Roadmap for the Student of Qur’an | Part 2: Understand how your Hifdh works


[Click here Part 1 of this series]

4. Begin your memorization:  Once a student achieves a stable level of fluency in their reading/recitation of the Qur’an, applying all the rules necessary, he/she can then focus their energy on memorization of the Qur’an.  It’s important that this step comes after the necessary work has been done in terms of the pronunciation so that no distractions remain when memorizing.  This is because memorization is a feat of its own, which requires a student to completely focus and concentrate.  The hifdh can be affected by mistakes that should have been rectified earlier.  In order to have a solid Hifdh, this is a crucial point to keep in mind.

We have often heard people say that they have no need to memorize the Qur’an, that it is too difficult, etc.  It should be kept in mind that memorizing the Qur’an should be the goal and desire for every Muslim, even if it never reaches completion; this is part of our good manners towards the Book of Allah.

As for its memorization being too difficult, then with every difficulty comes ease.  If a student makes it a point to remove the time factor from his/her mind, then a student can remove the stress of deadlines and focus on memorizing the Qur’an without feeling rushed or hurried.  Even if a student begins with memorizing one word every day, it is still better than nothing, and we are not unaware of the rewards each letter of the Qur’an carries with it for the reciter.   Diligence, determination, sincerity, and reliance upon Allah for strength and steadfastness with regard to this task are all the ingredients needed for a successful Hifdh, in sha Allah.

Having said that, it’s important to first understand how your memory works.

This next section will deal with utilising an understanding of how the memory works, to your advantage in your Hifdh, as well as practical techniques for Hifdh, In shaa Allah.

We all know that we have short-term memory and long-term memory. The short-term memory holds information for short periods of time and is used for daily tasks and chores, whereas information in the long-term memory stays for long periods of time and is used for things we need over the spread of our lifetime.

The aim of memorisation of the Qur’an is to get it into your long-term memory. So how does this happen? And how can you use this information to your advantage to get the best results?

Brain cells, neurons, synapses
This is not a science lesson, so we will try to make this as simple as possible In shaa Allaah.
Neurons: type of cells in the brain involved in all types of thinking including memory.
Synapse: tiny junctions between neurons.
Neurons connect with each other across synapses (tiny junctions) and form neural networks through which information is passed from neuron to neuron.

In simple terms: we have “information” coming to us from all around from our different senses (hearing, touch, smell, sight, taste). Whenever we notice or pay attention to any of these, it starts to be processed in the brain. Connections are made between neurons in our brains and these form connection paths for that particular piece of “information” we are paying attention to. The strength of the memory for that piece of “information” depends on the strength of the connections made along these connection paths. The strength of these particular connections that are made increases the more we use them. This happens by going over or repeating the “information”.

the mult-store model

Let’s apply this to something we are trying to memorise: we start paying attention to a verse of the Qur’an for example. We notice the way it looks, the way it sounds (we recite it loud or listen to it) and all these sensory stimulations start getting processed in the brain. Generally, the first time we try to memorise anything, the connections made between the neurons are light. This memorised portion will thus go into the short-term memory and will remain for a short time. If we do not review it (which means that the connections are not repeated), the connections in the connection paths will start to decay. In other words the memorised portion will start to be forgotten.

However, if we review the memorised portion before the connections start to decay, the connections will become stronger, and the information will re-enter the short-term memory and now stay for a bit longer. And if we repeat the memorised portion before the next time frame in which decay begins, the information will again re-enter the short-term memory and will be retained for another fixed amount of time.
These sets of ‘review’ of the memorised portion, need to be done in particular sets of time frames. If this is achieved then the information will now enter into the long-term memory.

Here’s another simple diagram demonstrating what we just spoke about:

After information has transferred into the long-term memory, it will keep for lengthy periods of time. But even now, for optimum results, especially when the information needs to be recalled very precisely (such as during verbatim memorisation), review of the information should be done, but it does not have to be as intensive.

Common Mistakes
The most common mistake amongst people who are trying to memorise, is that they may spend a decent amount of time in the first session of getting the information into memory, however, they will not review it within the right time frame. Then when they do get down to reviewing the memorised portion, they will find it hard to remember and they find that they have forgotten parts. This is very disheartening and often puts people off the task of memorisation altogether, believing that memorisation is not for them! Or that their memories just aren’t good enough…
The real matter is that they do not understand or apply the techniques of correct review.
To be continued In shaa Allaah…
[Click here for Part 1, Part 3 & Part4]

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