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Is There Any Place for Autodidactism in Islam?

Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam

Question: Assalam alaykum,

Is there any place for autodidactism in traditional Islam for muslim who cannot afford formal education abroad or live in countries with no Islamic educational institutions?

Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I pray that you are in the best of health and faith, insha’Allah.

The scholars mention that knowledge is in hearts and not in the lines of books. And it is the scholars who are the keys to the books in that they unlock the scholarly language, assumptions, and implications through their years of training, worship and acting upon their knowledge.

However, there is still benefit therein in learning to become a better Muslim, and in order to strengthen your belief and certainty, by reading the books which were authored for such purposes. Examples include Riyad al-Salihin by Imam Nawawi and some of the works of Imam al-Haddad, masterfully translated by Dr. Mostafa al-Badawi.

With that, there is no harm in striving to learn some Arabic on your own, and similarly some general prophetic biography (sirah), if taken from reliable sources, but avoid trying to derive law from traditions (hadith) and similarly from works of law themselves. Such knowledges necessarily require teachers.

Knowledge is a light which Allah casts into the heart.

In the meantime, consider taking some of the following free classes: Absolute Essentials of Islam: Basic Hanafi Jurisprudence (STEP) and: Meccan Dawn: The Life of the Beloved Prophet Muhammad ﷺ – Part One and: Prophetic Conduct: Islamic Manners in Everyday Life

And see also: Why Learn From a Teacher? – Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani and: Using Time Wisely, Finding a Teacher, and the Accountability of Seekers of Knowledge

And Allah alone gives success.

Tabraze Azam

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Using Time Wisely, Finding a Teacher, and the Accountability of Seekers of Knowledge

Answered by Ustadh Abdullah Anik Misra

Question: As-salam Alaykom wa rahmatullah wa barakatuhu

1) This summer i am free i will work 3 weeks and then i have all the summer on me. I do not know how to use the summer effectively.

Do you have any advice for me how to use it and how to find a teacher?  I plan on studying with someone who is a  convert but studied in many years and become a shaykh of a tariqa.  I hope to learn a little bit of tazkiyat al nafs from him.

2) I heard that the more you have knowledge the more you will be tested from Allah and those who are near to Allah are much teasted i have always thought that if you got knowledge and higher rank in islam you will live a humble life and you’ll be happy and live a good life but it seems that the better you are the more you are tested from Allah. This makes me lose motivation to study and I then think that living as a simple Muslim is better since I won’t get tested as much.

Can you clarify this?

Answer: In the Name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate,

As salamu alaikum,

Thank you for your letter. To answer your questions:

Using Your Summer Vacation Wisely

Fill your summer with productive activities. Most of all, try to achieve balance. For example, make time to seek sacred knowledge by taking a course at a local masjid, or online at the SeekersGuidance Academy, but also make time for recreation and social interaction.

Perhaps engage in a sport, volunteering opportunity or a constructive hobby. Meet with practicing Muslims, and try to pray in congregation more often. Give yourself projects to work on, such as reading the entire Quran with a translation, or another book or lecture series. Working part-time is good also as it allows you to save money to spend for various good purposes.

Purification of the Heart and Finding a Guide

It is highly recommended to engage in purification of the heart (Ar. tazkiya or tasawwuf) at the hands of a qualified spiritual guide, while studying the sacred sciences under qualified, mainstream traditional Islamic scholars.

One should prioritize learning one’s basic fiqh (sacred law) and aqeedah (beliefs) while working on the inward science of tazkiya, which focuses on building sincerity and love for Allah, along with prophetic character traits.

If there are no scholars in your area, try online options. I am not aware of the person you have named, so I cannot comment. Consult other reliable scholars or imams in your area who understand the importance of Islamic spirituality regarding your next steps.

The Responsibility that Comes with Knowledge

The more knowledge one has, the more one is accountable for in front of Allah Most High, since people are called to act upon their knowledge, and not merely to accumulate information. This does not mean ignorance is an excuse in front of Allah; every human must learn at least enough to live in accordance with the sacred law in every situation of their lives. Learning beyond that is the pursuit of the scholars.

The purpose of seeking knowledge is to gain the pleasure of Allah by shaping our lives and the lives of those around us to be in harmony with what He has commanded us to do, which will only benefit us in this world and the next. This is how we develop true love for Allah, the Most Loving.

The Good Life is a Life of Righteousness

Seeking knowledge – then acting upon it- allows one to live a righteous life, which is the essence of a good life. A good worldly life is not one that is free of any challenges or hardship whatsoever; rather, that is the life of the Hereafter in Paradise. It is a mistake to think the perfect life can be achieved here.

The reason we lose motivation to study upon learning about the tests and responsibilities that come with knowledge is because we are seeking other than Allah from our studies, without realizing it. If we are seeking an easier life with no trials, that is not the correct intention for studying sacred learning. One who finds Allah, finds everything; the one who does not find Allah, finds nothing worth finding, even if he acquires the whole world and what it contains.

The Prophet (Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) said, “The scholars are the inheritors of the prophets.” [Tirmidhi] This inheritance is not wealth, but sacred knowledge. But along with inheriting knowledge, one also inherits something of its tests and challenges and responsibilities. When one focuses on seeking Allah through this knowledge, one also inherits a type of tranquility in one’s heart, which brings peace of mind and satisfaction even in turbulent times, and added joy and thanks in times of ease.

I say these words to myself first. May Allah Ta’ala keep us all firm on His path, make us sincere to Him, and teach us what will benefit us and benefit us through what He teaches us.

Wassalam,

Abdullah Anik Misra

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani