How Can I Study Islam Successfully?

Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Question

I wish to begin studying Nur al-Idah. I intend to follow along with Shaykh Faraz Rabbani’s explanation of it. I am also ordering Maraqi al-Falah. Do I read each book a chapter at a time, concurrently with each other? Or do I read all of Nur al-Idah, and then all of Maraki al-Falah?

Answer

In the Name of Allah, the Merciful and Compassionate

I hope you’re doing well, insha’Allah. May Allah bless you in this noble intention.

It is better to study one text in a subject at a time and to give each lesson its due. The scholars tell us that only if one is giving one class its due should one add another class or text.

The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Truly, Allah loves that if any of you do anything, they do so with excellence.” [Bayhaqi and others; sound due to many confirming chains]

Allah Most High describes “the good word”—which is the Statement of Faith in specific, but also all true knowledge—as being like a good tree, whose roots are firm and whose branches are in the sky.

Allah Most High says, “Do you not see how Allah compares a good word to a good tree? Its root is firm and its branches reach the sky, ˹always˺ yielding its fruit in every season by the Will of its Lord. This is how Allah sets forth parables for the people, so perhaps they will reflect deeply.” [Quran, 14:24-25]

This deep rooting of knowledge—and faith itself—is the key to fruitful faith, fruitful knowledge—and being able to benefit oneself and others in ways leading to the Pleasure of Allah Most High.

How Does One Give Each Class Its Due?

Giving each class its due entails:

One. Preparing before the class. Ideally, this entails
(1) writing out the text;
(2) diagramming key concepts; and
(3) identifying everything one isn’t clear about.

Two. Attending the class with full attention and the proper manners (adab) of attending a class—even if listening online. This entails:
(1) cutting out all distractions—such as unnecessary notifications and turning off gadgets;
(2) choosing an appropriate place to listen without distractions;
(3) taking notes—and being attentive to ensure one’s questions and the issues one wasn’t clear about were clarified;
(4) asking questions—whether in the class itself or on any forums provided for questions.

Three. Reviewing the current and previous classes. This is key to retaining knowledge and benefiting from it. This entails:
(1) Ensuring that you review each class immediately after you complete it—whether right away, or later the same day.
(2) Each week, review that week’s study.
(3) Have a regular plan to review everything covered so far.

Imam Ibn al-Jawzi (Allah have mercy upon him) recommends that review (tikrar) should take up to half of one’s total study time.

For knowledge to be of true benefit, one needs to take care of two critical conditions:

One. Sincerity of Intention, Consistently Renewed

True sincerity is the life and soul of actions. It entails actively seeking Allah Most High, His Closeness, and His Pleasure in one’s actions—and nothing else. [Qushayri, Risala; Nawawi, Bustan al-Arifin; Ghazali, Ihya’]

The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Truly, actions are by their intentions. And each person shall only have what they intended.” [Bukhari; Muslim]

Thus:
(1) Set your intention explicitly to seek Allah Most High through your studies.
(2) Renew this intention before every lesson.
(3) Define multiple intentions—which detail how you will strive to seek Allah through what you’re doing. These are means and expressions of one’s sincere intention.
(4) Consistently ask Allah Most High for sincerity (ikhlas) and trueness (sidq).

I would recommend you read and reflect deeply on The Intentions for Seeking Knowledge

Two: Acting With Excellence Upon One’s Knowledge

Imam Abu Hanifa (Allah have mercy upon him) said, “The virtue of knowledge is only as a means of acting upon it.”

Please make sure to benefit from the following resources:
Articles
Knowledge: What, How, and Why We Study
I Find Difficulty in Acting According to My Knowledge. What Can I Do?
What Is the Correct Way To Learn Our Religion?
Adab 02: Seeking Sacred Knowledge – Ustadh Tabraze Azam
Best Order To Study The Step One Courses

Courses
How to Seek Islamic Knowledge: Imam Ghazali’s Proper Manners of Students Explained
Imam Haddad’s Manual on Good Manners: Adab Suluk al-Murid Explained

And Allah is the giver of success and facilitation.
[Shaykh] Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani spent ten years studying with some of the leading scholars of recent times, first in Damascus, and then in Amman, Jordan. His teachers include the foremost theologian of recent times in Damascus, the late Shaykh Adib al-Kallas (may Allah have mercy on him), as well as his student Shaykh Hassan al-Hindi, one of the leading Hanafi fuqaha of the present age. He returned to Canada in 2007, where he founded SeekersGuidance in order to meet the urgent need to spread Islamic knowledge–both online and on the ground–in a reliable, relevant, inspiring, and accessible manner. He is the author of: Absolute Essentials of Islam: Faith, Prayer, and the Path of Salvation According to the Hanafi School (White Thread Press, 2004.) Since 2011, Shaykh Faraz has been named one of the 500 most influential Muslims by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center.