I try to learn Duas and Surahs from the Quran, but after memorizing them, I tend to forget them. Can you suggest a method for improving my retention?

Answer: I am glad you asked this question, because forgetting what we have memorized is not a light matter, especially in light of a Hadeeth of the Prophet (sa) reported by Al-Amash (rta): “The calamity which affects knowledge is forgetfulness, and wasting it is to convey it to those, who are unworthy of it.” (Darimi)

When it comes to memorization and retention, it’s important to find a strategy that works for you, whether it’s mine, someone else’s or your own. I have outlined below some of my simple and quick techniques which you can test on yourselves.

  • Firstly, it is obligatory to be sincere, purify your intention and correct your desire to please Allah (swt).
  • Make Dua to Allah (swt) for learning and retention, as each memorized apportion is facilitated by Allah (swt).
  • Be goAl-oriented and set targets to check what you have learnt and retained, being completely focused and realizing the importance of that which is memorized.
  • See the time chosen for memorization and retention – are you fresh at that time? Fajr is the best! Having said so also vary your study routine occasionally. If you are accustomed to study in one specific location, try moving to a different spot of study. If you study in the evening, try spending a few minutes each morning reviewing the information you have studied the previous night. By adding an element of novelty to your study sessions, you can increase the effectiveness of your efforts and significantly improve the long-term recall.
  • From the Seerah of Rasul (saw) it is clear that we should be consistent on whatever deed we adopt. Start with small Duas or Surahs and read them regularly, especially in Salah or before sleeping. You can repeat them by keeping a small Dua booklet at your bedside or by keeping your eyes closed, which will also make you sleep better, Insha’Allah. Over time, consistent repetition will lead to improvement.
  • Read with thorough understanding and absorb the meaning. Also, read the text loudly and clearly to familiarize yourself with the sounds and to be fluent in pronunciation. It can be helpful to read the text thrice by looking at it and then recite it without looking.
  • For memorizing Duas, an important tip is to post them at different locations in your house and/or work place. For example: on the main door – the Dua before leaving the house, in your bag – Dua upon entering the market, at the bathroom entrance – Dua before entering and coming out of bathroom after using the toilet. Visuals are great reminders!
  • For best memorization and retention, study in a way which appeals to as many senses as possible. By seeing and simultaneously hearing the material, you reinforce it in your brain. Try to listen as frequently as possible to tapes and CDs, as sound is an extremely valuable tool. You can also carry a walkman, which is an excellent way to utilize time while traveling or waiting for a doctor’s appointment.
  • Elaborate on the material by adding more information to the subject that you are studying. For example, apart from concentrating on the translation, study the definitions of terms and read a more detailed description of the meanings of words.
  • Involve your emotions – we remember things that are emotionally relevant to us.
  • Revise using the same copy of the Quran. This is because we tend to memorize the script and form – their places in the copy leave an imprint in the mind.
  • It is necessary for the memorizer not to depend on himself in the process of memorization. Rather, he should test his memorization by reciting the verses or Surah to somebody else.
  • Interestingly, physical exercise and a balanced diet improve the heart’s ability to pump blood more effectively, and, in turn, memory benefits from the improved blood flow.

The above suggestions come from students and teachers that kindly shared the tips, which practically helped them to retain what they memorized. May Allah (swt) help each one of us to benefit from them. Ameen.

Lastly, Abdullah Ibn Amr (rta) has narrated a beautiful Hadeeth, according to which the Messenger of Allah (sa) said: “It will be said to the reciter of the Quran: ‘Read and ascend! And chant as you used to chant in the worldly life. For verily, your station (in Paradise) will be at the last verse you recite.'”(Ahmad, At-Tirmidhi and Abu Dawood)