Translated by Ammar AlShukry
An abridged translation of the work of Shaykh Umar Badahdah: Part I
- The Beginning Steps
- Tying It All Together
I. The Beginning Steps
There are a number of steps that must be taken at the onset of memorizing, and it may be that one cannot be successful without fulfilling these requirements:
1. Pure intention.
A pure intention is the key to the acceptance of our deeds. If the intention is lacking then the actions will not bear the desired fruits, even if they do bring forth some of the fruits.
2. Minimalize sins.
“Fear Allāh; and Allāh teaches you” [Al-Baqarah: 282]
Ibn Mas‘ūd raḍyAllāhu ‘anhu said: “A man may lose knowledge due to a sin that he had committed.”
Sins extinguish the light of the heart and cause a person to be prevented from success. Therefore to fear Allāh and have Allāh teach you is a practical approach. The heart is then filled with the light of īmān, the soul is at ease with what Allāh loves, and the person prepares for this great affair of memorizing the Qurʾān.
3. Sincere commitment.
A person who is not fully committed and lazy will not be able to memorize the Qurʾān. This matter requires strong commitment and a person will no doubt have to exchange old habits for new ones, such as decreasing the amount of sleep and increasing in good deeds. Most importantly, a person must equip himself with a will never to give up, so that when encountering the first obstacle, surrender is not an option.
4. Correct methodology.
More shall be explored regarding this topic, inshā’Allāh. Some who set out to memorize the Qurʾān begin with great energy but go about it in the wrong way. Their energy is soon extinguished and, in many cases, they become incapable of continuing. An example of this is the one who starts by memorizing a sūrah from one part of the Qurʾān and another from some other part. A further example is someone who memorizes juz after juz but not in the original order of sequence. The problem with this method is that a juz that stands alone does not encourage the person to retain it as well as two that are connected (one juz before it or the one after it). Of course, it is beneficial to memorize any Sūrah; however, this is not the most beneficial way for the one who wishes to memorize the entire Qurʾān. Also, one should have a set program for memorizing. Going about it ‘on the fly’ will, in most cases, not bring about the desired outcome. Furthermore, one should consult those who have memorized and those who are currently engaged in memorizing and/or teaching regarding additional strategies and tips. In short, this is not a solitary effort.
5. A continuous effort.
Keep in mind that memorizing the Qurʾān is a great task that requires a lengthy commitment. The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was asked what actions were most beloved to Allāh. He said the ones that are most consistent, even if they are small. Remember: a little that is consistent is better than a great deal that is cut off!
The method of memorization and its necessary preconditions will be expounded upon below.
1. One page at a time.
Firstly, there is the method of memorizing by looking at the ‘whole page’, in which the individual reads the page that he wants to memorize three or five times, with focus and full awareness as to what is being read, so that when he has read the page a number of times, he is able to close the Book and recite from memory. Most likely, he will be unable to recite the entire page flawlessly and will pause often, at which point he is to open the Book and carry on from where he stopped. This step-by-step process will prevent the memorizer from making the same mistakes: the place that he stopped the first time, he will not stop the second time. This is to be repeated until the memorizer is able to recite the entire page without stopping, so that after he has read the page five times and recited from memory, without impediment, he will have read the page approximately eight or more times. When this occurs, the page should be recited three times in totality, from memory, without error or visual aid from the Book. If the page is read three or five times with attentiveness, and then recited (from memory) between three and five times, then tied it all together three times, the page will be ingrained in your memory in a firm fashion, inshā’Allāh.
The benefit of this method is that you will not stop or stumble when you are continuing from page to page. Instead of memorizing disconnected verses and being unable to recall what comes next, you will see the entire page in your mind’s eye. This will help you not only in memorizing but also in future recollection.
2. One verse at a time.
The second method is that of memorizing one verse at a time.
The memorizer reads one verse a number of times before trying to recite it, and, once successful, moves on to the next verse. When the second verse is memorized correctly, the first and the second are read together, and so on with the third verse until the end of the page, at which point the entire page is recited from memory three times. It is very important to connect all of the verses on a page together. Do not memorize the second half of the page without linking it to the first, as this will cause your memory to stumble later when reciting that page.
The difference between the first method and the second is that the second method generally takes longer and is weaker if one does not link all of the verses together.
Prerequisites for memorization
1) Reading correctly– and in this alone are a number of issues.
a) Correcting the makharij– if Ramaḍān to you is Ramazaan, if الذين is read Allazeena then correct your pronunciation of the letters before you start.
b) Correcting the harakat– the symbols of I’rab (the damma, fatha, kasra, sukoon) are all very important and it is imperative to learn them correctly. A change in I’rab can change the meaning and thus is worthy of a great deal of attention. Also one must pay attention to the similar sounding words and ‘seemingly’ similar ending verses.
2) Strong Memorization– whatever is newly memorized must have been done so in the strongest manner, free from any mistakes, with the ability to be recited without stopping or stumbling. What is newly memorized is like a foundation on which you build, and if the foundation is faulty or weak than the building will collapse. Just think of how you recite Al-Fātiḥah and set that as the standard for which to compare everything else that you memorize.
3) Reciting to others– very important. This is what will cause you to discover mistakes that you may have not been aware of in your memorization. If you memorize three to four pages without reciting it to someone than that’s not a problem, however after five pages you should. Do not wait until you have memorized 10 Juz’ filled with mistakes that will be extremely difficult for you to correct!
4) Repetition– doing all of the above will not help you unless you continuously repeat what you have memorized. If you memorize after fajr and wait till the next fajr you will find that you have already forgotten a portion or struggle to recall the ayahs. If you memorize the pages how they were mentioned earlier i.e. 3 times each, you still need to repeat what you have memorized another 5 times throughout the day which will be elaborated on..
5) Connecting with what was previously memorized- this will be discussed later.
6) Helpful activities
a. Reciting in superogatory prayers- instead of reciting Sūrat’l-Nās, Kawthar and Ikhlāṣ, recite from what you have memorized that day. If you have memorized a page, divide it into two and repeat it in your nafl prayers throughout the day.
b. Reciting at all times- think of all the times in your day where you are waiting for something: your at the bus stop waiting, your on the train waiting, your meeting a friend and your waiting, if you kept a Qurʾān
c. Leading people in prayer- the ultimate test. This is what will show whether what you have memorized is deeply embedded in your mind, easily recalled, or whether it isn’t.
d. Listening to Qurʾānic recitations with tajweed– use this as much as you can and have a set schedule. For example, say you have this much to memorize in a week, or this much to revise. Sometimes you will have heard a recitation so much that when you come to memorize you’ll find that you’ve already memorized it.
e. Using the same muṣḥaf– if you are going to start memorizing try to keep the same muṣḥaf and don’t change. This is because you picture the page in front of you in your mind, you visualize this ayah being at the top of this page and this Sūrah starting in the middle of that page. If you start memorizing from another muṣḥaf it is likely to cause confusion.
f. Engaging as many senses as possible- it is known scientifically that if you use two senses to memorize, your recollection of it will be stronger than if you use only one. And if you use three it is stronger still, and if you use four…etc. How do you use more? Instead of just reading silently, read out loud. While reading out loud raise your voice so that your ears hear what you are reciting. Now if you can (and this is somewhat difficult) but if you are able to write out what you wish to memorize, this will exponentially increase your memory of it. The sheikh mentions when he went to West Africa he visited some countries like Morocco and Mauritania and others. He found them to still be writing on Alwah (tablets) to memorize Quran. They would write on them and then read what they had written until they had memorized it and then would dunk the tablet in water and erase it, fully confident that what they had memorized would not leave them.