Alhamdulillah, my son recently completed Hifz, (memorization of Quran). We moved from Karachi to Winnipeg, having not been in a regular school for about 2 years, I was worried about how he would cope. Especially with the language issue, and that he would be learning French for the first time in his life. Now, just 6 moths later he is multilingual, can read, write and speak Urdu and English. Has beginner knowledge of Arabic and French and speaks Punjabi as well.
I started to home school him throughout the time he was in Hifz, we focused mainly on rudimentary math and language skills. A lot of reading and conversation. Then 4 months of intense all subject training including French. He was tested for English and Math prior to placement in Grade 7, and in 3 months, he has masha’Allah gone from a 50% in math to a whopping 90+% and has increased his reading and comprehension two levels. The most amazing part his teacher tells me is his critical analysis, even when he was just starting out. That was beyond anything she had ever seen in a student.
This got me thinking about the claim that people make about children who are Haafiz and how intelligent they are.
Before getting into the brain and how the Quran changes it, one should be familiar with how traditional Muslim education took place…
The very first thing taught to an aspiring student was the Quran, which had to be memorized completely. Unlike anything else encountered in spoken Arabic, Quran recitation is a very specific science. Local dialects of Arabic or different ways of pronunciation are not permitted when reciting the Quran. In fact, part of learning the Quran is learning what is called in Arabic taj’weed, which means elocution. The very first thing the student must do is replicate exactly the teacher’s method of reciting the verse… A typical memorization session for a beginner starts with repeating one verse multiple times…to also memorize how it is spelled using the Othmani script. The next day the student reviews the verse several times before returning to the teacher to receive the next verse. After repeating it with the teacher to ensure exact replication of sound and pronunciation,…goes away to begin a new memorization session. The third day begins with reviewing the first verse one final time, followed by the second verse several times before going to receive the third verse. On the fourth day the first verse is not reviewed anymore as it would have taken hold in memory, and the second verse takes its place for being reviewed while the third verse is repeated several times before going to receive the fourth verse. At the end of the week is a complete review session for everything that was memorized in the previous days.
As the days pass the capacity for memorization increases and the student is able to take on several verses or even pages at a time instead of only one or two verses…Eventually, the whole Quran having more than 6,200 verses is memorized word for word with their specific pronunciation and Othmani spelling. Now the hard task begins as the student works to review all the verses on a monthly basis so as to not forget them. This usually means taking the 30 parts of the Quran as it has been divided to facilitate memorization, and reviewing one part everyday until all 30 have been recited by the end of the month…
While learning the Quran, the careful attention to listening and pronunciation of verses stimulates an area of the brain located in the temporal lobe. The temporal lobe is also where the hippocampus is located, which is the memory consolidation center. It’s also the brain region activated for processing of musical sounds such as the case when the Quran is recited…Where this matters is that this is the part of the brain whose activity levels and capacities have been correlated with a person’s aptitude for learning new information. The more activation this area receives, and the more involved this activation is such as the case with the Quran, the better and more efficient it becomes in its functions for learning and memory.
The parietal lobes are also quite heavily engaged as one learns the Quran. The left parietal lobe deals with reading, writing, and functions in speech. It’s also the part whose activity is important for math and logic problems. The right parietal lobe handles speech tone, which is related to elocution. It’s also responsible for visuospatial relationships and understanding facial expressions…The back part plays an important role in attention. Both lobes are also activated during skill learning tasks. Overall, having parietal lobes that have been well activated translates to better logic and math-solving skills, eloquence in general speech, better ability at reading emotional states from facial cues, improved attention, and enhanced capacity for understanding visuospatial relationships…
Other brain regions the activity of Quran recitation strongly activate are the frontal lobes and the primary motor cortex. The frontal lobes activity deals with higher order functions, including working memory, memory retrieval, speech production and written-word recognition, sustained attention, planning, social behavior, in addition to others. For example, as the student is reading the Othamni script, his brain must quickly decide on the proper pronunciation of the word, which…means it must be distinguished from other possibilities that include not only wrong words, but also wrong enunciation…The amazing thing about this is that the brain after practice will do these things without conscious control from the student. This trains the area of the brain responsible for inhibition, which is important for social interaction. Children with ADHD have been shown to have this area to be under-developed…(http://mohamedghilan.com/2012/01/12/how-the-quran-shapes-the-brain/)
A 2008 New York Times article says: A new study has found that it may be possible to train people to be more intelligent, increasing the brainpower they had at birth.
Many question how? And the answer is memorization. The focus is on fluid intelligence, which is along with crystallized intelligence, are both components of general intelligence.
While fluid intelligence involves our current ability to reason and deal with complex information around us, crystallized intelligence involves learning, knowledge and skills that are acquired over a lifetime.
Fluid intelligence declines as we age, but a Haafiz must always for the rest of his life persevere in a schedule of reviewing what he has memorized hence this protects him from decline in fluid intelligence, much like solving crossword puzzles, logic problems, memory games we played as kids etc…
It is amazing that older methods of teaching and education achieved so much and produced students that went on to be world famous researchers and inventors. There were no ADHD problems, no violence in schools, social issues, bullying, etc… The teacher where my son memorized Quran, used the older students to help the younger students with their lesson for the day, after he had recited it with them a few times till the younger ones had got the annunciation perfectly. He then made sure everyone ate together, whatever little food they had, sharing is caring. My son always ended up eating nutritious meal, fruit, grains, meat, fish, veggies etc… and it was fresh.
Maybe we should go back to the past, teach our kids what they want to learn and they will eventually learn what they have to, instead of teaching them forcefully what we feel they MUST learn.
Recently I was listening to a radio show about how dropping out of university is no longer a stigma, but a sign of being decisive. You know what you want and are not afraid to quit to move into an ‘alternative life direction’. Should we be rethinking our education system?