Imam Ahmed narrates that Rasul Allah (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said regarding something: “That would happen when knowledge is lost.” One of the Sahabah asked, “O Messenger of Allah (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam), how could knowledge be lost when we have studied the Quran, we are teaching it to our children and our children will teach it to theirs.” Rasul Allah (sal Allahu alaihi wasallam) said: “Woe to you! I thought you were one of the most learned men of Medinah. Can’t you see the Jews and Christians are not benefiting even though they have their scriptures (Torah and Injeel) right with them?”
This hadith makes clear that if there is no application of the Quran, its recitation becomes useless. If we know what the Quran contains but don’t apply it, we become like donkeys carrying books as our burdens, not benefitting from our loads.
How did the Sahabah study the Quran? If we take the example of Abdullah ibn Umar (radi Allahu anhu), it took him 14 years to finish memorizing Surah Baqarah. He was so happy after he completed memorizing it that he slaughtered a camel and invited all the people to come celebrate with him.
Abdullah ibn Umar (radi Allahu anhu) was a companion of Rasul Allah (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) and the Quran was revealed in his own language. Abdullah ibn Umar (radiAllahu anhu) was also an eminent scholar. Then how is it that he took 14 years to memorize what is done nowadays by Muslims in a matter of months?
This is because the way that the Sahabah would study the Quran is that they would take ten ayaat at a time only. They would study these ten ayaat, study the eemaan, the ilm, the halal and the haram in these ayaat. They would memorize the ayaat and apply its rulings to their lives. They would not move onto the next ten ayaat until they had brought their lives into compliance with the first ten. The Quran thus became alive and second nature to them, its knowledge was not wasted and lost.