Is it sinful to forget what you have memorised from the Quran?

ⓘ Supported by Al Medina 313.



Islamic Text

It is sinful to forget what you have memorised from the Quran according to some scholars. However, others did not consider it sinful. This difference of opinion is due to the fact that there is no clear authentic Hadith stating it is sinful. Rather there is a weak narration.

عَنْ أَنَسِ بْنِ مَالِكٍ، قَالَ: قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ: عُرِضَتْ عَلَيَّ أُجُورُ أُمَّتِي حَتَّى الْقَذَاةُ يُخْرِجُهَا الرَّجُلُ مِنَ الْمَسْجِدِ، وَعُرِضَتْ عَلَيَّ ذُنُوبُ أُمَّتِي، فَلَمْ أَرَ ذَنْبًا أَعْظَمَ مِنْ سُورَةٍ مِنَ الْقُرْآنِ أَوْ آيَةٍ أُوتِيَهَا رَجُلٌ ثُمَّ نَسِيَهَا

Anas ibn Malik (May Allah Most High be pleased with him) said, the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, ‘The rewards of my nation were presented to me. Even the reward for removing dust from the Masjid. And the sins of my nation were also presented to me. I did not find a sin greater than that of a person forgetting a verse or chapter of the Qur’an after having been given it (memorising it).’ (Abu Dawood 461, Weak).

If the Hadith above was Sahih then there would be no room for difference of opinion, since it is clear that forgetting a single verse of the Holy Quran is a grave sin. However, the Hadith is weak (see the comments of Imam al-Tirmidhi 2916 for details) and thus cannot be used to establish a prohibition. Although weak Hadith are used for Nafl actions (see the link below for details), they are not strong enough to establish a religious prohibition.

In the Nass (text) below Imam Ibn Hajr clarifies that there is a difference of opinion amongst the early scholars regarding the issue of forgetting the Quran being sinful or not.

وَاخْتَلَفَ السَّلَفُ فِي نِسْيَانِ الْقُرْآنِ فَمِنْهُمْ مَنْ جَعَلَ ذَلِكَ مِنَ الْكَبَائِرِ. (فتح الباري شرح صحيح البخاري)

The Salaf differed over the issue of forgetting the Quran. Some of them considered it to be from the major sins. (Imam Ibn Hajr al-Asqalani, Fath al-Bari).

فإنّ نسيان القرآن من الكبائر. (فتح باب العناية)

Indeed, forgetting the Quran is from the major sins (Kabaair). (Imam Ali al-Qari, Fath bab al-Inayah).

In the Nusoos above we see opinions that state that not only is it sinful to forget the Quran after memorising it, but it is from the major sins. Other scholars did not consider it to be sinful. Whereas some accepted that it is sinful but not from the major sins.

“ثم نسيها”؛ يعني: يكون ذنبه أعظم من سائر الذنوب الصغائر؛ لأن نسيان القرآن من الحفظ ليس بذنب كبير إن لم يكن عن استخفاف وقلة تعظيم. (شرح مصابيح السنة)

Then he forgot it. Meaning his sin is greater than all other minor sins. Since forgetting the Quran from memory is not a major sin as long as it is not a result of undermining or a lack of veneration. (Imam Ibn al-Malak, Sharh Masabeeh al-Sunnah).

It is important to understand that the opinions considering it sinful to forget the Quran are in the context of laziness or lack of effort. If a person forgets parts of the Holy Quran after having memorized them, despite making reasonable efforts to retain it, then there is no sin upon him.

وَكَنِسْيَانِ الْمَرْءِ مَا حَفِظَهُ مَعَ قُدْرَتِهِ عَلَى تَذْكَارِهِ بِالتَّكْرَارِ فَإِنَّهُ إنَّمَا يَقَعُ فِيهِ بِتَقْصِيرِهِ فَيَصْلُحُ سَبَبًا لِلْعِتَابِ وَلِهَذَا يَسْتَحِقُّ الْوَعِيدَ مَنْ نَسِيَ الْقُرْآنَ بَعْدَمَا حَفِظَهُ مَعَ قُدْرَتِهِ عَلَى التَّذْكَارِ بِالتَّكْرَارِ. (كشف الأسرار شرح أصول البزدوي)

Like a person forgetting what he memorized despite his ability to rememorise it by repeating it. In such a case the shortcoming is from him. Therefore, blame is attributable. And the threat upon the one who forgets the Quran after having memorised it despite his ability to rememorise it by repeating it is applicable. (Imam Ala al-Deen al-Bukhari, Kashf al-Asrar).

As mentioned above, some scholars did not consider it sinful to forget previously memorised verses of the Holy Quran. Some of them considered the sin to be forgetting how to recite the Holy Quran from the script.

المْرَادُ بِالنِّسْيَانِ: أَنْ لَا يُمْكِنَهُ الْقِرَاءَةُ في الْمُصْحَفِ. (غاية المنتهى في جمع الإقناع والمنتهى)

What is meant by forgetting is not being able to read from the Mushaf (written copy of the Quran). (Imam Mari bin Yusuf al-Karami, Ghayatu al-Muntaha).

As we see from the Nusoos and discussion above there is a valid difference of opinion regarding the issue of forgetting parts of the Holy Quran after having memorised them. No doubt one should work hard to retain what one has memorized. However, it is not categorically sinful if one fails to do so.

And Allah Most High Knows Best

-Answered by Shaykh Noorud-deen Rashid (11.11.2022)

See also:
Using weak Hadith
Respecting difference of opinion

See also video: