressed much and so I am hoping this momentum will help us see some surprises.

Week 11 - Muhammad, starting all over again

He managed to recite al-Baqarah and recite small surahs to a friend. He wants to make sure he’s got consistency. Slow and steady progress.

Week 12 - Muhammad, starting all over again

His goal was to be more consistent and alhamdulillāh, he has managed to do that with small surah. He wants to select one of the memorisation methods that I have shared. He’s thinking about the Takrar method. What do you think?

Week 13 - Muhammad, starting all over again

Having been consistent with the small surah, last week, he didn’t start memorising as yet, but started to listen to the Qur'ān more. It was a good move in my book. It means he’s been exposing himself to more of the Qur'ān and over time, this is building up his inner light and connection with the Qur'ān. This should prepare him well for when he starts.

He wants to continue listening and build up more of his own recitation beyond the small surah. He feels this is increasing his familiarity with the Qur'ān once again.

Week 14 - Muhammad, starting all over again

He continued listening to the Qur'ān and built up more of his own recitation beyond the small surah. He feels he is getting familiar again at least with Juz’ 1, 2, and 3.

He's going to continue the momentum and keep progressing.

Week 15 - Muhammad, life is complicated, starting all over again

He has kept consistent with the recitation of the Qur'ān. He tested himself on Juz’ 1 and could recall half of it.

He will continue listening and reciting the Qur'ān and build a routine for memorisation. He feels he is now ready.

Week 16 - Muhammad, life is complicated, starting all over again

He has kept consistent with the recitation of the Qur'ān but had a dip in his attachment due to his health. He felt less energised this week so couldn’t do as he planned.

What we discussed

The importance of making sure he becomes receptive to the Qur'ān. What does this mean? It became apparent that Muhammad has not been in the best place emotionally and mentally in recent years. This has directly impacted his working life, his behaviour and his habits. The behaviour and habits are not befitting of one who seeks the Qur'ān. So I reminded him that he needs to break this by making sure he’s around better people and working on projects with them to break out of his current cycle. This is why he has struggled to get started. May Allāh make it easier for him.

Week 17 - Muhammad, life is complicated, starting all over again

He has kept consistent with the recitation of the Qur'ān and also listened to more. He spent more time in good company.

What we discussed

It’s time to get started. He was depressed about not having gotten into it yet and was full of regrets. I reminded him that it isn’t over yet. So the plan is to start from today!

Week 18 - Muhammad, life is complicated, starting all over again

Alhamdulillāh great news - he has finally begun his memorisation journey again. After our discussions on his habits, depression, tactics, and struggles - he was able to muster a renewed strength and started. He did 6 days straight!

Day 1 - He recited Juz’ 1, 1st half and made 1 mistake from memory (took him 22 minutes at fast pace). He recorded the session.

Day 2 - He did the 2nd half of Juz’ 1 at a faster pace (which took 11 minutes). He listened to the recitation from yesterday (at 1.5x speed). He then listened to his recitation of the 2nd half and noticed he made 6 mistakes and needed 3 prompts (looking at the Qur'ān). He then tried to recite the 1st half in his ‘Ishā’ prayer but struggled towards the end.

Day 3 - He tried again during Jumu'ah salah and got past yesterday’s struggle but got stuck in a new place. Then he tried to recite during a walk in the evening doing the 2nd Juz’, first half from memory but struggled doing the 1st quarter. He then tried again while sitting and nearly did the first half.

Day 4 - Tried the first half of the 2nd Juz’ again, he autocorrected 4 mistakes, had 1 doubt and kept repeating it (then made a check in the Qur'ān - he was doing it right). He made 3 mistakes and needed 3 prompts (a look on the page). He reviewed the 1st half of Juz’ 1 in ‘Ishā’ prayer.

Day 5 - He started the 2nd half of the 2nd Juz’ but was making mistakes straight away so he decided that this should be his starting point for fresh memorisation. He decided that he will start the next day. Tried to review 2nd half of juz’ 1 in ‘Ishā’ prayer but couldn’t get past the last quarter so he did it after praying.

Day 6 - He started memorisation a page (start of 2nd half of Juz’ 2). He first repeated the 1st half of juz’ 2 and then repeated the new page 10 times, plus one reading of the translation. This took him 25 minutes. He had one or two mistakes. He then got lacy when it came to revision in ‘Ishā’ prayer and didn’t do it afterwards either. He was too tired.

What is next? He must continue but focus on creating a better routine and make sure he revises.

Week 19 - Muhammad, 35, starting all over again

As a reminder, he’d forgotten what he memorised (half the Qur'ān) and has kept struggling to start again ever since. It was discovered that it is his personal habits that have had a huge impact on him. After 19 weeks of struggle, he finally started again.

Alhamdulillāh it was great news that he finally started last week. He has finally begun his memorisation journey again. He did a full week 7 days straight:

Day 7 - He started memorising by rukū’ (using 15-lined Indo-Pak Naskh script) from Juz’ 2. He was able to do it quickly because he could remember it well. He recited it 3 times and read the translation. He found that using the app QuranHive works great because you can also listen to the tafsir! No revision.

Day 8 - He learnt a new rukū’ from Juz’ 2. He found it to be yesterdays very weak so he did that again too. Spent 20 minutes. Revised recently memorised from halfway point of Juz’ 2 till the new portion.

Day 9 - He learnt a new rukū’ from Juz’ 2. Revised recently memorised from halfway point of juz’ 2 till the new portion. He spent 15 minutes before Maghrib.

Day 10 - He revised all of the 2nd half of Juz’ 2 that he memorised during Jumu'ah prayer. After ‘Asr, he spent 30 minutes trying to memorise the new rukū’ from Juz’ 2. It was very weak. He repeated it 8 times in 30 minutes.

Day 11 - He learnt the new rukū’, and went through the 2nd half of Juz’ 2.

Day 12 - He recited the 2nd half of the 2nd juz’ and learned the last 2 pages of the Juz’. He had 7-8 mistakes.

Day 13 - He reviewed Juz’ 1 and 2 from memory once. He made 2 mistakes in Juz’ 1 and 6 mistakes in Juz’ 2. He spent 45 minutes.

What is next? Just like last week, he must continue but focus on creating a better routine and make sure he revises! He didn’t revise much this week.

Week 20 - Muhammad, 35, starting all over again

He had another productive week but he’s not happy with one or two things. Here’s the breakdown of the last 7 days:

Day 14 - He started memorising the 3rd Juz’ (first two rukū’). He revised Juz’ 1 and 2. He found more mistakes in the second than before. Prayed most of the 1st Juz’ in his Ishā’ prayer.

Day 15 - He learnt the next rukū’ (2nd page of the 3rd Juz’) and then reviewed the 1st and 2nd Juz’ (off memory in 1 hour).

Day 16 - He learnt the next rukū’ (3rd page) of the 3rd Juz’. Listened to it first, then repeated it a couple of times. Then listened to a recording from 3 days ago of himself reciting the first Juz’ (no mistakes) and the 2nd Juz’ (7 mistakes). He was falling asleep when reciting and listening for two days in a row after maghrib.

Day 17 - He learnt the next rukū’ (3rd juz’). No revision of back.

Day 18 - He completes Surah al-Baqarah by doing the last two rukū’.

Day 19 - Revised the 1st Juz’ from memory (20 minutes) and records it. Didn’t revise 3rd.

Day 20 - He tries to revise the 2nd Juz’ from memory but doesn’t get past the last quarter without having to refer to the Mus'haf. So he stopped and decided he needs more work. Didn’t revise 3rd.

What he struggled with

He wasn’t happy because he feels like laziness is still there. He tries to avoid revision and makes quick memorisation (he can afford to do this today because he recognises and knows these portions somewhat from the past). He also fell back into some of the bad habits he had from the past this week which has upset him.

What is next? He will work on improving the 2nd Juz’ and then review the last portion of Surah al-Baqarah in the 3rd Juz’. Then begin Ali-‘Imrān. Hopefully, he will figure out a better routine and system for his memorisation and revision.

Week 21 - Muhammad, 35, starting all over again

He had another productive week (اللهم بارك له). Here’s the breakdown of the last 7 days:

Day 21 - He revised the 2nd Juz’ with a lot of struggle taking him around 45 minutes.
Day 22 - He revised the 3rd Juz’ (remainder from Surah al-Baqarah) and struggled with this. Made several mistakes. He felt really frustrated and angry.
Day 23 - He started memorising Āli ‘Imrān (1 rukū’), reviewed the 3rd Juz’ and revised the 1st juz’ (almost - he couldn’t finish it. He was struggling with recall and was very tired).
Day 24 - He memorised the next rukū’ (Surah Āli ‘Imrān), and revised the 3rd Juz’ and 1st Juz’.
Day 25 - He memorised the next rukū’ (Surah Āli ‘Imrān), and revised the 3rd Juz’ and 2nd Juz’.
Day 26 - He memorised the next rukū’ (Surah Āli ‘Imrān), and revised the 3rd Juz’ and 1st Juz’.
Day 27 - He memorised the next rukū’ (Surah Āli ‘Imrān), and revised the 3rd Juz’ and 2nd Juz’.

What he struggled with

He struggled with recall and mistakes started popping up unexpectedly which frustrated him. What did he do? He didn’t let them phase him and he simply repeated those verses 3 times and moved on. The next time he recited, he knew it. He just needs to get into a consistent routine.

What is next? He is beginning to get a steady routine. He needs to make sure he keeps up with it no matter what. I spoke to him about a method I have been testing for him to try out. He’s tempted. Wait till next week! But he has more to say...

Reflection: It’s very important to keep repeating your recent memorised portions every day.

Follow the journey!

Allāh grant blessing!

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