Words Murtaza A.
Header Credits Ruqaiya K. (@rkphotography53)
SCRIBBLES WITH PURPOSE – My guide to better note taking during Ashara
Rasulullahsaw counsels “retain ilm [in your heart] by writing it down”.
Listening to Moula’s Waaz is like trying to download the vast knowledge of the Universe into my inadequate brain. It is helplessly lacking the capacity to store it all. Worse; my brain is a sieve. Whatever information I try to store keeps falling through the cracks.
So I have been creating my own personal note-taking system.
My goal is not just to write down the Waaz. But to create a system to remember, reference and review key themes and details easily. My notebook is like the Pensieve in Harry Potter. It is a place I store the downloaded knowledge. Because I do not trust my memory to do so.
Everyone has a different style to taking down notes. Some people note key words, phrases or sentences. Some make an outline, filled with bullet points for the details. Some make mind maps. While others focus on recording the essence of the Waaz.
My style is to try to transcribe or scribble down as much as I can. I do not want to lose a single detail. What makes it just a little more complicated – I translate the Waaz into English while writing it down simultaneously. This necessitates a meticulous process that I have broken down to four stages.
- Revision of last year’s notes.
- Purchasing a book that is light & small to carry comfortably, but large enough to contain the entirety of the Waaz, nightly Waaz talakki & my own reflections and musing. It must also be flexible and fold easily.
- A couple of new ball-point pens – I usually carry two on my person at all times.
- If given the option of choosing my seat, I try to get as comfortable as possible. And I try to position myself close to speakers and away from any distractions (such as entrances or exits).
The actual Notetaking
- I divide my page into 3 sections. The narrowest section is a margin that runs from the top of the page to the almost the bottom. This section is for cue’s (keywords, themes, questions, words I do not understand, things to follow up on, or things I do not know that I will research later). The largest section is where I take the actual notes (adopting writing verbatim, outline, bullets or whatever style you choose). And the last section at the bottom of the page is where I outline a few sentences that summarizes the page.
- While writing down my notes, I try to identify themes on the margin. I find that there are enough breaks that I can do this. I also underline key words, places or names.
What I have learnt from others is to create my own shorthand writing system. Words, phrases that repeat have their own symbol or acronym.
Some Riwayat’s repeat every year. But the context or certain details are new. So I only make note of these, and not the entire riwayat.
Every Night after the Waaz
- I try to summarize each page
- I make it a point to never miss the Waaz talakki’s or any similar sessions that shed further knowledge on the Waaz.
- And all of this helps me summarize the Waaz on one page
When I return home after Ashara
While the Waaz is fresh in my mind, I make mind maps to organize the key topics and sub-topics better. This also helps me remember it.
One last point. There are four things you can do to maximize the learning from your notes.
- Review them – This cements everything you heard and learned in your brain so it won’t fall out of your head later.
- Store them safely – I usually label each book and store them in a way that I can find it easily.
- Follow-up on the area’s that you did not know
- Discuss them with friends, family or a Jamiyah scholar that you know to be in your neigbourhood.
Note-taking to me is a skill. Something I have had to learn and refine into a system that works for me in order to make the most of my Ashara experience. I hope that this helps make your experience just a little bit better as well.