Keeping your Concentration

By Sidra Abbas

Moharram is here and we are once again blessed with the spiritual value of this holy month. We are blessed with another chance to grasp the message Imam Hussain (a.s) has left for us and another chance to remember, reflect and relate to our Imam’s mission.

What better way to do this than attend the hussainiyyahs and listen to the lectures given by various speakers.

But sometimes even the simplest act of listening becomes a hard task. For some odd reason, especially during a lecture, it becomes hard to be attentive. Even studies done by John Medina, a developmental molecular biologist, prove that we have a ten minute attention span and that after ten minutes we won’t be able to recall anything unless the lecturer does something emotionally relevant. Indeed the naras and salawats keep us going! But how else can we prevent our mind from drifting, and attain the most out of this tabarukkat?

Choose wisely.

What language are you most comfortable with? English, Farsi, Urdu, Arabic? If you’re not well versed in the language that the speaker delivers the speech in, try attending a different centre where you will be able to better understand the speaker. Some centres even have programs for specifically for youth available in English. The Imam Ali Foundation, which includes the representatives of Ayatullah Sistani, have set a guideline for the speakers (mubaligheen) on what should be discussed in a lecture. We can use these guidelines as a benchmark to measure the lectures we listen to.

Turn them off!

Minimize your distractions. Whether it be a cell phone, iTouch, pager or Nintendo DS, they must all be turned off! For cell phones, putting them on silent doesn’t cut it folks. Just because it’s on silent or vibrate, it does not prevent you from receiving a text from your friend! And the temptation to text something back and receive another vibration is another reason why you should turn them off.

Bring a Notebook and Pen.

Don’t be embarrassed to bring a notebook and pen to the mosque. Imagine that you’re attending a lecture at school or post secondary institution; do you not bring stationary there?  If you’re able to take notes on what the professor is saying, why not take notes on what a scholar is saying? Even the companions of our Imams (a.s) would be at the forefront of the pulpit where the Imam would deliver their speeches and the faithful companions would be writing down every word that came out of their mouth. If we are the true believers of our Imams, why not mimic the actions of their closest companions?


Listen, do not hear. Do you often find yourself merely hearing the words coming out of the lecturer’s mouth and looking at his lips move? And that the words mean nothing at all, they are simply sounds. Let’s put some meaning to them. When you’re in that state, just close your eyes, and this time, when you open them, put meaning to those words. Try listening to what the lecturer is trying to say, what his/her main topic is about, and if you don’t understand, ask the person sitting beside, in front of you or behind you. Surely one of them will know.

Sit Comfortably.

We all know this is probably the most difficult of all especially during the first ten days of Moharram. Sitting for 3 hours straight does become a hassle. Perhaps we should start a protest to have a 1 minute stretch break in between the lecture or take a washroom break with your friend and talk about what you both understand from the lecture.


  1. What if what the topics, other than the events of kerbala, that are being preached isn’t of any interest to you?

  2. if the topic is no interest to you, find a person who has something you can connect to.. or… bring a book 😛
    i dont think ive ever found a topic not being of interest to me.. its usually the speaker that makes it interesting or uninteresting

  3. I like that the article suggests noting down what you hear. I almost always do that because I noticed that after the lecture is over, I don’t remember what was said.

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