How to Memorize Qur’an-4/4
As salaamu aliakum wa rahmatullahi wa barakaatuh
Some additional information about memorizing the Qur’an from my own experiences and others who have been far more progressive than myself:
1) What was previously said about having wudhu is correct and one should seek refuge in Allah from the Shaitan as he will do his best to make your attempts at memorization frustrating and non-productive as possible, even if you are alone, he could take your thoughts and have you concentrating on your knuckles or toenails instead of proper pronunciation, etc.
2) While I was in the hospital with the birth of Muhammed, who is now almost 18 years old, (he is now 30) “Khalah” or aunt Siddiqah * of the famous Naseef family (she’s Abdullah & Fatimah Naseef’s mother) opened the first Qur’an school for women in Jeddah, just as she and her family opened the first school for girls some 30 years before (Nasafeeyah). As soon as I was able, I started attending this Qur’an school. I should say here, that I had been with a study group at my neighbor’s house. Azza*, who is now affectionately called “Imam Azza” was a Qur’an teacher in public school and had girls and women attend Qur’an lessons in her apartment after school on Sundays and Thursdays. I had memorized up to Ghashiya with this group; before that maybe I had 7-8 surahs when I first came from the States. When the Qur’an center opened for women, Imam Azza discontinued her apartment sessions and taught there.
[*I wrote about both Imam Azza and Khalah Siddiqah in my Deen Clips series – insha Allah, I’ll post those in the near future.]
At that time, my husband had switched teaching his English classes at the University to evenings in order to study Arabic at the Mahad in Makkah. He would leave the house at Fajr, head for the masjid and then just keep going after salaat. I had to have lunch ready on time as he would come in from Makkah, eat and then sleep; at Asr he went to work (4-9). This was our daily routine.
When Muhammed was 2 months old I began Qur’an school. At that time, my idea of studying Qur’an had been to SIT DOWN quietly and memorize. Of course, everything up to then had been at my own pace. Azza’s group was good and if you fell behind, no one said anything or scolded you. She would just listen to your recitation if you had memorized it or just reading it out of the book.
Qur’an school was held 4 days a week from about 4:30pm to Isha (about 8:30pm). At first I took 2 buses to get there, dragging children in tow. I had to make sure everyone’s homework was done, lunch and then pray Asr and leave the house. Invariably, when I got to the second bus, Rafiq (5) was asleep and maybe Tahirah (3) too [Allah yarhamaha]. Wake up kids and transfer to another bus. After the first 3 weeks, the Qur’an school had its own bus and it picked me up 2 long blocks away from our apt.
I moved from going at my own pace to keeping up with my class. I thought I would have time to get acclimated as I knew the surahs at the end of the juz.
Surprise! we started from “Amma yata saa’aloun” =Naba, and took the 1st half on the 1st day, the 2nd half on the 2nd day and began the first half of Naziat on the 3rd day and finished it on the 4th day. That took care of Sat., Sun., Mon. and Tues.
OK. The kids left for school in the morning (Falaqi, Rafiq and Tahirah) about 7:30 AM. I ran around cleaning up and then sat down around 10:30 or 11 to memorize. I soon found out that it wasn’t enough time. I had lunch to prepare and once the children came home around 1:30 PM, that was it. No more time for myself. I had to devise another plan. The class routine was this: the teacher read the ayaat to be memorized at least 5 times with us repeating after her. Then she would have everyone read the same ayaat. I would repeat with each one under my breath until it was my turn. I wanted desperately NOT to make too many mistakes (being the foreigner, you know, with the 3 kids and the crying baby [They had classes for children but Falaqi was the only one who would go. The rest HAD to be with mama! They had floor desks that were just 3 pieces of wood – a flat slanted surface to put the Qur’an on and 2 legs. Muhammed was put between the two legs, I sat tailor-fashioned and Rafiq and Tahirah were on either side,]).
So basically, in one session in a class that had about 15 people, a person had repeated the ayaat at least 19 or 20 times (5 with the teacher and 14 x’s with the other students). I wanted to continue this at home so I took two cassette tape recorders (before DVDs), and recorded 1 ayah recited by Sheikh Khalil Mahmoud AlHosary about 10 times on the tape, and then the next ayah 10 times, etc. So I would have the 5 ayaat I was memorizing at a time recorded in succession at least 10 or 15 times. Before this, it was stop and rewind, stop and rewind. My new method worked out fine.
My next problem to solve was the fact that I had housework to do. I played the tape from room to room, even in the kitchen. I also wrote the ayaat out, only one time. I do not have a photogenic mind, but I swear, once I wrote the ayaat out, I could see them with my eyes closed.
I put the written ayaat on the kitchen wall at eye level and washed dishes or cooked and said and read Qur’an, so this freed me from having to use my hands from having to hold the Qur’an or to have to sit and look at it. It worked out very well and in two months I had hifzed the entire juz and was tested and passed. Shortly after that we moved to Makkah. I think that if we had stayed in Jeddah, I would have continued with it although it was very, very difficult. With a newborn and 3 older children, it seemed as if I was always running and always tired. More than once I told myself I was going to quit. Alhamdulillah, I stuck with it. I was ashamed to think that I would miss memorizing Juz ‘Amma because I WAS TOO TIRED.
In Makkah, that first year, I sat with my neighbor downstairs and memorized Suratul Mulk. She was an Arabic Major at Umm Al Qura University who has since gone on to receive a Ph.d in the same major. Ironically, she is one of my students in my English classes at the same university. That was 19 years ago (now 29 years). Later, when Muhammed was 18 months, I began the Mahad (Arabic Language Institute) at Umm Al Qura University. We started memorization but surahs at random, no set juz. Once in the university, we were required to memorize a juz a year – in other words, in 4 years we had 4 ajza` to memorize. I had to repeat the 3rd Juz from the end (Juz Dhariaat) because I panicked the night before the final and decided not to take it as I had not memorized Ar-Rahman and Qamar to my satisfaction. I love this juz but it was very hard for me. It seemed that when I got one surah under my hat (hijab) and was on the second, I would begin to forget the first. Then, working on the 3rd surah, I would begin to forget the second. It was like this the entire time. I had to increase the amount of time spent on revision. Suratul Waqiah is my very favorite of that juz, especially the end, when it talks about the soul coming up to the throat before death. I used to tape the sheikh’s recitations in class as I loved the way he recited Suratul Waqiah. I tried to sound as much like him as possible.
Some hind thoughts/observations:
1) At the Jeddah Qur’an school, we used to take 3 ayaat at a time and memorize them in class, then move on to the next three, then go back to the first and then say all 6 together. Hifth another 3 and then say all 9 together, etc. until the entire section was completed. In Juz Amma, for instance, the longer surahs at the beginning were taken in halves — 3 ayats at a time. Everything was done in sets of 3.
That is, on the first day of memorizing Suratun Naba (Amma ya ta saa’alun which has 40 ayats), we took 20 ayaat in triplets.
2) If you don’t have someone good to work with you, use tapes. With Walkmans (and now iPhones and iPads) readily available, you can do your exercises, housework, etc. and memorize your ayaat at the same time. It is good just to play it in your house for the baraka of just having Qur’an in the air in your abode, but also, if you listen to it enough, you begin to know what comes next even without trying. I have a friend in the States who goes to an all-women’s gym early in the morning. She walks on a treadmill while reading the last juz. She walks about 30 minutes at a stretch. That’s enough time to memorize a few ayaat.
3) Write out the ayats; it gives you a sense of the words. Learn the meaning of the words. We used a book called “Kalimat ul Qur’an”. It was in Arabic; the definitions were brief. If it is available where you are, get it. It will widen your vocabulary. Also, look up words in your Hans Wher English/Arabic Dictionary. If you don’t have it, try to get it or another good Arabic-English dictionary.
4) There was a fiqh teacher at Umm Al Qura University who was from the Sudan. Hers is a long story that may discussed at some other time. I always used to give her the greetings in the hall way, but I never had the opportunity to take a class with her. She was a Ph.D. from Al Azhar. I heard about her when I traveled to Sudan. One day, when Falaqi was registering as a new student, Dr. Nafiza was sitting outside the Sharia office, so I sat and talked with her. In chatting, I learned that her father was Hafith Qur’an and he taught her and she was Hafitha Qur’an as well, masha Allah. I told her about my problem with Juz Dhariaat and she told me to do revision once a month. By revision, I mean review; go over everything that has been memorized at least once a month. She said whatever you have memorized, revise/review it every 30 days. She repeated this several times for emphasis. I pass this on to you and remind myself of this advice.
5. There is a non-Arab sister here, who I shall call Fatimah, who mastered Arabic and who has memorized 6 juz by herself at home and she also attended the Qur’an center here in Makkah that my daughter, Tahirah (Allah have mercy on her), attended. This sister says that there is a family in her building whose family name is Haafith, and all the men of the family are hafith Qur’an (not sure about the women). She says that they train their children at an early age and they say each ayah 30-50xs. I used to say an ayah 15 times and this is how I trained my children. I just couldn’t manage 50 times. She said it will stick if you say it 50 times, insha Allah. Often my children had 10 ayats to learn at a time so to say them each 50 times would have taken all night and they had other subjects to study, as well. I guess this is why none of us are Hafith but then, neither is this woman. She was about 56 years old.
The Qur’an school where my daughter, Tahirah (Allah yarhamaha) attended asked me to come and take her place after she died in an auto accident. It was a beautiful offer, and I might have done it, but I had Ibrahim at home all that semester (two operations on a broken leg as a result of the same accident). I wanted to do it, but I was also scared. Fatimah, who I mentioned in the paragraph above, attended and memorized an additional 9 ajza` of Qur’an. My neighbor, Dr. Suad, went about 2 years before Tahirah enrolled. She quit her medical business for a year and did nothing but memorize Qur’an. In the one-year program, you memorize 9 ajza`. She said it was the best year in her life. The year Tahirah attended, they added a second year to complete the Qur’an. Dr. Suad’s recount of the experience was totally positive – difficult but rewarding. She did revision and did not expect to keep all the ajza’ memorized but she did revise frequently. Revision is the key.
I had another neighbor from Egypt who had taught herself the Qur’an in 5 years. She said that harder than acquiring it the first time was keeping it. She said as a result of her efforts of maintaining what she had memorized (the whole Qur’an), she made many extra salats and made long tahajjud. Revision is the key. Keep repeating what you know and say it in every salat.
6. Another factor that many people who are good in memorization stress is to use the same Qur’an for memorizing. That is, the same physical book. Don’t use one book one time that has one type of print and then another time use a different book that may have English in it and so the Arabic is positioned differently. Use the same book every time. It has something to do with your mental imaging of it. By using the same book every time, you can almost turn the pages in your mind. It sounds crazy but it’s true and you won’t realize it until you try it.
There is a very long hadith regarding Ali ibn Abi Taalib, may Allah be pleased with him, and his problem with memorization. The Prophet, peace be upon him gave him certain surahs to say in salaat that was to be made on the eve of several consecutive Jumas (Thursday nights) and special duas, but then, that’s another story. . . . . . . . . . .
I pray that all this has been of some benefit. If only one person has benefit out of all who have read it, alhamdulillah. Please make du’aa for the author of the original book, my daughters, Tahirah and Maymunah and their niece, Asmaa who have all gone before us in Iman (May Allah have mercy on them) and the family they left behind.
(revised September 2011)
May Allah increase our knowledge, understanding and ability to memorize His beautiful words. The Qur’an will save us on That Day.
O Allah, let the Qur’an be a positive witness for us on the Day of Judgment and not testify against us (by saying that we memorized parts of it and then forgot it or did not act according to it).