How the Sahabah Memorized the Qur’an: Sheikh ‘Abd al-Kareem al-Khudayr

Sheikh ‘Abd al-Kareem al-Khudayr received and responded to the following question:

يقول: هل تطبيق طريقة الصَّحابة -رضوان الله عليهم- في حفظ القرآن بأن نحفظ عشر آيات ولا نتجاوزها إلا بعد فهمها ومعرفة تفسيرها جائزٌ لنا؟ وما رأيُكُم فيمن يقول إنَّ هذا بدعة؟ ـ

Question: Is it really possible for us to put the Sahabah’s method of Qur’an memorization into practice – that we would memorize ten ayaat and not go beyond that until we had understood them and come to know their explanation? And what is your opinion about somebody who says that this is an innovation?

إذا كان هذا بدعة فما السُّنَّة؟! إذا كان صنيع الصَّحابة بدعة فمن يقوم بالسُّنَّة بعدهم؟ على كلِّ حال هذه وسائل للتَّحصيل كلٌّ يفعل ما يُناسبُهُ وكل ما كان العمل أقرب إلى عمل الصَّحابة وفهم الصَّحابة كان إلى الصَّواب أقرب وهذه طريقة، طريقة الصَّحابة

Response: If that is an innovation then what is the sunnah?! If the practice of the Sahabah is an innovation then who was it that established and enacted the sunnah after them? In any case, every person should use whichever methods suit him to achieve his objective, but the closer his method is to practice and understanding of the Sahabah and the closer it is to being correct, and this method was the method of the Sahabah.

لو أنَّ شخصاً ممَّن لديه الحافظة القويَّة وقال عشر آيات أحفظُها في خمس دقائق فماذا أفعل في بقيَّة الوقت؟ نقول: أمامك عمل في بقيَّة الوقت هي ليست مُجرَّد حفظ إنَّما هو فهم ومُراجعة لأقوال أهل العلم وتعلُّم هذه الآيات العشر من جميع الوُجُوه والعمل بهذه الآيات العشر، لا شك أنَّ من يعمل هذا في كل يوم يحفظ عشر آيات ويراجع عليها التَّفاسير ويعمل بمُقتضاها فيها مشغلة وفيها ما يقطعُ الوقت،

A person with a good memory might say, “I can memorize ten ayaat in five minutes, so then what should I do with the rest of my time?” We would respond by saying: You have work awaiting you in the rest of your time. It is not just memorization that you should focus on; rather there is understanding it, examining the statements of the scholars, learning all aspects of these ten ayaat, and acting in accordance with these ten ayaat. If a person were to do this every day, to memorize ten ayaat, look through their various explanations, and put them into practice, there is no doubt that he would remain busy and perhaps even run out of time.

والقرآن بهذه الطَّريقة يحتاج إلى سنتين، وإذا انتهى طالبُ العلم من دراسة القُرآن بهذهِ الكيفيَّة فإنَّهُ ينتهي من القرآن وقد علِمهُ وعَمِل بهِ؛ لكنَّ دُون مُراجعةِ عشر آيات بالنِّسبة لظُروفنا التِّي نعِيشُ فيها ومُراجعة ما يُحتاجُ إليه من التَّفاسير دُونهُ خرط القتاد، يحتاج إلى وقتٍ طويل عشر آيات تحتاج إلى وقت، تحتاج إلى مُعاناة حتَّى لو قِيل إنَّ الآية الواحِدة تحتاج إلى يوم في مُراجعتِها لا سِيَّما من أراد أنْ يُحيط بما كُتب حول هذه الآية من التَّفاسير لاحتاجت إلى وقت الآية الواحِدة، وحينئذِ يحتاج طالبُ العلم في إتمام القُرآن إلى عشرين سنة، وقد تعلَّم ابن عُمر البقرة في ثمان سنين، ويُقال عن عُمر اثنتي عشرة سنة، ـ

Following this method, memorizing the entire Qur’an would take two years. If a student of knowledge were to complete a study of the Qur’an in this manner he would have completed the Qur’an and learned both it and how to act according to it. However, to practice this method of studying ten ayaat along with the required research of their meanings from the books of tafsir is something that would take considerable effort in this time in which we live. Doing this for ten ayaat would take a considerable amount of time. It is something that requires time and perseverance. One could even say that researching a single ayah might require a whole day, especially if someone wanted to do an exhaustive search of what has been said about this ayah in the various books of tafsir. This would require a lot of time for just one ayah; in this case a student of knowledge would need twenty years to finish the Qur’an. As you have learned, ibn ‘Umar took eight years to complete surah al-Baqarah, and it is said that ‘Umar took twelve years.

   المقصُود أنَّ ليست طريقة تعلُّمهم مثل طريقة تعلمنا نحن طريقة تعلمنا نظري ونكتفي ونجتزئ بأدنى شيء، يعني لو نظرنا وقارنَّا أكبر مُفسِّر في الدُّنيا، مثلاً لو قُلنا الطَّبري مثلاً ووازنَّاهُ بتفسير ابن عباس لا شيء بالنِّسبة لهُ، لا شيء بالنِّسبة لمن دعا لهُ النبي -عليه الصَّلاة والسَّلام- أنْ يُفقِّههُ في الدِّين وأنْ يُعلِّمهُ التَّأويل، جاءهُ نافع بن الأزرق وهو في المسجد الحرام جالس وسألهُ عن غريب القرآن فأجابهُ بما في لُغة العرب من ذلك من منثُورٍ ومنظُوم، ـ

The point is that our way of learning is not like their way of learning. Our way is just a quick search and then being happy and content with the first thing we find. Let’s stop to think about this. Say we were to compare the greatest mufassir in the world – let’s say al-Tabari, for example – against the tafsir of ibn ‘Abbaas, there would be no comparison. There is no comparison to the one for whom the Prophet supplicated that he be granted understanding of the religion and taught the proper interpretation. One time Naaf’i ibn al-Azraq came to ibn ‘Abbas while he was sitting in the Masjid al-Haram and asked him about some challenging vocabulary in the Qur’an. Ibn ‘Abbas responded to his questions by citing the usage of those words in Arabic poetry and prose.

فنحتاج في مثل هذا إلى مُعاناة، مسألة كوني راجعت تفسير ابن سعدي أو تفسير الجلالين أو كذا وأقول حفظت ما هو صحيح، يعني إذا نظرنا إلى القرآن فإنَّ عناية الأُمَّة به لا يُدانيها أيُّ عناية بأيِّ كتابٍ كان، يعني البخاري عليه مما يقرب من مئة شرح، هل القرآن عليه مئة تفسير؟ تفسير البيضاوي فقط عليه مئة وعشرين حاشية؛ فكيف نُحيط بما كُتب في هذه التَّفاسير؟! علينا أنْ ننتقي منها ما هو أقرب إلى فهم الصَّحابة وسلف هذه الأُمَّة ثُمَّ بعد ذلك نستفيد من التَّفاسير الأُخرى بقدر الحاجة؛ لأنَّ العُمر لا يستوعب، فإذا قرأ الإنسان المقطع أربع آيات ثلاث آيات خمس آيات وراجع عليها التَّفاسير ودوَّن ما احتاج إليه ممَّا يُدوَّن الحمد لله استفاد فائدة عظيمة، وإذا مرَّ به أمر امتثل، وإذا مرَّ به نهي انتهى، وإذا مرَّ به أدب من الآداب طبَّق هذا خير كثير، ـ

In order to achieve something like this, we need to really put in the time. If I were just to say “I’ve read Tafsir al-Sa’di or Tafsir al-Jalalayn” etc, or if I were to say “I have memorized it” – this is not the correct approach. If we consider the Qur’an, then we see that the attention this ummah has given to it far surpasses the attention given to any other book. Let’s compare to al-Bukhari, for example. There are roughly 100 explanations of Saheeh al-Bukhari. Does the Qur’an have 100 explanations? al-Tafsir al-Baydhawi alone has 120 critical commentaries just on it! So how can we possibly go over all of what is available within the books of tafsir? Out of all the choices available to us we must select those which are nearest to the understanding of the Sahabah and the salaf, and then after that we can benefit from other tafsirs as the need arises, for this life will not last forever. If a person were to read a passage of three or four of five ayaat, then research their explanations, then write down whatever he might need to record, alhamdulillaah this person would have benefited considerably! And if when he comes across a command he complies with it, when he comes across a prohibition he abstains from it, when he comes across some point of etiquette he implements it, then this would be a tremendous amount of good.

لكن بعض المشايخ يُوصي طُلاب العلم أنْ يحفظُوا القرآن مع التَّفسير، فلا يحفظُوا شيئاً لا يفهمُونهُ لا بُد من مُراجعة التَّفاسير، ويكون طالب العلم هذا مشغُول بعُلُومٍ أُخرى وبدوامٍ آخر إمَّا مُعلِّم أو مُتعلِّم أو مُوظَّف ثُمَّ بعد ذلك لا يستطيع مُراجعة التَّفاسير في كثير من الأوقات فيُرجئ الحفظ فيفُوتُهُ الوقت ما حفظ، فإذا خَشِيَ من فوات الوقت فإنَّهُ يُقدِّم الحِفظ على الفِهم ويُرجئ الفهم إلى الوقت المُناسب لهُ. ـ

Some of the scholars advise students to memorize the Qur’an and its explanation together, that they should not memorize anything which they do not understand, but instead that they should acquaint themselves with the explanation. However, such a student would also be busy with other studies and responsibilities, such as teaching, attending classes, and working. Even after completing these responsibilities, he is still not able to spend much time looking into the explanations. This would end up slowing his memorization and causing him to lose out on time that could be spent memorizing. So if a student fears that he will lose out on that time, then he can focus on memorization before understanding, delaying study of the meanings until a more suitable time.

[Taken from the sheikh’s website here]

See also: Learning the Qur’an – Both Wordings and Meanings: ibn Taymiyah

See also: How the Sahabah Read and Divided the Qur’an: ibn Taymiyah

See also: What the Memorizer of the Qur’an Ought to Know: Makki ibn Abi Taalib

See also: The Virtue of Memorizing the Qur’an: Sheikh Muqbil

See also: Advice for Memorizing the Qur’an: Sheikh ibn ‘Uthaymeen

Learn more about the books of tafsir here and here

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4 thoughts on “How the Sahabah Memorized the Qur’an: Sheikh ‘Abd al-Kareem al-Khudayr

  1. Pingback: Learning the Qur’an – Both Wordings and Meanings: ibn Taymiyah | Tulayhah

  2. Pingback: How the Sahabah Read and Divided the Qur’an: ibn Taymiyah | Tulayhah

  3. Pingback: What the Memorizer of the Qur’an Ought to Know: Makki ibn Abi Taalib | Tulayhah

  4. Pingback: The Virtue of Memorizing the Qur’an: Sheikh Muqbil | Tulayhah

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