Memory is the most important tool in the process of learning. Since the best way for Muslims to use their memory is by learning the Quran, we should take a closer look at the memorization process in order to utilize this ability to the utmost.
During our years of schooling, a large emphasis is placed on increasing the pace of our memorization. However, there is a significant difference between learning and understanding. Learning does not always require conscious effort. Ever heard of rote learning? Without having any knowledge of it, we have rote learned multiplication tables. Do we really think about it or understand multiplication better? No, we don’t, because rote learning is merely a mechanical process. Understanding, however, requires conscious thought where we comprehend the meaning of what we learn. If you challenge somebody’s understanding of material that is just rote-learned and not really understood, you will get a blank face in response. Deep understanding, on the other hand, leads to both insight as well as creativity.
The cerebral cortex (a sheet of neural tissue that covers the cerebrum or forebrain) plays a key role in memory, attention, perceptual awareness, thought, language, and consciousness. It is divided into four main regions or lobes: the frontal lobe, the parietal lobe, the temporal lobe, and the occipital lobe.
Some people are good at remembering faces; others are exceptional at retaining numbers and dates. Some pick up on auditory information fast, while others have good photographic memory. Examine yourself, search for your strengths, and strengthen your power of learning. We need to be aware of our talents and capabilities in order to use them more effectively.
When we are consciously aware of what we are learning, reading, or memorizing, we tend to learn faster and better. An absent-minded student, whose concentration wanders, cannot focus on the target. The Quran is a rich text; we need to put in conscious efforts to comprehend its Ayahs (verses) and absorb its teachings.
There are two types of memory, namely, short term memory and long term memory.
Short Term Memory
Short term memory (STM) is limited in capacity and duration. It can store seven items at a time. Distractions and passage of time can cause this information to be lost. It relies on our auditory sense to encode information even if it translates visual information to sounds. To strengthen this capacity, we can take aid of chunking – grouping individual units into larger units. Probably the most common example of chunking occurs in phone numbers. For example, a phone number sequence of 4-7-1-1-3-2-4 would be chunked into 471-1324. Chunking is often a useful tool when memorizing large amounts of information. By separating disparate individual elements into larger blocks, information becomes easier to retain and recall.
Long Term Memory
Anything that you remember as taking place more than a couple of minutes ago is stored in long term memory (LTM). Once information is stored in long term memory, it can last anywhere from a few minutes to the rest of your life. The amount of information that we can hold in long term memory is thought to be infinite. In contrast, short term memory can only hold between 5 and 9 items for 20 to 30 seconds.
A Shift From STM to LTM
You can use the following strategies in your Quran memorization process to enable you to form long term memories instead of short term ones only:
- Take seven words in an Ayah.
- Rehearse these seven words several times.
- Write them down. The more visual you will get, the better you will retain the words. Write the Ayahs on paper and put it up where you can see it often.
- Chunk the words that are in repetition.
- Highlight the words that are in middle, as they are more difficult to remember than the first and the last words of an Ayah.
- As Arabic is not your native language, work on understanding the translation; this will facilitate your memorization.
- Don’t aim high. Start with a few Ayahs at a time and then increase the number of verses to be memorized later on.
- Be regular and consistent; make a schedule and work on your memorization daily at a set time.
- Motivate yourself by acquiring knowledge about the virtues of memorizing the Quran. Whoever memorizes the Quran and acts upon it will be rewarded and honored by Allah (swt); his (or her) state in Paradise will rise to a level commensurate with what he (or she) had memorized from the Book of Allah.