How do we teach our children hifdh of Quran? And especially how do we manage the review of old surahs?
This is a very important question for all parents trying to navigate the difficult but immensely worthwhile journey of teaching their children Quran and doing hifdh (memorization).
Let me preface everything by saying this: I do not have all the answers by any means. Let’s start a discussion here in which we can all share ideas, our favorite methods, and what has worked for us and what hasn’t. I would love to hear your ideas!
But, for what it’s worth, I am happy to share my own experience teaching my children Quran so far:
I have four children alhamdulillah: 8.5, almost 7, almost 6, and 3 years old.
My first son started his memorization by simply listening to my husband and I recite Quran in our salah and outside of it, as we worked on our own hifdh. Young kids, even as young as in the toddler years, are incredibly observant and perceptive, and they pick up quite a lot just by looking all around them. Their big, bright eyes are especially focused on Mama and Baba, and those eyes follow your every movement and those little ears perk up at every word you utter. So dear parents, be cognizant of this reality and try to live as you would like your own children to live, to model for them how to be. So read Quran in front of your children, test yourself on the surah you are memorizing in front of them, and pray in front of them. This has a powerful, lasting effect on them inshaAllah.
As my eldest son grew and became more able to talk and form sounds more precisely, we began to work with him more deliberately on repeating a simple ayat of Quran after us. As with most parents, we started with the smallest surahs: the three Qul’s, Surat Al-Fatiha, etc. This was fun and very exciting for him because he was finally being sat and down and taught the surahs he hears the adults reciting (especially Al-Fatiha, which he hears in salah).
This first stage is not strict or pushy. The child is still super young and needs to learn more through play and in a relaxed atmosphere than anything else. So be relaxed and fun about it, give your child a high-five or a hug when he attempts to learn with you, and be positive and encouraging. We are just setting the overall tone for the journey of hifdh here; this is only the start of the journey! We want our children to LOVE the Quran!!
Then as he got to be around 4 or 5 years old, I sat down with him more systemically and tried to teach him the shortest surahs in a more regular way. We did not necessarily do Quran every day, but whenever we could. I remember I would make a special time for just me and him as his younger two brothers napped in the afternoon. The house would finally be quiet after the 2-year-old and 1-year-old were asleep and I’d sit down on the couch and snuggle with my biggest boy, and we’d do Quran. He loved this. One-on-one time with Mama, and no need to nap like the little babies!
Then as the younger boys got older and dropped their naps, they enthusiastically and organically joined our short Quran sessions, mimicking their beloved older brother. I have found that the surahs I had to sit down and explicitly teach my oldest, I didn’t have to do the same with my younger sons. They simply soaked them up by osmosis from their big brother, imitating him and repeating after him because they wanted to know what he knew. So the oldest child, in this way, often helps the younger ones that come after him, because of the influence of having an older sibling.
Things became more serious and structured when my oldest hit 6 years old, and the others were 4 and 3 (and Khalid was a baby of a few months). I started having daily or near-daily Quran class as the foundation of our family homeschool. I kept the class short and sweet, mindful of the kids’ ages and attention spans. The boys were allowed to hold a small toy (like a little car or a small animal) in their hands but nothing that made loud noises or was disruptive. Little kids, particularly boys, tend to want to fidget and can sometimes focus better if they have something small to hold or play with. I didn’t want to push them too fast, but this is when I began to introduce to them the idea of a dedicated class time. I taught them أدب الفصل, the adab (etiquette) of the classroom. No jumping, no yelling, no punching, no putting your feet up in facing the teacher (an Arab adab thing!), and other shenanigans that little boys are wont to do at this age.
I taught my children Quran the same way my own father taught me as a child, the same way his own mother taught him and her father taught her. Alhamdulillah in my family there is a long line of huffadh, with Allah’s fadl. This system is an old memorization system that some use in Egypt (I don’t know about other countries), which I’ve posted about before here on fb. It is a tri-part system for hifdh and review:
1. New Material (“Luh”): لوح
2. Recent Past (“Al-Mady Al-Qareeb”): الماضي القريب
3. Distant Past (“Al-Mady Al-Ba`eed”): الماضي البعيد
Every day, the student recites three things: some new portion from the surah they are learning for the first time (one ayah or a few ayaat), one surah they have recently finished, and one surah they did a long time ago. It’s kind of like a loop, on repeat.
To figure out how to divide up the student’s surahs into two categories (Category 1 is Recent Past and Category 2 is Distant Past), you start by identifying the surah they’re currently memorizing for the first time. Let’s say this is Surat An-Naba, just as an example.
This means that your student has memorized 1 juz, all of Juz `Amma. So you would take the juz they know and split it up into two equal halves to create two categories. Category 1 will end up being from Surat An-Naazi`at to about Surat Al-Fajr, and Category 2 will be from Surat Al-Balad to Surat An-Nas. Category 1 (Recent Past) is the group of surahs directly behind the New Material surah. Category 2 (Distant Past) is the group of surahs further away.
Then you start a review cycle and repeat on a loop. On the first day of your cycle, you have your student recite these three surahs:
1. New Material: some number of new ayat from Surat An-Naba
2. Recent Past: Surat An-Nazia`at (directly behind An-Naba)
3. Distant Past: Surat Al-Balad.
The second day, you will do:
1. New Material: some number of new ayat from Surat An-Naba
2. Recent Past: Surat `Abasa
3. Distant Past: Surat Ash-Shams
etc etc. This is the loop. You finish one review cycle when your student has recited the last.surah in Category 1 (Surat Al-Fajr) and the last surah in Category 2 (Surat An-Nas). You’ve done one review cycle. Now time to start again, going back to the beginning.
Every time a new surah is memorized to completion, it gets added to the Recent Past and is now part of Category 1. Every now and then, you will have to shift the two categories a bit to try to make them more or less equal in terms of the number of surahs in each.
This is the system I still use with my children daily or near-daily. We have found some success alhamdulillah using it, but the results are not perfect. There are still mistakes, surahs they are a bit shaky on, surahs they start to forget as the cycle gets longer. I am always trying to tweak the system and fill in the gaps.
Every now and then, I do a Quran Quiz (especially if we don’t have time that day). I just open the mus-haf and ask each boy in turn to recite a portion starting with an ayah from whatever surah I’ve chosen at random (from the surahs they have learned, obviously!). This allows us to see which surahs are solid and strong in their memory and which ones are forgotten and need to be reinforced. Different kids will struggle with different surahs. Some kids have a favorite surah that they never forget because they love it, while other surahs are more easily lost. This tells you as the teacher what you need to focus on reviewing for each child.
As for new material, when my kids were younger, I had them all memorizing the same new surah. It was simpler for me to do that and made sense logistically. But as they got older alhamdulillah, I have adopted a different method: now I have each child working on his own separate New Material surah. My 8.5-year-old is old enough to memorize more material faster, and I felt like he was being held back by the slower pace of his younger siblings. I also started to feel like my poor 5-year-old was being pushed too fast.
So I separated each one in their new material.
This is where we are now: each day, we start class with review. Each boy recites today’s Recent Past surah by turn, and then today’s Distant Past surah. This is Part 1 of class and it’s a group session. We all sit together and they hear each other recite and sometimes we have discussions and questions and reflections.
Then Part 2 is New Material, and it’s one-on-one. I will dismiss two boys to go play and have one boy sit with me to do his individual surah that he is working on as new material. When he’s done, he gets a big high-five and he scampers off, calling the next guy to come in and do his one-on-one session with me, etc.
Having a solid system in place is important, in my opinion. Aside from having a hifdh system, it’s also critical to have consistency. Especially as your children get older and more capable of memorizing things faster, try your best to be very consistent. Missing or skipping lots of days can result in shaky memorization.
My third tip, after having a hifdh system and consistency, is meaning-based memorization. I try my best to teach my kids the Quran with its meaning, so that the ayat they recite mean something to them and are not just big Arabic words they don’t understand. I teach them new vocabulary words from the surahs, and we notice themes and make connections between surahs addressing the same topic. We have open roundtable discussions and each child shares his opinion or understanding and asks questions. Kids tend to love exploring the meanings of things and can surprise you with their level of understanding and depth of perception, ahamdulillah. (And this is exactly the same system I have designed the Alasna Quranic Homeschool Curriculum upon, alhamdulillah!)
What do you do with your children?
I don’t/didn’t implement it yet, but the west African system is the best I’ve heard. Each child has to write the Surah he’s learnt – with i’irab.
Another simple system one expert Hafiz (his hıfz was so strong you could wake him up from sleep, recite any random ayah from the Mushaf and he could carry on with the rest of the Surah, or you could ask him which surah contains which less used word in the Quran and he could accurately tell you the Surah and verse #) – he told me it can be self managed with discipline by any child above 9 or 10 or any adult, or under teachers guidance – anything set of verses you want to memorize, read it 150 times in one sitting, preferably in morning after Fajr. No cutting corners. 150 means 150. Even 149 is not welcome. Then, once you read it 150 times, he said in-sha-Allah it will stay with you for life. And yes, he did emphasize on systemic reviews of formerly memorized Surahs.
I’m not a Hafiz neither are my kids but pray to Allah to be so.
What I would recommend as a first step which worked for me is reading the “LUH” out loud while looking inside around 20 times (a little more or less is good too). This allows the student to acquire a flow of the AYATs and makes it a lot easier to memorize.
It’s similar to how so many young people remember lyrics to nasheeds after hearing it a few times.