How The Quran Shapes The Brain

*Disclaimer Update (October 22, 2012): Given the widespread circulation of this article, which I didn’t expect to happen, an important qualification of it is warranted in order for it not to be misunderstood or used in affirming what is presented as “facts”. This article is not based on any direct scientific research on this subject that I’m aware of. It’s simply my own indirect inferences from my current knowledge of brain anatomy, regional functional differentiation, and plasticity. If anything, you can view this as several hypotheses that one can take and directly examine. However, keeping that caveat in mind, our environment and various activities we engage in have been shown through numerous studies to have tangible effects on brain structure and function. Hence, based on that, some of my statements might sound too absolute for the liking of hard-nosed scientists out there. I guess what I’m saying is that before you go into reading this article, if you’re a science-loving Muslim, please don’t add this to the list of “scientific miracles of the Quran” (a subject I have a massive problem with), and if you’re a staunch science-loving materialist atheist, don’t be overly sensitive to this subject simply because religion and the Quran are involved. What follows can one day be proved completely off the mark (although I don’t think that will be the case in spite of the post-modern skeptic), and that’s OK. On the off chance that happens, it shouldn’t cause any Muslim to have doubt in the greatness of the Quran, and it shouldn’t cause any staunch atheist to assume they scored a point against Islam.

“If it wasn’t for their political problems and constant fighting between each other, the Muslims would have been on the moon by the 1400’s” was the statement made by a non-Muslim professor in a 400-level undergraduate class on the history of science. It seems that the rate of discovery and advancement in science achieved by the Muslims was quite impressive and has yet to be replicated. What was it that they were doing that allowed for their fast progress?

The teacher in me immediately thinks about their education system, and the neuroscientist in me wants to examine the factors involved in shaping the brains of such a civilization. Interestingly, many Muslim religious scholars will say something about how the Muslims were the leaders when the Quran was the center of their education, and only when they abandoned the Quran that they lost their reign. The amazing thing about this is that while Muslim religious scholars are typically talking about spiritual and moral realities, there might actually be a material reality to what they’re saying, which takes place in the brain.

A quick disclaimer here: The list of all that is affected in the brain by the Quran and how that can influence other functions is quite exhaustive. But in the interest of keeping it short, I chose some major areas to present in this article.

Before getting into the brain and how the Quran changes it, one should be familiar with how traditional Muslim education took place. In case you’re wondering where I’m getting this from, it’s from reading the biographies of major figures of scholarship in the traditional Muslim world such as Ibn Rushd, Ibn Sina, and others. This is also based on my personal experience and what I have been told by some of my teachers.

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 how the teacher is reciting the verse. This refers to where individual letter sounds are being generated in the mouth and throat and where the tongue is to be placed exactly. Once this is done, the student writes the verse on a wooden board in the Othamni script, which follows different spelling rules than regular Arabic writing. The student then takes his board and goes away to memorize the verse. A typical memorization session for a beginner starts with repeating one verse multiple times as it is read on the board 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 following verse. After repeating it with the teacher to ensure exact replication of sound and pronunciation, the student writes the new verse and 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. The writing using Othmani spelling continues, as well as the review sessions. 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.

It should be mentioned here that the Quran has 10 different modes of recitation. This refers to the placement of diacritical marks on the words and how certain words are pronounced. Some students take this task on and memorize the Quran in all the different modes of recitation, which requires a very careful attention to where the pronunciations are different so they’re not confused with each other given how subtle they sometimes can be.

There are a couple of important qualities about the Quran that relates to how it sounds. Verses in the Quran rhyme and change rhythm often, which gives a pleasurable effect to the listener. Furthermore, as one recites, they’re supposed to sing it rather than simply read it. In fact, the very practice of Taj’weed (elocution) forces the reciter into a singing tone as they enunciate the words of each verse.

A final note to bring up is in regards to the Arabic language and writing in Othmani script. Part of studying the different modes of recitation requires the student to write not only in an unusual spelling, but also to exclude the diacritical marks from the words. This would allow the student to learn the variations of recitation without having the diacritical marks visually interfere with their memorization of different modes of recitation. Moreover, the grammar of the Arabic requires the proper use of diacritical marks in pronunciation so as to not confuse things such as the subject and predicate. This means that the one learning the Quran must always keep track of how the words are enunciated so as to not alter the overall meaning of the verse.

How all of this relates to the brain is quite impressive. The brain is recognized to be a malleable organ that can change its connections and even its size of certain areas based on how active they become. Understanding how involved the brain is of someone learning the Quran using the traditional Muslim method can explain how they were able to achieve such success in their knowledge endeavours.

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. Moreover, it becomes involved when the student engages in handwriting exercises similar to the ones on the wooden board. 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 front part is responsible for the sense of touch discrimination and recognition, which is active during handwriting. 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. This last one can explain why Muslims were so good at astronomy.

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 without the diacritical marks means it must be distinguished from other possibilities that include not only wrong words, but also wrong enunciation depending on the specific recitation he’s using out of the 10 valid ones. 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.

Given the Quran’s content that for example includes descriptions of individuals and places, it activates the occipital lobes, which are involved in generating mental imagery. This brain region is also important in visual perception. Becoming active as a result of generating mental imagery indirectly improves visual perception capacities since the area activated is within the same region. The Quran is also rich in its content for history, parables, and logical arguments, all of which recruit different areas that become more efficient and better connected as they are continually activated due to the consistent review sessions.

Putting all this together, it’s no wonder Muslims were able to make such vast contributions to human knowledge in a relatively short amount of time, historically speaking. After the aspiring student during the height of Muslim rule has mastered the Quran, his education in other sciences began by the time he was in his early teenage years. Given the brain’s malleable nature, the improved connections in one region indirectly affect and improve functions in adjacent locations. The process in studying the Quran over the previous years has trained his brain and enhanced its functions relating to visual perception, language, working memory, memory formation, processing of sounds, attention, skill learning, inhibition, as well as planning just to name a few. Now imagine what such an individual will be able to do when they tackle any subject. It makes sense how someone like Imam Al Ghazali can say he studied Greek philosophy on the side during his spare time and mastered it within 2 years.

What was the Muslims’ secret for their exponential rise in scientific advancement and contribution to human knowledge? Literally, the Quran when it was the centre of their education system.

Mohamed Ghilan

93 thoughts on “How The Quran Shapes The Brain

  1. Al-salamu ‘alaykum.

    This is an excellent article masha’Allah and should be drawn out into a full paper.

    • Wa’alykoum As’salam
      Thanks bro. You have no idea how hard it was to keep this topic short enough so people would read it. I’ll work on a full paper inshallah and circulate it when finished

      • What is the name of the professor in the beginning of your article who said, “If it wasn’t for their political problems and constant fighting between each other, the Muslims would have been on the moon by the 1400’s” .

  2. Excellent article!
    I was looking around just last night for papers investigating the impact on prayer and Quraan recitation on the Brain. I am considering the topic as a potential graduation project for my Neuroscience degree currently looking for labs in London working on similar themes, Ill be sure to let you know if I find anything interesting!

    Yaatik el Afye.

  3. Assalamu ‘alaykum wa Rahmatullah,
    MashaAllah, an excellent article! much needed research – especially for those of us involved in tahfeedhul Qur’aan,
    BaarakAllahu feek

  4. Assalamu alaykum. A great analysis. I do have a question though. Are there other things that will cause the same kinds of development? What is it about learning to memorize the Qur’an that makes it superior to learning to memorize anything else? You say learning to memorize the Qur’an stimulates all these various parts of the brain but aren’t there other possible stimuli for each of these areas? What is it about learning to memorize the Qur’an that makes it superior to these other possible stimuli.
    I don’t ask these to antagonize but as something to possibly consider if you are going to make a deeper analysis of this topic. I’m no neuro-scientist (far from it) but think it would be good to compare the memorizing of the Qur’an to other possible stimuli for all the various parts of the brain you say memorizing the Qur’an stimulates.
    I’m not trying to play down the importance of memorizing the Qur’an either. I’m just thinking for the sake of an academic paper (and for dawah) comparing it to other stimuli will help keep the analysis more objective.

    • Wa’alykoum Assalam,

      Great question! It’s something that I’ve considered as well. One can certainly stimulate the same brain areas by doing various activities. However, as I’ve pointed in this short article, the Quran and the methodology that was applied in studying and memorizing it, which for the most part is no longer applied in the same way, has a unique combination of properties that I don’t believe are combined in the same way in any other activity. Studying something else might activate some of the regions as would be in studying the Quran. However, I think that the Quran is unique in the level of brain involvement it recruits.

      I’ll be addressing this issue at a much more detailed level in a longer article/essay and will publish that soon inshallah.

      Jazak Allah khair for the input.
      Mohamed Ghilan

      • Hi,
        I happened across your blog and really enjoyed this post. I am a devout Christian, and a visual artist. I am looking for more layman’s material on neuroscience and it’s relationship with the written word and visual imagery. The above essay was very helpful, and I look forward to reading the more extensive version, if you post it.
        Thank you,

      • An important point is also the spiritual barakah from performing these activities when one is fulfilling the command Iqra bismi Rabbik – recite in the name of your Lord!

        Great work! I look forward to your comprehensive article, Mohamed!

  5. Masha-Allah. An excellent article. Would love to read more about these amazing facts. Please let me know where I can access more info. Shukran. May Allah reward you.

    • Jazak Allah khair. I’m using my background in the field to compose this information together, because I haven’t seen much out there that deals with it. I’ll publish a more detailed and longer article on this topic in the near future inshallah.

  6. Assalam u Alikum,

    Very impressive article, actually an eye opener for the muslims who are placing more emphasis on modern education and don’t prioritize the importance of basic and advanced islamic education for their children.

    Keep up the good work and thanks for sharing!

  7. Assalamu alaykum,

    Akhi, JazakAllahu khayran for a very inspiring and scientific article! I wanted to point out another support of how the Quran changes the brain: if you’ve heard of Sharon Begley, author of Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain, she wrote an article in Newsweek in January of how memorization of, say something like Shakespearan sonnets, can actually help to increase IQ. Here’s a link to the article: It would be interesting to see how memorizing the Quran could potentially increase one’s IQ! And not to forget deen :)

  8. Mashaa Allah!
    Amazinng article. I feel motivated me to sit down and memorize more of the Qur’an. May Allah increase you in your knowledge. Looking forward to the full-length paper on this topic.
    By the way, there is a website which can really help in memorizing the quran. It helps you keep track of every ayat that you memorize and can also be used to make schedules for hifdh and revision. You can find it at Do check out the ‘How it Works’ section first.

  9. Sallamu Alakum Brother. Jazak Allah Kheir for this incredible article. I was just asking a few Muslim friends today how we can explain the fall of the Ummah from a non-orientalist standpoint. Orientalist believe the Ummah fell because we were no longer inclined towards scientific and technological innovation. The Muslim scholars say it was because of Tawheed. But I believe what you have done in this paper is really provide a fusion of the two positions. A reconciliation that was much needed.

    Where will future matters on this subject be published? Where can kids get this type of traditional education today? Any idea?


    • Wa’alykoum assalam Omar. Traditional methods of education are unfortunately not the easiest to come by. As far as I know, you would need to go to places like the Sahara desert of West Africa and find bedouin scholars who use this methodology of teaching the Quran. Sadly, since they’re removed from modern technology and access to science, their brilliance is not utilized outside Islamic sciences. If you were to meet one of those people you’d be shocked at their intellectual aptitudes, and it’s manifest amongst them.

      The best thing you can do is take a trip to a place like Mauritania, spend a few weeks recording and observing how they teach the Quran and other Islamic sciences, then set up a program at home with your kids as an after school activity and implement it with them. As far as I know, there is no where in the world that has the combination of technological advancement with traditional education.

      Let’s hope that someone invests into doing such a hybrid program. We would have geniuses.


  10. Hello!

    Interesting article. Is this backed up by any studies? It would also be nice if you could produce the source for the quote by the “non-muslim scientist” as I can find it only in your article.

    • Hi Alex,

      What I’ve done in this article is taken studies and experiments that defined what the brain areas are responsible for, and then broke down the traditional process of studying the Quran and linked both sides. I haven’t come across a study that examined it all directly. However, if one was to go ahead with a study on how the Quran affects the brain, they would need to have a hypothesis that is based on previous findings, which they would seek to confirm. Having said that, this wouldn’t be exciting research because the specialization of the brain areas I’ve outlined, and the activities undertaken during the traditional method of studying the Quran have been confirmed to activate those regions previously. The only difference in the previous studies was that these activities were done separately in the lab and not while someone was studying the Quran.

      The source for my quote was actually a science professor in our university. It’s not that uncommon to hear something of that nature even from atheists about Muslim scientists before the renaissance. It sounds like news to western educated science students because as far as the curriculum is concerned, there was a gap where nothing happened between the Greeks and renaissance Europe. One would need to go and research on their own to find out that the Europeans got their start by studying with the Muslims. Once the Muslims lost Andalusia they started their descent and the Europeans took the mantle after them.

  11. I work in a traumatic brain injury unit and this research project will help me to redefine my perception of loss of cognitive impairement in these patients.

  12. Alhamdulillah! This is Amazing findings! I have been into brain/mind research since I was a teenager . This is a REAL eye opener for me.

    I would love to read the full paper or any similar research papers.

  13. I also think a study on the Quran, healing and prayer would be a very good Idea.I have personally experienced the effect of the Quran, when it comes to pain and illness. I am a cancer survivor.My most precious memory of that time was being in ICU, my bed surrounded by a number of doctors scratching their heads as to why I had hardly used the morphene pump they had given for me to use.

    • Salam ahlamhelwa..could you tell us which surah or ayah did u regularly recite in particular to help u fight through your illness? MashaAllah, your dua and faith in Allah swt helped u in ways that modern medicine on its own could not fathom. JazakAllah khair.

  14. I’m signing up with ur site. I dont wana miss the full ‘thing’ when its ready. I’m into medicine and its enlightening how well the study of the Quran being the most righteous study is linked to some science i kinda overlooked in neurology study. Its a push to make a conscious effort now. May you be rewarded for the time and effort you have put in here. Salaam Muhammad.

  15. Assalamualaikum!!!

    This article was AMAZING. This is exactly what I have studied whilst doing my masters in Cognitive Neuropsychology but never ever looked at it from this perspective. Subhan’Allah!!! No wonder we were at the top of literally everything then. Whoa!!! JazakAllah khayr for sharing this brilliant article.

    May Allah reward you for your hard work in this world and in the world to come.
    BTW would it be possible to get in touch with you through email or facebook because I would love to learn more from your research insha’Allah!

    JazakAllah Khayr once again!

    • Wa’alykoum Assalam
      Glad you found the article enjoyable and informative. Jazakillah khair for the dua.
      You can follow my on Facebook. I’ll continue to publish more articles inshallah so stay posted :)

  16. Dear Mohamed,

    A very thought provoking article indeed. However, I have several contentions regarding the association you’re making between traditional Qur’anic learning and muslim contribution to human knowledge.

    It is self-evident that today there are more huffaz (people who have memorized the entire Qur’an) than there had ever been in muslim history. There are literally millions of Huffaz in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Indonesia and other populous muslim-majority countries. These countries have tens of thousands of muslim seminaries that provide traditional Islamic learning, focusing on memorization of the Qur’an, tajweed and as such. These institutions are highly popular amongst the religiously inclined masses, who send their children to these institutions in the hope of other-worldly rewards and salvation.

    Yet, sadly enough, these countries are decidedly downtrodden and lag far behind their western counterparts in every facet of science perceivable – here lies my first contention. Secondly, I contend that the minds of the early muslim scientists were indeed rendered amenable to scientific inquiry and inventiveness by the Qur’an – not merely through memorization, but through deep reflection on the content of The Book, which our Islamic seminaries utterly lack today.

    Thirdly, the Qur’an is free from any semblance of contradictions and it invites humanity to the scientific process – hence a student, well-trained in material that is free from contradictions is inherently situated at a vantage point to explore the natural world with an open and critical mind.

    Today we have mere parrots – a far cry from the introspective minds that grasped the unadulterated message of The Book and put it to use.

    • Assalamu Alykoum Rakib,

      I think you might’ve missed a vital issue that I allude to in the article, which is that the traditional method of teaching the Quran is not all that common nowadays. What you witness in the greatest majority of seminaries is not how it was done by our predecessors. The intense focus on memory training, the use of the board as I mentioned, as well as the reflection through understanding the Arabic is lacking in these seminaries. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come across graduates of these seminaries who don’t seem to be able to utilize their knowledge in discussion. Moreover, they don’t even understand what they’ve memorized, which gives rise to the parroting of information that you brought up.

      Historically speaking, the students who became the scholars of traditional Islamic sciences were the highest tier students, i.e. the 95th percentile if you will. They were also polymaths, and their understanding of the Islamic sciences drove them to investigate the material world. For example, Ibn Sina (Avecena) was a Hanafi jurist first before he was a physician/philosopher/botanist/theologian etc. Ibn Rushd (Averroese) was a Maliki jurist of the highest caliber whose religious rulings are used to this day before he was a physician/philosopher/scientist. There are many more examples like these two.

      What we did in our education system nowadays is abandoned our traditional model of education and we picked up the western model, which is starkly different from how our Muslim predecessors did it. Moreover, the reason these Muslim countries are downtrodden and lag far behind their western counterparts in every facet of science perceivable is because of their attitude towards education in general. You’ll be able to get massive funds to build a new skyscraper before you can get them for educational purposes. Furthermore, the top students in science end up leaving for better opportunities in the west. If you were to scan the number of Muslim names in scientific publications in Europe and North America, you would be very shocked. And a large proportion of these Muslim scientists in the west are devout and practicing. Quite a few of them are also Quran memorizers and if you compared them to their peers during discussion of any subject, it’s not hard to notice that they have an upper hand from an intellectual level alone.

      Now, your second contention can be addressed simply by pointing to the fact that their capacity to reflect on the Quran was due to having their brain prepared for such a task, and this was through the traditional model of studying and memorizing of it. This is not to say that one may not be able to reflect without having memorized it. But it is to say that one’s capacity is increased many folds if they have. A discourse between people who have the knowledge readily available on request by simply recalling it is at a much higher level than people who constantly have to stop and ask for time to go and review the material. This is something anyone can notice in graduate research during seminars and thesis defences where veteran students are responding to questions and discussing contentions using their memory in addition to their reasoning powers, as opposed to brand new students that can barely talk about the subject. To bring the Quran into this, research has shown that IQ scores are increased in people that memorize many things, and those whose memories have been trained to the extent that it would be with the Quran are at a significant advantage to progress through their scientific studies at a much faster pace.

      I’m working on a more detailed paper on this subject where I will expand on this article and you’ll see that how traditional islamic education centred around the Quran is not comparable to what’s being done today in most seminaries. Memorization was the base that students built upon. But it wasn’t conducted the same way it is now.


  17. Masha’Allah. Memorizing the Quran methods mentioned has been adopted year after year. It works to the Muslim of the past. But this same method I believe still adopted by Muslim today somehow has lesser effect. Perhaps there is more to it. The part on understanding the meaning of the Quran has not been emphasized. Muslim of the past know what they were reading and applied what they have understood. Wallahu’Allam. Nonetheless it is a good article.
    Do look at the ayat 179 of chapter 7. Allah mentioned “they have heart wherewith they understand not” Allah uses “heart” instead of brain, why? I understand it to be aside from brain, seeing and hearing play vital role in understanding too. We see, we hear, the brain processes and the heart acknowledge. Wallahu’Alam.

    • You’re correct about the Muslims of the past knowing the meanings of what they were reading. But that was part of teaching the Quran itself. Nowadays it’s obvious that teaching the meanings is not focused on based on all the students who have memorized it but don’t know what it was that they memorized.

      Regarding why Allah uses the heart and not the brain, in Islam the organ of intelligence is the heart. I’ll write another article about that, but you can read this one for a preview:

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  19. Thank you Mohamed for your excellent article and the application of your research to this subject. It took your deep understanding of neuroscience and your love of the Quran to bring this explanation to light. I believe you are very accurate in your summary and I look forward to your expanded version.

    I have included a link to an interesting article by Dr. Kevin McGrew, a psychologist and applied neurotechologist. The article, titled, “You Are A Time Machine”, has facets that might prove wothwhile in your studies and research, though you are probably already familiar with Brain Clock research in respect to helping children with ADHD and also its use in cognitive performance and learning. If you know these works already then all the better. If not, then enjoy:

    • Thanks a lot James for the comment and the link. I’m glad you enjoyed the article.
      The article by Dr. Kevin seems interesting and I’ll make sure to go through it :)

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  21. The analysis of this non-Muslim professor for Quran readers is inspiring and excellent. Its very unique and resourceful information you have shared in this blog post. Quran is the miracle of Allah SWT, We always need to read, recite, Learn and understand Quran and its education to get the blessing of God. There is a huge benefit for Muslims in Quran recitation and learning by Allah Almighty here in this world and here after.

  22. Assalamualaikum

    Im so glad I’ve come across your site! I find this article mind blowing! It’s well written and easy to understanding, unlike some articles which have too much scientific jargon! I literally feel that my brain is expanding with excitement and dancing in my head because of fascination (haha!). I feel like I have 43521354 questions which need to be explored and study. My heart and thoughts are racing faster than my little fingers can possibly type! Despite my 34235456 questions, for the purpose of this comment Ill limit my questions to three;

    1) Have studies been conducted in determining whether recitation of Quran helps
    those suffering from Dyslexia? I ask because I think that reading the Quran
    frequently improves the recognition of letters.

    Im curious, would there be a difference with repetitive exposure to those suffering from dyslexia to Arabic/quran as opposed to normal ABC letters? Hmm what is the dyslexia rate in Arab countries? Ahh I have so many questions!

    I don’t suffer from dyslexia. However I found that when it came to remembering verses (to quote in my essays during exams back in school) it was much easier to write it in Arabic compared to remembering the English translations. And Im a native English speaker and not fluent in Arabic! Perhaps its because the Quran is rhythmic and as im writing the font I hear in my mind someone/or sometimes myself (haha) recite.

    Also, I recently bought a Quran which has a word for word tafsir. So as I read I can simultaneously know the meaning of each word. At first it was awkward because the translation below was distracting. But after a while I got used to it and my recognition of certain words without having to read the translation has improved. My heart jumps from excitement each time I am able to understand the verse without having to read the translation! Subhanallah!

    2) Perhaps intention plays a great role when in comes to memorization of quran;

    i) when I was in university I had a memorize as-sadjah for exam purposes. I managed to do so but had to struggle so muchh. Unfortunately, after exams I completely forgot the entire surah. Same goes where I would have to memorize certain verses or hadiths to quote in my essay papers.

    ii) now im working and it takes about an hour to reach my workplace before the jam. During the jam , I decided to utilize my time by trying to memorize al-mulk because of its benefits, and these intentions had nothing to do with wordly exams whatsoever. It seems that I could memorize much easier. These verses have been committed to my heart and I find it hard to forget. Alhamudillah. I had to listen more compared to read because I couldn’t stare at the quran while driving….

    However it seems like there is a flaw in my memorization. Im constantly seeking ways to improve. I always get stuck after Verse 19 struggle till 25 and completely forget till the last verse. I suspect its because while im driving when I hit playback it goes right from the start instead of the areas which I need work. So Im fluent in the beginning and struggle towards the end.

    Perhaps it’s unfair to compare the two since I used different techniques to memorize. The first situtation did not include a lot of listening (apart from me whispering it to myself). But then again when I was younger, in school we recited certain verses everyday, so heard it being recited everyday. Some I surahs im able to recall, some I can not. Too bad intention is so abstract, and hard to conduct a study on!

    3) Is it easier for those fluent in Arabic to memorize the Quran , since they don’t have to struggle with the “understanding step”,

    But I guess there is an advantage of not understanding the verse straight away. It seems each time I review the verse it tends to carry a brand new “meaning”. Reading it makes me feel different. Im not sure how describe, perhaps personal experience taints my perception. Or this “brand new” feeling is just the feeling of increased appreciation of a simple verse carrying such deep and profound meaning.

    Sooo yes those are my comments! Please forgive me for the parts where I start rambling and if there are any typing/grammar error. My mind is ‘racing’ too fast to spot errors. Can’t wait for your full paper!

    • Wa’alykoum As’salam,

      I’m glad you enjoyed the article. To answer your questions:

      1) I’m not aware of any studies looking at Qur’an and dyslexia. It would be interesting though.

      2) Intention does play a big role, but also review. The Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him did say that the Qur’an is easily forgotten if it’s not reviewed constantly. For your problem with memorizing the last part of the surah, try to edit the audio track so you can focus on parts of the surah that need work.

      3) Arabs do have an advantage because it’s their mother tongue. But recognize that most of the greatest Muslim scholars in our history were not originally Arab themselves. If you focus and continue with your studies you can become more fluent in the language than Arabs are.


      • Thanks for the advice.

        I forgot to mention that when I read the Quran it seems like my brain is communicating in 3 different languages at one go. My Quran tafsir per word is in Malay and Im glad it is because a lot of Arabic words have been adopted into the language. I also generally read lengthier commentaries which are in English. So when I read a single verse in a single second (or maybe less) I would be thinking in 3 different languages haha. Its rather bizarre and one would think confusing! But actually everything is crystal clear! Subhanallah.

  23. Salam brother, very interesting article. I am currently struggling with sending my son to an islamic school that stresses quran memorization vs. A traditional “academic” type school. I heard that memorizing the quran would make learning ither subjects easier. My question though, just playing devils advocate, why then are not the indians and pakistanis academically successful. It seems that there are no shortages of hafis in that part of the world, yet they hardly are considered academic intellectuals. Any thoughts on why that is? Again im asking this based on which school i should choose. So any input you have would br greatly appreciated.

    • Wa’alykoum As’salam brother,
      Jazak Allah khair for the comment. I think the current problem is that we have abandoned seeking knowledges outside of the Islamic tradition. For our previous predecessors, the Quran was the foundation and central theme that everything was built from. But just like if you want to build a house, you don’t stop at the foundation. Our issue is that with those students who have memorized the Quran using the traditional methods, most of them have not been tapped for their potential to see what they can do in secular subjects.
      What you should do is seek a way to combine the secular subjects with the traditional teaching of the Quran. As far as I understand it, there really is no place in the world that offers this combination, and therefore you’ll end up having to be proactive in your sons education to make sure he realizes his potential.

  24. Salam
    Interesting correlation made. You should present this in a minute long user friendly video. Jzk!

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  26. Subhan’Allah. This should be read by all the educators / teachers.

    To parents who put their children in traditional schools and take Qura’an studies as part time. They should do it vice versa.

    Jazak’Allah for the article. Please elaborate more if you have time, especially in context of the children of this digital age.

  27. Assalamo Alikum,

    Excellent article bro. I was just wondering if you can in the future come up with something more scientific oriented and supported with more clinical evidence. The reason hat why I said that because as Muslims we totally agree on that but once we start to convince non-Muslims we have be more solid in our info.

    Going back to your talk and just to clarify one thing, Would stories with a lot of sounds, images and characters make the same effects in stimulating different brain’s regions you have mentioned ? Theoretically they should to lesser extent ? Am I right ?

    So why is just the Quran which makes the changes ?

    • Wa’alykoum As’salam Ahmed,

      The longer treatise on this topic will inshallah have all the scientific citations included.

      Regarding your questions, using images is the worst thing to do because it actually prevents the brain from exercising its imaginative faculties. Otherwise, stories with many characters and sounds will trigger similar brain areas. However, the traditional methodology for teaching the Quran seems to have a unique capacity to shape the brain in a way that nothing else seems to be able to. The educational qualities and demands the Quran requires for one to learn it using the traditional method seems to correlate with multiple findings that shape the brain in a way that might explain the brilliance of our past Muslim scholars.

      That and Allah knows best!

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    • Dear brother of Islam, Mohamed Gilan, Assalam alai kum
      I read your article how the Qur’an shapes the brain with great attention. Congratulations!
      I firmly believe that the Muslim children must begin their education with the memorisation and understanding of Qur’an. But they must not stop there. The neuro-psychosis changes that results out of it prepares the background for stepping into other field of education and knowledge.
      Yours Dr. Javed

  31. This is an amazing article.. I don’t know much about the brain, but i do know memorizing Quran does help. And honestly, aside from the memorization part of the brain, i believe that it gives you an inspirational push. Like, if you have to memorize a mathematical formula, its like your brain tells you, if i have the whole Quran memorized, which is 600 pages, why cant i memorize this. The brains an interesting thing. The only problem is, mine isn’t developed enough to study other brains. ahah :P but inshallah it will one day.
    Thank you for the great article, i hope to see more of your work. Jazakallah khair.

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  37. Assalamu alaikum, thank you for a very insightful article.
    I found interesting when you said that you have encountered many students that couldn’t utilise their knowledge. I think you were talking about the students of the Qur’an, but what about students of secular subjects? I am an undergraduate student myself and I am very passionate about learning new things, but I find that I am unable to consolidate my knowledge. It is there in my head but I cannot have a discussion about it. I doubt myself and often realise that I don’t remember exactly what a certain study/article said. How would you approach that? Obviously it is something else than learning the Qur’an, but aren’t there similar similar techniques when studying other things as well?

    From neurobiological point of view, how long does it take for the brain to ‘change’? I know it is said that it takes 21 days to form new habit, but I remember asking my psychology tutor about it and she said it is not based on any proof. Is there any similar timeline when it comes to the brain?

    Thank you.

    • Wa’Alykoum As’Salam Wa Rahmatullah

      Alhamdulillah you found the article beneficial. To answer your question, the problem is not so much with study techniques as it is with utilization of what you’ve learned. Most students sit down and memorize the subject material and answer direct questions asking about it without going any further than that. If you want to be able to discuss what you’ve learned, then start by actually discussing it in a study group. Teaching what you’ve learned to others is a great technique that will make the material really take hold of your brain, because it recruits different areas of it, which will require your further comprehending it. Einstein said “you don’t really know a subject until you can explain it to your grandmother”. In other words, try to simplify the material by using real world analogies. If you do this you’ll find yourself picking things up a lot quicker than you expect and you’ll have a stronger command of the subject you’re studying.

      Insha’Allah this was helpful.


  38. Assalaamu’alaykum wa rahmatullaahi wa barkatuh. Kudos for such an amazingly informative article.

    My attention was caught by what ajunet has commented, ” What is it about learning to memorize the Qur’an that makes it superior to learning to memorize anything else?”

    Learning to memorize the Qur’an entails physical, mental and most especially spiritual strength. Indeed the Verses in the Holy Qur’an are the Words of Allah Subhaanahu wa ‘Taala revealed to Prophet Muhammad Sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam as a guidance to mankind. Qur’an memorization or recitation has many virtues. Learning to memorize and recite It is superior than learning to memorize anything else because the act itself is rewarded by Allahu Subhaanhu wa Ta’ala even if it entails rote memorization or parroting so to speak. Prophet Muhammad Sallallaahu alayhi wa Sallam , as narrated by Sayyidna Abdullah ibn Ma’sood radi-Allahu anhu, said, ‘That person who recites one letter from the Kitabullah [the Qur’an], he will get one reward, and one is multiplied by ten.’ He further went on to say, ‘I do not say that Alif, Laam, Meem is one letter, but instead alif is one letter, laam is one letter and meem is one letter.’ (Tirmidhi).

    After learning to memorize and recite the Qur’an,
    ” a person goes on to learn the meaning of the Qur’an so that he understands the orders and commands of Allah Ta’ala, the reward for such a person is certainly more.”

    Please click the link for further explanation,

  39. No words will cover how I want to appreciate upon your article:
    I just want to say with our Universal greeting > Salaam.
    As I read many comments so far, everyone is keen to demand for your full paper that we all are waiting to read. Please try for Ummah with your brilliant intellectual skill.

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