Question: What should be one’s Islamic educational priorities? Should one learn the Qur’an first, and then creed, or the other way around?
Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
Thank you for your important question.
Our learning priorities in Islam are to learn the practical knowledge to obey Allah in daily life. This obedience is on a material and spiritual level.
This means that it is far more important to learn how to perform wudu correctly, how to be a husband or wife Islamically, or how to worship Allah with sincerity than it is to learn the eighteen different interpretations of some verse of the Qur’an, or than it is to memorize Sura al-Baqara, for example.
This is what is meant by Jundub ibn Abdullah’s words (Allah be well pleased with him) ‘We learned faith (iman) before we learned the Qu’ran.’ (Ibn Maja) He meant that they practically applied the teachings of Islam in their life on all its levels and mastered the basic points, and then as the details of halal and haram came, they merely added that to their practice. They didn’t learn a million rules and a million complex psycho-spiritual terms and then start finding out how to do basic things like being kind to their neighbors and focusing on prayer.
Echoing this concept, Ibn Umar (Allah well pleased with him) said, ‘For a long time even the youngest of us would master faith (yu’ta al-iman) before mastering the Qu’ran. A sura would be revealed to Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) so we would learn the details of the law from it and learn what significant point there was in it, just as you yourselves know the Qu’ran. [But now by Allah] I see even grown men who have memorized the whole of the Qu’ran from the Opening to the end, but [for the life of them] have no idea what it is telling them to do or warning them from committing, or what the significance of it is. [To them reciting it,] is like tossing someone a cheap date.’ (Mustadrak al-Hakim)
The point is making sure that one is applying Islam properly, not how many books you have read, opinions you know, or bytes of information you can churn out. We need to know some technical details, and we do need to know when to ask, but the brunt of our struggle is applying not knowing.
On a practical level, one should study a simple book of fiqh covering the basics of Iman, Islam, and Ihsan before reading a translation of the Qur’an.
See for example:
I pray this helps.
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadh Farid Dingle has completed extensive years of study in the sciences of the Arabic language and the various Islamic Sciences. During his studies, he also earned a CIFE Certificate in Islamic Finance. Over the years, he has developed a masterful ability to craft lessons that help non-Arabic speakers gain a deep understanding of the language. He currently teaches courses in the Arabic Language.