Memorizing the Qur’anic Surahs Through Non-Traditional Techniques

The video above is of a blind child, who has memorized the Qur’an. While there are plenty of blind huffaz around the world, what made me share this video is the fact that many of us will watch this video and go “wow, MashAllah – he is blessed. I wish I could have such dedication” and return back to our daily lives. In the beginning of 2012, a similar experience like this hit me as well, but this time I realized that while many of us simply utter statements like “I wish I was also a haafiz” (or anything else for that matter), the reason why we don’t end up doing it is usually because we don’t have a genuine interest. Living a typical busy life in the West, the number one excuse that many of us have is that “there is no time”. To a good extent this is true. The Western system operates in such a way to ensure that you are left with no time and creates a great imbalance in one’s life.

However, if we truly begin to start analyzing our daily lives, we will notice that despite our “busy schedules”, we are still able to make up sufficient time for things that may not always be a priority. Reason being is that we simply decide to give certain things more interest than other – thus we will go to far heights to make sure we find time.

Imam Ali (as) spoke about iman in the following manner: “The structure of faith is supported by four pillars: Patience (Sabr), Conviction (yaqin), Justice (`adl) and Struggle (jihad). Then he explained further: ‘Patience comprises of four attributes: Eagerness, fear, piety and anticipation (of death). So, whoever is eager for Paradise will ignore evil temptations; whoever fears the fire of Hell will abstain from sins; whoever practices piety will easily bear the difficulties and hardships of the life of this world and whoever anticipates death will hasten to perform good deeds.’”

Not only do we lack genuine interest, but without it, we tend to therefore lack any eagerness. Eagerness in the sense that one is desperate to carry out a certain act or perform a certain action. Around mid-January of 2012, after realizing this, I decided that while I may have always “wishes I was a haafiz” as well, I had to create a genuine interest within me and then become eager towards achieving this goal. Of course there are proper ways of learning the Qur’an and knowing realistically I won’t be able to do so with the schedule I was on, I decided to take a small step. I made the sincere intention to memorize at least the 30th chapter of the Qur’an. Since many Muslims already know a lot of the shorter Surahs, I decided that all I was really doing is memorizing the other “half” of the chapter. If you look at it from a bird’s eye-view, the chapter only has 37 surahs (a good portion of them relatively short), out of which I knew about 16. Realistically speaking, I knew I wouldn’t be able to dedicate hours to the cause of memorizing the surahs at this point, simply due to lack of time in contrast of fulfilling other obligations. Due to this lack of time, I told my self that this is not about how fast I’m going to memorize the chapters and no matter how long it would take, I will at least keep the effort going. I contacted a friend of mine who is a haafiz and got some tips from him and also got some advise from another friend who is also a haafiz. Both of them though went through some sort of formal learning process where they were taught correct methods and techniques of memorization. I unfortunately didn’t have this at my disposal and I decided to improvise.

Every morning and evening, the drive to work and back home would take up a good hour or so. I determined that this was ample time for one to work on their memorization and this is exactly how I began doing so. A few times I intentionally would take the bus to work in order for me to concentrate on the memorization a bit more, as I would be less distracted. I took up the challenge and began officially with Surah Naba. When I would return home, I would usually just repeat the verses I had learned during my drive, over and over again. The purpose for that was so that I became fluent in it.

Of course the way I was and am learning will not be the best way for everyone, and neither am I suggesting that this is the right way to do so. However, it has worked for me and if you tend to live a “busy life”, giving this method a try shouldn’t hurt. Essentially one is trying to memorize while they are on-the-go – it has worked for me. Here are a few tips that I have for someone with a typical “busy” schedule, on how to memorize surahs of the Qur’an and how I have been able to do so:

  1. Memorize in portions. 3-5 verses at a time is good. If the verses are very short then you can push the limit to 6 or 7, but don’t over do it.
  2. Once you have them memorized, don’t start learning the next set. Keep repeating what you have learned for at least the next day or two till you are absolutely fluent in it.
  3. Now that you are fluent and not stuttering, you can take on the next portion of verses. Memorize them and then read from the beginning of the surah till the last ayah that you have learned. Meaning after memorizing 1 to 5, and then 6-10; keep practicing 1 to 10 for a good couple of days.
  4. From my own experience, you will feel more comfortable reciting to yourself. However try reciting in front of different people (sibling, parents, friends) and you will realize that your concentration may divert or you will be nervous and forget a verse. That is a good way to determine how fluent you really are or whether you still need some work.

Depending on how much time you get during the day, that 2 day gap can actually become longer and some times I have gone maybe 4-5 days without memorizing any new verses. However the key is to keep repeating whatever amount you have learned, during the day as much as you can. Also, hold the Qur’an and recite the surah you are memorizing in the mustahab salah just for additional fluency. Another thing I have gathered from learning the surahs so far is that being familiar with some of the basic Arabic vocabulary will definitely help. Simply because you will just know which sentence comes after which since you will know the rough context of what is being recited.

It’s been about 8 months now since I began memorizing it. Typically if I was dedicating a lot more time to memorizing, I would and should have finished memorized the 30th chapter by now. However, I still have a few surahs left – but don’t let that discourage you. As I said, it isn’t about how fast you are going to do this, but rather if you are going to do anything at all. This is what has worked for me as someone who isn’t able to dedicate hours per day memorizing. Please feel free to share any techniques, methods or advise that may have worked for you.

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