Imaam Bukhari (rahimahullaah) was able to momentarily look at a page of hadeeth once and he would memorise it.
Imaam Shafi‘ee (rahimahullaah) had to cover the notes in the margins of the texts he read because if he did not, he would memorise them and it would conflict with what he was trying to memorise.
Imaam Ahmad (rahimahullaah) memorised one million ahaadeeth just as well as the layman would memorise Surah Ikhlaas.
How did these great scholars memorise so effortlessly? It is no doubt that the ability to memorise in this manner are amongst the gifts and blessings of Allah.
Some people say that the older they become, the more impossible it becomes to learn something new. You know the adage “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, but when it comes to the brain, scientists have discovered that this old adage simply isn’t true. Neuroplasticity is the human brain’s astonishing ability to adapt and react in ever-changing ways right up to old age. Below are a few ways of improving ones memory.
1. Develop respect and reverence for knowledge
We remember what we read if we deem it important. Today Deeni knowledge has become insignificant to many.
2. Avoid sinning
Imam Shafi‘ee (rahimahullah) complained to his teacher Wakia ibn Jarrah (rahimahullah) about his memory, yet he did not have a weak memory. “I complained to my teacher about my bad memory, and he told me to stay away from sins, for indeed the knowledge of Allah is light, and the light of Allah is not given to sinners.”
3. Concentrate in salaah with khushoo’ (concentration) and khudhoo’ (humility)
We can perform long raka’ats of Nafl salaah like salaat-ut Tasbeeh or even Taraweeh prayers in Ramadaan to practice this.
4. Make Dhikrullaah (remembering Allah by conscious meditation)
Meditation also can improve focus, concentration, creativity, and learning and reasoning skills.
Meditation works its “magic” by changing the actual brain. Brain images show that regular meditators have more activity in the left prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain associated with feelings of joy and equanimity. Meditation also increases the thickness of the cerebral cortex and encourages more connections between brain cells—all of which increases mental sharpness and memory ability. [http://www.helpguide.org]. Imagine what meditation (dhikr) with the powerful names of Allah can do!
5. Memorise frequently
Try to memorise a short hadeeth, du’ā or aayah of Qur-aan to keep you in the groove of remembering better.
6. Practice what you learn
The saying “Use it or lose it” means if you don’t act on what you have learnt, you are most likely to forget it.
Physical exercise increases oxygen to your brain and reduces the risk for disorders that lead to memory loss, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Exercise may also enhance the effects of helpful brain chemicals and protect brain cells.
8. Rest well and get good sleep
Restorative sleep is needed to clear the brain’s short-term memory storage and create space for new information. Take naps if you must to help you become more productive.
9. Eat brain-enriching foods
Fatty fish like budget-friendly sardines and pilchards contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are thought to be instrumental in maintaining brain function from early development throughout life. If you are not too fond of seafood, consider non-fish sources of omega-3s such as walnuts, ground flaxseed, flaxseed oil, winter squash, kidney and pinto beans, spinach, broccoli, pumpkin seeds, and soybeans.
Olive oil and avocados are also good brain food. Avocados and whole grains can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and lower bad cholesterol. This reduces your risk of plaque buildup and enhances blood flow, offering a simple, tasty way to fire up brain cells.
Limit saturated fat intake. Research shows that diets high in saturated fat (from sources such as red meat, whole milk, butter, cheese, sour cream, and ice cream) increase your risk of dementia and impair concentration and memory. Eating too many calories in later life can also increase your risk of cognitive impairment. [http://www.helpguide.org]
10. Keep stress in check and spend quality time with family and friends
Stress is one of the brain’s worst enemies. Over time, if left unchecked, chronic stress destroys brain cells and damages the hippocampus, the region of the brain involved in the formation of new memories and the retrieval of old ones. Keep reciting “Laa hawla wa laa quwwata illaa billaah” if you are feeling depressed. Read this consciously and believe that there is No might nor power but Allah. Remember that we will always have things to do but how we deal with them is either our gain or loss. Don’t let stress rule you, theres only one ruler in your life, and that is Allah.
Make time for those who we at times take for granted just because they’re always there. Do something impromptu and out of the box within limits of Shari’ah with your loved ones. Research shows that having meaningful relationships and a strong support system are vital not only to emotional health, but also to brain health. In one recent study from the Harvard School of Public Health, for example, researchers found that people with the most active social lives had the slowest rate of memory decline. [http://www.helpguide.org]
And lastly as with anything you do in life, perseverance equals success. Don’t give up learning something valuable, share it with others and practice what you preach.