How Do I Find a Mentor to Help Me Understand My Religion?

Answered by Shaykh Yusuf Weltch

Question 

How do I find a mentor to help me better understand my religion?

Answer

In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate

I am pleased to hear about your desire to gain a deeper understanding of religion.

The Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “The best act of worship is a deep understanding of the Religion…” [Tabarani]

He also said, “Whoever Allah wishes good for He gives them a deep understanding of the Religion.” [Bukhari]

Finding a Teacher

A deeper understanding of Religion is multi-faceted. The first step is to seek the extent of knowledge that is personally obligatory for every Muslim.

Regarding this knowledge, the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Seeking knowledge is obligatory for every Muslim.” [Ibn Maja]

Therefore you should seek out a teacher who can teach you fundamental Islamic beliefs, rulings related to worship, the rights and responsibilities one has toward others, and primary purification of the heart.

The Criterion of a Sound Teacher

When looking for a teacher, one should look for the following qualities:

  • They should be well-versed in the Islamic sciences.
  • They should have acquired their knowledge from an authorized, authentic scholar.
  • Their actions and character should be in accordance with their knowledge.

Consider the classes offered at SeekersGuidance Canada both at our Mississauga Center and/or online at the following link:
Classes and Programmes at SeekeersGuidance Canada

Striving toward Spiritual Excellence (Ihsan)

While acquiring the personally obligatory knowledge, you must strive to implement everything you learn, both outwardly and inwardly.

Outwardly applies to obeying the command of Allah in one’s actions. However, the inward implementation relates to the heart. That is the purification of the heart from any quality displeasing to Allah Most High, adorning it with all praiseworthy qualities, and keeping the heart in a constant state of reverence, presence, remembrance, love, and yearning for Allah Most High.

This science can be accessed by studying books on the subject. For example, the Beginning of Guidance by Imam al-Ghazali.

However, the subtle intricacies of the heart and the obscurity of the very difficult-to-detect ailments of the heart may necessitate that one has a spiritual guide or mentor.

Importance and Conditions of a True Mentor (Shaykh)

Imam ‘Abdullah bin ‘Alawi al-Haddad says,

و لا بد من شيخ تسير بسيره – الى الله من أهل النفوس الزكية

من العلماء العارفين بربهم – فإن لم تجد فالصدق خير مطية

“It is pertinent to have a mentor (shaykh) upon whose (spiritual) path you travel

To Allah, from those whose hearts are purified

From amongst the scholars who have intimate knowledge of their Lord.

If you cannot find (such a mentor) then truthfulness is the best provision.” [Haddad, Qasida al-Tai’yya]

Thus Imam al-Haddad delineates the conditions of a sound mentor (shaykh), which we will repeat for clarity as follows:

  • They must have already purified their hearts. This can be determined by how contemporaries of their’s who are known to be righteous and scholars speak of them.
  • They must be a scholar of the Islamic sciences (see the conditions above for a sound teacher/scholar).
  • They must have intimate knowledge of Allah Most High. This can also be determined in the same manner as point number 1.

Beware of Charlatans

Use the above criterion to determine a sound mentor (shaykh). Beware of charlatans. However do not let anything deter you from seeking out an accurate guide.

Some early Muslims would say, “Whoever is truly sincere, Allah will bring their mentor (shaykh) to their doorstep.”

Hope this helps
Allah knows best

[Shaykh] Yusuf Weltch
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Yusuf Weltch is a teacher of Arabic, Islamic law, and spirituality. After accepting Islam in 2008, he then completed four years at the Darul Uloom seminary in New York where he studied Arabic and the traditional sciences. He then traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he stayed for three years studying in Dar Al-Mustafa under some of the greatest scholars of our time, including Habib Umar Bin Hafiz, Habib Kadhim al-Saqqaf, and Shaykh Umar al-Khatib. In Tarim, Shaykh Yusuf completed the memorization of the Qur’an and studied beliefs, legal methodology, hadith methodology, Qur’anic exegesis, Islamic history, and a number of texts on spirituality. He joined the SeekersGuidance faculty in the summer of 2019.