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Last Updated: 2010/02/20
Summary of question
Are there any verses of the Quran or any supplications, which if read, would increase one’s ability to learn and succeed in their studies?
I am a hardworking and dedicated student. Although I exert much time and effort, I find myself unable to understand some of the topics presented in my studies. If possible, please recommend some verses or duas (with English translations) so that Inshallah I may become successful in my studies.
Concise answer

The word ‘study’ is defined as: contemplating a subject in detail in order to discover its essential meaning or attributes. Therefore, any form of contemplation or study which lacks the mentioned qualities, cannot be considered proper studying. Naturally, the act of studying – like any other action – requires certain prerequisites and conditions to be met in order for its result to be beneficial to the individual.

Mentioned below, are some of the conditions which render one’s studies beneficial and prosperous:

1. A Goal – motivation and interest

2. Vivacity – patience

3. Discipline – planning and making use of proper study habits

4. Perseverance – resting, recreation, and exercise

5. Selecting books which are in line with one’s level of understanding

6. Selecting a suitable place that is quiet, well lit, and properly regulated insofar as temperature and weather

7. Making use of tools that have been proven beneficial in one’s studies

8. Writing summaries and taking notes

9. Reviewing and putting what has been read into practice

10. Proper diet and nutrition

11. Physical and spiritual purity, as well as constantly maintaining wudu

12. Praying and reciting duas for better understanding in one’s studies

The most knowledgeable of creations, The Holy Prophet (pbuh), asks for God to “زِدْنِی عِلْماً”, meaning, “increase my knowledge”. It is highly recommended that you recite the dua which has been revealed for seeking success in studying. Its translation is as follows: “O’ Allah, remove me from darkness and ennoble me with the light of knowledge. O’ my Lord, open for us your doors of mercy and provide us with the treasure of your knowledge. By your mercy, O’ kindest of the kind.

Inshallah by reciting this dua and asking Allah (swt) for an increase in understanding and comprehension (in any language), as well as observing the conditions mentioned above, the quality of your studies and your ability to learn shall increase.

Detailed Answer

The word ‘study’ is defined as: contemplating a subject in detail in order to discover its essential meaning or attributes. Studying requires contemplation, concentration, and understanding. Therefore, any form of study which lacks the mentioned qualities, cannot be considered proper studying.[1] In order to rise from the depths of ignorance and dive into an ocean of knowledge and understanding, one must first abide by a set of conditions. If these conditions are not first implemented, any form of studying that is done will fail to be beneficial.

For this reason, we will discuss the most important conditions necessary in attaining success in one’s studies.

One: An individual should be highly motivated in their studies and desire to learn the topic at hand. Therefore, the most import factor in any academic study is for one to possess interest in that field.

Two: One should be enthusiastic and patient in learning. If a person is mentally exhausted, patience and the ability to properly study and learn will cease to exist.

Three: Studying should be done in a suitable time of the day. For example, after sunrise or during the morning are both good times to engage in studying. At that time of the day, the mind possesses a higher capability in understanding as well as memorizing the topic at hand.[2]

If studying is our profession, it can be done at any time of the day and at any hour. Therefore, there is no difference in regards to the time one chooses to study in. With this outlook, studies can be enjoyable and beneficial at all times of the day. According to numerous studies done on studying habits, it has been concluded that there are no specific times of the day which are superior to other times. However, studies have shown that studying which takes place immediately after one wakes from a night of sleep often yields unsuccessful results. To avoid this, it is recommended that one wait twenty to thirty minutes prior to studying in order to achieve better success in studying.

On the other hand, if studying isn't one’s profession, whatever time of the day a person feels most motivated and eager to study should be the time they select for studying. During times in which a person feels unmotivated or tired, studies should be set aside and done at a more desirable time.

Four: A person should set goals in and choose books and topics which are appropriate for their level and field of study. One should also become familiar with and implement study habits which have been proven to yield beneficial results. One highly useful habit is speed-reading, as opposed to reading a passage word-by-word and pausing on individual words. Studies indicate that the latter method (reading word-by-word) not only consumes much more time, but also fails to use a large amount of a person’s potential mental capacity. In addition to these study habits, a person who wishes to study efficiently should plan and organize their time in advance and engage in studies at designated times. Planning should be done in such a way that the schedule may be implemented all throughout the week, month, and year in order to prevent disorganization and inefficiency.

Five: A person should possess determination and perseverance so that nothing may hinder their studies or research. Only with this mindset can one reach the soaring peaks of knowledge.

Six: A person who has an organized plan for studying should also set aside time for rest and recreation. For example, for every thirty to forty minutes of studying, five to ten minutes should be dedicated to resting. In addition to maintaining healthy study habits, this practice rejuvenates the body and soul, thus allowing a person to return to their studies feeling refreshed.

Seven: The environment in which a person studies should be quiet, calm, and devoid of any distractions which may disrupt one’s concentration and focus. Anything which may present an obstacle to one’s studies should be removed from that environment. Other factors which contribute to a productive work environment are proper lighting, temperatures, and airflow.

Eight: The furniture and tools used when studying, such as tables and chairs, should meet ergonomic standards and be relatively simple in design. One who wishes to use them should be aware of their instructions and proper use. Healthy study habits should be learned and implemented. A few of them include: properly sitting in a chair with upright posture, taking a brief walk after a long period of studying, performing exercises and warm-ups in order to prevent muscle fatigue, and maintaining a proper distance (thirty centimeters) when reading. Such practices will prevent problems or illnesses in the long-term.

Nine: By summarizing and taking notes on the topics studied and arranging them in an organized manner, one will become well-versed and proficient in those subjects.

Ten: A person should continually turn to Allah for assistance and place confidence in his help. One should also strive to maintain physical and spiritual purity. Constantly maintaining wudu, for example, plays a big role in helping acquire knowledge.

Eleven: One who wishes to study well should observe a proper diet which provides the necessary nutrients to the body, in particular the mind. Since the mind is vigorously used in studying, the nutrients necessary in strengthening it and its use should be considered in one’s diet. Dairy products, protein rich foods, grains, vegetables, fresh fruits, and dried foods such as walnuts, almonds, and hazelnuts are all recommended components of a nutritious diet.[3]

Twelve: A person should adorn their heart with the dhikr and remembrance of Allah and request his guidance for greater understanding through reciting duas in Arabic or just praying in one’s own language.

Our Holy Prophet (pbuh), who was the most knowledgeable of creations, asked Allah: “ربّ زِدْنِی عِلْماً”, meaning, “Oh Allah, increase my knowledge”.[4]

It is also recommended that you recite the following duas:

1. “اللهم اخرجنی من ظلمات الوهم و اکرمنی بنور الفهم اللهم افتح علینا ابواب رحمتک و انشر علینا خزائن علومک برحمتک یا ارحم الراحمین”, which translates as, “O’ Allah, remove me from darkness and ennoble me with the light of knowledge. O’ my Lord, open for us your doors of mercy and provide us with the treasure of your knowledge. By your mercy, O’ kindest of the kind.”[5]

2. “اللهم إنی أعوذ بک أن أضل أو أضل أو أزل أو أزل أو أظلم أو أظلم أو أجهل أو یجهل علی اللهم انفعنی بما علمتنی و علمنی ما ینفعنی و زدنی علما و الحمد لله على کل حال اللهم إنی أعوذ بک من علم لا ینفع و من قلب لا یخشع و من نفس لا تشبع و من دعاء لا یسمع[6], which translates as, “O’ Allah, I seek your protection from misguiding and being misguided, shaking and being shook, oppressing and being oppressed, causing ignorance and becoming ignorant myself. O’ Allah, allow me to benefit from the knowledge which you have taught me and guide me to that knowledge which is of benefit to me. O’ Allah, increase my level of knowledge and awareness. True gratitude in all matters resides with Allah, the Most High. O’ Allah, I seek your protection from knowledge which is unbeneficial to me, from a heart which deviates from the truth and deserts it, desires which will not be met or satiated, and supplications which will be left unanswered.[7]

Recitation of the mentioned duas (as well as others in any language) and requesting guidance for increased understanding and comprehension, in addition to observing the mentioned conditions, will render the mind capable and successful in acquiring knowledge and understanding. However, it should be noted that reciting these duas alone without observing the other necessary conditions in studying will fail to yield desirable results.[8] All the mentioned points should be observed in order to reach a favorable outcome.

[1] Abdul-Rahim Mughi, Raveshe Motale’e va Talkhis, pg. 23 (first four lines).

[2] F. Shajari, Yadgiriye Khallaq, pg. 125 (lines 15-25).

[3] Ibid, pg. 119.

[4] Taha:114; See: Tafsire Hedayat (translation of Tafsir man Hadal-Quran), vol. 14, pg. 327.

[5] Sheikh Abbas Qummi, Mafatihul-Jinan, pg. 1201, the dua for studying.

[6] Shahid Thani (The Second Shahid), Munyatul-Murid, pg. 211.

[7] Munyatul-Murid (Farsi translation of Seyyid Muhammad Baqir Hujjati), pg. 267.

[8] For further information, see: Mohammad Dashti, Abzar va Raveshe Tahqiq; Raveshe Motale’e; F. Shajari, Yadgiriye Khallaq; Abdul-Rahim Mughi, Raveseh Motale’e va Talkhis.

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