How does one go about learning Islam?
In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate,
The Importance of Seeking Knowledge
The religion of Islam is very vast. It engages the Muslim on every level: physically, spiritually, and intellectually/rationally. For this reason, Allah Most High and His Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) command us to seek it.
Allah Most High says, “Ask the people of knowledge if you do not know.” [Qur’an; 16:43]
The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Seeking knowledge is obligatory on every Muslim.” [Tabarani; Bayhaqi]
From the above, we can see both the importance of knowledge as well as a command to actively seek it out.
Earned vs. Gifted Knowledge
The nature of seeking Islamic knowledge is that it must be acquired through diligent seeking and studying. This is called acquired knowledge (kasbi). However, as the student learns and implements their knowledge, Allah Most High opens doors of deeper knowledge for them. This knowledge is referred to as gifted knowledge (wahbi).
To this effect, the following verse alludes:
Allah Most High says, “Be mindful of Allah, for Allah will teach you. And Allah has ˹perfect˺ knowledge of all things.” [Qur’an; 2:282]
The Beginning of the Path to Knowledge
– Qualified Sources of Knowledge
The most essential factor in one’s seeking knowledge is connecting oneself to an authentic chain of transmission going back to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace).
The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “…Indeed the scholars are the inheritors of the Prophets. The Prophets did not leave us inheritance gold nor silver. They only left behind knowledge, so whoever takes of it, has taken a plentiful share.” [Tirmidhi]
The statement inheriting from the Prophets alludes to the passing down of knowledge from person to person, generation after generation. This passing down of knowledge is referred to by the scholars as to the Isnad or chain of transmission.
Imam Muslim narrates that ‘Abdullah bin Mubarak (Allah be pleased with him) said, “The Isnad is from the religion. If it was not for the isnad, whoever wished could say want they want (about the religion).” [Muslim]
You should strive to seek out a qualified scholar who learned at the feet of qualified scholars and them from qualified scholars back to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace).
In the past, this proved difficult, and many famous scholars of the religion traveled far and wide seeking out such people. It is a blessing of Allah Most High that we have access to SeekersGuidance, as it is its central aim to provide authentic knowledge to everyone who seeks it, for free.
As you alluded to in your question, there are many areas in which one can study. For this reason, it is important to go into it with a plan.
Generally, Islamic studies are attained in layers increasing in complexity as one progresses. Thus you should start with the foundational basic studies of the following three subjects:
1. Islamic Beliefs: what is obligatory for the Muslim to know with regards to Allah, His Messengers, and the transmitted beliefs of the Qur’an and Prophetic teachings.
2. Islamic Jurisprudence: what is obligatory for the Muslim to know with regards to purification, prayer, fasting, Zakat, and Hajj; as well as what is permissible or impermissible in other aspects of life.
3. Islamic Spirituality: what is obligatory for the Muslim to know with regards to acquiring the praiseworthy character traits and removing the blameworthy character traits.
Thereafter, you will move on to a more detailed study of the above sciences and others.
– Supplication (du’a) and Time
There is only one thing that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) was commanded to ask for an increase in in the Qur’an. That thing is knowledge.
Allah Most High says, “Say, (O Prophet)! My Lord! Increase me in knowledge.” [Qur’an; 20:114]
The seeking of knowledge is a lifetime goal. As you increase in knowledge of the religion, you will find that the Qur’an and the Prophetic legacy are inexhaustible of knowledge and that there is always more to understand.
The Virtues of Seeking Knowledge
Due to the immense importance of knowledge and the effort that is needed in its acquisition – its virtues are likewise immense.
Allah Most High declares the uniqueness of the rank of the people of knowledge over others throughout the Qur’an. He says, “Say, O Prophet, “Are those who know equal to those who do not know?” None will be mindful ˹of this˺ except people of reason…” [Qur’an; 39:9]
The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Whoever travels a path, seeking therein knowledge, Allah facilitates for them a path to Paradise. Indeed the Angels lay down their wings out of contentment for the seeker of knowledge. Indeed all the inhabitants of the Heavens and the Earth seek forgiveness for the scholar, even the fish in the sea. The merit of the scholar over the mere worshipper it that of the moon over the rest of the stars. Indeed the scholars are the inheritors of the Prophets. The Prophets did not leave us inheritance gold nor silver. They only left behind knowledge, so whoever takes of it, has taken a plentiful share.” [Tirmidhi]
Please consider the Islamic Studies Curriculum offered here at www.seekersguidance.org. Classes are free and cover a range of important subjects with gradually increasing complexity from authentic teachers.
Please see: The Straight Path Online: A Roadmap for Beneficial Islamic Learning
I 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.