Hifdh Challenge #2:
Those who used Tablets to memorize, had to ERASE their lesson of the day and didn’t have access to a Mushaf afterwards. They made sure to commit that lesson to memory before erasing.
CHALLENGE: don’t close the book until it’s committed. Once you close the book, no look-backs allowed.
We get plenty of messages telling us not to conform. To be true to ourselves, otherwise we lose ourselves. No one is telling us that the opposite is true, too. In our desperate attempts to stand out, be different and unique, we also end up losing the essence of who we are.
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
الحمد لله رب العالمين وصلى الله وسلم على رسول الله وعلى آله وأصحابه ومن اهتدى بهديه إلى يوم الدين
“ما فسد النَّاس إلا لما تركوا لسان العرب، واتبعوا لسان أرسطو “
“People did not become ignorant nor differed except after their abandonment of the Arabic language and their inclination to the language of Aristotle!”
[Sharh Aqeedah al-Tahawiyyah 1/100; quoted by Imam Dhahabi in as-Siyar A’lam al-Nubala 10/74 and al-Suyuti in Sawn al-Mantiq p.15.]
This weeks homework:
Memorize 4 new pages – Done
Review all of Surat An Noor – Done
Review all of Surat Al An’aam – Dun, dun, dun…
It’s almost 11:30PM. Class is tomorrow. I’ve been reviewing Surat al An’aam all day (with many breaks), and I have 7 pages left. The surah is 22 pages long, and I left basically all of it for today. Bad idea. I forgot the law of diminishing returns. After about 3 or 4 hours of review, I seemed to have reached my threshold for the day. I didn’t realize this though, so I kept reviewing more pages. Then I realized that I was making silly mistakes and the amount of review that was good enough for the first few pages was nowhere near as ‘enough’ for these later pages. I think my brain was tired. On top of that, I was trying to control the anxiety that I felt in my chest. Argh. I really hope the few hours I have in the morning are enough to polish off the surah inshaAllah. I really want to show my teacher that I can take on more per week, and maybe even come to her more than once a week (which would only make sense to do after she increases my workload). But this is what happens when there are so many days in between classes. Motivation dips and comes back up when class is near. Okay, so now for points to remember for next time.
1. Don’t cram – Start the homework asap and divide it so that you are doing equal amounts every day. The last day or last few hours before class should be devoted to a comprehensive review of all of that week’s homework. It shouldn’t be a time for starting homework.
2. Don’t overestimate your ability – I thought this surah would be easy for me. Well, it would be a lot easier if I started earlier, but I’m not at the level where I can start and finish it all today.
3. Quality – It’s better to start earlier not only for the sake of higher-quality review, but also so you can actually spend quality time with the surah. Last week, I didn’t cram as badly for surat al a’raaf and I enjoyed taking my time with it. I had fun finding the mutashaabihaat (within the Qur’an and within the surah) and noting down their differences with my post-its in the margins. I took my time praying with the ayaat, and reconnecting with the ones that I had a special relationship with.
4. Divide and spread – Even if you have time in your schedule (like I have a complete day off right before my class on Thursdays), it’s a bad idea to cram because your brain can only handle so much in one go. It’s easier for you to do less, over a longer amount of time. If you do an entire surah in one day, you might remember it for the exam but you’ll forget it soon after because you didn’t pin it down. Pinning it down puts it in your long-term memory.
5. Review old mistakes – Give yourself time to review the mistakes you made the last time you were tested in this surah, otherwise you will definitely make many of the same mistakes again.
6. Re-memorizing to fix hardened mistakes – I need extra time connecting pages because it has recently occurred to me that I didn’t do this properly when memorizing! I can connect the first five or six pages of a surah really well, but from there, I start having to either think really hard, or draw pictures in my mind about the meaning. I can’t afford to do that, I need to do a bunch of reps to connect the pages of all of the surahs.
7. Time to clean – I mark up my Qur’an A LOT. I never noticed how much I do that until today. I translate words and underline and circle tashkeel mistakes. My teacher adds to the markings by catching more mistakes and pointing out tajweed errors. The markings were overwhelming and before I knew it, I put the review in the backseat and started paying more attention to what I could erase. It was that whole ‘clean my room spotless before I start studying for my Final Exams because the two are very related’ phenomenon. (This feeling of being overwhelmed only happened because I was already nervous!)
8. Taking breaks – while this usually helps, it didn’t do much for me today. I took many breaks, some intentional and some unintentional (random, unexpected nap anyone?) but they were becoming less and less productive. In an effort to do something ‘different’ (see Pomodoro Technique), I ended up just finding things that were wasting my time. The only break my brain wanted was a full-night’s rest.
9. Insincerity – reviewing poorly is a sign of insincerity in hifdh. If I am reviewing just to get by on my exams from my teacher, then that won’t take as much. If, however, I am reviewing for the sake of Allah, then I will review with ihsaan and eventually be able to recite without a mushaf, and that is a different realm of review altogether.
Well, these basically all have to do with not cramming, but that’s a pretty important message so I’m okay with that. There’s probably more but I can’t think of anything more, and I want to sleep so I can wake up early for the rest of the review.
My teacher has five children, alhamdulillah. Her concern over them is great, especially in regards to their hifdh of Qur’an. She brought them here from Egypt, and their quality of memorization has gone downhill from there. Keep in mind, them on their ‘bad’ days is probably you and I on our ‘good’ days, but hey. She tried finding them a teacher here, but because these Western teachers are used to Western students, they were basically not qualified to work with Ua’s born and bred Egyptian children. (Ever notice how many qurra of the Qur’an are from Egypt?) So they recite to a shaykh over skype, and let me tell you: if that shaykh could reach through the computer and give them a light beating every once in a while, I think he would…
So the other day, during one of my classes with her, Ua asks me to grab her phone from behind me, and she shows me this video.
My mouth literally fell open. “Take all of my kids and give me one of these!” Ua said to me.
I have been watching this video repeatedly since that session, to gain inspiration from Qari Najm Ath-Thaaqib, may Allah swt preserve him. This is what perfection, excellence, ihsaan looks like. I’ll also confess that in trying a new Visualization technique (learned from book about success), I have started visualizing that I am Qari Najm Ath-Thaaqib. Sounds weird I know. But it might work, the results have yet to come in.
❝The way to cure your [concentration during prayer] is to forcibly repel your soul to what you’re reading throughout the prayer and busying yourself with that, opposed to other things. This starts with preparing prior to beginning the prayer by completing anything that would busy you, diligently trying to clear your heart, reminding yourself of the afterlife, and the severity of standing in front of Allah and Him staring at you. And if that doesn’t subside your thoughts, then know, what you think about is what’s important to you and what you desire; therefore analyze those desires and cut those ties.❞
— Ahmed ibn Qudaamah Al-Maqdisi (d. 689 AH)
While I will leave the specifics for another time, inshaAllah, it will suffice for now to say: For months, I was a “bad student.” I don’t like to use such black-and-white terms, but I met every description of the infamous bad student that many of us have heard of. I began missing classes, something I never did before. When I did attend, I came unprepared. Either I did not complete my memorization for that week, or I did not complete the muraaji’ah (review), or I completed the review, but I did not review it well enough to pass the weekly exam. Funny thing about Qur’an Homework – you can never hide the fact that you didn’t do it. And I am so painfully aware of this that sometimes, I would make mistakes out of nervousness that I would get caught making mistakes! (How’s that for a brain-twist.)
My teacher (let’s call her Ua) didn’t know what to do with me. So she would yell for a bit, and then she would offer me something to drink. May Allah swt preserve and bless her, she loves me so much and I don’t know why sometimes. But my poor performance continued. It was to the point that my behavior begged the question, Why do I keep going back to class? In a previous post, I mentioned that I never felt like quitting on hifdh. I have, since then, felt what it is like to toy with the possibility of quitting. It feels terrible.
It continued for months, and my teacher was watching the entire time. As she was observing me, however, I was also observing her. During the months that I was in a low period, Ua’s behavior towards me was also changing. Her expectations towards me were changing, even though she seemed to fight it. So while she didn’t like it, she wondered some weeks if I would come or not. My heart sunk the day that I rang her doorbell, only to hear her yell, “Who?!” She wasn’t expecting me. And even though she would be angry about it, she wasn’t surprised when I didn’t come with my homework or when I tripped through a surah that I obviously reviewed the day before. She began to give me less homework and would fight with me if I tried to ask for more. She also stopped teaching me tajweed rules as a class on the side, and the day I asked for a tajweed rule was the day when she refused and called me a “bad student.” But it was true.
Fast forward to today. Alhamdulillah, again for reasons I will not go into right now, things have begun to look up. I am completing my homework and passing my exams in Qur’an. I am attending regularly, and my efforts in Qur’an are slowly beginning to improve and show in my performance. And all praise and credit belongs to Allah swt.
My teacher was noticing the difference, and even remarked that, “I think you woke up.”
Well, it’s more of a process. I am waking up, walhamdulillah.
So all of this history made today all the more special. I didn’t have a perfect week. I didn’t review or memorize perfectly, and I made a few mistakes. But it was no where near as bad as before, and because she was comparing it to months of poor performance, she was impressed with me. I could tell. What happened from there? Her mood was lighter, and she was smiling more. She was asking me about mutashaabihaat (verses that are similar to each other) more. And that’s important because asking about mutashaabihaat is more difficult than just testing my recitation in other parts of the surah. This meant that she was expecting me to answer harder questions and to get them right. When I messed up, she was forgiving. And when I struggled through the last two pages (and clearly did not review them well) she said that she would test me on them next time. Two pages? Out of a twenty-one page surah. If she wanted she could have told me to review on my own, or she could have scolded me for it and let it go. But it was important to her that she test me on it, because she felt that that was important to me. When she gave me new pages to memorize, she took her time and slowly went through the ayaat with me, pausing at every difficult word or ayah. She would recite it, and I would repeat after her, and three pages took well over a half an hour (my estimation) because of how much care she was giving to details. Why?
It’s not because Ua cared more today, but because she believed I cared more.
Our teachers can only work with the concern and enthusiasm with which we approach them. If we show them that we want it, they will make sacrifices just so we can have it. SubhanAllah. Let them see that you want it! May Allah swt preserve our teachers and bless them and their families in their time and knowledge.
A well-written, honest piece about what it’s like to have spotlight, and how to keep a clear perspective through all of it. I really appreciated this article. I think anyone who has had a taste of fame and has seen the effects it had on them will be able to relate. It’s also for those of us who don’t know how to find a balance in the way we look at people (all good or all bad). I’ve personally experienced both of these things. I won’t say more; the article will speak to everyone differently. Check it out:
The unhappiest people in this world are the people who
care the most about what everyone else thinks.
“What’s wrong with wanting to please others?”
That’s what several people asked me via email in response to one of my recent articles. Today, I want to discuss why it’s not healthy to try to please everyone, and how to stop yourself from doing so.
Seeking approval from others is perfectly fine up until the point where you are compromising your health and happiness in the process. It becomes a serious problem if you feel as though widespread positive approval from others is the very oxygen you need to breathe. There was a time in my life when I felt exactly this way.
I literally felt like I was short of breath – almost as if I’d die if my peers didn’t approve of me. This is a condition that developed in my mind when I was very young, after kids in grade school teased me for being a “nerd.” I did everything I could to win their approval. And although I grew out of my awkward stage pretty early in my teenage years, the damage was done – I was left feeling insecure. I was conditioned to seek and beg for outside approval at all times.
The big problem was that, as a twenty-something college graduate entering the work force, I felt that anything I did or even thought only had validity if it was the “right thing” to say and think. And by “right thing,” what I really mean is “what other people thought was right.” I was terrified to step outside the box of acceptability – which was especially harmful to my creativity as I tried to nurture my passion for writing and blogging.
Once I realized what I was doing, I read several books, spoke with a coach, and focused diligently on healing this broken part of myself.
The bottom line is that constant approval-seeking forces you to miss out on the beauty of simply being yourself, with your own unique ideas and desires. If you are led through life only doing and being what you’ve come to believe is expected of you, then, in a way, you cease to live.
So how can you stop fearing what everyone thinks of you? Let’s take a look:
1. Get comfortable with not knowing what other people think.
When I first started writing on this blog, I’d agonize over whether people would think what I was writing was good enough. I desperately hoped they’d like it, and oftentimes I’d catch myself imagining they didn’t. Then one day I realized how much energy I was wasting worrying about it. So I’ve gradually learned to relax with simply not knowing.
Some problems in life, such as not knowing what others think of you, are not really meant to be resolved. How people perceive you may have more to do with them than you anyway. They may even like or dislike you simply because you’ve triggered an association in their minds by reminding them of someone they liked or disliked from their past, which has absolutely nothing to do with you.
So here’s a new mantra for you – say it, and then say it again: “This is my life, my choices, my mistakes and my lessons. As long as I’m not hurting people, I need not worry what they think of me.” (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Self-Love” and “Relationships” chapters of “1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.”)
2. Know that most people are NOT thinking about you anyway.
Ethel Barrett once said, “We would worry less about what others think of us if we realized how seldom they do.” Nothing could be closer to the truth.
Forget what everyone else thinks of you; chances are, they aren’t thinking about you anyway. If you feel like they always are, understand that this perception of them watching you and critiquing your every move is a complete figment of your imagination. It’s your own inner fears and insecurities that are creating this illusion. It’s you judging yourself that’s the problem.
3. Accept that someone else’s opinion is NOT your problem.
How many times have you looked at a person and initially misjudged their brilliance? Appearances are deceptive. How you seem to someone and how you actually are rarely congruent. Even if they get the basic gist of who you are, they’re still missing a big piece of the puzzle. What someone thinks of you will rarely contain the whole truth, which is fine.
If someone forms an opinion of you based on superficialities, then it’s up to them, not you, to reform those opinions based on a more objective and rational viewpoint. Leave it to them to worry about – that is, if they even have an opinion at all.
Bottom line: The opinions other people have about you is their problem, not yours. The less you worry about what they think of you, the less complicated your life becomes. (Read The Four Agreements.)
4. Ask yourself, “Does what they think even matter?”
People will think what they want to think. No matter how carefully you choose your words and mannerisms, there’s always a good chance they’ll be misinterpreted and twisted upside down by someone. Does this really matter in the grand scheme of things? No, it doesn’t.
How others see you is not important. How you see yourself means the world. When you’re making big decisions, remember, what you think of yourself and your life is more important than what people think of you. Stay true to YOU. Never be ashamed of doing what feels right. Decide what you think is right and stick to it.
5. See the benefit in being unique.
If you’re thinking like everyone else, you aren’t thinking. And if you aren’t thinking, you aren’t truly living.
It’s human nature to attempt to mimic other humans we look up to – perhaps a parental figure or a celebrity – especially when we are feeling insecure in our own skin. But attempting to be someone else will always leave us feeling empty inside. Why? Because what we appreciate about the people we admire is their individuality – the qualities that make them unique. To really copy them, we need to develop our own individuality, and in that way, we would actually be less like them and more like our true selves.
We all have quirks and unique perspectives. The more relaxed you become with your own differences, the more comfortable you will start to feel just being YOU. Celebrate being different, off the beaten path, a little on the weird side… your own special creation. If you find yourself feeling like a fish out of water, by all means find a new river to swim in. But DO NOT change who you are; BE who you are. (Read The Road Less Traveled.)
6. Be fully present and aware of how you DO want to feel.
It’s OK to know how you do not want to feel, but that’s not all you should be thinking about. Imagine someone trying to learn to read by spending all their time focusing on how they do not want to not be able to read. It doesn’t really make any sense, does it?
Enough is enough! Forget what you do not want to feel for a moment. Work out how you DO want to feel right now in the present moment. Train yourself to live right here, right now without regretting how others once made you feel, or fearing the possibility of future judgment.
If you were delivering life-saving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on your mom in public, you’d be 100% focused and present. You wouldn’t be thinking about what bystanders thought of your hair, your body type, or the brand of jeans you were wearing. All these inconsequential details would vanish from your consciousness. The intensity of the situation would motivate you to choose not to care about what others might be thinking of you. This proves, quite simply, that thinking about what others are thinking about you is YOUR CHOICE.
7. Speak and live your truth.
Speak your truth even if your voice shakes. Be cordial and reasonable, of course, but don’t tread carefully on every word you say. Push your concerns of what others might think aside. Let the consequences of doing so unravel naturally. What you’ll find is that most of the time no one will be offended or irritated at all. And if they do get upset, it’s likely only because you’ve started behaving in a way that makes them feel they have less power over you.
Think about it. Why be fake?
In the end, the truth usually comes out one way or the other, and when that happens, you’re standing alone if you’ve been living a lie. So live your whole truth starting now. If someone gives you a hard time and says, “You’ve changed,” it’s not a bad thing. It just means you stopped living your life their way. Don’t apologize for it. Instead, be open and sincere, explain how you feel, and keep doing what you know in your heart is right.
A life spent ceaselessly trying to please people who, perhaps, are incapable of ever being pleased, or trying too hard to always be seen as doing “the right thing,” is a sure road to a regretful existence.
Do more than just exist. We all exist. The question is: Do you live?
I eventually realized existing without ever truly living was not what I wanted for myself. So I made changes – I implemented all seven of the points discussed in this article and never looked back. If you are in the same place I once was, seeking approval from everyone for every little thing you do, please take this post to heart and start making changes today. Life is too short not to.
How has the fear of what other people think interfered with your life? What has it stopped you from doing? How have you coped? Leave a comment below and share your insights with us.
This is a really inspirational series:
Although Hifdh is not the main focus of this show, it makes you grow in love and appreciation of the Qur’an, which facilitates hifdh for sure. I haven’t watched all of the episodes myself, but be sure to check out the 3rd episode of Br. Daniel from Bath, UK. My jaw dropped at what they mentioned at the end of the episode. Enjoy!
Note: It appears that there are some instruments used in some of the background anasheed. I am sure it took place without the shaykh’s knowledge. Use caution and don’t let it stop you from benefitting and sharing inshaAllah.