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How to memorise one page a day of the Qur’an at any age

Last year, on Monday, September 4th, I invited members of our “One Ayah A Day” WhatsApp group to join me in my new experiment to…

Last year, on Monday, September 4th, I invited members of our “One Ayah A Day” WhatsApp group to join me in my new experiment to memorise the Qur’an.

The Background

A friend, Saheed Kunle Ayegboka, told me a story of a scholar whose recitation is perfect. When he was asked about his method, he said that he didn’t count a page memorised until he had read it 300 times.

300 times! I remember he told me the story during our drive to Gwagwalada, where I was scheduled to give a speech on tree planting. In the car, my curious monkey brain started flirting with the idea of implementing it but I quickly warned myself that’s 300 times. “Who’s got time to read a page 300 times?” I protested.

Facing My Fear

But I plucked the courage to do it; after all, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. And what’s the best way to tackle big problems? Break them into manageable chunks.

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“I don’t know if he (the sheikh) does that at a go or he uses spaced-repetition. For example, to sit down and read a page 300 times will take me about 8 hours,” I wrote then to the members of the group. It takes a shorter time now.

So instead of assuming that the sheikh repeats a page 300 times at a sitting, why don’t I tackle it in several sittings?

Against My Theory

For those who have read my book “One Secret of Straight-A Students,” this is completely against my conviction and against the science which says that retrieval practice (practice exam or testing oneself) is more efficient than repetition. That means that in everything I learn and teach, I put more stock in retrieval practice than repetition.

Learning Something New and Making New Knowledge

But I decided to check out the evidence. Here’s my report to the members of “One Ayah A Day.”

The Method

Starting from today, I’m reading a page 10 times after every prayer. It takes me about 2 minutes and 30 seconds to read a page.

So waiting 30 minutes after every Salat is not that difficult. That means every day I’ll read the page 50 times. In six days, I would have read it 300 times. In sha Allah.

Expected Result

I will see if the content sticks or if it doesn’t work for me. Seeing that I’m 44, the significance of the study is such that it will demonstrate that anyone at any age can memorize the Qur’an.

On Wednesday, September 6th, I posted an update:

Update on my 300 Repetitions

The first day (Monday): I repeated the page 40 times.

The second day (Tuesday): I was only able to repeat it  13 times because I had a guest, and we went to the farm.

Third day: I repeated 50 times. The only day that I met the target. Proud of myself.

Total: 103 repetitions so far.

Preliminary Results:

After 100 repetitions, I’ve not memorised the page. But it’s more familiar, and my reading is more fluent. I can finish the page now in about two minutes. So my reading time after every prayer has been reduced to 20 minutes instead of 30.

Anything to report from those who have joined the experiment? I asked members of the group.

Interestingly, two members reported their own experiences. Hajiya Zubaida, who’s already memorized the whole Qur’an, tried it and found it useful:

“I tried it with one of the pages that have been difficult to retain. Alhamdulillah, it worked. Though it robbed me of precious revision minutes.”

The second member, Dr Nasir Mu’azu Kontagora, said:

“Thank you, Prof Did 40 times Monday, 50 Tuesday and Wednesday 50 also. Same with me, I’ve not yet memorised the page, but reading has become easier. Now spend 1 minute 30 seconds per each round thus, I spent 15 minutes for reading 10 times. Shukran Wa Jazakallahu Khairan, Prof.”

At a point, I stopped sharing the updates with the members of the group, but I kept documenting them in my phone Notes app.

Thursday: Did only 40 repetitions

Friday, September 8th: After 10 repetitions of Fajr prayer on Friday, I clocked 150 repetitions. And I discovered that I had memorised three verses (16-18) without intending to. Since I was traveling on Friday, I did only 30 repetitions because I prayed three times.

More updates: On Saturday I could only do 30 repetitions. Therefore, by this date (9/9/2023), I’ve already done 203 repetitions.

Results: I’ve memorized an additional two verses without any effort to memorise – verse 19 and 20. I can read the page now in 1.40 seconds. Mechanical reading has kicked in. Which means that I can read the entire page even if I’m not paying attention and will not be lost. It’s like driving and arriving home without remembering how you got home.

Also, I’m confident that if any verse is started for me, I can finish reciting it to the end 95% of the time. This means that I’ve memorized all the verses on the page but haven’t memorized the order of the verses.

After 250 repetitions, I found that I had memorised the entire page. As I continued practicing with other pages, it became apparent that my memorisation number is 150. That is, I remember the entire page after I’ve read it 150 times. Which means I memorise a page in a day. But to lock it in, I continue until I’ve read it 300 times.

Since I can read the page faster now, I increased the repetitions after every Salat to 30 which takes me 30 minutes or less because now I can read a page in less than a minute.

Conclusion:

When I made a video of the method and posted it on social media, a friend, Hashr Garba, commented: “You’ve got the magic formula to Qur’an memorisation that you’ve been looking for!” He knows that I’d been experimenting with different techniques for Qur’an memorization for more than two decades. And I guarantee that this is the simplest.

It’s also not as effortful as retrieval practice. Everyone I recommended it to first complained about the huge number of repetitions but found fulfillment in the fact that it works. Most importantly, you’re simply reading not even attempting to memorise anything. For me, I can memorise one page a day in two and a half hours. But since I don’t have the discipline to sit that long, I simply do 30 minutes after each of the five daily prayers. I recommend 300 repetitions to every smart and not so smart individual. Isn’t it great that you no longer have an excuse?

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