Ḥifẓ: A Much-needed Overhaul
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Ḥifẓ/Taḥfīẓul Qur’ān. It’s almost become a thing in our community where putting your child through the Ḥifẓ programme is another brownie point on your community CV; setting up a Taḥfīẓul Qur’ān class or holding a Ḥifẓ Graduation ceremony is the mark of establishing your institute’s local prestige or grounding.
Apart from the perks of knowing the Qur’ān off by heart, and thereby being able to recite it whenever without the need for a muṣḥaf/text, and consequently being able to lead Tarāwīḥ, a graduate of the programme typically loses out on other things. For a start, he/she loses out on basic Islamic education, at a time when it is most needed (early teens). After he/she finishes, most fall out of the system because of secular studies. They have memorised 800-odd pages of the most sacred text, yet they do not know the meaning of a decent number of āyahs. They cannot relate to it. They cannot derive any lessons from it.
Why set up Taḥfīẓul Qur’ān Classes?
We need to seriously ask ourselves why we set up Ḥifẓ classes. What are our aims & goals behind them? Is it just to mass-produce Ḥuffāẓ? If so, it’s a limited objective. There is so much more that can be done to improve the programme and release its potential.
The issue I have with the way Ḥifẓ classes are run in many places, is that emphasis is given only to memorisation. Tajwīd, Tafsīr, ‘Ilm Al-Wuqūf etc. aren’t even brought up. Where Tajwīd is taught, it is at times over-emphasised. Students are discouraged from picking up a translation of the Qur’ān for fear of ‘being misled’. They are told that if they want to understand the Qur’ān, they must sit in the durūs that are held in the local Masjid (which are in Urdu mostly, and have nothing to do with the Qur’ān or understanding it).
To reiterate, I’m not totally against a Ḥifẓ programme. In my opinion, it needs an overhaul. In 21st century UK, students need to be connected to the Qur’ān, not just be made to memorise it. There is a growing number of young people becoming disillusioned from Islam, having grown into Muslim households. Although this is down to many factors, a fundamental solution has to be connecting them to the beauty of the great and noble Qur’ān; the Speech of Allāḥ, the guide to the straight path.
I may not be wrong in saying that one of the factors of extremism mentioned by the Prophet ﷺ was this very thing. When he ﷺ mentioned the Khawārij, he said, “…A people who will recite the Qur’ān yet it will not go beyond their throats...” among other things. An-Nawawī states that this means ‘…contemplating upon it through it settling in the heart.’, while Al-Qāḍī ‘Iyāḍ states, ‘…their hearts will not understand it and they will be unable to benefit from their recitation of it. Their only share of it will be their recitation of it with their mouths and throats…’.
Students should be introduced to learning the meanings of words that appear frequently in the Qur’ān; be introduced to the meaning of passages often recited in Ṣalāh, or passages that have relevance to daily life. This way, they will be able to recite with contemplation as opposed to it being mantra-esque. In doing this, we will somewhat be following in the footsteps of the Ṣaḥābah رضي الله عنهم, as they would learn ten āyahs from the Prophet ﷺ and not learn the next ten until they knew what those ten āyahs contained in terms of knowledge and action. (Ibn Abī Shaybah)
As for tajwid, it’s importance cannot be stressed enough. Students should also be taught the importance of factors like wuqūf, as mentioned by Shaykh Saud Ash-Shuraym in the clip below:
In it, he stresses the importance of teaching students how and where to pause during recitation, and its effect on the meaning given as a result.
A Note to Parents
It is undoubtedly an honour to be able to memorise the Qur’ān. However, not every child is capable of memorising it. Neither is it some kind of compulsion for a child to memorise the Qur’ān. If your child is not capable or is not interested in it, do not compel them to do it. You will only hamper your child’s education, or worse, maybe even put them off madrasah/Islamic education completely.
More important than making your child a ḥāfiẓ/ḥāfiẓah is giving them a comprehensive Islamic education, together with bringing them up on Islamic values and ethics. An Islamically well-schooled and principled child is better and of more value to everyone around it than a ‘ḥāfiẓ’ who lacks in basic Islamic knowledge and principles.
 قال النووي في شرح مسلم: قَوْلُهُ ان أقواما يقرأون الْقُرْآنَ لَا يُجَاوِزُ تَرَاقِيَهُمْ وَلَكِنْ إِذَا وَقَعَ فِي الْقَلْبِ فَرَسَخَ فِيهِ نَفَعَ مَعْنَاهُ أَنَّ قَوْمًا لَيْسَ حَظُّهُمْ مِنَ الْقُرْآنِ إِلَّا مُرُورُهُ عَلَى اللِّسَانِ فَلَا يُجَاوِزُ تَرَاقِيَهُمْ لِيَصِلَ قُلُوبَهُمْ وليس ذلك هو المطلوب بل المطلوب تعقله وَتَدَبُّرُهُ بِوُقُوعِهِ فِي الْقَلْبِ
 لا يجاوز حناجرهم: قال القاضي فيه تأويلان أحدهما معناه لا تفقهه قلوبهم ولا ينتفعون بما تلوا منه ولا لهم حظ سوى تلاوة الفم والحنجرة والحلق إذ بهما تقطيع الحروف
 روى ابن أبي شيبة في مسنده قال: حَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ فُضَيْلٍ، عَنْ عَطَاءِ بْنِ السَّائِبِ، عَنْ أَبِي عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ، قَالَ: حَدَّثَنَا مَنْ كَانَ يُقْرِئُنَا مِنْ أَصْحَابِ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ: «أَنَّهُمْ كَانُوا يَقْتَرِئُونَ مِنْ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ عَشْرَ آيَاتٍ، وَلَا يَأْخُذُونَ فِي الْعَشْرِ الْأُخْرَى حَتَّى يَعْلَمُوا مَا فِي هَذِهِ مِنَ الْعَمَلِ وَالْعِلْمِ فَإِنَّا عُلِّمْنَا الْعَمَلَ وَالْعِلْمَ»