Tuesday, April 22, 2014

An Agile Methodology for Quran Memorization

Unfortunately, most of us have missed the opportunity to memorize the Quran in our youth when it was the easiest. Is there a methodology that can allow us to do it now when we have a 9-5 career and family responsibilities? Absolutely! The secret lies in an unlikely place – in a modern software development methodology called “agile”.

Agile software development is all about breaking down a project into small manageable chunks and working on them opportunistically making maximum use of scarce resources like time and effort. The process is very flexible, iterative and based on short meetings to check one’s progress and remove any obstacles that are in the way to achieve the next iterative deliverable. The idea is not to attack the problem at once in its complete scope with dedicated resources, but to work on its various components with judicial use of your limited resources. The tasks for the daily work are assigned and checked every day quickly and the assignment for the next day is taken. Every piece of work is associated with the time it takes to complete it. The project can thus be monitored in real-time by anyone as the tasks get completed. Less frequent, feedback is taken at each deliverable for continual improvement.

The principles of agile software development methodology are natural principles of effective work accomplishment which can be applied to many projects we undertake, including Quran memorization. But before applying any methodology one should make the intention of memorizing the Quran for purely Allah’s (SWT) pleasure. Any other intention will lead you to eventual failure. Secondly, a person should resolve to avoid committing sins as that hampers memorization. Finally, the same mushaf should be used for the entire memorization, as one memorizes the sounds as well as the location of the writing on the page. The Medina mushaf consists of 600 pages. Each page has 15 lines. The calligraphy is such that no verse is cut-off at the end of any page. If one commits oneself to memorizing just 5 lines every day (typically about 2-3 verses), one can memorize two pages in 6 days. One should not attempt to memorize any more than this daily amount. The seventh day of the week, one should use to revise and connect whatever one has memorized in those 6 days. That day should also be used to recite the two pages to a Quran teacher, check previous memorization and go over the next two pages for the next week in proper tajweed. Less frequent but longer sessions are needed to revise and recite long sections of the previously memorized sections of the Quran. If one commits to this methodology, one can memorize the Quran in 5-6 years, bi-izn Allah.

Every night after isha, write down the 5 lines from the mushaf for the next day’s memorization on a pocket fitting index card. Make sure you put the date and the surah/verse numbers on it. Next day after fajr, spend whatever time you have to try to soak in those ayaat. This time is the best to start the memorization process. Look up the meaning of anything you do not understand. Keep the card in your front shirt pocket before leaving your home for work. While commuting, waiting for a bus or elevator, standing in the queue, going to and returning to the masjid or any period of free time you get in the day, keep working at those ayaat. Keep checking the index card if you do not remember any detail. In your daily prayers, in the first rakaat recite the previous day’s and that day’s lesson and in the second rakaat recite only that day’s lesson. If you do this all day, by the end of the day you will have those verses memorized and you would have related that day’s memorization with the previous day’s. (NB:  Make sure you do not take the cards to the restroom throughout the day by mistake)

On the seventh day of the week (preferably a weekend), do not memorize anything new but spend some dedicated time revising and connecting up that week’s memorization and whatever you have memorized from before. You should use a mushaf for this and not your cards. You need to schedule 1 hour one to one meeting with your Quran teacher this day too. I recommend someone with ijaaza in tajweed and memorization who is available on-line. Pay for the sessions so that both you and your teacher are committed to these weekly meetings. Having on-line classes means that you will almost never miss them, even when you are out of town. In these meetings first you should recite the week’s lesson from memory with the right tajweed. The Quran teacher then tests you on previously memorized sections. Finally you read the next week’s lesson in his supervision with proper tajweed. After every meeting you file away your index cards for the week and begin again for the next week.

Upon reaching milestones in your memorization, wake up in tahajjud and recite long passages from memory in your prayers. This is the most important application of your memorization efforts and it also helps in preserving what you have learnt.

The agile methodology for Quran memorization allows us to work on this project in a flexible manner which is in line with our busy schedules. Furthermore, by reciting the daily lessons in the prayer we are making use of it immediately. Our prayers become full of meaning and we look forward to engage in them.  By using it this way, we are making the Quran a part of our lives. We ponder on few verses daily and derive guidance from them like we are supposed to rather than attempting large sections without understanding and implementation. Every day we attempt to improve ourselves.  The Sahaba (RA) memorized the Quran when they were adults, applying an agile methodology which was suitable for their times. In the Hereafter, we will be told to recite the Quran from memory and rise. Our final position in Paradise will be based on how high we rise, in sha Allah. We are told that Paradise has over 100 levels and each level is as high as the distance between the earth and the stars. Should we not make a priority in our life to undertake this ascent? By following this methodology we can actually monitor our ascent on a daily basis.