An insight into the method of learning
December 6, 2014
“Learning from those who have been on the journey before you can save you a lot of hurdles and help you deal with the inevitable, better equipped. We need to realise the importance of learning from those before us.”
Seeking knowledge is a highly rewarding venture. It is, however, very easy to become overwhelmed by the vast amounts of information that needs to be processed and digested. Here is an 8 step guide briefly discussing the basic requirements for a student of Deen or an aspiring Hafidh of the Qur’an:
1. Constancy alongside moderation
A student needs to adopt moderation when studying. Many students tend to become overly engrossed, concentrating their learning and revising into limited periods of time. This often leads to the student overworking and thereby, becoming overwhelmed. Some even consider giving up.
A physician visited Abu Bakr ibn al-Ambary رحمه الله in his illness before he passed away. The physician saw his vast collection of books and remarked, “You have done something which no one else has done.” When the doctor left, he said: “Not much was achieved by what I’d done. I used to revise ten-thousand pages every week.”
Many students burden themselves by selecting too many fields of study at one time. The student needs to keep in mind that the heart is an organ and just as other parts of the body have a limited ability to carry out their given tasks, the brain too is limited in how much it can perform at any given time. Some students may be able to memorise and remember things better than others.
Students should not over exert themselves unduly. This can be understood from an example of a greedy man. Those extra morsels that he eats lead to him being unable to eat later when he is afflicted with illness. The best method is to adopt moderation. Ingest only as much as you are able to digest. Revise what you have learnt at any two fixed times of the day. By adopting this method, students will be able to retain what they have learnt while still maintaining the stamina to continue studying.
2. Revising regularly
It is often observed that students painstakingly memorise many lessons. However, they neglect revising what they have learnt. Then, these students have to spend more time relearning what they have forgotten.
قد قيل: السَّبَقُ حَرْفٌ وَ التَّكْرَارُ اَلْفٌ
“The lesson, even if it be a letter, requires repetition a thousand (many) times.”
تمنيت ان تمسى فقيها مناظرا بغير عناء فالجنون فنون
و ليس اكتساب المال دون مشقة تكبدتها فالعلم كيف يكون؟
“If you aim to become a decisive scholar without making effort,
then know that this is one of the many forms of insanity;
because even wealth cannot be earned without some difficulty,
how, then, can knowledge be gained in such a way?!”
3. The best age for learning
It is best to memorise in the years of childhood, while the mind is still young.
الحفظ في الصغر كالنقش على الحجر
‘Memorisation in childhood is preserved like writing is engraved in stone.’
The early hours of the day have also been proven to be conducive for learning and memorising as opposed to the later hours of the day. Also learning on an empty stomach is more favourable than learning while satiated.
It is not advisable to study where there is a lot of greenery or on the banks of a river because they can easily distract the student. Memorising whilst sitting on a raised platform is better than memorising whilst sitting on low ground. It is best to learn in an isolated area, away from anything that may distract the student.
5. Having firm resolve and letting go of worries
Imam Abu Hanifah رحمه الله was asked about what helped him to memorise the laws of Fiqh? He replied, “Through having a firm conviction to succeed.”
Hammad bin Salama رحمه الله said: “(Improve the memory) by reducing excessive worry and anxiety.”
6. Knowledge OR Marriage?
It is best for the beginner in the path of knowledge to delay Nikah (marriage) as much as possible. Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal رحمه الله did not marry until he passed the age of forty because he was travelling extensively in search of knowledge.
However, if the student is overcome by his desires, then he is advised to get married and continue striving in the path of knowledge to the best of his ability.
7. Other measures that aid memorisation
- The student should try to increase the amount memorised every week. Doing so will strengthen the memory and willpower.
- The student should learn one topic well before moving on to another topic.
- Setting right the ‘Mizaaj’ (temperament) has a great impact on progress. What you eat directly affects the ability to memorise. Imam Zuhri رحمه الله states, “I stopped having vinegar when I started memorising.”
8. What to learn?
The path of knowledge is vast and the days of life are limited. Therefore, the student needs to prioritise what he would like to study. Many people make the mistake of learning and memorising things that are of little value and importance. While all branches of knowledge are virtuous, it is advisable to prioritise by choosing the most beneficial and relevant areas of study.
It is best to first memorise the Glorious Qur’an, closely followed by Fiqhi rulings (jurisprudence). After this, the student can choose which field of knowledge he would like to study further, preferably whatever follows in virtue.
Whoever seeks knowledge with the sole intention of seeking the pleasure of Allah, his noble intention will direct him towards what is best.
Allah Ta’ala says:
وَ اتَّقُوا اللهَ ط وَ يُعَلِّمُكُمُ اللهُ
“And adopt Taqwa and (in-turn) Allah will inspire you.” (Al-Baqara: 282)
(Adapted from Ibn ul-Jawzi’s section on ‘Requirements for learning and memorisation’ in his book ‘Sayd ul-Khaatir’ and Burhaan ud-Deen al-Zarnuji’s ‘Ta’leemul-Muta’allim’ رحمهما الله)
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